A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $82,000 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 consultant who makes $82,000 per year and spends some of her paycheck this week on wine.
Occupation: Consultant
Industry: Healthcare IT
Age: 28
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $82,000-$87,000,
Travel Bonus: $3,000-$9,000
My Husband's Salary: $55,000, plus $1,500 or more annual bonus
Combined Paycheck (Monthly): $8,000-$8,800, depending on my workdays over the course of a month.
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,675. (I live in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with my husband and our two cats.)
Student Loan Payments: $0 for me and $1,012 for my husband. (My parents paid for my education in full.)
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: $200 for both me and my husband, which comes out of our paychecks.
401(k): My husband and I each contribute 10% of our paychecks, pre-tax.
Gym Memberships: $140 for us both
Spotify: $13
Hulu: $16
Electric & Internet: $140
PlayStation Vue: $45
Renter's Insurance: $15
Phone Plans: $50. (I'm on a $1/month promotional plan right now.)
CTA Passes: ~$140. ($105 for my husband's monthly pass, and roughly $40/month for me during the weeks I'm in town.)
Savings: We put $2,000-$2,800 every month towards our emergency fund, apartment down payment fund, next year's tax payment, and flex spending for slightly bigger purchases than we'd make in an average month.)

Day One

10 a.m. — Wake up to several inches of fresh, beautiful snow! It's still pretty and hasn't turned to grey sludge yet. Wander around the house drinking tea, contemplating going to the gym and bothering the cats. My husband, M., suggests (read: asks until I cave) that we go out to brunch since we're clearly not going to work out. We'll be hiking through the snow as we run our errands, so that will count as exercise for the day. I spend the walk to brunch gleefully kicking fresh snow as high in the air as I can; it's deeply satisfying. Once we're there, I order the breakfast BLT (which comes with a fried egg) and duck fat fries (which are dusted in lemon zest, parsley, and parmesan), and a cup of Earl Grey. M. orders fried chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy, a coffee, and a bourbon drink with egg whites. Everything is delicious and they play great '90s music during brunch service. I have not listened to Fugees enough lately. $58.51
11:30 a.m. — We head over to our favorite grocery store, which is known for absurdly cheap produce and also has a very cheap deli counter. M. picks up lunch ingredients for the week: sourdough bread, Boar's Head turkey, and muenster cheese. $14.76
12 p.m. — While we're in the area, we stop by Home Depot to pick up a few home decor items: L brackets (two packs), two brass coat hooks, a spool of twine, and LED light bulbs that look like old-fashioned ones. $38.47
12:30 p.m. — On the way home, we also swing by Best Buy for new surge protectors. They are not very fun but I get the one with a fabric-wrapped cord so it will be a little prettier next to our bed. It's only $2 more than the plain one. (Why are these so expensive?) We spend the rest of the day rearranging furniture, hanging things up, doing laundry, and watching pre-Super Bowl coverage. Snow days are excellent for getting the house together. $44.08
6 p.m. — Late in the day, I stop by Aldi for a bottle of wine and a pack of chicken thighs. I'm traveling for work this week and will prep the chicken so that M. has something when he gets home from work. I picked up a pound of ground lamb at Aldi a few days ago, too, since it was such an unusual find. I roll it into patties with cumin, garlic, and harissa, and then marinate kale in lemon juice and oil. I also cook green lentils to add something a little carb-y. The recipe is loosely derived from Julia Turshen's merguez recipe in her Small Victories cookbook. She serves it with yogurt, and I wish I had yogurt for mine, but I don't. I marinate the chicken thighs in lemon juice, oregano, garlic, and olive oil and grill them, and then put them in a container for M. to eat this week. We eat dinner while watching the Super Bowl. $10.19
Daily Total: $166.01

