A Week In The Suburbs Of Chicago, IL, On A $61,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
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Ahead of World Teachers' Day on October 5, Refinery29 is publishing a special theme week of Money Diaries, featuring teachers from across America. Today, we have a teacher who makes $61,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on clipboards. We asked the OP some questions regarding her back-to-school spending, and here's what she had to say:
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"I spent about $70 on back to school in total this year. I bought plastic storage bins for my classrooms, folders to keep absent students' work in, stickers, name tags that say 'Hola Me Llamo...,' candy as prizes for students who win games, and clipboards. My favorite thing is when my students have an "a-ha" moment about something I've been teaching them, or when students get excited and make connections between what I'm teaching them and their everyday lives. I love when students come up to me and tell me they met someone who speaks Spanish and tried to have a conversation with them. The hard part about teaching is that you often don't see the effects of your work until much later, so I love those little glimpses that show me I am actually having an impact on my students."
Occupation: Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 25
Location: Suburbs of Chicago, IL
Salary: $61,000
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,825
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $800 for a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom townhome. My fiancé, L., is living with me buuuuuut it's not "official," so I don't charge him rent. My rent is also way under market value, because I rent from a family friend.
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents helped me pay for most of undergrad, and I had a generous scholarship for the rest. I had a small loan at the end of undergrad, but I paid it off. I also have my master's degree, but I worked full-time as a teacher’s assistant throughout most of grad school, so I was able to pay for it all on my own.)
Gas: $20
Electric: $50
Water: $30
Netflix: $10.99
Cell Phone: $45 (I pay my dad every month for my share of the family plan.)
Internet: $40
Gym Membership: $12
Auto Insurance: $60
Renters/Personal Article Insurance: $15
You Need A Budget: $5 (an awesome budgeting software)
Donations: $35
Savings: $440 in a Roth IRA, automatically withdrawn from my account. I typically also put away another $1,000/month after I pay all my bills and budget for the following month.
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Day One

5:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I wake up, immediately wondering how it isn't Friday yet. The first week of school is just dragging on and on.
6:30 a.m. — I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and head to work. I always get there super early because I like to have plenty of time in the morning to review my lesson plans for the day and make any copies I might need.
7:30 a.m. — My first class starts. I teach two classes in a row and then have a period and a half off for prep time. This week has been dragging by, since it's the first week. Most of the things we've been doing are administrative items, class expectations, and pre-tests. It's been much more teacher-centered than I would like, and I can't wait to move on to actual material.
9:15 a.m. — On break. I snack on trail mix in my desk while making seating charts and reading through surveys my students submitted to me so I can get to know them better.
11:05 a.m. — I teach another class, and then it's lunch! I usually bring my lunch from home. Today is a weird combination of quinoa, ground beef, peppers, onions, and avocado. Oh well.
12:55 p.m. — I teach two more classes.
3 p.m. — My day is finally over, but I'm feeling a little disorganized and stressed because I keep finding students have been misplaced in my class and tomorrow is the last day for schedule changes. Grrrr.
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3:30 p.m. — I was planning to go to the gym after school, but I ditch that in favor of working out at home, because my fiancé, L., is home and has to leave again at 5:30, and I want to see him and eat with him.
5:30 p.m. — L. makes a jambalaya-type dish for dinner. I clean up as he leaves to coach football practice. Then I run errands for items I need for my classroom and a few personal things. I drop off a few Amazon returns at the UPS store, then head to Target where I buy folders for my classroom, mints to keep in my desk at school, chocolates, and a wallet. $31.42
6:30 p.m. — I go to The Container Store where I buy a few stackable baskets for my classroom. I'm teaching in two different classrooms this year and am finding I need to make some adjustments to the storage situation. $21.96
7:30 p.m. — Back home, I throw together a weekend bag, as I'm heading to my parents' lake house for the weekend and leaving right after school tomorrow. Then, I make myself a mojito because my mint plant is growing like wild, and I have to put it to good use, right? I usually try to avoid drinking during the week, but I make an exception for this. I sip on my mojito while grading pre-tests.
9:30 p.m. — L. comes home. We chat for a bit and then head to bed.
Daily Total: $53.38

