A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $42,000 Salary

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 marketing coordinator who makes $42,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a volcano candle.
Occupation: Marketing Coordinator
Industry: Wellness
Age: 27
Location: Chicago
Salary: $42,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,400 (after taxes, health insurance, and 401(k) contribution deducted)
Gender: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $800 (I split a two-bedroom with one of my college friends. It's a great price for an apartment in a good neighborhood.)
Student Loans: $213 (I have approx. $13,000 left)
Utilities/Internet: $50-$100 depending on the season
Credit Card: $200 (I pay just above the minimum balance. I, like many other Money Diarists, was a fool in my early twenties and racked up a nasty balance on my credit card. I have about $2,600 left to pay off.)
Netflix: $12.99
Disney+: $6.99
Amazon Prime/Hulu: $0 (My roommate lets me use her Hulu and my dad lets me use his Amazon Prime)
Cell Phone: $50 (I pay my dad each month.)
Savings: $200-$500
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Day One

6:10 a.m. — Wake up to my cat having a hairball. Good morning to me! I clean it up (he chose to do this on my rug rather than the hardwood floors OBVIOUSLY) and try to get a bit more sleep. Normally, on days when I go into the office, which is usually three days a week, I am up at this time for a long commute from the city into the suburbs. However, due to COVID-19, it's a remote week for me. As one of the few city folks at my company, and the only one who takes public transportation, I'm very grateful that my boss is letting me stay home for the time being.
8:45 a.m. — My roommate and I do a 30-minute Corepower yoga class online. It's Hot Power Fusion, one of my favorites. I buy class packs of five classes every once and a while, so I use one of those to pay. Making the most of our self-isolation! Afterward, I make myself a pot of black coffee and a breakfast taco that includes two eggs, spinach, avocado, cheese, turkey sausage, a spinach tortilla, and Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel seasoning. Yum!
10 a.m. — Work is slow given the state of things, and I've been keeping tabs on my email all morning. That said, I should really get to work… most of my projects are on hold but I suppose I'll work ahead so that I have a few projects to fill my week. I chow down my breakfast, savor my coffee (the best part of the day for REAL), and work from my couch all morning.
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2 p.m. — While I'm usually hungry again by 11, my big breakfast tides me over for most of the afternoon. I am not terribly hungry so I settle for some pretzels, pita chips, and pine nut hummus. I put on a few random movies (Valentine's Day and The Princess Bride) while I work.
4:15 p.m. — Wrap up work and catch up on some news. I've remained pretty calm throughout the weirdness of the world so far but my roommate is having severe anxiety. I try to be a listening ear and give a non-annoying pep talk; then we decide to have a glass of wine and start a puzzle.
6 p.m. — I throw in an Urban Crust frozen pizza and let myself indulge in a few Ben & Jerry's cookie dough bites. Just want to throw out there that this might be the most boring Money Diary in the history of Money Diaries because the city of Chicago is asking that we all stay home and self-quarantine. I'm an introvert by nature so ALL GOOD but I still usually see friends and go out and a couple of times during the week… get ready to read all about my riveting Netflix binges and all of the times I let myself eat cookie dough… ANYWAY… I spend the rest of the evening reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I've been re-reading the series this year and it's the actual best thing that never fails to spark joy. My roommate is watching an old season of The Bachelor so I end up spending the rest of the evening marathoning that with her once I've finished a few chapters.
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11:30 p.m. — Snuggle kitty and am off to bed! Today was the first day of the whole “we advise you to work from home and stay inside as much as possible” thing, so I am curious how the rest of the week will go. WE CAN DO THIS, GUYS!
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Wake up, feed kitty, and start the coffee maker. One thing my roommate and I talked about during this time is writing one thing we are grateful for each day. We put a notebook beside the coffee maker so that in the morning we can write a bullet point or two. It might be cheesy but it puts me in a good headspace. Today I write “I'm grateful for coffee” and “I'm grateful for this cozy apartment.” Sure, those are two material things, but I'm starting off simple. Plus, I AM REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GRATEFUL FOR COFFEE! Lorelai Gilmore style.
8 a.m. — Start work and chat with my coworker over Google Hangouts. Some people are still going into the office but she says it's super dead and that everyone is keeping away from each other. Knowing that I'd barely speak to anyone in the office makes me feel even better about working entirely from home. Breakfast is turkey sausage links, oatmeal, and strawberries. Speaking of Lorelai Gilmore… I decide it's a Gilmore Girls kind of day. Work will probably be relatively slow again, so I need something light-hearted playing in the background.
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12:30 p.m. — Heat up leftover sweet-potato crust pizza for lunch. Use my break to catch up on the new Money Diary posts!
4:10 p.m. — Finish up work and do a 30-minute C1 Corepower class online. I really like it but, because it's a beginner class, it's not too much of a workout. I am by no means in my best shape but I've done Corepower for a few years now so I usually opt for C2 classes. I like C1 classes when I'm feeling lazy or when I'm looking to work on my balancing, stretching, or meditation. Finish up the workout with a 10-minute ab video from YouTube that is HARD! I will probably be sore just from that…
5:30 p.m. — A family is moving in upstairs as we speak. I live in an old three-flat that was constructed at the beginning of time so there is ZERO soundproofing. I am not kidding (the people below me have a healthy sex life and are currently watching Les Mis). Everyone who has lived in these units while I've been around has been single and in their 20's. This family has a little toddler. Should certainly be interesting… I make a mental note to say hello at some point when they're settled and when it's not awkward due to social distancing. Shower and then make dinner. I need to use up my spinach tortillas so I make a simple quesadilla with mozzarella cheese. I also have some salmon and avocado with Everything But The Bagel Seasoning.
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7 p.m. — Spend the rest of the evening reading Half-Blood Prince, watching the new episode of Westworld, and helping my roommate with a 1,000 piece puzzle of the Disney castle (NO REGRETS) before going to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:10 a.m. — I'm awake because my cat is in the living room messing with the puzzle. Rude! Feed that baby, make some coffee, a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit, and scroll through my phone. It's early but I text a bit in the group chat with my best friends to see what everyone is up to and how they're coping. We are practicing social distancing but yay for group chats! I write that I'm thankful for books, friends who make me laugh, and Gilmore Girls in our gratitude journal.
8 a.m. — Hunker down to start work. It's pretty much radio silence but I try and work ahead as much as I can. This is interspersed with a shower and two loads of laundry throughout my morning.
10:30 a.m. — Snack on Dots pretzels. They are life.
1:20 p.m. — Lunchtime. I make a quesadilla (mozzarella cheese, topped with avocado and hummus). I work the remainder of my day with Disney+ in the background and an Anthropologie volcano candle lit!
5 p.m. — Done with work. Sad I have no wine. What's a girl to do? I will probably venture out soon but today is super gloomy and I have plenty of food. However… Uber Eats is currently offering $0 delivery fees when ordering from a local business. While all restaurants and bars are closed in Illinois, apparently some are still delivering. My roommate and I order tacos and chips and salsa from a favorite local spot. $21.05
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6:30 p.m. — Chow down on tacos and watch the first two episodes of Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu. I really enjoyed the book and am excited to see how this compares! So far I am super intrigued. Roommate and I FaceTime with a couple of friends. We play a fun virtual game where everyone captions a New York Times illustration and then votes on the best caption. We win! Yay us.
9:30 p.m. — Watch one more episode of Little Fires Everywhere and then hit the hay.
Daily Total: $21.05

