A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $35,000 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.
T0day: a public affairs specialist who makes $35,000 per year, and spends some of her money this week on oatmeal and socks from REI.
Occupation: Public Affairs Specialist
Industry: Government
Age: 23
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $35,000
Paycheck Amount (2x month): $1042.93
Gender Identity: Female
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $975. I live on my own in a one-bed in Uptown.
Student Loan Payments: $326.13. I moved onto the PSLF track and an income-based repayment plan, so next month will be $100 less.
All Other Monthly Expenses
Wi-Fi: $39.53
Utilities: ~$30
Transportation: $100. I take the L and/or a bus everyday so I set up my Ventra card to auto-reload.
Credit Card Debt: ~$500-$600. Over the summer, I put a lot of my daily expenses on a credit card and paid it off in full the next month. I'm trying to shift away from that because I felt that I was overspending.
IRS Debt: $300. I was extremely fortunate that my parents paid for most of my undergrad degree, and I received grants to cover the remainder. But because my parents could no longer claim me as a dependent on their taxes, my grant money was technically considered income on my taxes this year. I'm slowly chipping away at the debt and hope to pay it off next month.
Savings: ~$50. I try to put something into a high-interest savings account each month. Right now, it's a little lower than I would like. (Normally, it's whatever that's left in my bank account at the end of the month.)

Day One

6:10 a.m. — I wake up after hitting snooze several times. Realize that I do this too often. Get ready for the day. Make coffee, grab my breakfast and lunch that I packed last night, and out the door by 6:40.
6:50 a.m. — I take the L into work everyday. My account is set-up to auto-reload an unlimited pass. It's $100 a month, but it's still much cheaper than having a car. I listen to podcasts during the commute. Today, it's NPR's Up First and My Favorite Murder. Normally, I get off a stop away from my office to get in a few extra minutes and steps outside, but the weather is turning. I hustle to my office and am at my desk by 7:30.
9:30 a.m. — I have a few conference calls and a board meeting this morning. I eat the breakfast I packed (scrambled eggs and potatoes doused in Cholula) and crank through a few emails.
12:30 p.m. — Have to run to another meeting. I eat a Larabar (Cashew Cookie!) on the way. I bought a box in bulk a few weeks ago.
2 p.m. — Lunch from home at my desk. Spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs and tomato sauce.
4:30 p.m. — The afternoon drags, but it's finally quittin' time. I meet up with my boyfriend to commute home together. He tells me about his first day in a new role. I'm very happy for him, but it also reminds me of how deeply unfulfilled I feel at my current job. It also started pouring so that doesn't help my mood.
7 p.m. — We go to trivia night at our favorite local bar, which has a burger special. I get a plain cheeseburger with no bun. I try to stay as gluten-free as possible because I have an autoimmune disease, and the symptoms improve when I don't gorge on bread and gluten. I do eat the seasoned fries though because they're delicious. We pay for our own meals. $9.13
10:45 p.m. — Our team did pretty awful today, but I always have fun with my friends. I bolt to catch the bus instead of waiting in the pouring rain. Get home and do my usual nighttime routine of cleansing my face and moisturizing. I prep my breakfast and lunch for tomorrow, make Sleepytime tea, and eat a frozen Reese's while watching a bit of Law & Order. Each night, I wind down using an acupressure mat (also known as bed of nails...). It helps out with my migraines, joint pain, back pain, and has helped improve my sleep. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Daily Total: $9.13