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — Mondays when I have to be onsite are rough. I get up around 4:30 a.m., double-check my packed bag, get dressed in office-appropriate clothing that is comfortable enough to fly in, and order a Lyft to O'Hare, which I expense. The lines are awful this morning since it's supposed to snow a few more inches, and seemingly everyone arrived extra early. They let me go in the pre-check line, so I get to keep my shoes on and watch the TSA K9 be a very good dog. ($28.17 expensed)
6:30 a.m. — Comfortably settled at my gate with Earl Grey from Starbucks and a protein box (apple slices, peanut butter, multigrain roll, and hard-boiled eggs; $12.15 expensed). I don't drink coffee, but I do require nearly constant tea intake. My flight only takes about 75 minutes, but we're delayed nearly 30 minutes before boarding because maintenance has to replace the carpeting in first class. I assume someone got free-drink happy on their red-eye.
9:30 a.m. — I could order a Lyft but I prefer taking the train from the airport to the office. ($4 expensed) I try to be fairly frugal when I travel on the client's dime, even though I know my average expenses are tiny compared to most consultants'. It's freezing here, but luckily my first and second trains come pretty quickly.
12 p.m. — Grab lunch across the street from the office at a cute place that has grain bowls. I get brown rice, vegetables, salmon, goat cheese, and avocado. ($15.42 expensed) It's a little under-seasoned and the salmon seems canned, but it's healthier than most other options nearby.
6 p.m. — After leaving the office, I swing by the grocery store a short walk away. I pick up canned soup, RXBars, chocolate, and dried apricots. It's windy and cold, so I know I won't want to walk to get dinner. ($16.38 expensed)
6:30 p.m. — Take a Lyft from the store to my hotel because it's about a mile walk and I have luggage with me. ($6.52 expensed) I do a short treadmill run in the hotel's fitness center, then head back to my room to eat my soup, an RXBar, and some of the chocolate and apricots.
8:30 p.m. — I'm a bridesmaid in my brother's wedding this spring, and I need shoes. I have gotten the go-ahead email from his fiancé, so I pull the trigger before either she or I can waffle about it. Watch a lot of House Hunters, Skype my husband for a bit, and pass out. Travel days are exhausting. $71.20
Daily Total: $71.20

Day Three

11 a.m. — Get into the office around 7:30 a.m. and eat a banana from the hotel buffet and an RXBar. Hungry again early, so I go to my favorite lunch place, an excellent Vietnamese restaurant nearby. I always get pho dac biet, and today is no different. I also get a pot of hot tea since it is still frigid and icy out. ($16.85 expensed)
5:30 p.m. — Leave the office and walk the half mile to Target. I forgot to pack extra shirts to work out in. I comb through the clearance section and find a JoyLab top that's marked down. $10.99
6 p.m. — Head across the shopping complex to Trader Joe's. Eating healthy while traveling for work is really hard. I get a $60 per day meal allowance when I travel, and at first, I was like, "I can treat myself to dinner every night!" — but by week two, I felt super gross. I pick up raw almonds, dried cherries, almond/toffee/chocolate bits, a frozen meal of wild salmon with orzo, zucchini, and mint sauce, a frozen beef bibimbap, two Greek yogurts, ABC+K slaw, canned tuna in olive oil, and a roasted seaweed snack. Walk back to the hotel and unload everything into the mini-fridge in my hotel room. I use the elliptical for a while, call my mom for her birthday, and then eat the frozen salmon meal, plus almonds and cherries. Catch up with my husband on Skype, and then go to bed a little early. ($33.08 expensed)
Daily Total: $10.99

