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A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $46,800 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 flight attendant who makes $46,800 per year and spends some of her money this week on a Merit Beauty makeup kit.
Occupation: Flight Attendant + Nanny
Industry: Aviation
Age: 26
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $46,800
Net Worth: -$29,977.20 (Roth IRA: $12,572, HYSA: $3,012.70, 401(k): $1,745.90, HSA: $1,161.38, joint tenant brokerage account: $1,171.82 minus debt. My partner and I split finances pretty evenly. He consistently makes more money than I do, but due to the nature and unpredictability of my job, there are some months where I out-earn him, especially with the nannying I do on the side. We do not have joint accounts but are authorized users on each other's credit cards. We made a budgeting spreadsheet at the beginning of this year and at the end of every month we determine if we have any leftover cash to contribute to our joint tenant account.)
Debt: Student loans: $41,686, credit card: $7,955
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): First paycheck: $1,042.14-$2,165.36, second paycheck: $764.16-$862.25 + $1,400/month nannying
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $825 (our total rent is $1,650 and I Zelle my partner each month)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (plan to resume in January, should have $20,000 forgiven)
Credit Card Payment: $1,100 or more (I put my private student loan and a car maintenance bill on this credit card and am paying it off aggressively while I still have 0% interest)
Hulu: $6.99
Spotify: $9.99
Adobe: $10.61
Apple: $33.06
RCN: $100.83, but should reflect $69 in the next billing cycle
Roth IRA: $250 (I contributed a few thousand dollars from my tax return this year to my Roth IRA, so I only contribute $250 a month now to meet the $6,000 maximum contribution for 2022.)
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 lost my mom at a young age and I did not maintain a relationship with my father after she passed, so I don't remember there ever being an expectation for me to attend higher education. If anything, I placed the importance of going to college upon myself, as I was influenced by my peers to apply and attend college. I didn't really realize that my parents hadn't saved for my college education until I tearfully signed and accepted the egregious loan paperwork for the private institution I regretfully attended. I took out one private loan and several government loans to pay for college and received a ton of grants and scholarships. I also worked two jobs throughout my four years and even took a semester off to alleviate the costs of college.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents never talked to me or my siblings about money. I had no concept of finances. I remember teaching myself to play "Für Elise" on the piano when I was seven years old and playing it for my parents. They delighted in it and my mom handed me a $20 bill and my dad one-upped her with a $50. I was confused.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a camp counselor the summer going into my junior year of high school. I lived with my older sister at the time and she told me to get a job for spending money. I also wanted to get an iPhone for myself and decided that having my own money would be liberating.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, not particularly. If I wanted something I would always ask or my parents would randomly give me money. They never led me to believe we didn't have enough money.
Do you worry about money now?
Yes, I do. I think I am more aware of how the world actually works and how integral money is for survival now that I am my own safety net.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
24. I had somewhat of a hard time finding a job after undergrad and was dealing with mental health issues at the same time. I did not start saving and educating myself about finances until about two years ago.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

6:31 a.m. — I was scheduled for a 6 a.m. airport standby shift this morning, meaning I have to get up around 4 a.m. and get ready in uniform to sit at the airport for six hours and wait around to be called for a trip. This doesn't leave me with enough time to have breakfast at home so I compromise and make coffee at home and buy a breakfast burrito at the airport. $8.48
8:32 a.m. — Semi-impulsively purchased a makeup kit from Merit Beauty for $140, but use Afterpay so it only cost me $35 in the moment. They've been on my radar for quite a while and their free makeup bag with purchase really piqued my interest. I don't get used for a trip on standby so I get in my car and drive home around noon. $35
7:09 p.m. — My partner, B., and I both skipped lunch today and are both exhausted from our long days at work so we decide to order tacos and a burrito from a restaurant around the corner from our apartment. We hot girl walk over to pick up the tacos and then head over to the lakefront for a messy impromptu picnic. $30.15
Daily Total: $73.63

Day Two

2 a.m. — I'm up super early to get to the airport for a morning shift. Coffee at home and then straight to work.
10:33 a.m. — Unfortunately, I'm assigned a trip with an overnight layover in Kansas City, MO. I never know where I'm flying until the day before or sometimes the day of, so it's hard to plan literally anything. KC isn't the most exciting city, but I'm sad because I am missing B.'s birthday today. I surprise him by DoorDashing cupcakes to his office. $20.33

3:25 p.m. — The 2 a.m. wakeup means I need as much coffee as possible today. I buy a small coffee at Messenger Coffee in KC. It's a cute coffee shop but I feel like I'm paying NYC prices. $7.16

4:44 p.m. — There's not much to do within walking distance from the hotel, but I happen upon a street filled with vintage shops and boutiques. I go inside a shop that is stunning. I spend an hour trying things on and leave with the most beautiful white denim cropped top with puff sleeves. $77.77

5:49 p.m. — I'm not a big fan of meal prepping and packing all my meals when I am assigned trips, especially when it's to places I have never visited before — I love going out and experiencing their food scene. I stop by Grinders, a place recommended by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I order a slice of cheese pizza "bomb" style loaded with tater tots, scallions, Cheez Whiz, and chili. I pay in cash this time so it offsets my recent impulse purchases, right? $8.93

Daily Total: $114.19

Day Three

7:44 a.m. — I start the day off strong with some Starbucks, a beloved spot for flight attendants. My wake up call was a 5 a.m. so I am in need of fuel for the day. I get an iced PSL and an Impossible breakfast sandwich. $11.48
12:15 p.m. — I have a three-leg day today, meaning I work three flights. These kind of days are exhausting and long and often filled with delays. I haven't had lunch yet since our flights have been back-to-back, but I snack on some popcorn from the first-class snack basket to get me through.
3:30 p.m. — Our plane has a mechanical issue so the pilot tells us all to get off and get some food while we wait for the plane to be fixed. I find a bakery and order a caprese sandwich. It's overpriced, but I figure it will be my lunch and dinner since it's so late in the day already. I will be going to bed as soon as I get home. $14.68
10 p.m. — I get off work, go home, and immediately go to sleep.

