A Week In Chicago, IL, On $100 An Hour

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a consultant working in Communications/Public Affairs who makes $100 an hour and spends some of her money on hydrangeas.
Occupation: Consultant
Industry: Communications/Public Affairs
Age: 28
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $100/hr
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,000 (pre-tax)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,247.50 (my half for a two-bedroom apartment split with my boyfriend B.)
Student Loans: $0 (thanks to my parents and generous financial aid, I had a relatively small amount in loans that I paid off about three years after graduating)
Utilities (Gas, Electric, Internet): $80-100 for my half
Cell Phone: $0 (thanks parents and work)
Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, Amazon: $0 (my parents love TV)
Apple Music: $10.59
Headspace App: $13.77
Health Insurance: $105 (When I switched to part-time work I was able to get insurance through my boyfriend's job since we've lived together for a few years; I pay this amount to him directly on the first of each month to cover my additional expense.)
Investments: $500 into a high-yield savings account (I currently have about $25,000 in that account, as well as about $90,000 in retirement savings and other investments)
Donations: $100 (split between various local abortion funds, the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Planned Parenthood, and Emily's List)

Day One

9:33 a.m. — My alarm goes off but I'm a little groggy from staying out later than usual last night. I lay in bed and make a grocery list on my phone for a family brunch I'm hosting this morning.
10:45 a.m. — I chat with my boyfriend, B., and a college friend who's in town for a conference and staying with us. They head off to the Russian bathhouse for a guys spa day with some friends (jealous!) and I walk to Whole Foods to pick up brunch supplies. I get hydrangeas, eggs, milk, ham, asparagus, mushrooms, gruyere, gouda, butter, flour, and some herbs. $64.26
12 p.m. — I sauté the mushrooms, roast the asparagus, grate the cheese, and otherwise prep my toppings for the Dutch babies we'll be making today. While I wait for my family to come over, I also tidy up the apartment slightly — thankfully I had already done a good bit of cleaning for our friend's visit.
1:30 p.m. — My sisters and I are treating my parents as a thank you for a family trip we took over the summer. They make fruit salad, fry up some bacon, and make everyone tea while I start churning out Dutch babies. Once we're done cooking, we sit and chat and coo over my parents' dog. My mom is an interior design extraordinaire and she helps me style the new dining table I bought off Craigslist yesterday (it was $500 plus $100 for movers to get it up our three flights of stairs, split evenly with my boyfriend — a bit of a spend but very much needed and something I think/hope we'll have for a long time!).
5:15 p.m. — With my family gone, I finish tidying up from the meal and sit down to get through some personal emails. B. and our friend went somewhere to watch the Bears game after the bathhouse, so I enjoy a few quiet hours to myself. I make myself a mug of Trader Joe's chai and try to make some progress on job applications, but I start feeling anxious and don't get very far.
7:35 p.m. — B. and friend come home and we make our way over to the neighborhood Target so our friend can pick up an iron for his conference clothes (we shamefully don't have one). B. pays for a cheap ironing board, toothpaste, and some funny fall-themed wine glasses from the clearance section that I couldn't resist. He also orders replacement air filters from Amazon on the walk home. I Venmo B. my half for these purchases, rounded down since he ordered a couple of other items for himself. $20
8:10 p.m. — I eat an easy dinner of scrambled eggs and a salad with roasted chickpeas and curried fennel from today's leftovers, drink a mug of peppermint tea, and hang out with the boys while they watch more football. I take a quick shower before turning in at 11:30.
Daily Total: $84.26