Day Two

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off again. But at least today is Friday! I get up pretty quickly and jump in the shower.
6:15 a.m. — I make tea and breakfast and then do a little work at home because my dad is driving me to work so that we can leave for the lake right after school. My dad actually works at the same school as me. He shows up around 6:30, and we head to work.
7:30 a.m. — Teach my first two classes. We have a fun time playing games to review vocabulary from last year.
9:30 a.m. — I'm on my prep period, but I have to sort out a student placement issue that's getting annoying.
11:05 a.m. — Teach my third class and then head out to Panera for lunch with coworkers. It's nice to get out of the building on Fridays, but our 50-minute class periods don't leave us a lot of time, so we always have to go somewhere quick. $11.74
3 p.m. — The day is over and it's finally the weekend! I have to make a parent phone call about placement, and then my dad and I head to my parents' lake house.
4 p.m. — On the road to the lake! This is probably one of the last nice weekends I'll be able to spend there this year before things get crazy with school and extracurriculars, so I am excited to take advantage.
9 p.m. — Get to the lake and greet my brothers and one of my brother's friends who are already there. I'm tempted to just go straight to bed, but I think that would be rude, so I stay up reading on the couch for about an hour before I tuck in.
Daily Total: $11.74

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I sleep in and it feels amazing. I lay in bed for another half an hour or so just checking my phone and texting L.
11:30 a.m. — I spend most of the morning reading my book and articles on my phone. I thought my parents were planning on going into town and I was going to go with, but they have shown no sign of leaving anytime soon, so I do a T25 workout and then change into my swimsuit and chill down on the dock.
4 p.m. — Spend the day down on the dock floating, drinking, reading, and napping. At around 4, a neighbor comes down and invites me, my brothers, and my brother's friends out tubing with him. We tube for a bit, and then just tour around the lake on the boat.
6 p.m. — I take a quick shower while dinner is being prepared. We have brats and burgers from an amazing butcher in town, and it's delicious. Then my parents take us out for ice cream at a local place.
8:30 p.m. — Play a few different card games my brothers brought with them. It's pretty fun.
10:30 p.m. — I'm wiped, so I head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

7 a.m. — Up early (for a weekend) because my youngest brother is leaving to drive back to college. I say goodbye to him and then my parents and I go to church in town.
9:30 a.m. — Church is over, and it's our tradition to stop by the bakery at the local grocery store afterwards to pick up donuts. I'm bummed because they got rid of my favorite chocolate peanut butter kind. I settle on a cinnamon roll instead. Mom pays ($6).
11 a.m. — Back at the lake. My parents are renting out the house next weekend, so I help clean by vacuuming. Then I go on a short solo kayak and float for a little before my parents call us in to eat lunch.
2 p.m. — We're all packed and the house is spotless, so we head out. I fall asleep in the car for about an hour, so the four-hour drive goes by pretty fast. I listen to episodes of Stuff Mom Never Told You for the rest of the way.
6 p.m. — Back home and I walk in to find my L. making dinner!! This is literally a dream — I have a very attractive shirtless man making me dinner in my own kitchen the minute I got home from a long car ride. I knew I was marrying him for a reason!
6:30 p.m. — L. and I catch up on our weekends as we finish up making dinner and eating. We open a bottle of wine and enjoy a few glasses until I remember I have to get blood drawn in the morning and need to fast. L. and I talk a lot about the ancestry research he did on his family over the weekend. Then he surprises me by suggesting we take his mom's maiden name after we get married. The whole name change issue has been a big question since we ever started thinking about getting married. I hate that it's such the norm that women take their husband's name and I refuse to participate, but I also want to share a name with my husband and kids (if we have them) to demonstrate family unity. L. has been very accepting of the idea that we should both change our names, but we haven't settled on the right one yet. I tell him I really value his suggestion and opinion, and that I need time to think about it, but I'll consider it.
7:30 p.m. — I finish and fold laundry, put away my stuff from the weekend, check to make sure I have lesson plans for tomorrow, and then hang out on the couch with L. We go to bed early but cuddle for about an hour before actually going to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Back on the grind.
6:10 a.m. — I leave a little early because I'm getting my blood drawn today. Ugh. But I can save a ton (read: over $1,000) on my insurance if I do it, so it's worth it.
6:30 a.m. — Back in the office and getting ready for my classes. I have two different classes right off the bat this year, and it's making me feel like I'm under a time crunch in the morning. I like to have ample time to review my lesson plans and make sure everything is ready to go in the morning.
7:30 a.m. — Classes start. It's a pretty average, low-key day.
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! I heat up leftovers my L. brought home. It's pretty good but I feel bad when he texts me later asking if I took some. I assumed he wouldn't care. Oops.
3:40 p.m. — Clean up my classrooms and plan out the rest of my week before heading out. I return a book to the library and then run donations over to a local charity thrift store. Then I head home and, after laying on my bed texting my sister and BFF for a bit, I find the motivation to work out.
5:45 p.m. — L. gets home, and we start making dinner. He grills chicken and Cajun sausages, and I cut up peppers, make a spinach and berry salad, and throw some fries in the oven. We end up with a ton of food, but it's a really good meal, and we always eat leftovers for lunch anyways.
9:15 p.m. — L. and I do school work and then read and hang out on the couch for the rest of the evening. I'm feeling pretty beat, so I head to bed around 9:15 and he follows. I end up not being able to fall asleep until 11 or so, though.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off. You know the routine.
6:50 a.m. — I take my time with breakfast and get to work a bit later than normal because our students have a late start today. Classes don't start until 8:50 so that teachers can have meetings and collaborate in the morning. I don't really care for late starts because they throw my schedule off, but oh well.
10:20 a.m. — Back in the office on my prep period. I run copies and work on an email to send to all my students' parents. Then I order clipboards on Amazon because I need them so I can walk around and check in homework more easily. I get a pack of five, figuring I'll use one for each of my two classrooms at work, give one to L., and gift the other two to coworkers. $9.95
12:20 p.m. — My stomach is growling. Since late starts push our schedule back, I would normally be eating now, but I still have 10 more minutes of class.
3 p.m. — Classes are over, but the school is hosting an activity fair so students can find clubs and activities and get involved. I'm the assistant coach of the debate team, so I have to be there. We recruit a few kids to hopefully try out for the team.
4:30 p.m. — I get home. I know I should work out, but I'm so tired, I'm not really feeling it. It's really nice out, so I think maybe I will go for a bike ride before L. gets home, but I get sidetracked when I see one of my plants has tiny little bugs crawling all over it. Ew! I decide it's time to say goodbye to that plant, as it has seen better days anyway. I throw it out in the yard and rinse out the pot, but then my shoes are all muddy and I have to clean them.
5:45 p.m. — L. comes home, and we throw together leftovers for dinner. We're in a hurry because we're going to our reception venue for the wedding to put down our deposit!
6:15 p.m. — We meet with the event coordinator for our reception venue. L. hasn't seen the venue before, so he wanted to see it before we put the money down and locked it in. L. pays with his credit card, but I send him half. $300
7:30 p.m. — Back home and I don't feel like doing anything except laying in bed. I curl up with Cable Girls on Netflix. L. comes to bed around 9, but I stay up on my phone for a bit. I really should try to spend less time on tech before bed; I feel like I've been so addicted lately.
Daily Total: $309.95

