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A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $65,000 Salary

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a commissions analyst who makes $65,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a cheese platter.
Occupation: Commissions Analyst
Industry: Sales
Age: 30
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $65,000
Net Worth: $79,400 (savings: $8,800, 401(k): $2,300, Roth IRA: $43,000, traditional IRA (rolled over old 401(k)s): $24,700, brokerage: $600 (I had two surgeries a couple years ago that added up to $22,000 out of pocket which had a huge impact on my savings)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,775
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,915 (I got a COVID discount of one month of free rent, six months of free utilities, and no security deposit or move-in fee)
Utilities: $190 (only pay for six months)
Unlimited Ventra Card: $75 (pre-tax)
Health/Vision/Dental Insurance: $165 (pre-tax)
401(k): $250 (pre-tax)
Savings: $100
Hulu: $12
Netflix: $0 (my sister pays for Netflix and I pay for Hulu so we can share)
Spotify: $10
Unlimited Orangetheory: $200
Patreon: $10
Phone: $62
Amazon Prime: $119 annually
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes, it was definitely expected that I would go to college. I grew up assuming that was what everyone did. I always knew my education would be paid for and never something I needed to worry about. My 529 did get hit hard by the 2008 recession so going to a private or out-of-state school would've been out of budget. I chose to go to an in-state school so my 529 covered the whole thing.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I grew up knowing my family was very comfortable and upper middle class, but money and finances weren't discussed. I think one of the reasons my family didn't really talk about it is because my parents didn't know much about their daily finances. They had financial advisers and a weekly bookkeeper taking care of everything and giving them a monthly cash allowance that they got to spend freely.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job as a waitress in high school because all my friends had jobs and extra spending money sounded fun. My parents never pressured me to get a job while in school. I did waitress some in college and had a paid internship.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I knew that my parents made a good living and that there was some family inheritance in trusts from my grandparents, so money was not a concern. I wasn't aware of my privilege and what managing my finances entailed until I got out of college.
Do you worry about money now?
Definitely. I used to make $28,000 a year living in rural Virginia and was able to live on that relatively easily. When I moved to Chicago seven months ago, I more than doubled my income which was awesome! But I also doubled my expenses and succumbed to lifestyle creep. Lifestyle inflation plus the current economic inflation is giving me anxiety which I know I could fix or at least ease if I sat down and looked at my spending and budget.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I stayed on my parents' health insurance and phone plan until I was 25 but aside from that I began supporting myself right out of college. I know my mom would help me out if I were in financial trouble, but I would feel such shame asking her because I pride myself on being responsible and taking care of myself.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I received $20,000 from my grandparents when they died and $10,000 when my dad died a couple years ago. My sister and I expect to receive close to a million dollars each when my mom dies. My mom is currently enjoying the hell out of retirement and traveling a lot so that amount could be less, but I hope she continues to enjoy life and spend her money for decades to come. I try not to think about my future inheritance and I'm trying to set up my finances so I won't ever need that money.