Day Two

7:31 a.m. — First alarm goes off. Snooze.
7:36 a.m. — Second alarm goes off. Snooze.
7:58 a.m. — Finally drag myself out of bed and into my living room to start work. I work remotely for a company on the east coast so I start a bit earlier than is typical (though luckily I don't need to worry about getting ready every morning). I put the kettle on for another cup of Trader Joe's chai, take my multivitamin, and make some cinnamon toast before diving into emails. Due to my part-time schedule, I haven't logged on since last Thursday, so I have a couple hundred emails to catch up on. I recently switched from a full-time, salaried position to working just 20 hours a week. It's been an adjustment, but this situation is temporary and I'm still figuring out my next steps, which would ideally be a new full-time job with better work/life balance or going back to school.
10:31 a.m. — I get off a check-in call with my boss and make myself more cinnamon toast and tea.
10:40 a.m. — The internet's out — crap. I mess around trying to restart the router, but it's super windy today so I'm worried it's a larger issue. When it doesn't come back on I fire up the hotspot on my work-provided cell phone and make a note to call RCN later if it's still not working.
11:55 a.m. — I raid my pantry and return with a handful of cashews and dried cherries. Snack attacks are much more dangerous when you work from home!
2:55 p.m. — I finish up my work for the day and make myself scrambled eggs with cheese for a late lunch. The internet's thankfully working again, so I start searching for a new primary care physician. I have not found a good PCP since I moved back to Chicago, but I'm hoping to get an appointment as soon as possible because my therapist recommended I start a low dose of medication to keep my anxiety in check. I get a little stressed when all the best doctors don't seem to have appointments available for a month or more, but I finally choose one who I feel good about and book an appointment for next Monday.
7:10 p.m. — I abandon all grocery shopping plans when our friend says he wants to treat us to dinner. I spend ages looking for my Ventra card before remembering I lent it to him to get around this week. I run for the bus and just make it. Instead of my prepaid card, I use my credit card for a contactless payment. $2.25
8:50 p.m. — Stuffed on delicious pizza, we stop at a brewery on the way home. Our friend gets the Uber there and B. buys a round for them both (I don't drink). We leave after just one flight and I get the Uber home (with a tip). $8.53
11:11 p.m. — I stay up chatting and watching old episodes of Supermarket Sweep on Buzzr for far longer than I should, then say goodbye to our friend since he's leaving early tomorrow. I get ready for bed quickly and crash around midnight.
Daily Total: $10.78

Day Three

8:05 a.m. — Alarm goes off at 7:45 and I surprisingly don't have that much trouble scraping myself out of bed despite going to sleep so late last night. I brush my teeth and am in front of my computer by a little after 8. I set up my workspace at the new dining table so I have optimal views of the changing leaves outside.
9:25 a.m. — Fage greek yogurt with frozen blueberries for breakfast, mixed together until everything is a delicious, melty, purpley mess. I also take my multivitamin and sip on the first of many mugs of earl grey tea while I work to consolidate edits on a big document that needs to be finalized this morning.
12:35 p.m. — Finish work for the day and heat up leftover clam pizza for lunch while I continue to hack away at my resume. I finally get to a place where I feel okay about it, take a quick body shower, pack up my book and notebook, and head out for my weekly therapy appointment. As I'm leaving, I realize I have not yet paid for last week's appointment, so I quickly use my banking app to make the transfer. These appointments are sadly not covered by my insurance, but I find them so helpful that this cost is worth it to me at this point. My anxiety has been close to a crisis level for the last few months, but hopefully, I'll feel better once I start medication and won't need to make appointments as frequently. $180
1:30 p.m. — I remembered to get my Ventra card back from my friend before he left! I use it to pay for my bus and train downtown ($2.50, prepaid).
3:40 p.m. — I usually treat myself to a chai latte or indulge in post-therapy retail therapy after my appointment, but I'm feeling drained today so I hop back on the train home. I swipe in within two hours of my earlier bus trip so it counts as a free transfer.
4:45 p.m. — I stop by Whole Foods on my way home and stock up on Honeycrisp apples, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, an onion, eggs, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, coconut milk, ginger sparkling water, and a cookie ($17.42 for my half). This will feed both B. and me for lunches and dinners through the end of the week. I also hit up Walgreens for Listerine at B.'s request and see Dr. Teal's Epsom salts on sale. I know I'm running low so I grab a bag, but don't realize until later I was charged full price ($7.49) . Shoot! B. Venmos me for the mouthwash and his half of the groceries. I feel pretty strongly about maintaining separate finances, even after we get married, due to some money tensions I saw in my own family dynamics growing up. We still take turns treating each other, of course, but this setup means frequent Venmo payments for day-to-day expenses, which neither of us particularly minds. $24.91
5:15 p.m. — I'm feeling very run down. I might be sick, or maybe all my late nights lately are finally catching up to me. I decide to skip a run today and jump back in the shower for a proper hair wash. I bundle up in sweats and read my book, 1493, on the couch for a bit. I snack on a Honeycrisp apple, the cookie, and a ginger water from my grocery haul.
8:30 p.m. — B. gets home from a long day at work and I start making dinner: Pinch of Yum's spicy peanut soup with sweet potato and kale. He cleans up and packs leftovers for lunch tomorrow while I get ready for bed. We hang out for a bit longer, then I do a Headspace meditation and sleepcast until I fall asleep around 9:45.
Daily Total: $204.91