Day Four

6:15 a.m. — Kitty is ready for his food so there's no more sleep to be had for this cat mama… Are you sensing a pattern to my mornings? Side note: I've purchased an automatic wet food feeder for him but he learned how to break into it.... so there's that. I feed him, start the coffee maker, and put on Gilmore Girls again because that is my favorite thing to watch on slow mornings.
8 a.m. — Open the laptop and start to wonder how long work will be slow. I also wonder if my boss will want me to come into the office next week as I usually go in three days. I'm really hoping not, as Chicago is advising against public transportation and I have no car, but I know that my boss wants to reassess the full-time WFH situation week-by-week. In reality, it seems like this quarantine thing isn't going to go away anytime soon… I hope for my sake, and the sake of others who are still coming into the office, that she allows me to work remotely for a bit longer. My job is completely doable at home and everyone who IS coming into the office has been advised to “isolate” to the best of their ability and not go within a few feet of each other… seems silly for me to make the commute which is over an hour. I have a little bit of anxiety over this but know it's no use worrying right now.
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10:45 a.m. — Ironically, we have a company call discussing WFH. We are all indeed working remotely for the foreseeable future so that is good news.
1 p.m. — I put on the first Lord of the Rings movie and munch on pretzels and a quinoa power bowl. Then, I productively browse Amazon for a birthday gift for my friend and buy her a puzzle ($11.29). Perfect for these days of social distancing… I use my dad's Prime to get free shipping. $11.29
1:30 p.m. — Clearly I am on a virtual shopping spree… since I will be home so much now I decide to splurge and subscribe to HBO Now ($14.99) so that I can watch the new season of Westworld and check out their movies (I was previously on a free trial). Also, I splurge on one of those AMAZING and MASSIVE Anthropologie volcano candles ($41.38). Yes, I went for one of the big boys. $56.37
4:45 p.m. — Wrap up work and pause my LOTR marathon to do an online yoga class. I choose an hour-long Hot Power Fusion and then eat pita chips and hummus, as well as a cheese quesadilla for dinner. I am sincerely sorry for this boring as all hell quarantine diary. XOXO!
6:30 p.m. — Decide to purchase Jackbox Party Pack 6 to play with some friends over Zoom tonight. I normally wouldn't buy something like this but… I'm on a spending spree ($31). Zoom to catch up with my group of besties! We video chat for a while and catch up, as well as play some fun games. It's a really great time. After the call, I'm feeling restless and bored, so I call my parents and chat with them too. Head in for an early bedtime around 10. $31
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Daily Total: $98.66

