A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $26,808 Income

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a law student working in grad school who makes $26,808 per year and spends some of her money this week on pasta.
Occupation: Law Student
Industry: Grad School
Age: 25
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $26,808 in student loans for the eight-month school year. I have other income during the summers.
Paycheck Amount (3x/year): $8,936
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,465 for a studio downtown. This includes a fixed $65 utilities charge.
Student Loans: $0 (I had a full scholarship for undergrad, and my parents helped. I'll have about $250,000 from law school.)
Health Insurance: $261.32
Dental Insurance: $19.38
Car Insurance: ~$22 ($21.90 base plus 3 cents/mile. I park my car in a free parking lot in another neighborhood instead of the $300/month garage near my building.)
Electricity: ~$25-$30
Cell Phone: $88.24 (I have unlimited data, and instead of paying for wifi separately, I just use my personal hotspot when I need it.)
Gym Membership: $80.99 (plus $250 annual fee)
Netflix: $7.99
Hulu/Spotify/Showtime: $4.99 (student deal)
Amazon Prime: $0. I've had Prime for years, but they've never charged me. Apparently I found some kind of loophole and I'm not questioning it!
Savings: I don't consistently contribute to a savings account, but I saved about $10,000 from my summer job last year so that I could pay to move to New York this fall.

Day One

7 a.m. — I wake up and my two cats are in a snuggly mood this morning, so it takes me a while to get out of bed. Eventually, I get up and shower, brush my teeth, wash my face, and moisturize. I spend the morning cleaning my apartment; I have some friends coming over before a party tonight and it's kind of a mess. I make a smoothie with some frozen banana, strawberries, spinach, cashew milk, cookies and cream flavored protein powder, and chia seeds, then get dressed and do my makeup (just Nars Radiant Creamy concealer and Tarte Maneater mascara). I feed the cats and leave for class.
9:15 a.m. — I fill up my Ventra card at the train station on my way to the bus, then I take the bus to school using my card (busses are $2.25 and trains are $2.5o, I fill up my card as needed). $20
12:15 p.m. — My morning class is over, and my afternoon class is cancelled today, so I take the bus home. I stop at Trader Joe's on the way to pick up some drinks for tonight. I run into a friend there, and we pick out a couple bottles of wine together, since she's coming over tonight and knows a lot more about wine than I do. I also get a six-pack of beer and pick up groceries while I'm there: eggs, two packages of chicken breast, lemons, baby potatoes, cucumbers, avocados, strawberries, tortillas, cheddar cheese, salsa, pasta sauce, and something called "jalapeno sauce" that sounded good. I take the train home from the grocery store, and since I was just on the bus it counts as a transfer and my card will only be charged 25 cents. I almost always go grocery shopping on my way home from school for this reason. $56.66
2:05 p.m. — I get home and make a snack: cucumber and half a pita with hummus and feta. Then, I get changed and head to the gym for a back and shoulder workout.
4 p.m. — I get home and see that a friend sent me a Venmo request for these giant chocolate cake slices we got last night ($6.37). I throw some food together: the last of the buffalo chicken thighs and rice I prepped a few days ago, plus a couple handfuls of mixed greens. $6.37
6 p.m. — I have a beer while I'm getting ready for the party we're going to tonight (it's black tie).
7 p.m. — My friends start arriving. Once everyone's here, we head up to the roof to saber a couple bottles of champagne, because champagne's just more fun when you get to open it with a giant knife! We drink the champagne then head back to my apartment, make old fashioneds, and snack on the Doritos someone brought. We drink and hang out for a couple hours, then call an Uber and head to the party. Everyone offers to split it, but my friend insists on paying.
11:30 p.m. — After a couple hours of dancing, catching up with friends, and way too many gin and tonics and tater tots, I Uber home and go to bed immediately. I'm sober enough to realize I should take my makeup off, but not sober enough to care to actually do it. Oops. $8.50
Daily Total: $91.53