Daily Total: $26.16

Day Four

11:32 a.m. — I get to really sleep in this morning and I'm thrilled. I make myself a coffee at home and two slices of avocado toast with Everything but the Bagel seasoning. Simple, yet effective since my body feels like I am hungover. I want to make my daily routine more healthy and efficient, but my job doesn't allow me to have a consistent schedule which makes it hard.
1:05 p.m. — B. and I are hosting a BBQ at his parent's house for his birthday. We're going to be making smash burgers for all of our friends. Our love language is food so I'm looking forward to the weekend (which I was able to take off!). I grab some baking powder, Dove deodorant, and foundation from Target and head to the grocery store for my next stop. $43.90
1:28 p.m. — I pick up some ground beef, American cheese, lettuce, kosher dill pickles, sesame buns, and a few extra pantry staples. This particular grocery store doesn't have everything on my list so I drive over to another. $59.07
1:44 p.m. — I find the dill pickle chips I am looking for. I also pick up two large beefsteak tomatoes. Please tell me why the tomatoes end up costing $7. $21.58
2:25 p.m. — I forgot to buy vegetable oil for B.'s birthday cake. I contemplate using olive oil but don't want to alter the flavor so I head downstairs to the convenience store that is part of our building. Unfortunately, it's a little expensive but that's the price you pay for convenience. $6.60
6:35 p.m. — B. and I head over to his parent's house for a lovely birthday dinner. We have a small, intimate surf-and-turf dinner at home with crab legs, lobster tails, a tomahawk steak, and a New York strip. Needless to say, we had a ton of leftovers.
Daily Total: $131.15

Day Five

11:35 a.m. — Wake up after sleeping in. B. and I decide to go out to brunch together since I rarely have the weekend off from work. We get ready and then head out. I pay for the parking meter. $3.47

12:30 p.m. — We go to our favorite brunch spot. I get pancakes and B. gets an omelette. I happily eat both. $36

12:45 p.m. — B. feeds the parking meter. He surprises me by taking me to look at engagement rings after bunch. It's been a wonderful week so far and I feel grateful to be able to spend so much time with him.

1:15 p.m. — I take out $100 cash from the bank as a gift for a bridal shower I am going to on Sunday. $100

2:20 p.m. — Once we get home from the day's activities, I realize that I need to pay my car insurance for the next month. I typically like to prepay for six months so I can get a discount, but this month was such an expensive month for us that I decide to pay for just one month this time so the upfront cost isn't as much. $118.36

6:30 p.m. — B. and I spend a few hours prepping the ground beef and toppings for the smash burger BBQ. We use up the groceries I purchased yesterday. We get them on the grill as our friends start trickling in.

10:05 p.m. — After the BBQ, B. and I and some of our friends decide to grab a nightcap at a cute cocktail lounge nearby to keep the birthday celebrations going. We get one cocktail each and I can tell that B. has had a little too much birthday fun, so we don't stay for another. $32

Daily Total: $289.83

Day Six

9:50 a.m. — B. makes me toast with an egg cracked in the center and coffee for me to take to the bridal shower I'm going to this morning.
12:30 p.m. — I don't have to pay anything outright for the bridal shower food, but it is all very extravagant with a champagne wall and a dessert table. It is lovely and I can tell a lot of time and effort was put into the event. And of course, the bride-to-be is stunning!
3:55 p.m. — The bridal shower is in the suburbs so I fill up on gas while I'm out there since it's way cheaper than doing so in the city. It starts to storm as I make my way back home. I call B. and tell him I am worried about the tires; they looked low and the tire pressure light wouldn't go away. Last time we went to the dealership for an oil change they advised us that we would need new tires soon. $44.58
4:13 p.m. — B. finds a deal on for four new tires plus installation. I'm annoyed I have to spend so much, but I need my car to drive to work. $555.25
6:24 p.m. — We go over to B.'s parent's house for leftovers. We turn the leftover lobster tails into lobster rolls and eat that with steak and salad. Probably the best leftovers I've had aside from Thanksgiving leftovers. Good food and great company. It's been the best weekend I have had in a while.
8:10 p.m. — We don't like to pay for a monthly parking spot in our building and we usually find a spot to park right outside. However, we aren't so lucky tonight and have to pay to park in the lot across the street. $1.41
Daily Total: $601.24

Day Seven

7:05 a.m. — I wake up early because I'm nannying today. I make myself a breakfast tartine, a.k.a. a fancy avocado toast with tomatoes, chives, egg, and cheese. I also pack a slice of pizza left over from B.'s surprise birthday dinner with his friends. I also eat a cookie I brought home from the bridal shower with my iced coffee. We are really stretching these leftovers! Then I head out to nanny.
12 p.m. — I eat my pizza leftovers and decide to buy a $20 Pilates class. I have been wanting to try Pilates, but have always made excuses with my busy schedule. Honestly, Pilates just seems daunting in general, but I pull the trigger on the class and schedule it for my next day off that the studio has available. $20
6 p.m. — B. and I do laundry today. We decide to launder our sheets, duvet, and comforter. The works. We don't have in-unit laundry, but we do have a lovely laundry room in our building that has a ton of machines. $11.50
9:07 p.m. — Unfortunately, we sustained a laundry casualty. B. accidentally shrunk my favorite jeans. Abercrombie is having a sale so we order four pairs in hopes that one will replace the ones we lost. $289.17
Daily Total: $320.67
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