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A Week In Chicago Suburbs, IL, On A $115,000 Salary

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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 CPG manager who makes $115,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a chandelier.
Occupation: Manager
Industry: Consumer Packaged Goods
Age: 27
Location: Chicago Suburbs, IL
Salary: $115,000
Net Worth: $168,672 ($3,293 in my 401(k), $31,700 in a rollover IRA, $11,079 in a standard IRA, $9,600 in brokerage accounts, $10,000 in a HYSA, $55,000 estimated car value, $400,000 home value, minus debt. I own my home and my boyfriend, K., pays rent. We both consider it rent and he is not an owner of the property. I paid for the down payment and closing costs and made the decision to buy this place on my own. We split other bills 50/50 except for pet expenses, which I cover alone.
Debt: $290,000 left on mortgage, $27,000 in federal student loans, $35,000 on car loan.
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $3,019
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,800 (I own my home and my boyfriend, K., pays me $890/month in rent).
Student Loans: $300
Car Payment: $756 (includes prepayment of service and extended warranty).
Electricity: $30 (my half).
Wi-Fi: $27.50 (my half).
Water/Sewer/Trash: $50 (my half).
Gas: $50 (my half).
Hulu: $6.99
Spotify: $9.99
Netflix: $15.49
House/Car Sinking Fund: $300
Savings: $2,000
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?
I went to college prep school, so there was definitely an expectation to go. I went to an expensive private school on the East Coast and I was very fortunate that my dad paid for almost all of it. My mom had me accept all of the federal loans I was offered so I would feel a sense of ownership over my education. She says she regrets that looking back but I think it was the right thing to do. I do feel like I took it more seriously than some of my peers who had their educations paid for entirely and easily by their parents.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family situation is complicated. My parents are together and have been my entire life, but their relationship was very strained. I feel like I grew up in a single-parent household at times because my dad spent all of his time working at his business and was controlling and abusive. All of that to say, my mom instilled in us very early and often the importance of being financially independent and never relying on someone else, most of all a man, for money. She tried very hard to get me interested in investing. It didn't really stick but she did do a good job of teaching me about saving and spending wisely. Whenever I got money as a gift, I had to go to the bank and deposit half of it in a savings account and I got to spend the other half. If I asked her to buy me something her most common response was "wait for it to go on sale." I think she did a great job of teaching me the basics.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at a fast food restaurant for two weeks between high school and college. I ended up quitting because, although I didn't have a name for it at the time, looking back I realize I was experiencing severe anxiety. I got my first real job when I was a sophomore in college so I could have work experience on my resume and make a little spending money. I worked at a tech startup and a cupcake shop.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. I had no concept of money. My parents really didn't tell me anything about our financial situation and they never discussed money in front of me. I knew my mom paid for groceries for herself, my sister, and me and that my dad bought groceries that were just for him. I knew she was very conscious of her spending and she didn't make a lot. I didn't think we were poor because we went on trips and my dad owned a business. I guess I just thought we were average.
Do you worry about money now?
I do. I never feel like I am managing my money well enough or saving enough and I'm scared that I'll lose my job unexpectedly. I think I would be okay, but I have so many financial goals that feel so out of reach. My mom is nearing retirement and doesn't have a lot of money saved for it and I want to help her but I don't feel like I am in the financial place I want to be to take care of her.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I would say when I was 23 and got my first big girl job. I was living in a big city and making $65,000 a year and I was so proud that I could pay my own rent. I still let my mom pay my phone bill because it makes her feel like she's taking care of me, but I've been covering all of my own expenses since then. I would say my mom and sister are my financial safety nets. I know I could go to them if I needed money but I wouldn't ask unless I was desperate/as a last resort.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Not officially. My mom has helped out here or there and she generously gifted me $10,000 to help pay for closing costs when I bought my first home. My dad did pay for my education in a completely unexpected move. Still undecided if I consider it an inheritance or justice for the emotional trauma he put me through. He originally told me I would be financially on my own unless I went to a school in our hometown, but then had a change of heart and decided to pay for my education as long as I signed a contract (read: a word document he wrote and printed) saying that I would pay him back. We don't speak anymore so I have no intention of paying him back. If he wants his money back he can sue me but I doubt he will as it would make him look bad in front of our extended family.

