A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $115,000 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 creative lead working in advertising who makes $115,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on pie.
Occupation: Creative Lead
Industry: Advertising
Age: 28
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $115,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,881
Gender Identity: Cisgender Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,250 (Our total rent is $1,850. I pay more because I make more than my fiancé, R.)
Student Loans: $0 (Thanks to parental support and academic scholarships.)
Gas Bill: $20 (R. pays for Wi-Fi and electric.)
Renter's/Engagement Ring Insurance: $20
Health Insurance: $160
Dental/Vision Insurance: $24
Transit Card: $105
Car Insurance: $45 for my half
Spotify/HBONow/Hulu: $31
New York Times Sunday Print: $20
Netflix & Phone: $0 (My parents won't let me pay.)
Gym: $0 (I teach group fitness on the side, so my membership is free.)
401(k): $1,150 (12% of my income. I currently have $38,000 saved.)
Brokerage: $200 split across Total Stock Market Index (50%), International Index (25%), Growth Index (25%)
Roth IRA: $200
High Yield Savings: $1,500 (I currently have $39,000 saved and am working toward $70,000 for a down payment. I also have $10,000 in an emergency fund in the bank, but may move it to a high-yield account.)
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Day One

9 a.m. — It's Saturday, so it's a slow wake-up for me and my fiancé, R. Followed by coffee. And oatmeal. And the putting on of clothes to be a person who is functioning.
10 a.m. — We drive to Target to register for our wedding. Honestly, we are terrible at registering. We have been together for eight years, have lived together for four, and don't need a lot. But we know not everyone loves a cash registry, so we're on the case. Everything we choose for our registry is under $50. Lolz. #CheapTaste
1 p.m. — Drop off R., grab a snack, and head to my favorite yoga sculpt class. The teacher is so wonderful! My knees hurt today (I have tendonitis in both knees, like your average 28-year-old with 800-year-old knees), so I spend a lot of time stretching.
4:30 p.m. — Once I'm home, I roast a sweet potato that I pair with eggs and feta. I eat, shower, read, and then hop on the first of two buses for dinner with friends.
5:45 p.m. — Time for dinner at Fat Rice with two of my closest friends for a belated birthday celebration! We met in the Chicago theater scene and spend most of our weekends at bars in the places where we perform, so it's such a treat to be “out on the town.” Fat Rice has a very cool vibe (very Logan Square). I get an Old Fashioned and the daily stir-fry, and we split two desserts and take one to go ($52). Then we bounce around for drinks at Longman & Eagle ($12) and Lost Lake (their treat). $64
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10 p.m. — One of my close friends is also in the neighborhood and has a friend DJ-ing at a taproom nearby. I never say no to dancing. We all meet up, dance to all of the Lizzo and Carly Rae, and share our to-go dessert. The dance floor is where I would like to spend all of my free time, please and thank you.
12 a.m. — Ya girl is tired. I take a Lyft home. I am back by 12:30, and I read, wind down, and am in bed by 1:30. $11.35
Daily Total: $75.35

Day Two

10 a.m. — It's slow waking after my dance fest. When I finally rise, I make leftover sweet potatoes and eggs for breakfast. R. retrieves our Sunday New York Times, and we spend the morning/early afternoon reading and drinking coffee (truly a dream morning in my book).
2 p.m. — It's my turn to go to the grocery store (we alternate each week), so I drive over and load up on strawberries, bananas, milk, coconut milk, strip steak, corn on the cob, avocados, cauliflower, toilet paper, Belvita, granola, cereal, coffee, creamer, eggs, goat cheese, apples, scallions, and mushrooms. I bought a used car outright a few months ago after four years in Chicago without one. Grocery shopping is a whole new world of pleasure. I use a gift card for half of today's grocery purchase and pay the remainder. $55
4 p.m. — Meal prep for the week while catching up on the phone with my mom. I roast a potato, sweet potato, cauliflower, and carrots. This will be my lunch for the next four days.
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7 p.m. — R. and I make a Smitten Kitchen favorite: corn succotash with steak. He takes the lead and I assist. We eat, clean up, shower, and then I finish reading a bad YA fantasy.
10 p.m. — Prep my daily overnight oats with bananas and strawberries and pack my lunch. In bed around 11:30.
Daily Total: $55