Day Two

8:15 a.m. — I wake up, snuggle the cats, then get a glass of lemon water and take a long shower. I'm not ready to do anything productive yet, so I grab a Monster energy drink from my fridge for some caffeine, then get back in bed and watch some YouTube videos.
12:30 p.m. — I've been doing nothing all morning, but my gym closes early on Saturdays, and I need to get ready and go soon. I get dressed, drink some pre-workout I got as a free sample, and head out. Despite the gym being pretty busy today, ONE man has decided to take up TWO squat racks, and I'm annoyed. I head to another machine instead, do a quick but heavy leg workout, and then leave and go for a walk by the river, because it's ridiculously nice outside and I don't feel like going home yet.
2:30 p.m. — I get home and make a smoothie with plain greek yogurt, berry-flavored protein powder, frozen strawberries, and lemon. I rinse off in the shower then clean up my apartment from last night. Then, I heat up some leftover paella that I froze a few weeks ago because I don't feel like cooking, and I eat it while watching a few episodes of A.P. Bio.
7:30 p.m. — I'm bored, so I head to a bar near my apartment. I have two beers and hang out with a friend who works there. The beers are $7 each, and I always tip extra generously here because I know most of the bartenders. $20
9:30 p.m. — I get home, watch one more episode of A.P. Bio while eating a few dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe's, then go to bed. I got absolutely nothing done today and it felt great.
Daily Total: $20.00

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — One of my cats is literally sleeping on top of me, and I don't want to disturb him yet, so I scroll through social media on my phone for a while after I wake up. Eventually, I get up, make some lemon water, and shower. Then I make breakfast: two whole eggs and two egg whites scrambled with cheddar cheese, and the same smoothie I had yesterday.
10:30 a.m. — I call my parents — we usually talk every Sunday. After we hang up, I turn on these videos on New York law that I have to watch as part of the bar application. They're incredibly boring, they total about 18 hours ... and I need to finish them by Tuesday. Ugh. I snack on an apple and a mini brie wheel while messing around on my phone and half-watching the videos.
1:30 p.m. — I really need to cook today, but I really don't want to. I have another snack instead: half a pita with hummus and feta. I watch a couple episodes of The Bold Type on my phone and play with the cats while the law videos are still streaming on my computer.
4:30 p.m. — A friend from the bar I went to last night randomly texts to invite me to dinner with some of her friends after she gets off work. I decide to to a little meal prep before I go. I cook a pot of rice, chop up Brussels sprouts, bake chicken breasts two ways (one with garlic and this amazing za'atar that I bought in Israel, the other with chili-lime seasoning and chili powder), and also bake a couple servings of chicken parmesan. Everything takes about 45 minutes. Once I'm done cooking, I make a single chicken taco to hold me over until dinner.
7 p.m. — I meet my friend at the bar, and we walk to a cute Italian restaurant to meet her other friends. We all share calamari and a couple bottles of wine. All of the entrees are pretty expensive, so I just order an asparagus salad. There are four of us, and the total is about $145, but I just put in $20 since my salad was only $8. After dinner, we head to a bar nearby. My friend introduces me to a regular at the bar who buys me a beer. $20
11:00 p.m. — I walk home, do my skincare routine, brush my teeth, and go to bed.
Daily Total: $20

Day Four

8:30 a.m. — I finally get up after snoozing my alarm for almost an hour (good thing I live alone!). I have a glass of lemon water, shower, then make the same breakfast as yesterday (cheesy eggs and a smoothie). I turn the New York law videos on again for a couple hours, then get dressed and take the bus to school.
12:30 p.m. — I'm hanging out with some friends in the lounge and I'm not hungry for lunch yet, so I just eat the snack I brought: an apple with a mini wheel of brie. Everyone else goes to a nearby cafe to pick up lunch, and when they come back my friend gives me a Monster! I offer to pay him back, but he refuses. When everyone else goes to class a couple hours later, I turn on my videos and eat my lunch: za'atar chicken, pita, mixed greens, cucumber, feta, and hummus. At some point, I remember that I need to download software for the bar exam. It costs $100 and will be reimbursed by my law firm. ($100 expensed)
4 p.m. — Head to class.
6:10 p.m. — I head home on the bus and stop at Target on my way. I buy dishwasher soap, paper towels, and cat food. When I get home, I immediately change and head to the gym for an upper body workout. $14.31
8:15 p.m. — Home from the gym! I sauté Brussels sprouts with garlic and olive oil, heat up some of the chicken parmesan I made yesterday, and eat while watching YouTube videos. I go to bed at around 10.
Daily Total: $14.31