Day One

5:30 a.m. — Wake up to my cat standing on my chest. I get up and put on light wash jeans and a navy blue shirt. Head-to-toe blue for an event at work. I eat half of a protein waffle with honey before heading out the door. The waffle is gross, I don't know why I keep buying these and torturing myself in the name of adding protein to my diet. Drive 10 minutes to the bus, listening to prayer music on the way. Once I park I hop on the bus and scan my Ventra card. $4.50
8:25 a.m. — I read half of Die With Zero on the long bus ride. It's a decent read but doesn't feel totally relevant to me and where I am in life right now. It does encourage me to be more generous with money which isn't a terrible thing. Hop off the bus and walk a block to work.
9:25 a.m. — I prep for my performance review with my boss. We talk workload and how the job is going so far as I started just a few months ago. Overall she has a lot of positive feedback and a couple points of constructive feedback that I am not surprised by but grateful for. We also talk long-term career goals and it's refreshing that I can be honest about what I want to do later on even if it isn't directly related to our team's work. She is honest about the limited room for growth on my team and shares that most likely my next move would be to switch teams in two years.
11 a.m. — I work for a food company and there are a lot of events here. We go up a floor to the common area and try a new plant-based product and we get some free socks if we're wearing the brand colors. The product is delish and the socks are soft! After, I have a one-on-one with my team lead and we mostly just chit chat about random stuff. She tags me for a couple team projects since I have downtime. Later, I pick at the sandwich I brought for lunch but I'm not super hungry after the food from the event. I consider getting a Diet Coke as a treat but decide not to and eat the popcorn and Nutella cookies I brought from home.
2:55 p.m. — My boyfriend, K., picks me up from work today and I leave a little earlier than usual so I can pick up an amazing vintage-inspired chandelier I found on Facebook Marketplace. I venmo the seller $100. We begin our long commute home and my boyfriend stops to use the bathroom. He buys me peanut M&M's (he pays). $100
5:45 p.m. — We DoorDash Taco Bell because we are too tired to cook ($49.85). He buys way more food than I did so he'll venmo me for a little over half later. I usually pay for food and he venmos me because I get triple credit card points on restaurant and DoorDash purchases. My belly is full and I do some stretches before relaxing in bed. I had surgery last week to remove some pre-cancer from my cervix and I've been really tired and achey. Pause for a PSA — please book your pap smears. I had my first one and I kept putting it off because I felt healthy. I was shocked to learn I had high-grade precancerous cells. $49.85
8:48 p.m. — My boyfriend comes up from playing video games downstairs in the basement and we do our nightly skin and teeth routine and head to bed. Before I put my phone away for the night, I order some new food and toys for my cats. One has been puking and I suspect he might have a grain allergy. $60.36
Daily Total: $214.71

Day Two

5:40 a.m. — Snuggle my cat before getting ready. My morning skincare is Skinfix Barrier+ hydrating cleanser, Laneige water bank, Laneige SPF 50, and the Laneige lip mask. Before I head out, I change into different jeans because the pair I first put on are too tight and I'm still cramping from my surgery. I chug a core power chocolate shake on the drive and get to the bus a couple minutes early. Tap my Ventra card. $4.50
8:35 a.m. — Read more of my book on the way and make it up to the office. Put my lunch in the fridge and grab some water before heading into a team meeting.
12:56 p.m. — Hitting a wall here at work so I look into flights for my mom while snacking on popcorn, a fruit bar, and chocolate. I also try to nibble at my sandwich but I am really not into it. My mom and I have an upcoming trip to South Africa to go on safari. The flights are expensive because we want to go premium economy or business. I am cringing at the prices but feel like it will be worth it considering the 30-hour travel time. I will keep watching the prices in hopes of them getting cheaper.
3:25 p.m. — Tap my Ventra on the bus and watch TikTok all the way home. As we get closer to the bus station, I remote start my car to cool down the car before I get in. Little luxuries. This car is the first car I bought on my own, and I decided to save up and buy my dream car. I know it probably wasn't the best financial decision ever, but I can honestly say I love driving it and don't regret the amount of money I am spending one bit. When I get home I eat the chicken bowls my boyfriend, K. made with rice, guac, and sour cream. $4.50
6:57 p.m. — I brush my teeth with the new Sonicare toothbrush I got on Prime Day. I love it when it shows me a map of my teeth and tells me I did a good job. Wash my face with SkinFix Barrier+. Follow with Ole Henriksen Dewtopia, Cosrx Snail Mucin, Sulwahsoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, and Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. K. comes to check on me and I tell him I'm cold and too tired to put the blanket over me so he tucks me in. I think I'll keep him.
8:04 p.m. — I love watching TV in bed to unwind after work but man there has been nothing good on any streaming platforms right now. I opt for Fairly OddParents because it's playing on one of the free channels included with my TV. K. comes to bed and we fall asleep shortly after chatting about random stuff.
Daily Total: $9