Day Four

7 a.m. — Leave early for work. There's a giant snowstorm headed to Chicago and I try to move my Thursday flight earlier, but clearly many people have already done this and I'm out of luck. It's a quiet day at work. I brought a lot of my Trader Joe's groceries, so I don't need to eat out.
6 p.m. — Get back to the hotel. I run on the treadmill for a while, watch a lot of Psych on Amazon Prime, and pack since I'm checking out in the morning. I'm dreading travel tomorrow; I really don't want to be stuck here for the weekend because of the snow.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7 a.m. — I grab fruit from the hotel buffet and take a Lyft to the office with my luggage. On the way, I obsessively check my flight on the American Airlines app — so far, so good. Snowfall is supposed to start in Chicago around 8 p.m., but there's a possibility of eight to 12 inches, so it's probably going to come down hard. If we're delayed at all, we might not make it out. ($7.03 expensed)
11:30 a.m. — I grab lunch with a friend from my company who is also working with this client. We go back to the grain bowl place. (I basically alternate between eating here and at the Vietnamese place, plus occasionally Chipotle.) I grab an Asian slaw bowl with beef. My friend is considering an assignment abroad, which I would LOVE to do, but that would mean asking M. to take a leave of absence from work, and his job is going incredibly well. ($16.31 expensed)
2 p.m. — Friend gives me a ride to the airport so I don't need to take another Lyft. After getting through security, I grab a cup of tea and a Marshmallow Dream Bar at Starbucks and settle in at my gate. My flight is still on time so far. I do more work and catch up on my personal email while I wait. I like to leave the office a little early on travel days so that I can get work done uninterrupted. ($5.86 expensed)
5 p.m. — Well, it's two hours until our scheduled departure and the incoming flight from O'Hare is delayed by two hours. We're now scheduled to leave at 9 p.m. The ground crew isn't here yet, so there's no one to ask for details, and people are panicking. Several passengers are booking rental cars to drive instead, and a handful of people are rescheduling their flights for tomorrow morning. Chicago is only supposed to get three inches of snow tonight versus eight tomorrow, so I'm pretty sure my best chance of getting home is to hold out for the flight. The ground crew shows up about an hour later and informs us that there is a mechanical issue with the plane, so it's not a weather cancellation. I stare at the app for updates, willing the incoming flight's status to say: "Departed."
8 p.m. — We are clearly the last flight in this terminal because everything is closed except Hudson News. I buy a bag of gummies to try and stay sane. M. texts me updates about the snowfall. At 8:17, the incoming flight departs! And if they can take off from Chicago, we can almost certainly land there. ($6.24 expensed)
10:30 p.m. — We are finally, finally in the air. I get free in-flight Wi-Fi through my company, so I log on and get another hour of work done from the plane. If I'm going to have a 10-hour travel day, I should be productive for some of it.
11:45 p.m. — We land and hang out for a while as they clear a gate; the snow is coming down but not as hard as I anticipated. As soon as we start to deplane, I request a Lyft. (O'Hare makes rideshare drivers park in a lot about eight minutes away from the pickup point, so it's best to request early in case there's traffic.) The roads are awful, but fortunately, my driver is a middle-aged dad with a solid car that can handle it. I get home at about 12:15 a.m., say hi to M. and the cats, and fall asleep (in my own bed, finally!) within about 20 minutes. ($29.24 expensed)
7:30 a.m. — Get an emailed receipt from my hotel. The rate is $489.42 — slightly from January; I'll have to make sure to keep an eye on that. I put all of the expenses but airfare on my credit card and then work reimburses me, but it can take them weeks to deposit the money into my account. I still need to monitor my card balance and make sure I pay it all off on time to avoid paying interest. (Fortunately, our travel department books and pays for my flights in advance.)
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — Haul ourselves out of bed at a reasonable time. We both work from home on Fridays, but the snow is already so deep that M.'s office is closed and he has a surprise day off! He plays video games and picks up a little around the house while I make calls and get my work done as fast as possible. I'm glad I got a few extra hours of work done at the airport last night. I fry eggs and put them over kale salad leftovers for a quick brunch to tide us over; we're going to a bar for $5 Fridays this afternoon.
4 p.m. — $5 Friday! I'm done with work and we've hiked through about six inches of snow and slush to get to a bar near us that has good food and drink specials. I get a Tocayo and a Jameson shot ($10), and M. gets a Heineken and a Jameson shot ($10). We hang out, catching up on the little things that happened throughout the week and talking about sports news. (Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year deal with the 49ers, which is super exciting.) We both get the $5 cheeseburger with fries, plus an order of onion strings. These are excellent burgers for the normal price of $14, but they are REALLY excellent when they're $5. I get another Tocayo and shot and M. orders a Jameson, neat. Since I travel about half the month (sometimes more), we try to have as much fun as we can when I'm in town. This usually translates to going out for food and drinks, but once it gets warmer I'm hoping to go on hikes and day trips a bit more often too. $71.10
7 p.m. — We hike home (it's even snowier than before!) and watch Goodfellas. I've never seen the whole movie and M. recently texted me "Jimmyyyyyyyyy!" (like Ray Liotta screams in the movie) to celebrate the 49ers news. The soundtrack is one of the best in any of Scorsese's films. We follow it up with Jackie Brown because we're in the mood to keep watching movies with great music, and it's fun to watch a totally different De Niro character. By the time both movies end, I'm exhausted and still a little buzzed. I don't drink while I'm onsite, so my tolerance is not terribly high. Roll into bed and pass out.
Daily Total: $71.10

