A Week In Chicago On A $40,000 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. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)
This week a marketing manager working in digital marketing who makes $40,000 per year and spends it on a new keyboard and Lady Gaga merch.
Industry: Digital Marketing
Age: 26
Location: Chicago
Salary: $40,000
Paycheck Amount (bimonthly): $1180. I also get occasional checks between $30-100 for a second job I have.
Monthly Expenses
Rent: Our total rent is $1150. I pay $450 since I paid all our rent while my boyfriend was unemployed.
Student Loans: $0 for student loans. I'm on deferment.
Credit Cards: $800 for credit cards as I get out of extremely high debt.
Utilities: $30 for my half of electric, $25 for my half of internet
Phone Bill: Still on a family plan, but I pay my mom $60 every month.
Transportation: Around $80 a month for gas (split with my boyfriend since we share a car)
Health Insurance: $180 taken out of my paycheck, $90 each check
Hulu, Spotify, Squarespace, Texture: $35
Gym: $40
Charity: $25
Savings: Trying to put $200 per month

Day One

7:15 a.m. — Wake up a little later than usual thanks to the Super Bowl last night. I get ready and make a cup of coffee to power me through the day.
8:45 a.m. — I get to work and make a pack of oatmeal that I keep at my desk. Grab another cup of coffee.
10:15 a.m. — Cut up an orange I brought from home with my grocery haul yesterday. Fill up my water bottle and hope it's almost lunch time.
11:45 a.m. — Head to Whole Foods with some coworkers. I brought food from home but need to pick up a couple of things I forgot to pick up yesterday. I grab potatoes and avocados and maple glazed cashews from the bulk bin. Use a gift card I got this past weekend from a work party.
12:30 p.m. — Eat roasted veggie and quinoa dish I made yesterday. I add some Sriracha and it tastes amazing.
2 p.m. — End up eating all the cashews I bought. Hopefully this holds me over until dinner!
5:30 p.m. — The boyfriend and I leave work. Once we get home, I walk over to my gym two blocks from our place. I run two miles and hurt so much.
6:45 p.m. — Get home from the gym and preheat the oven while I take a quick shower. Make homemade sweet potato fries and turkey burgers for the boyfriend and I.
10:30 p.m. — Fall asleep after reading for a few hours.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — Wake up late today and have to rush to get ready. Make a cup of coffee while forgoing breakfast since I have more oatmeal at my desk.
8:30 a.m. — Get to work and see there's an M-Audio keyboard at my desk. At our holiday party this past weekend, a coworker mentioned he had one and wanted to get rid of it. We make an agreement that I'll pay him $100 over the next two paychecks for it.
11:45 a.m. — The ladies of the office go out to lunch today. Our boss works remote a few states away and is in town for the week. We go to a local cafe and I get a turkey bacon wrap with chips. My meal is $10, but the boss ends up paying for all of us!
5:15 p.m. — What an afternoon! It flew by but luckily we are heading mini-bowling with coworkers tonight. We order $45 worth of food, but the boyfriend and I got a gift card for this bar for Christmas so everything is covered by it. He gets a few beers, and I stick to water. We also order cheese curds.
7:30 p.m. — We get home and I work on a couple of songs with the new keyboard. Very happy about this purchase even though it's out of the ordinary and pretty expensive.
10 p.m. — I spend the rest of the night working on songs and then researching cameras for my upcoming vacations. I found a few I'd like to test out before completing a purchase.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7 a.m. — Wake up early and lay in bed reading some emails before actually getting up. After I shower, I put sandwich stuff in a bag for the BF and I.
8:15 a.m. — I don't feel like oatmeal this morning, so I cut up an apple I brought from home. Scoop some almond butter out and eat this for breakfast.
9:45 a.m. — I find out from a friend that if you purchase something from Lady Gaga's shop, you get a pre-sale code. I buy a $12 patch, but after shipping it increases to $17. I use the code only to find out the cheapest ones left are $200. Looks like I'll be one of the regulars buying tickets next week. $17
12:00 p.m. — Run out to the bank over lunch to grab $60 for my coworker from the keyboard I bought. Once back at the office, I make a sandwich with items brought from home. $60
2:30 p.m. — I call my insurance company to dispute a bill I got this month for a birth control insert from November. I ended up getting a bill because the doctor's office coded it wrong. I end up on a three way call with my insurance and the provider only to find out the provider won't change it. The insurance gal tells me to file an appeal with them and they might be able to cover some of the $1,020 bill I got.
5 p.m. — The boyfriend and I leave work and get home super quick! We watch two episodes of Property Brothers before I head out to meet a friend.
7 p.m. — I head out to my friend's place. She's just moved into her new apartment and wanted me to see it. We go out to a wine bar and get a few glasses of wine and food. I get a burger and two glasses of rose. $45
9:00 p.m. — I get home with a slight buzz. The perfect end to a great night.
Daily Total: $122