Day Four

7:45 a.m. — About ten hours of sleep later and I feel SO much better. I'm in front of my computer and ready to work by 8.
9:23 a.m. — B. requests my half of this month's rent payment on Venmo (accounted for in my monthly expenses above). Breakfast is Greek yogurt, frozen blueberries, a multivitamin, and chai. Despite sleeping so well last night, it's a slow day and I'm struggling with productivity this morning. Not doing enough has always been a worry of mine but now that I am paid hourly I feel even more guilty for wasting time and not contributing enough to merit my (what feels extremely generous) hourly rate. I plan to stay online a little later this afternoon to make up for some of the time I spent trying to get my anxiety in check rather than working.
11:45 a.m. — Feeling better after a solidly productive few hours, though I still feel residually guilty and disconnected from my office. I snack on an apple and flip the electric kettle on for more tea.
1:14 p.m. — Done with work for the day. I eat leftover peanut stew for lunch while catching up on my online reading (Ask a Manager, Money Diaries) and checking in on my budgets on Mint. After a few years of being a relatively high earner (at least it felt that way compared to my salary when I first started working!), I'm trying to keep a closer eye on my spending now that my work situation has changed. My paychecks are not exactly consistent now that I am invoicing for my work, but I got paid twice already this month so I'm happy to see that my finances are in good shape.
4:45 p.m. — I finally set off on the run I have been putting off all day and it feels great. The leaves are colorful, kids are running around playgrounds in their little plaid coats, the air is crisp, and I'm in a great mood when I return. I start a load of laundry and throw together Smitten Kitchen's pumpkin bread to assuage the sweet tooth that has been nagging me all. day. I do a quick "Yoga with Adriene" video while I wait for the timers on my laundry and bread to buzz.
7 p.m. — I get started on tonight's dinner, Half-Baked Harvest's cashew Indian butter paneer (a forever fave) with Trader Joe's frozen parathas. B. helps a little — normally we divide the cooking more evenly, but he's taking a big test on Friday so I try to free up some extra time for him to study. We talk about planning a trip to Peru next spring because I spotted some killer flight deals this week. B. packs up the leftovers, tidies up, and goes back to studying.
9:30 p.m. — Hours later I emerge dazed from an internet rabbit hole of Machu Picchu hiking tours, restaurants in Lima, and various Inca archeological sites. I even started a color-coded spreadsheet for the trip, which is how I know I'm in deep. B. is still studying so I keep my excitement to myself for now and make a note to get quotes for a few tours and find out if Machu Picchu passes are still available. I shower, finish folding my laundry, and am in bed by 10:30 drifting off to a Headspace sleepcast.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — I somehow wake up before my alarm (unprecedented) but still end up dozing until I'm due to start working. I settle into my last day of work this week with Barry's tea and a thick slab of pumpkin bread.
10:45 a.m. — I hit send on a draft report that was on my plate this morning, quickly run a brush through my hair, and throw on a turtleneck for a video meeting (yes, I stay in my comfy PJ pants, and all your other remote colleagues do too). I scrape the last few spoonfuls of yogurt out of the bottom of the container and read over my notes in preparation for the call.
1:45 p.m. — Done with work for the week! I head out for a run on my usual three-mile loop through the neighborhood. When I come back, my neighbor's dogs greet me as soon as I open the door to the apartment building. I take them back up to their place, but the door is open and it doesn't seem like anyone is home. I hang out with them for a little bit on the threshold and give them pets (any excuse to hang out with some chill pups), but I have no idea if the door is open intentionally or if they engineered an escape. I eventually decide to leave everything as-is (I don't want to lock anyone out, and everyone in our small building knows these pups well), but I resolve to check on them again in a bit.
3 p.m. — Late lunch is leftover cashew curry, paratha, and an apple.
4:00 p.m. — The pups are accounted for — I see my neighbor walking them outside. Phew! B.'s dinner plans change — I had been planning to scavenge dinner for myself from the fridge and pantry, but since there will be two of us now I run out to Whole Foods to pick up salmon, cauliflower, and russet potatoes ($7.66 for my half). On my way out, I grab a hot chocolate from the coffee shop downstairs ($3.87). When I get home I shower, bundle up in sweats, and start an exfoliating face mask from The Ordinary. $11.53
6:14 p.m. — I start chopping and boiling potatoes for Serious Eats' “best crispy roast potatoes ever” (they aren't lying). I also roast the cauliflower with turmeric and cumin and B. handles the fish — seasoned with everything but the bagel seasoning and cilantro-jalapeno sauce we had in the fridge from tacos last weekend. After dinner, I pack a going away bag for our trip out of town this weekend. I'm on track to have another early night, but I end up chatting with B. until about midnight. I fall asleep to another Headspace sleepcast.
Daily Total: $11.53