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I wake up, snuggle the cats, have some lemon water, and shower. I have a smoothie for breakfast (spinach, frozen banana, cashew milk, and vanilla protein powder) then play New York law videos while I get ready — I'm almost done with them!
9:30 a.m. — I head to the bus stop, but when I get there I realize I forgot my wallet, which I've never done before. I walk back home to get it while checking Uber and Lyft prices, which are way too high. I realize I'll be really late to class if I take the bus at this point, so I decide to skip it. I get back home, finish up the New York law videos, and do the reading for my afternoon class on my couch.
11 a.m. — I eat the lunch I packed earlier: a taco bowl with rice, mixed greens, chicken, jalapeños, cheese, and salsa. I get an email reminding me to pay my phone bill, so I do. It's $183.47 instead of the usual $88.24 monthly fee (thus $95.23 extra) because of some international data charges from a trip I went on a couple months ago. $95.23
12:10 p.m. — I finally head to school and hang out in the lounge before going to class.
4 p.m. — I have a meeting with a few other students and attorneys after class, and it's so nice out we decide to meet outside. Food is provided, and I have chicken, rice, hummus, salad, and an orange LaCroix. After the meeting, I take the bus home. Staying in and doing nothing sounds great tonight, so I skip the gym, get in bed, and watch an episode of Billions.
8:30 p.m. — My friend texts me — he's bored and wants to come over and hang out. He gets a six-pack of Stella at 7/11 on his way over. He pays. We live really close together and hang out a lot, so we generally take turns paying for drinks. We drink the beer and talk for a few hours about how crazy it is that we're graduating soon, and our lives are going to completely change. He leaves at around 12:30 and I go to bed.
Daily Total: $95.23

Day Six

7:45 a.m. — I wake up to a text from a friend from college who I haven't seen in over a year — they're going to be in Chicago tomorrow afternoon! We make plans to hang out. I get up, get some lemon water, and clean my apartment a little before sitting down to work on a paper.
9:30 a.m. — I make two breakfast tacos with egg whites, cheese, avocado, and salsa, then get back to my paper.
1 p.m. — I need a break, so I head to the gym for a leg workout. When I get back home, I rinse off in the shower, then make a quick protein shake with cashew milk and chocolate protein powder and make a bowl with mixed greens, rice, chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, feta, and hummus for lunch.
4 p.m. — I snack on Greek yogurt with berries, granola, and a little honey while I work on my paper.
6:45 p.m. — I've been working on this paper all day and I feel like I've made good progress, so I decide to stop for the night. I heat up some chicken parmesan for dinner, then clean up the kitchen a little. I get in bed and watch an episode of Billions followed by two episodes of A.P. Bio, decide to have a glass of orange juice for some reason, then go to bed around 9:30.
Daily Total: $0.00

Day Seven

7:40 a.m. — Wake up, cat snuggles, lemon water, shower.
9:00 a.m. — I order a package of child-proof cabinet locks on Amazon. One of my cats recently learned how to open cabinets, and she likes to play with them loudly, usually at around 4 a.m. ($6.95). When I check out, Amazon tells me that I can get a $5 credit for taking pictures of my Amazon boxes with the app. It seems too good to be true, but I have a couple boxes laying around (thanks, past me, for not taking out the recycling) so I decide to try it. Hopefully I got $10 from this, but I can't find the credit in my account. $6.95
10 a.m. — I check my bank account and see that my salary advance came through! My job doesn't start until the fall, so we get $10,000 in advance to help with living expenses until then. I move $8,000 to my savings account so I can't touch it (about what I'll need for 4 months of bills) and keep the rest in my checking. I do some math to see how much money I currently have and how long it'll last me — I would need a few thousand dollars more than I have to make it until my first paycheck, so I'll be relying on credit cards for a while this fall. But that's what I expected, and I'm okay with it. After I finish up this budgeting stuff, I make my usual cheesy scrambled eggs, but with only one egg white this time because I'm out of eggs.
2 p.m. — My friend texts to tell me they won't be downtown until this evening, so I head to the gym. When I get back home, I have a protein shake and make a taco bowl for lunch.
6:30 p.m. — After a few more hours working on my paper, I head out to meet my friend C. at the Bean — they've never been to Chicago, so they're excited to see it. After the Bean, we go for a walk by the river and catch up.
8 p.m. — We get dinner at a cool fast-casual pasta place that I've never been to before. I have a pasta with tomato sauce, chilis, garlic, onions, parmesan, and basil, and they have a lasagna. We laugh about how tiny the water cups are compared to the normal cups and how we have to make a million trips to the water fountain to fill them up throughout the meal. We each pay separately, and I'm surprised by how cheap and delicious this place is! $12.21
9 p.m. — We walk back to my apartment, where we play with the cats and reminisce about living together during our senior year of college. C. has to leave after about an hour, so I walk them to the train station. They promise to come visit me in New York, and they head off to the suburbs for a conference. When I get back home, I watch an episode of The Bold Type and snack on a couple dark chocolate peanut butter cups before going to bed.
Daily Total: $19.16
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