Day Seven

5:30 a.m. — Alarm goes off, but I feel like I'm already semi-awake, as I've been tossing and turning for awhile. I snooze a couple times and cuddle with L. He normally gets up before me to work out, so it's a treat when we get to cuddle before getting up.
9:15 a.m. — One of my students is selling chocolates as a fundraiser for cross country. They're only a dollar, so I buy two — one for me and one for L. $2
9:30 a.m. — It's my prep period, and I'm on a mission to work through my to-do list. I took an online class over the summer to finish my bilingual educator endorsement, and now I need to file paperwork with the state to make it official. I have to send a transcript from the university ($5.50) and pay a fee ($51.50) to the state. Next, I have to submit documentation for tuition reimbursement from my district. This requires another transcript ($5.50) and an itemized receipt of my tuition payment. It's worth it, though, because I should get the full cost of my class reimbursed (around $830). $62.50
12 p.m. — Lunchtime! Our lunch hour feels deliciously long today for some reason.
2 p.m. — One of my students is selling cookie dough as a fundraiser. It is really expensive, but I have a hard time saying no, so I buy some. I'm going to have to learn how to politely tell students no, or this is going to get old fast. $20
3 p.m. — Classes are over. I head to a debate team meeting where we plan for our tryouts next week.
4:15 p.m. — Back home. I tell myself I have to work out today. I'm starting to be able to physically notice the efforts of my workouts, so as exhausting as it is to come home from work and do it, I don't want to stop now. I read the news on the couch for a few minutes and then start my workout.
6 p.m. — L. and I meet my parents and grandparents at a local restaurant for dinner. They have amazing drinks there, so I get a jalapeño mango mojito to go with my dinner of jerk chicken pasta. We have a great time catching up, and it isn't very crowded so we sit at the table for awhile after eating to just spend time together. My dad treats everyone.
8 p.m. — We're back home, talking over a few more things for the wedding. We both hate how overly commercial and consumerist weddings are and we're trying to stay away from it as much as possible, but it's sooooo hard. L. is exhausted and falls asleep around 8:30. As I cuddle with him, I realize I'm getting pretty sleepy too, so I get ready and go to bed around 9.
Daily Total: $84.50
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.
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