Day Six

8:20 a.m. — I'm meeting a friend who is also off work this morning, so I wake up slightly earlier than normal for a day off. I eat the last few bites of peanut curry to clean out the fridge before the weekend, as well as another slice of the pumpkin bread, and finish packing up for my weekend away. I put makeup on for the first time this week and wear black jeans, a charcoal turtleneck, black boots, and a new slouchy crossbody bag from Anthropologie I bought last weekend.
9:51 a.m. — On the way to the train, I stop at the neighborhood doughnut spot and buy two apple cider doughnuts for my friend. I then swipe into the train on my prepaid card for my ride up to her place. $4.27
1:10 p.m. — My friend and I go to Hoosier Mama for a lunch of savory pies and tea to catch up, since we haven't seen each other in a few weeks. I have a savory roast vegetable pie with chai, and my friend treats as thanks for coming up to meet her. We walk around the lakeshore looking at the leaves and big beautiful houses, and eventually end up back at Hoosier Mama for sweet pies — mine is caramel apple flavored. I pay this time and also pick up a post-exam pinwheel cookie for B. Everything is delicious, and it's great to catch up with her again. $15.60
5:30 p.m. — I say goodbye and Uber to the house of another friend, I., who is driving a group of us up to a house on Lake Michigan for the weekend. $12.90
5:45 p.m. — On our way downtown, I. and I stop at a bakery for bread. She pays for the loaves with a gift card and I see a cardamom bun I know B. will like even better than the cookie, so I get that too. He texted me that his exam went well and he's happy with his score, so celebration is in order! $4.78
8 p.m. — After a few hours on the road, we stop at Burger King for an Impossible Whopper that B. and I split. He pays.
9:50 p.m. — Finally arrived, we snack on a Mac n' cheese and roasted acorn squash someone brought up to the house for dinner. We hang out and chat, watch the latest episode of Great British Bake Off, then turn in for the night.
Daily Total: $37.55

Day Seven

10 a.m. — We all take our time waking up and eventually gather to eat a leisurely breakfast of toast with cheese and fried eggs on the delicious bakery bread I. picked up yesterday. It's a slightly dreary and chilly fall day, but not enough to keep us away from the pumpkin patch. A few of us get pumpkins for carving, but I just pick up a few decorative gourds for my kitchen windowsill back home. $2
1:30 p.m. — Warm and dusty antique shops seem like the perfect place to escape the chilly day. We wander around a few in town laughing at all the scary dolls and old-school beer and tobacco ads. I pick up a Guinness-themed poster to hang in the bar area of my apartment, and a friend gets another for me as a gift. $9.28
4:30 p.m. — Back home, we start cooking dinner for the group. I. and her boyfriend have a plan, so I am more than happy to keep them company in the kitchen, refill their cider glasses, and act as sous chef when needed. I also Venmo them for my share of groceries that they picked up earlier. We eat roasted cauliflower, some practice stuffing as a dry run for Thanksgiving next month, and a divine apple spiced cake for dessert. After dinner we light a fire, read and chat some more, and are all somehow exhausted despite doing very little today. We all head to bed by 11. $10
Daily Total: $21.28
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