Day One

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I'm super reluctant to get up. I normally sleep in until 9 or 9:30 on weekends, but I have plans with a friend across the city. I get ready for our workout class plus a change of clothes. My mom is leaving on a trip to South Africa today so I text her to wish her safe travels and a great trip (and a reminder to send me lots of pictures)!
8:40 a.m. — I leave for the train only to find out it's delayed…again. My original train/bus route won't work now, but there is another bus I can take and still make it on time.
9:10 a.m. — I've been waiting for the bus for 10 minutes and it hasn't come. Next one isn't scheduled for another 20 minutes and I won't make the workout class if I wait. I'm feeling pissed off about how unreliable public transit has been lately while I get an Uber. $11
9:30 a.m. — Finally get to the studio to meet my friend, B., and her boyfriend, N., for a boxing class. B. has a guest pass so I get to take the class for free, but they still make me pay for hand wraps and glove rentals. I used to do kickboxing a couple of years ago and loved it, so I'm really excited to take this class. Even though there was no kicking, it is still a lot of fun. $12
10:45 a.m. — Today is a beautiful, warm day in Chicago so we decide to take full advantage of it. After class, we walk around trying to find a place to go to brunch. We end up eating outside on a patio to enjoy the weather. I get a breakfast burrito, eat half and get the rest wrapped up for later. I decide not to get a drink since I had a lot of cider at yesterday's brunch, which was at a local cidery. $21
1 p.m. — I avoid the bus after the crap from this morning and take two trains home instead. There is a homeless guy on the platform asking for food, so I give him the half of my untouched burrito. I hope he enjoys it!
4 p.m. — My friend, V., texts to see if I want to grab a bite/drink outside later to enjoy the weather. Her sister is in town and they were going to take a walk heading toward my neighborhood. I usually spend Sunday evenings cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking/meal prep, but if they end up at a place close by, I know I won't be able to resist.
5:30 p.m. — V. texts again to say they drove to another part of the city instead and apologizes. I'm slightly bummed, but mostly relieved. I have three cats who I love and adore, but they make my apartment filthy if I don't clean a little every day and then do a big clean at the end of the week. So much litter and cat hair, ughh. Spend the next two hours cleaning while listening to podcasts.
7:30 p.m. — Chop and prep all the veggies and food I got from my grocery shop yesterday. For dinner tonight, I cook a big portion of veggie pasta stir-fry that I love and could eat every day. I made enough for lunch and dinner tomorrow and then spend the rest of the evening reading fanfiction.
11 p.m. — Shower, moisturizing, meds (mood stabilizers, birth control, and vitamins), final Insta scroll of the day, and then lights out at 11:30. My normal nightly routine also includes scooping the litter box (this happens twice a day) and a quick vacuum.
Daily Total: $44