Day Two

6:10 a.m. — Wake up. Get ready. Make coffee. I don't wear much makeup, and typically do my hair at night, so I can spend my morning making pour over coffee. I love it! It's still raining so I race out the door and book it to the train.
8 a.m. — Breakfast is a banana, chia seeds, salted coconut chips and almonds while catching up on the news. I have another slow day of work ahead. I'm a media relations and public affairs manager for a relatively small agency, so some days are slower than slow. I'm always looking for other opportunities and trying to figure out my next move.
10:15 a.m. — I take my morning break by going on a brief walk and meditating. I recently started using the app Headspace, a free app that guides you through three- to 10-minute meditation sessions. Though I'm still new to it, I can already feel a difference with my anxiety and depression.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch is another serving of spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs. A huge part of my job is reading and analyzing state, local and federal government news so I spend my lunch break watching the Cook County Commissioner's meeting. They end up repealing the controversial soda tax after major public backlash. Always love seeing democracy at work, no matter the cause!
1:45 p.m. — I eat a Pink Lady apple I brought from home.
4:30 p.m. — Hustle home. I want to get a run in before the rain returns. I ordered compression socks from Amazon a few days ago, and I'm excited to give them a try! Unfortunately, as soon as I walk outside, it starts raining so I opt to use my mini-stepper and get a yoga session in. I love Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube!
10:15 p.m. — I do my normal nighttime routine which includes washing my face, drinking Sleepytime tea, eating a frozen Reese's, watching Law & Order, and using my acupressure mat.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6 a.m. — Wake up. Get ready. Coffee. Grab my lunch. I'm out the door and decide to take a longer walk to work than usual, but I'm still at my desk by 7:30.
8 a.m. — I call my mom quickly to wish her happy birthday while I eat my breakfast (banana, chia seeds, coconut chips and almonds). I promise to call her later in the day.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch at my desk. Another serving of spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs.
2 p.m. — I forgot my usual Larabar today. I take my afternoon break to walk to the nearest Walgreens. I buy a bag of pretzels and pay with change from my purse. $1.73
5:30 p.m. — I head out for a tempo run. I'm training for a half-marathon in January. Right now, my goal is to just finish, but I secretly want to finish in under two and a half hours. Today's run was honestly one of my best ever. I finish five miles in under an hour and feel great.
7 p.m. — I reward myself with the new episode of Grey's Anatomy (yes...I still watch it...) and two frozen Reese's after a dinner of pork chops and green beans. I head to bed around 10:15 after my nightly routine and checking in on the Cubs v. Nationals game. I used to live in Washington, D.C. so this is tough for me, but I gotta root, root, root for the Cubbies!
Daily Total: $1.73

Day Four

6:10 a.m. — Today's commute is the perfect fall weather!
8:30 a.m. — Payday! I pay my credit card in full every month, but split the payments between my two paychecks. I transfer $320 to my card, but I've already accounted for that in my budget. I'm trying not to use my card as much anymore, but I also really like the points so we'll see. I also transferred one-third of my rent ($325) to an account that I use just for bills so I won't accidentally spend it.
12 p.m. — It's been a boring and slow week at work. The weather is amazing today, and the lunch I brought from home doesn't sound great after eating it for five days in a row. Plus, today is apparently Treat Yo Self Day according to Twitter. I head to Jason's Deli and buy a chicken sandwich and a cup of broccoli cheese soup. It's a ton of food and I save the soup for dinner. $8.57
3 p.m. — My office does flex scheduling; I alternate having a Friday off or getting off early. Today, I get to leave early which is especially great because the weather is amazing.
5 p.m. — I get in a quick-stepper workout and eat dinner (pork chop and half of the soup from lunch) before heading to a friend's house to watch first game of the ALCS. We're all originally from Texas, and are rooting for an Astros v. Cubs World Series.
10 p.m. — ASTROS WIN! Head home and fall asleep way too early for a Friday.
Daily Total: $8.57

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to see that it's pouring rain and axe my run; instead, I hang out in the couch watching Food Network for a bit. Then, I head out to my favorite coffee shop for breakfast, mocha and a bagel. Unfortunately, the bagel I get is stale. Bummer. $7.50
3 p.m. — I spent the day editing and rewriting a paper for my dad. He's in a police academy leadership class this year and I've been helping edit his papers. Makes me miss school a little bit. I haven't really eaten anything aside from too many Reese's.
6 p.m. — It's still pouring, so I cancel dinner plans with my boyfriend and make dinner at home: another pork chop and the rest of my soup from yesterday.
9 p.m. — The rain finally lets up, and I'm bored from being cooped up inside. I convince my boyfriend to meet me for drinks at the arcade bar up the street. I get a blackberry cider for $6, but my boyfriend needs to meet the card minimum so he pays.
11:30 p.m. — Boyfriend is starving so we go to the late night Mexican food place next door. I'm not that hungry so I just pick at the chips, salsa and queso. He pays.
1 a.m. — Home. Fall asleep to YouTube videos.
Daily Total: $7.50