Day Three

5:36 a.m. — I wake up in a nice dark room, perfectly cozy. I desperately wish I could sleep in right now. Cuddling my sweet fluffy kitty only makes that desire stronger. I eventually get up and do my usual skincare before chugging a Corepower chocolate shake from the fridge and driving to the bus station. The scanner isn't working when I get on so the driver tells all of us to pay on our way out.
7:30 a.m. — I finish my book and log it in the spreadsheet where I track the books I own and if I've read them or not and in what year. I thought the book was decent. I got a couple of nuggets out of it and it did make me feel better about spending money on those tickets to Africa. When we make it to my stop, I pay my fare on the way out ($4.50) and stop at the Amazon Go store before I go up to my floor. Grab a sausage, egg, and cheddar and a pulp-free orange juice. This place is just so tempting especially being able to just grab and go without checking out ($5.31). $9.81
11:21 a.m. — I eat lunch which is really just snacks (popcorn and chocolate) because a sandwich sounded so unappealing today. While I eat, I track all of my accomplishments from the week. When I started here a few months ago, I decided to start tracking my weekly accomplishments so I can remember and refer to them when I ask for a promotion or raise.
4:25 p.m. — Well, I severely bleed through my pants and have to leave my last meeting of the day early. I don't even have anything to try to hide it so I adjust my backpack straps to be as low as possible and walk to the bus. I want to scream. The bus finally comes so I tap my Ventra card and I make it home around 7 and just lay in bed. I have no interest in dinner but K. makes me eat at least a couple McDonald's chicken nuggets for dinner (he bought). $4.50
9.35 p.m. — My boyfriend comes up from playing video games downstairs and we do our usual nightly skincare and teeth brushing routine. We watch Is It Cake? before I fall asleep with him rubbing my back. My favorite.
Daily Total: $14.31

Day Four

7:02 a.m. — I'm woken up by a mix of loud thunderstorms and demands from my cat to snuggle. Eventually he lays down on my stomach and rests his head on my chest. Precious boy. I get up to go to the bathroom and refill the cats' food bowl and do my skincare. Same as usual.
9:04 a.m. — I am working from home today so I log on and sort through some emails while I wait for my 9:30 call to start. I make a quick to-do list while I listen and my handwriting is hitting today. When the call ends an hour later, I mobile deposit a check that I received from a claim I made on my cats' pet insurance. $303! Wooo! But the money immediately goes to pay a medical bill I have from my surgery ($253.30). After working a bit more, I take 35 minutes to zoom around the house and pick and wash some vegetables from my garden, trim up some veggie plants that are growing wild, lament about the birds eating my strawberries, change the bag in my cats' litter robot, sweep the laundry room, and put away clean dishes. A little while later I feel nauseous and realize I didn't eat! I make myself some taquitos from the freezer and eat them with sour cream while I work. $253.30
1:05 p.m. — It's my mom's birthday and she calls me so I wish her a happy birthday and we end up adding my sister to the call and talking for a bit. Although it wasn't under the best circumstances, my mom came to support me during my surgery last week so we cut cake and took her out to celebrate then.
3:27 p.m. — K. comes home and we chat about our days for a bit. He leaves before I wake up and today is his turn to pick up groceries so I help him unpack them. I open a package and it's the new backpack I ordered last week! I've had my current one for seven years and it's held up well considering I used it every day for college, but now it's time to get something with more space. I love the new backpack and I have plenty of space for some extra stuff!
4.56 p.m. — I have to step away to do some work but I venmo K. for my portion of the groceries ($49.97). I try to stick to a $50 weekly grocery budget for myself and I'm so pleased to be under even if it's just by a few cents. We got chicken broth, a couple packs of chicken, lettuce bags, Parmesan cheese, croutons, an onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, Cheez-Its, a couple microwaveable flavored rice packages, salami, heavy cream, Martinelli's apple juice, and ranch. I'm hungry for a snack but I restrain myself since we're driving to the movies to see Oppenheimer in a bit and it's a theater where you can order meals to your seat. $49.97
9:38 p.m. — We get home from the movies and it was fantastic. Thoroughly enjoyed! I had a chicken sandwich, peanut M&Ms and a Diet Coke. K. pays for food but I Venmo him $17 for my ticket. I'm shocked I didn't have to leave for a bathroom break. Once we get home we quickly do our nightly routines and get in bed! $17
Daily Total: $320.27

