Money diaries logo

A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $95,000 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.
Do you have chronic pain? Does it affect your relationships or sex life? We want to help! Submit your questions to our resident relationship therapist here.

Today: a financial analyst who makes $95,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on cheesecake.
Occupation: Financial Analyst
Industry: Healthcare
Age: 26
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $95,000
Net Worth: $211,701.03 (Savings/cash: $11,378.43, savings bonds: $10,000, investments: $157,404.58, retirement investments: $32,918.02. My partner and I keep finances separate but we keep track of everything in a shared spreadsheet.)
Debt: $0 (My partner and I paid off his six-figure grad school loan a few years ago. His work-study paid $40,000 and he worked another job between classes. We have $68,000 left on the mortgage, but it is in my husband's name and he pays for it completely.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $2,415.30
Pronouns: She/her
Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Cost: $415; My husband pays for the mortgage and I pay the monthly HOA
Apple + Premier Family Plan: $29.95
Investments: $1,000
Electricity: $30-$40 (all other utilities covered by HOA)
Cell Phone: paid for by work
Health Insurance: $500 (covers my husband and me)
Dental Insurance: $28 (covers my husband and me)
Internet: We pay $495 annually for a discount
401(k): $1,700
Roth IRA: max out every year
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, I have an undergraduate degree from a private four-year university. I grew up as an at-risk youth and people are often surprised when they find out. My parents' income was very low, which helped when I filled out the FAFSA forms. I also applied for scholarships. I paid off my student loans and tuition before the start of the school year through summer work, working after school during high school, and work-study. I decided to graduate early and was able to ask my scholarship providers to reallocate funding from my last year, which really helped when my university annually announced a 3% increase in tuition.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
It wasn't discussed at length, but I knew not to ask for things. My mom warned me about having a joint account after my father withdrew all their money to "lend" to someone else. My mom does a lot of future faking disguised as financial independence, but it's actually a scheme to control my money. For example, promising to buy a house together but only putting my name on the mortgage on a multi-million dollar rundown condo. I don't even know how I would've gotten approved. My father isn't as tactical and calls to ask for money every holiday. He has squandered and gambled away a lot of money. I don't talk to either of them anymore. I was taught to invest at a young age through dollar cost averaging, but I didn't start until my junior year of university because I was depleted every school year after student loans and tuition. I was placed in honors math and economics where the teacher also taught us about credit scores, student loan documents, and compound interest. An associate at my summer internship in high school taught me how to budget.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I tutored elementary school students as soon as I was old enough to get a job. I needed to help my parents with rent and living expenses.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Always. I always had enough so there was no immediate threat of eviction or not having food, but there was a lot of concern around moving out of the projects and being able to support myself. I was paying rent for my family despite my parents working full time — they just signed the checks themselves from my checkbook. My mom asked me to pay for my younger sibling's tuition and college allowance. I stopped talking to my parents after my credit card information was posted online asking people to max out my card. I was 18, but thankfully was able to freeze that card before anything was charged on it.
Do you worry about money now?
A lot less, but I still worry especially for my younger sibling.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
When I moved out of my parents' house at 19. I have a safety net in my partner and my own savings.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.

Day One

6:50 a.m. — I wake up before my alarm — it's a calming intro from a song. I strap on my Apple Watch and turn my Utro app on. The app sends me an alert for each step of my morning routine so that I can leave my home on time to get to work. My partner, M., works from home so he's already on his second cup of espresso by the time I'm done steaming the wrinkles out of my top.
7:35 a.m. — My workplace provides a free shuttle to get to work so I don't need to use public transportation. I eat some mixed fruit from home on my walk to the stop.
8 a.m — We have a team meeting to discuss pressing issues that need to be addressed today. Then we break out and do our own thing.
11:30 a.m.— I bring lunch from home. M. cooks every meal for me unless we decide to go out and there are a ton of leftovers. Today I'm eating Korean chicken thighs, white rice, and broccoli. We got the recipe from a HelloFresh trial and it's probably the only one we enjoyed. There was one that said to caramelize pineapples and I still wince thinking about hot juice burning my skin.
12 p.m. — I submit my spreadsheets to my manager and do some revisions. We talk about what's going on in the world. My manager and I joke about our 401(k)s becoming 201(k)s. Secretly we're preparing for the worst. I have a snack from the "finance nutrition box" my partner packed for me. It's a bunch of granola bars and snacks that store well. I pack up and hitch a ride on the shuttle.
5 p.m. — I walk in and M. is standing over the stove top with dinner almost ready. Today it's hot crispy chicken sandwiches with honey and pickles. I'm a lucky duck.
6:30 p.m. — It's time to work out after digesting a little. It's definitely not my favorite part of the day but the gym is in our building and it's much nicer to exercise with someone else. We run on the treadmill for ~30 minutes and use the rollers before going back home to shower. There's usually no one in the gym even though it's being paid for by our HOA. I shower first and do my skincare routine while M. hangs out on the balcony until it's his turn.
8 p.m. — We watch an episode of Tehran on Apple TV and then some YouTube cooking shows before calling it a night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:45 a.m. — I love work-from-home days. I get a little bit more sleep, then scramble around before pressing the power button. For breakfast, I have sachima and a grass jelly drink. Sachima is like a sesame puffy rice cake.
2 p.m. — I'm out of work early today because of summer hours. M. also has summer hours. We decide to walk around and look at a sample sale that's happening. M. laughs at some of the ridiculous prices and how they're called "preloved" when they're frayed, broken, and worn. He admits I have thrifted some good pieces but this sample sale isn't it. I like having him around when I shop because he really makes me question my purchases, especially the more expensive ones.
5 p.m. — We have a dinner reservation for omakase. It is amazing and has more courses than the menu listed. We order one drink each and the reservation was $200, which gets subtracted from your bill so the total would've been $435.84 for two. I'm feeling pretty full so we walk around after dinner and explore our neighborhood. $235.84
Daily Total: $235.84