Day Six

9 a.m. — We wake up and head out on five-mile run. Our run ends up intersecting with a 5K that's happening on the lakefront trail so we run alongside it for a bit. The race atmosphere encourages us to go faster!
11 a.m. — We go to my favorite diner up the street for breakfast. I get a stack of chocolate chip pancakes and coffee; boyfriend gets a Spanish omelette. I withdrew $20 from the ATM to pay, but he whips his wallet out quicker and pays.
12:30 p.m. — REI is having a major clearance sale so we head downtown to check it out. I find a pair of Balega socks for $5. They're normally too expensive, but good socks and shoes are so important for running, so I find that they're worth it. Boyfriend is part of the co-op and needs one more pair for a discount so I give him five dollars, and he charges it to his card. $5
2 p.m. — We head to the running store down the street. I want to get my gait analysis updated to see if I should get different shoes before our half-marathon. The shoe recs are super similar to what I already have, and I think I can find a better deal on older models of shoes online so I pass on making any purchases. On the other hand, my boyfriend buys the ugliest pair of slides I've ever seen because he swears they're comfortable. Like Crocs on steroids!
6 p.m. — We window shop for the rest of the day, but I get hangry so we hop a bus to get ramen. Furious Spoon is a great local chain and is definitely worth the adverse affects from gluten. Today has just the right amount of chill in the air for it too. Everyone else must have thought so because it's packed. I get the Shoyu, and he gets the veggie. I pay. $28.15
7 p.m. — We head to a friend's house in Roscoe Village to watch the Cubs v. Dodgers. Boyfriend stops off to get beer.
10 p.m. — Well, Cubs lose on a walk-off, three-run homer. Feeling down, we decide to Uber instead of spending time on public transportation; boyfriend pays. In bed by 11.
Daily Total: $33.15

Day Seven

6 a.m. — Wake up. Get ready and make coffee. I didn't go grocery shopping this week, so I stop off at Walgreens and get a packet of oatmeal and plastic utensils for my desk. $4.54
12:30 p.m. — Morning passed relatively slowly. My only conference call for the day wrapped up quickly for a change, and the news has been quiet too. I left my lunch from Friday in the fridge, so I heat that up and dream it's pizza instead.
4:30 p.m. — Quiet afternoon so I leave right at 4:30. I contemplate going to Ulta because I have a 20% off coupon and want to try Mario Badescu's drying lotion. With the weather changing, my skin is breaking out and none of my usual products are working. But I remember that I need to go grocery shopping, so I begrudgingly head to Mariano's and fight off the Monday evening crowds. This week, I have to pick up an unusual amount of staples that I ran out of last week so my bill is higher than usual. I get gluten-free oats, sourdough bread, olive oil, ground turkey, light brown sugar, cashew milk, maple syrup, bananas, cheddar cheese, cauliflower and aluminum foil. I use the rest of the cash I had in my wallet ($15) and put the rest on my card. $43.12
6 p.m. — Get home and make dinner: leftover chicken tenders and rice while watching this weekend's SNL. Then, I prep baked oatmeal bars for breakfast for the next two weeks. My kitchen smells amazing!
8 p.m. — Do a deep stretch yoga session from Yoga With Adrienne.
9:30 p.m. — Start my nighttime routine. I fall asleep by 10:30 after seeing that the Astros lost to the Yankees 8-1. Tomorrow is a new day, and the Cubs are back at Wrigley! Still holding out hope for a Cubs v. Astros World Series.
Daily Total: $47.66
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