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — I'm up, I'm up. I foam-roll my knees and pack my gym bag, coffee, oats, and my daily snacks of apple slices with cheese and a Belvita bar. Head to the train. Every day, I listen to The Daily (bless Michael Barbaro for teaching me all of the things) and read while commuting. I have two new books — Thick (a collection of essays about race in America that my friend gave me for my birthday) and Foolish Hearts (a YA romance I checked out from the library) — to indulge both halves of my brain.
9:10 a.m. — Pick up doughnuts for a coworker occasion before heading to work. When I get in, I heat up my oats and drink the coffee I brought from home. $13.37
1 p.m. — After a morning of meetings, I break for my daily lunch: roasted veggies with goat cheese, chickpeas, and half of an avocado. My role is a balance between writing and managing the creative team. I spend most days leading brainstorms, guiding creative work, writing, presenting, and managing team growth. I've been in this role for a year, but it's still hard to balance being a doer and a manager. Luckily, I have incredible support from my boss, and I really love my team and my job. I snack on the apple and cheese at 3 and the Belvita at 4. (As I do every day, like the average person who craves routine to function.)
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5:15 p.m. — Head out for spin class. As an instructor myself, I've met so many wonderful teacher friends who make me laugh and inspire me. The only bad thing about knowing the instructor? They always call you out during class, mostly at the moment when you look/feel the sweatiest. I try to smile through my grimace.
6:30 p.m. — I Lyft home and heat up leftover steak and succotash. R. has rehearsal tonight, so I start Fleabag and immediately binge three episodes. As a huge Killing Eve fan (Sandra Oh is my queen), I am all in. $7.02
9 p.m. — I shower and then finish my wedding shower thank-you notes. I love showing people gratitude for their time and energy, but I am grateful to be done with this chore. I meal prep, do my gratitude journal, read, and head to bed at 11:30.
Daily Total: $20.39

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — I'm up. Pack the things. Move the body. Ice my knees. I spend too much time curling my hair and leave later than normal, but still make it to work by 9:20.
12:30 p.m. — It's a morning of organizing and planning for a big project. I eat while working. It's the usual roasted veggies, goat cheese, and half of an avocado. I have my typical 3 p.m. apple slices and 4 p.m. Belvita snacks.
5:15 p.m. — I wrap up after an afternoon of organizing and brainstorming, and get a text from R. that says, "Date night picnic on the beach?" YEEESSSSS. While I commute, he buys rotisserie chicken, salad in a bag, and potato salad, and packs it up in the picnic basket with two beers.
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6:30 p.m. — We drive over to the beach, and I cover parking ($4). It's so great to be by the water in nice Chicago weather! We people-watch and decide to get dessert (R.'s love language is dessert, for sure). I buy us two slices of pie on our way home ($9.39). $13.39
8:30 p.m. — Home, pie time, reading, make oats. I do 20 minutes of yoga and stretching for my sweet ol' knees. And then I'm in bed around 11:30.
Daily Total: $13.39