Day Five

8:54 a.m. — We wake up and cuddle and lay in bed for a little bit before K. gets up to get ready and drive a few hours down to see his family. I normally go with him but I decided to stay home this time so I can rest. I hate that we haven't spent much time together this week, but my surgery recovery has been kind of unpredictable. Sad to miss seeing everyone but I kiss him goodbye and do my morning skincare. Same as usual and I let my cat play in K.'s sink for a while.
10.35 a.m. — The mailman delivers a pendant I ordered from my country of ethnic origin with a religious symbol on it so I sign for it and put it on. I love it! It did take a month and a half to arrive but it's not something I could buy locally so it is what it is. I drink an apple juice from the fridge while I get ready for a quick Target run. I grab some juice, mini muffins, 100% cotton feminine pads, baby wipes, a couple things of wet food as a treat for the cats, and some taquitos. $37.62
12:37 p.m. — I munch on some mini muffins and ice water and watch Unexpected for a bit. I get hungry and I usually try to cook at home on the weekends but I treat myself to a cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke that I have delivered on DoorDash. $24.70
2:47 p.m. — I sit in bed and put together a flower bouquet Lego set.
4:08 p.m. — I get up and vacuum the rug in our living room with the Dyson we recently got. I am equally amazed and disgusted by how much dust and hair it picks up. I sit down for a bit to read The Book of Secrets by Deepak Chopra. Later, my sister calls and we chat for an hour or so. I get hungry and rummage through the freezer for food, ultimately settling for taquitos with sour cream.
7:52 p.m. — K. is home and we chat about how it went with his family. He told them about my surgery which I said was okay but I didn't realize he was going to tell them I had to have surgery after an abnormal pap, thus implying I had surgery in my vagina. Horrified at the irrational thought of his whole family knowing for certain that I have a vagina, lol. After we chat we watch Birdbox Barcelona but we get bored and I get grossed out so we switch to The Darkest Hour and fall asleep around 10.
Daily Total: $62.32

Day Six

6:27 a.m. — My cat is being a bit fussy and keeps trying to wake me up. I get up to pee and then get back in and scroll for a bit. Then I go clean out my car.
9:37 a.m. — As I finish up on my car, K. starts installing our new light fixture and I eat the pizza he brought home from his grandma's last night. He needs to grab something from the hardware store to install it (he pays) and we grab drinks from Dunkin'. I venmo him for my half ($6). We get home and I clean for a bit. All of that tired me out so I sit in bed on my phone for a bit while my cat lays next to me. $6
1:46 p.m. — K. and I finish off the rest of the pizza while I chat with my mom on the phone for a bit. I go to the kitchen to put my dishes in the dishwasher and when I do, it somehow turns into me organizing and decluttering a few of my cabinets. I order a water bottle organizer on Amazon and add some wool dryer balls and a cat toy for my cats while I'm at it. $38.45
5:12 p.m. — I go outside to check on my garden and end up harvesting one jalapeño, five tomatoes, and three onions. I leave the onions out on the porch to develop their shell and wash everything else. I sit down to look up tomato sauce recipes since I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with and it reminds me that I have radishes I need to use soon. I take a couple minutes to pickle those radishes while they're still fresh and set them out on the counter to cool.
7:15 p.m. — I watch 90-Day Fiancé UK for a bit and take an intermission before I start Before The 90 Days to cuddle K. He eats taquitos and I snack on some mini muffins and popcorn. The pads I have to wear after surgery aren't long enough so I keep leaking. After changing the sheets twice in a day I frustratedly order overnight adult diapers. Yes, this is what my life has come to ($16.98). After K. helps me change the sheets he offers to rub my back while we watch Is It Cake? We quickly do our nighttime routine and lay down to watch. We fall asleep shortly after. $16.98
Daily Total: $61.43

Day Seven

6:55 a.m. — Awake before my alarm. Eventually I get up and do my morning skincare and tidy around the house. I wash dishes, start the dishwasher, turn some laundry, change the batteries in my garage keypad, and change over our calendar in the laundry room since today is the last day of the month!
9:03 a.m. — I am working from home again today, so I log onto work and check emails for a while. I have to listen in to a meeting that isn't super relevant for me so I play the call on my work computer and grab my personal computer to work on my budget. On the last day of the month, I track my expenses and savings to make sure I'm on track. I Venmo request K. for his portion of the bills (in monthly expenses).
11:39 a.m. — K. asks if I want anything from Chipotle on his way home so I text him my order and venmo him $15. We eat together and have a quick break to cuddle and talk about our days before I get back to work. $15
4:55 p.m. — I log off work and put my laptop, AirPods, wallet, and keys in my backpack and check to make sure everything else I need for the week is in there. Before I start dinner, I prep Caesar salads for work lunches this week, and put away all of the clean dishes. Dinner tonight is a pasta version of the Marry Me Chicken that went viral a while ago with crusted chicken. I make K. rate everything I make and he gives me a 9/10 and I'll take it.
7:21 p.m. — After dinner, I help clean up and then I go outside to water the garden. Then, I realized it is time for 90 Day Fiancé The Other Way! Yes, I am addicted to this franchise. K. comes up and joins me and we go to sleep.
Daily Total: $15
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