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — We wake up early and try to make coffee. Apparently our kitchen outlets stopped working so no coffee for us this morning! Once at work, I cut up an apple with peanut butter and drink two cups of coffee.
11:30 a.m. — Head to Whole Foods with a coworker to pick up a few items for dinner tonight. I really want zoodles but haven't committed to buying a zoodler yet. I pick up a pack of sweet potato zoodles, a drink, and some broccoli to use with my zoodles. It's $8, but I still have money left on my gift card.
1 p.m. — After an intense ping pong game at the table in our office, I work on some social media quizzes.
5 p.m. — The boyfriend and I leave work and stop by his parents' place on our way home. He has to pick up a couple of things, so we end up staying for a few hours talking.
7:45 p.m. — We get home from his parents' and I have a couple of hours of work to do for a freelance client. The boyfriend makes us pizza and we eat while working on my client's website.
10:30 p.m. — I fall asleep later than usual after yelling at my computer for a couple hours.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

7:30 — I wake up extremely late and extremely tired. Make a cup of coffee to powerhouse through this Friday. It's a coworkers birthday today so we got donuts. I eat a vanilla donut and have another cup of coffee.
12 p.m. — After a busy morning, I decide to head to Old Navy over lunch. I have a coupon and need to pick up a few basics. I end up getting a black t-shirt dress, a white shirt and a pair of black heeled booties. $45. I stop next door at Whole Foods and grab a quick lunch of tomato basil soup, an avocado sushi roll and a drink. $55
4:45 p.m. — We leave work a little early since I have a shift at my part time job at 6 p.m. tonight. We stop at home and I change into my new dress.
6:30 p.m. — I get to the coffee shop and grab a southwest salad and a coffee. The shift is super easy and I'm glad I picked it up. $9
11:45 p.m. — The shift I worked today pays cash so I leave with $60. Get home around 11:45 p.m. and immediately pass out.
Daily Total: $64

Day Six

8:15 a.m. — I wake up early even though I'm not meeting my mom until 10 a.m. for breakfast. I start getting ready and make coffee for the boyfriend and me.
10 a.m. — My mom picks me up and gives the boyfriend and I a check for $50 for Valentine's day. She's the sweetest! We stop for brunch downtown at the most amazing place. I get a veggie egg white omelet. I steal the check before she has a chance to grab it. I pay $28 while she leaves the tip. $28
12 p.m. — Mom and I stop at Trader Joe's after going furniture shopping. I pick up two bottles of wine, orange chicken, and apples. $20
1 p.m. — Mom and I stop at her condo in the suburbs to drop off the chair she bought and grab her dog. We then head back to the city and take a walk around my neighborhood.
5 p.m. — I wake up after a three hour nap and realize I have to run off to work. I stop at the coffee shop and get a soy latte. $5
7:30 p.m. — After my shift, I stop by Buffalo Wild Wings to pick up the order my boyfriend placed ($32 with tip). I also stop by the convenience store and get us treats for later. We use the valentine's money my mom gave us. $40
9:30 — We eat our dinner and rent The Lego Movie off Amazon. We fall asleep on the coach after the movie with extreme food comas. $5
Daily Total: $98

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I wake up early today since I have another shift at my part time job. I start getting ready, make coffee, and start a few loads of laundry and the dishes.
10 a.m. — Make fried eggs and bagels for the boyfriend and I. I love slow mornings like this because I can actually get a lot done before heading to work.
11:30 a.m. — I head to work only to realize there's a lot going on downtown today. I end up having to pay $15 for parking which really sucks. Oh well, I would have spent the same amount on an Uber there and back. $15
5:45 p.m. — Oh my God! So happy that shift is over. It was extremely busy. Luckily I was in coat check so I get to leave with $15. I stop by the grocery store and pick up items for chili and some things for sandwiches this week ($32). Chipotle is next door and it sounds too good to pass up. I get a veggie bowl with extra guac ($8). I use the $15 I made from my shift to pay for part of it. $40
7:00 p.m. — I get home just in time for the Grammys to start! We watch the entire thing. Beyonce's performance was amazing of course.
10:00 p.m. — I fall asleep somewhere between 9:30 and 10 p.m. while watching the show. I move to the bedroom and can't wait for Monday to start!
Daily Total: $55
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences 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.
Have a money diary you'd like to share? Send it to us at

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series