Day Two

7 a.m. — Ugh early wake-up today. Mondays are one of the days my department works in the office downtown. I have a pixie cut that cooperates really well most days so I don't have to touch it in the morning. My daily makeup look consists of black liquid eyeliner and mascara as always. It's supposed to be another warm day so I get to wear my lighter spring coat instead of my winter one! After getting ready, I pack my lunch and thermos of tea, scoop the litter box and do a mini-vacuum, and head out the door.
7:40 a.m. — The stupid train has been running at really weird intervals and I have a long wait. It used to be a lot more consistent during commuter hours, but now I never know how long I'll be waiting. Thankfully we are allowed to show up anytime between 8-8:30, but I don't like being the last one in.
12 p.m. — Busy doing weekly reports until lunch. Mondays are my busiest day of the week so I don't really mind being in the office for them. I eat my packed lunch with some coworkers who get food from yummy spots nearby.
5:15 p.m. — Time for one of my twice-weekly chiropractor/physical therapy appointments. The office is only a couple of minutes' walk from work, so I pair my appointments with my days in the office. I had a pinched nerve in my neck in December and was barely able to move. I'm almost done with my current 24-visit treatment plan and today is X-ray day. I paid for all of my visits in bulk at the beginning of the year to get a 20% discount, so I've already met my health insurance deductible for the year.
6:45 p.m. — I get home after taking the train. Time to cuddle with the cats and eat some leftovers for dinner.
8 p.m. — Time for a Lift 45 class at Orangetheory. They only offer one of these classes a week and they are my favorite because there's no cardio. I'm able to lift heavy tonight and leave feeling strong.
9 p.m. — Spend the rest of the evening reading some new fanfiction chapters from my favorite writers. Getting new chapter update emails is always so exciting!
10:45 p.m. — Evening routine (including the second litter box scooping/vacuum of the day) and bed by 11:30.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:55 a.m. — I get to work from home today, yay! Roll out of bed and go about my morning routine and make some tea.
10 a.m. — Take a break from work to wash all my Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) supplies. I should have done this a couple of days ago, but I forgot/was lazy. Oh well, I'm doing it now. A couple of years ago I found out I have sleep apnea and my insomnia and energy levels have dramatically changed for the better now that I have a CPAP. The quality of life change definitely makes up for how ridiculous I look with my "nose pillows" on.
12 p.m. — Make a loaded quesadilla for lunch: tortilla, cheese, shredded rotisserie chicken, black beans, corn, pico de gallo, and avocado. I listen to a podcast while I eat. I'm a big podcast listener and always have a big queue of episodes to listen to. The creators of my all-time fave audio drama podcast, The Bright Sessions, have a new series out called Maxine Miles so I catch up on the first few episodes.
5:20 p.m. — Finally get dressed in real clothes after work so I can catch a bus to go to tutoring. Every Tuesday, I hang out with a fifth-grader named L., and work on homework together. Today is all about learning how to divide decimals.
7:30 p.m. — The tutoring program manager catches me as I'm trying to leave to ask me to sit on a panel next week to help new tutors. He also tells me he recommended me for the fundraising/activity planning board for next year. I'm not sure if I'm up for either and do my best to graciously avoid giving a definitive answer. Thankfully, I have the excuse that I need to rush to catch my bus home.
8:15 p.m. — Not really in the mood to cook or pull anything together so dinner is mostly snack food and blueberries.
11:30 p.m. — Finish my evening routine and time for bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7:55 a.m. — Another day working from home so I get to roll out of bed at the last minute.
9:30 a.m. — I'm a co-organizer for two Meetup groups, so I spend some time planning events this morning. I am a huge fan of Meetup. I moved to Chicago without knowing anyone and Meetup has helped me make so many friends, learn the city, and try out stuff I would have never even heard of otherwise.
12 p.m. — Cook another batch of pasta veggie stir-fry and make enough for three more meals of it.
2 p.m. — Wednesdays are usually pretty slow at work so I finally get around to filing my taxes. I've been putting it off because my taxes are more complicated this year — I just moved to Chicago in August so I have two state returns from three different jobs, a short-term disability claim, and two rolled-over 401(k)s this year. I'm pretty nervous about screwing up my taxes. I'm so relieved when I get it done. I usually end up owing about $200 every year, but I'm actually getting a $300 refund this time around which is exciting!
5 p.m. — Walk to Target to return two shirts that didn't end up fitting and buy some paper towels, hand soap, and some chocolate that was calling my name. $30
7 p.m. — Dinner is another round of pasta leftovers. I go through phases with my food where I'll want to eat the same thing every day for months and then be so sick of it I don't want it again for a year. Maybe I'll move on to my next food obsession soon, but not today.
8 p.m. — I go to an Orangetheory class and leave feeling energized! I go home and and get to bed pretty early.
Daily Total: $30

Day Five

7 a.m. — Today is my second required day in the office so I reluctantly wake up early, do my morning routine, and get ready for work.
9:30 a.m. — Weekly team meeting. Aside from my senior manager who lives in a different state, the rest of us are in the office sitting next to each other. That doesn't stop us from all taking the meeting from our desks with headphones instead of using a conference room. Why are we so ridiculous and why do we need to be in the office for this?
12 p.m. — I packed chili for lunch today. I made it last month and had a couple of portions frozen in my freezer. It thaws out really well and is delicious. Most of my coworkers buy lunch every day so I can feel a little self-conscious when I always bring it from home.
2 p.m. — One of my coworkers has started posting riddles of the week on an office whiteboard. I struggle all day and can't figure it out and when I find out the answer I can't believe I didn't solve it!
5:15 p.m. — Time for my second chiropractor visit of the week. Today we do my range of motion tests in addition to my regular adjustment.
6:15 p.m. — The appointment took a little longer than usual and I have a long wait for the train. I don't have time to go home before meeting some friends for trivia.
6:45 p.m. — There are 12 of us at trivia tonight so we end up splitting into two groups. We have 12 people on the group text and friends are welcome so we never know how many people are going to come on a given week, but it's usually six to eight. I was actually going to skip this week, but we ended up picking a place that's a 10-minute walk from my apartment and has really good pizza so I couldn't resist.
9:30 p.m. — It was really hard tonight but our team won third place anyway! The prize was Malort shots… Malort is not a prize. IYKYK. I have a cider and a pan pizza with pepperoni, bacon jam, hot honey, basil, and ricotta. The pizza is really filling so I take half of it home. $36
Daily Total: $36