Day Three

10 a.m. — It's the weekend, so I sleep in. M. prepares sandwiches and I have some herbal tea for breakfast.
11 a.m. — We stop by a specialty alcohol store for an imported beer. There's also a sandwich shop that we've been wanting to try. We walk and hang out at a bird sanctuary before buying sandwiches. Then, we take them to the beach. $37.81
5 p.m. — It's suddenly 10 degrees colder, so we take a Lyft back to our neighborhood, which is on the other side of the city. $25.68
5:30 p.m. — We stop by McDonald's because M. has a birthday reward and I'm craving a fudge sundae with extra fudge. We warm up before going home and spend the evening reviewing pictures from the bird sanctuary. $3.46
9 p.m. — M. throws ingredients into our breadmaker. We love milk bread and our machine doesn't produce too much noise.
Daily Total: $66.95

Day Four

10 a.m. — We eat breakfast at home. Sundays are usually our day to do laundry and grocery shopping. We try to go as early as we can and clip coupons on the app before we enter the store or as we shop. We usually both pick one snack item. Mine is a pack of macarons. $68.97
3 p.m. — I finish up the pasta in the fridge then suggest we have some mimosas since we have a lot of champagne and a bottle of fresh squeezed OJ. We go on the balcony with our portable speakers and chill.
Daily Total: $68.97

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — It's Monday. I have a hybrid schedule so today I'm working from home. I have some wafers and soy milk while I fix one our automation tools. Turns out someone forgot to save a file as a .xlsx. It could be worse. One time, someone deleted 10 years' worth of data from the server.
12 p.m. — I have leftover lasagna for lunch and pack some for lunch tomorrow.
6:30 p.m. — After work and dinner, we go on a walk around the neighborhood because outdoor walks supposedly help with depression. We drop off a return package for a shirt that didn't work out. Panera gave us free drink passes last time we were there, so we get iced teas and walk back.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

6:50 a.m. — It's another day at the office. My manager isn't in today so it's pretty quiet on my section of the floor. There are usually three to six people in the office at a time and we're pretty spread out so I feel safe.
11 a.m. — My workplace offers rewards for fitness and health so I enter my numbers in from the last few weeks. I hit enough to get a reward so I order some truffles that I'll get in four weeks.
12 p.m. — Lunch is lasagna. I spend some time scheduling FaceTime calls with my friends and listening to podcasts. My favorites right now are This Is Uncomfortable and Choiceology. Even in the office, it gets a little lonely and too quiet sometimes. Management has been shifting people around floors so these days there's a little bit more activity.
7 p.m. — Dinner, gym, shower. M. and I have T-Mobile phone plans (covered by our companies) so we both have $2 gift cards to Dunkin'. We grab apple fritters and walk back home.
8 p.m. — I check my inbox and I have a mystery shopper request for a restaurant review. I ask M. if he's interested in coming along before I make a bid. I spend the night FaceTiming with a friend and catching up.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:45 a.m. — I have fried rice that we made yesterday for breakfast. I get a text from my sibling telling me they're buying a car and renting an apartment. My sibling already has an expensive mortgage in an expensive state. I have a feeling that they will lease no matter what I say so I stop nagging. I helped them double their income by referring them to a job and at some point, I have to let them do what they are going to do with their money.
4:30 p.m. — I have some grapes and sachima for lunch. My reminder alarm goes off telling me to pay my electric bill for the month. I could sign up for autopay but I don't trust it and I would forget to put it in the budget. Con-ed usually texts me with my bill amount but they've been dropping the ball lately (in monthly expenses).
5 p.m. — M.'s birthday is coming up so I take him out to get a cheesecake from Magnolia's Bakery during our post-work walk. I get back home and eat some of the macarons. He eats the fruity flavors and I eat the more savory ones. $9.18
8 p.m. — M. has been dabbling in photography lately. We're going on a few international trips soon and I would feel more comfortable if he had a case and a bag for his camera equipment. It also comes with a nice leather camera strap. $97.12
10 p.m. — We shower and get ready to sleep. Thanks for following me through my week!
Daily Total: $106.30
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series