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — Get up and make eggs and toast. We let our food settle a bit while watching the Olympics, and then head to the gym. I run on the treadmill and I'm feeling good, so I keep pushing it and pushing it, until suddenly I have to puke. I feel totally fine after I get the food out of my stomach. I think the final pace increase was just a little too much.
9:30 a.m. — On the way home from the gym, we stop by Walgreens and get a bottle of cheap wine. I sit on the couch for a while, drinking water and ginger tea, until my stomach feels settled enough to eat an RXBar. $5.07
10:30 a.m. — I go to Aldi to get our groceries for the week. I love Aldi so, so much. This one opened super close to us last year, and I'm there at least three to four times a week. I pick up chicken thighs, canned chickpeas, salad greens, eggs, cilantro, green onions, broccoli, coffee, a cucumber, pita chips, a four-pound boneless pork loin, sweet potatoes, a sleeve of three garlic heads, and an avocado. Less than $40! Insane. We deep clean the house, scrubbing all the salt tracks off the floor and vacuuming up all the cat hair. I'm so happy that I'll be home all next week. I miss cooking so much when I'm on the road, and since running and cooking are my major anxiety relievers, my mental health suffers without them too. I make a batch of herbed chickpeas (an Alison Roman recipe from Bon Appétit) with cilantro, parsley, and mint, and eat a small bowl of them with Greek yogurt for lunch. $35.96
4 p.m. — Taking a break to browse the Internet. I'm searching for a pair of work shoes I got at Marshalls last year that are super worn down and need replacing. Magically, I find them at Sierra Trading Company on clearance and grab the last pair in my size. I also pick up Merino wool socks and M. adds a pair of Reebok sweats to the purchase. $68.99
5:30 p.m. — I'm feeling a little stir crazy with all the snow, so we bundle up and walk a few blocks to a great cocktail bar and restaurant nearby. I order a drink with mezcal, ginger, honey and lemon, and M. gets one with bourbon, port wine, lemon, and seltzer. When they arrive, we try both and immediately swap. This happens a lot. We hang out for a while, debriefing the Olympics and people-watching. $34.73
6:30 p.m. — Get home from the bar and put Olympic figure skating on. Very excited to watch Adam Rippon and the Shib sibs. I marinate the chicken thighs in sugar, garlic, ginger, scallions, gochujang, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and then simmer them in a pan with water until the sauce thickens. I also cut a third of the cucumber into thin slices and pickle it in sugar, salt, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. I take out some Chinese bao buns from the freezer and steam them until they're puffy, then smear them with mayo and stuff with the chicken thighs and cucumbers. We eat the bao in front of the TV. The food is delicious. And Adam Rippon was robbed.
Daily Total: $144.75
*Name has been changed for anonymity.
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