Day Six

7:55 a.m. — It's finally Friday and I get to work from home. We are going to be forced into the office three days a week soon, but I'm really enjoying my three days working from home for as long as I can.
10 a.m. — Midmorning snack of leftover pizza. I'm really craving my leftovers and can't wait until lunchtime.
3 p.m. — We get to finish work at 3 on Fridays. I happily log off and am so ready for the weekend. I have some leftover veggie pasta stir-fry as a midafternoon snack.
4:15 p.m. — Time for an Orangetheory class. One of the main reasons I joined is because the studio is right next to my building so I don't have an excuse not to go even when the weather is miserable.
5:15 p.m. — Today is my mom's birthday! We text for a bit and she tells me about her day. She sends me some pictures and videos that I make sure to share with all my friends later.
7 p.m. — I meet a group of friends for dinner at this delicious wine and cheese shop that is a five-minute walk from my place. I've only been here once before and have been dying to go again so I'm really excited to have finally gotten this planned. The six of us share 12 kinds of cheese and spreads and three bottles of wine. It is so delicious and we have the best time catching up and filling up on cheese. We split the bill evenly six ways. $20
9:45 p.m. — Home and happy to call it an early night. Spend some time on the couch with my cats and some Netflix before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $20

Day Seven

9:30 a.m. — Sleep in a little and cuddle with my cats before finally getting up and spending the morning drinking tea and reading.
11 a.m. — Switch my Orangetheory class to an earlier time slot last minute because I like the early coach better. Orangetheory just got a DJ and today is his first playlist. Class involves strobe lights and EDM music. Not my vibe (especially at 11 in the morning after drinking last night), but thankfully we will only have his playlists once a month. Despite not liking the music, I have to admit it is pretty cool to have the beat match up exactly with the workout down to the second.
12 p.m. — Stop by the package room in my building to get an Old Navy package I ordered last week. I run into my apartment broker in the lobby and we sit down to catch up. She is the sweetest person and was insanely helpful when I was looking for a place last summer. This is the first time we've run into each other and it's great to chat. I tell her how much I love my place but am worried about rent increasing when my lease is up, she tells me to call her two months before the renewal so she can try to help me out.
12:30 p.m. — After trying on all of the clothes I ordered, I decide to return everything. I immediately repackage them and walk to the post office a block away. After I get back, I make a quesadilla.
2 p.m. — I'm going to a board game potluck brunch at a friend's place tomorrow. I want to bring something with eggs that will travel well so I decide to make avocado deviled eggs since I have all the ingredients already except for the avocado. I go to boil the eggs only to find out most of them don't pass the float test. Whoops! I guess they are older than I thought.
2:15 p.m. — I grab a bus to my nearby Target and grab eggs, two avocados, and a lime. Decide to walk back home instead of waiting for the next bus. $7
3:30 p.m. — Eggs are boiled and peeled. I'll do the filling tomorrow morning before the brunch so the avocado doesn't brown overnight.
6:20 p.m. — After showering and getting ready, I'm out the door and waiting for my train with plenty of extra time for any public transit issues. I'm going to a play tonight on the opposite end of the city. My sweet friend, N., asked me last week if I wanted some free tickets so I said yes.
7:15 p.m. — After taking two trains, I'm waiting in the freezing cold for the bus. Two buses in a row don't show up. I'm so frustrated. I need to leave now to make it to the theater on time so I get an Uber for the second time in a week so I can get there on time. I usually take an Uber a month max, not two in a week. $11
7:30 p.m. — Two of my friends meet me at the theater and I give them their free tickets. They also had to get Ubers for the last leg of the trip due to the bus not running as scheduled but we all made it on time!
9:55 p.m. — The play is great and had such a cool set! None of us have the energy or patience to try to get back via bus and train so we share a Lyft home and my friend pays. She doesn't have Venmo, so I promise to buy her a drink next time we hang out.
Daily Total: $18
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