Day Five

8 a.m. — Walk to the grocery store because I am almost out of coffee YIKES! There are lots of empty shelves (#toiletpaper) but I grab a few avocados, peppers, mushrooms, quinoa, eggs, turkey sausage, spinach, Special K breakfast sandwiches, coffee, tea, veggie chips, cat food, a cheese plate and crackers, salmon, a frozen pizza, and spinach tortilla wraps. Also Sour Patch Kids. I'll be home all week and do have some food in the pantry but I want to get these items to tide me over. I try to grab a bottle of wine too but it's too early to purchase alcohol. SIGH. Will have to take another walk later… $86.49
8:45 a.m. — Heat up a quick Special K breakfast sandwich. Settle down on my couch with coffee and my laptop to start work, and continue my LOTR marathon. Sup, Two Towers.
1 p.m. — Use my lunch break to take a walk back to the grocery store to get a bottle of wine. It's nice to get some fresh air. I get back home and have some cheese and crackers for lunch. $13.64
3 p.m. — Munch on veggie chips — the ranch flavor. :)
5:45 p.m. — Pop in a frozen pizza, have two glasses of red wine because why not, and binge watch Love Island with the roommate till I fall asleep. I doubt I'll come out of this quarantine a fit bird, bruv. (LOVE ISLANDERS, YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING!)
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Daily Total: $100.13

Day Six

7 a.m. — Wake up to my sweet demon child wailing for food. Feed kitty and decide to get a few more hours of sleep cuz it's Saturday. Finally get out of bed around 9:30 (which, for me, is sleeping in…) and decide to have leftover pizza for breakfast.
11 a.m. — Make mimosas with my roommate because we both have champagne from being asked to stand as bridesmaids recently. We go old-school and play Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. on the Wii. I lose at all.
12:30 p.m. — Salad and a turkey wrap for lunch. Plus Sour Patch Kids. I watch the Return of the King to round out my LOTR obsession and do some stretches and brief exercises on my mat.
2 p.m. — Catch up on the latest news because there was an announcement from the Illinois governor. We are officially in a “shelter-in-place” lockdown where only essential businesses like grocery stores, gas stations, and medical facilities are operating normally. I receive an email from work reiterating that we will be working remotely until further notice. I decide I need some serious Disney+ in the background to spark joy. I opt for The Incredibles.
5 p.m. — Hungry! I cook up a roasted veggie quinoa bowl then text with my other group of friends from my hometown about a Zoom date. I tell them that I just bit the bullet and purchased a Jackbox pack so we decide to play that! We play for hours and it's worth the purchase. Cuz friends are priceless, y'all.
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9 p.m. — Watch TV and nearly pass out on the couch. Head to bed around midnight.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Wake up to a FaceTime call from my friend who is getting married next year. She has plenty of time to plan (which is wonderful considering so many weddings are being canceled) and is going to send her save-the-dates soon. She calls me, our other friend, and her fiancé to get opinions on the final photos she is using. We chat for a while and then I go to the kitchen for a breakfast sandwich, berries, and coffee.
10:15 a.m. — I decide to tune into a church livestream for a place I've gone to a few times downtown. I'm normally not an every-week churchgoer but I do try to tune into things like this when I can. I could be better for sure. I think because it's a time of uncertainty and elevated anxiety, listening to something like this helps keep me centered.
11:45 a.m. — I have a productive afternoon that includes playing my dad in Words with Friends and purging my entire bedroom. I make a pile of clothes to donate and get rid of a lot of junk. Then, I tidy my apartment. Spring cleaning at it's finest!
2:30 p.m. — More hours of Love Island binge-watching. I am hooked.
4 p.m. — Do a mini workout in my room, call my parents to catch up about their week, and hear about how their work is being impacted by COVID-19. My dad is able to work from home but my mom will have to use personal time…that seems unfair. They fill me in on how they're using their time of isolation: painting the house so that they can sell it in a year or two! They are older so I'm just glad they are staying home.
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5:30 p.m. — After a shower, a bit of self-pampering, and becoming semi-human again, I make mac and cheese and eat my roasted veggie leftovers as a side. Watch more Love Island until it's time for Westworld. This third season is already CRAY CRAY. Dolores and Maeve are both badasses, I am forever-confused by all things Bernard, and also Drogon from Game of Thrones makes a cameo. What the what.
10:30 p.m. — Read a chapter of my book, snuggle the cat, and am off to sleep!
Daily Total: $0
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
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