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — Missed my alarms. Speedy shower and prep and am out the door and at work by 9:15.
1 p.m. — It's a day of leading brainstorms for my team, so my brain is mush. Quick lunch while writing, followed by the typical afternoon snackfest.
5 p.m. — Head to a work panel where I'm speaking. Even though I'm marrying a man, I identify as bi, and this is a queer work panel. It's packed, and the other speakers are incredible. I am so moved and inspired and grateful to work at a place that wants to have these conversations.
8 p.m. — I stay late talking and snacking. I leave, hop on the train, and call my best friend. We catch up while I commute. She's planning my bachelorette (a very chill time where my main goal is to share feelings around a bonfire) and wants my input.
9 p.m. — I realize that no real dinner has been had. I eat Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal, the remnants of yesterday's salad, and a slice of bacon. This is not so much dinner as an assemblage of delicious parts.
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11:30 p.m. — I read late into the night and finish my YA romance, Foolish Heart. Very cute. Prep the oats and head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — I'm up earlier than usual to get to work right on time. Shower, pack, and prep. For the record, my daily skin-care regimen is washing my face with bar soap and putting on lotion, because apparently I was born in 1967. Just kidding, but this does work for my weirdly sensitive skin. I add blush and eyeliner. Mascara if I'm feeling fancy.
1 p.m. — This day has been a wonderful whirlwind. I eat lunch and then write in 20-minute focus sessions where I can't click around and can only write.
5 p.m. — I leave right on time because I teach group fitness on Thursdays! I have been teaching since college, and it's often the highlight of my week. I love using humor to distract while we do the challenging work and encourage people to do their best, meeting their bodies wherever they are today. I love group fitness because it's about personal effort and choosing the level that works best for you. After class, I do knee PT on my own and stretch.
8 p.m. — I listen to one of my favorite podcasts on the way home — Terrible, Thanks for Asking — and grab salmon on the way. R. cooks the salmon while I make mushrooms and sweet potatoes. I also make some banana bread, which always makes me feel like a domestic champion. We eat and catch up, then I watch two more episodes of Fleabag and shower. $8
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11 p.m. — I have a long vent session with R. about my knees and feel a lot better. (TL;DR chronic pain sucks.) Full summary: I developed tendonitis a year and a half ago, took a full month off of all activity, saw two doctors, two chiropractors, four massage therapists, had MRIs, and followed PT recommendations. I stretch daily and have slowly worked back up to my workout routine, but I still feel pain in my knees every damn day. R. asks me when my knees actually feel the best — post-yoga and post-massage — so I decide to schedule regular massages for myself. After so much unpacking, I need to pack it in! I'm in bed by 11:40.
Daily Total: $8

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — Awake. Foam roll. I'm out of veggies, so I pack a PJ&J, oats, coffee, snacks, and a better attitude than yesterday.
12 p.m. — The morning started off with a good meeting (which is a real Friday treat), and my favorite chiropractor called (yes, there are in fact more than one, which is tragic, I know) and said he has a massage opening this afternoon. I eat my PB&J and coordinate with my team.
2:30 p.m. — As soon as I'm on the massage table, the massage therapist asks if I can stay longer, because my legs are so incredibly tight. Oh, the joys of youth. I extend by 15 minutes and am back in the office by 3:45. My knees feel so so so wonderful. I am a new WOMAN. Also, this massage is a medical appointment and, thanks to good insurance, is very affordable. $30
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5:30 p.m. — I stay late to make up for my mid-afternoon massage time, but most people leave early on Fridays in the summer, so I didn't miss much. On the way home, I grab plums, random groceries, and pork roast to make in our Instant Pot (it's our first time ever using it, and I have an irrational fear that it will...explode?). R. and I get the pork roasting, then I do a quick upper-body workout in the guest room while it cooks. This week has been way more evening activities than usual, so tonight is all about downtime. $25.49
7:30 p.m. — Damn, this is good. But I should have bought veggies for the side (next time, friends, next time). We eat the pork on sliders with coleslaw. Then a friend swings by, and we all walk over to the street festival in our neighborhood.
9:45 p.m. — We land at one of our favorite bars and snag seats on their beautiful patio. I cover the first round of drinks for R. and me (whiskey ginger for me and a draft beer for him, plus tip). I get tired around 10:45 and walk home, leaving my friend and R. to hang and catch up. $16.34
11 p.m. — After falling down an Instagram black hole (why, even?), I read a new YA fantasy book for a while, write in my gratitude journal, and crash by 12:30.
Daily Total: $71.83
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.
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