A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $66,500 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 school psychologist who makes $66,500 per year and spends some of her money this week on Hi-Chews.
Occupation: School Psychologist
Industry: Education
Age: 25
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $66,500
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $2,366 (I get paid September through June, and I save for the summer months.)
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,150 (This comes directly out of my husband's PhD stipend.)
Student Loans: $500 minimum. (I sometimes pay more on my highest-interest loans if I don't have big expenses that month.)
Electricity: This varies, but it's usually about $60.
Wi-Fi: $29.99
Netflix: $8.99 (Shout out to my sister, who lets me use her Hulu account!)
Car Insurance: $80
Charity: $30 ($15 to Planned Parenthood, $15 to ACLU)
Health, Dental & Vision Insurance: $107 out of my paycheck (for my husband and me)
Chiropractor: My health insurance partially covers this, so I pay $50/month on a sliding scale
Mental Health: I see a therapist biweekly and pay $25 each time, so usually $50/month
Savings: I have a pension through work, which comes out of my paycheck, 9% pretax. On top of that, I typically take $500-$800 from each paycheck and split it between our joint savings accounts. My husband, B., typically contributes a few hundred per month, too. We have about $15,000 saved right now.
Gym Memberships: $100 for yoga studio and $25 for access to a local pool

Day One

7:45 a.m. — I wake myself up sneezing — this is something that happens a lot in the winter, despite my rampant neti pot usage. I need to remember to buy hypoallergenic pillowcases. I see that my husband, B., is already awake and listening to a podcast. We have friends from out of town staying with us, so he's not out in the living room watching soccer like he would usually be on a Sunday morning. We cuddle for a bit, and then I decide it's time for coffee.
10 a.m. — We all head over to a nearby diner for brunch with a larger group of friends. I love how cheap this place is. I order a turkey-sausage-and-egg sandwich ($4.25), B. gets an omelet ($6.25), and we both get coffee ($1.25 each). We each have our own checking accounts and share savings, but we don't really keep track of who buys what outside of big monthly expenses. I typically pay for random things like this, since I make more money right now, but it honestly doesn't matter since we pretty much share everything; it definitely helps that we have similar spending habits. We have a great time relaxing and catching up with our friends; most are in B.'s PhD program with him, and I am good friends with them, as well as their significant others. I affectionately refer to us as “the science boos.” $13
12 p.m. — We return home and I throw in a load of laundry for our friends, who are leaving later tonight. My absolute favorite feature of our apartment is the in-unit washer/dryer. I don't know how I ever lived without one, since I am very obsessive about cleanliness and washing clothing/sheets/etc. This is a manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I've lived with since I was a child. It's well-controlled now (shout out to my therapist and fluvoxamine!), but I will always have some tendencies. I've learned to live with it and embrace it as part of who I am. I'm extremely lucky that I can control my symptoms to a point where I can live a relatively normal and happy life, which isn't the case for some people who suffer from OCD.
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12:30 p.m. — After I put in the laundry, my friend and I decide to make a vegan chocolate cake. I'm not vegan, but I started baking vegan last year when my sister made the switch, and I've kept it up because I honestly think it tastes better. We make a chocolate bundt cake with coconut-cream frosting and eat it to celebrate my husband's birthday, which was this past week.
2 p.m. — B. and our friends want to go to a local comic-book store, so I take the opportunity to sneak in a few miles on the treadmill in the small gym downstairs. I absolutely love having our friends here, but weekends are usually when I catch up on cleaning/groceries/exercise, so I'm glad I can have at least an hour to myself. I also do a bit of simple meal prep for the week. (Several jars of overnight oats and measuring out smoothie ingredients — call me Gordon Ramsay.)
4 p.m. — Our friends leave for the airport, and B. and I head to our local produce co-op to get some groceries for the week. This is the only grocery-store option near where we live except for Whole Foods, so I tend to shop at the co-op a lot. The prices are actually great, and they carry really great quality produce. We stock up on a few staples: apples, Greek yogurt, turkey, soy milk, walnuts, peanut butter, onions, and paper towels. B. pays with his debit card ($28.72).
6 p.m. — While B. makes dinner (asparagus with linguini and kale salad), I write Galentine's cards for my sister, mom, and a few friends. I really value the strong female friendships in my life, so Galentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays! I address and stamp the letters, and then I go online and order some chocolates to be delivered to my sister's apartment ($24.97 with shipping). We live in different states but are very close, and we both really like giving gifts! $24.97
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10 p.m. — I spend the rest of the night cleaning the bathroom, eating more cake, and looking at flights on Expedia. My grandpa's 90th birthday and dad's 60th birthday are next month, and I really want to be there to celebrate. I see that flights are slightly more expensive than usual, since March is spring-break season. I text my mom, and she offers to split the ticket cost with me since she really wants me to be there. I tell her that I'll keep looking at flights, and we can book later this week.
Daily Total: $37.97

Day Two

6 a.m. — I wake up bright and early to mentally prepare myself for the work week. My morning routine is fairly simple. I shower and wash my hair (I usually wash it every two or three days), blowdry, and apply vitamin C serum and Origins Ginzing moisturizer to my face (gotta beat these brutal Chicago winters). Next, I brew a large pot of coffee so my husband and I can both take some to work. B.'s family owns a coffee farm in South India, so we are very lucky to have large stocks of delicious coffee on hand from our recent trip. While the coffee is brewing, I pack my lunch: turkey and hummus sandwich, Greek yogurt and granola, and an apple with peanut butter. I get dressed in a cozy sweater and black Uniqlo pants and bundle up to brace for the Chicago cold. I see B. is still peacefully sleeping, and I feel only a tiny bit murderous at the prospect of cleaning the snow off the car.
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7:45 a.m. — I arrive at work early, which is just how I like it. On Mondays I work at an assessment center where we evaluate children ages 3-5. I like to arrive earlier than my team members so that I can drink coffee and mindlessly browse BuzzFeed and The New York Times. My team arrives around 8:15, and we gear up for our first evaluation.
11:30 a.m. — Our first kid is so adorable and fun to play with, and the morning flies by. After our morning case, I walk the halls with one of my teammates. We like to do laps in the hallway when we have time — it can be a stressful job, so it's necessary to take this time when we can get it.
12:30 p.m. — Our afternoon case is a no-show, so I do some online shopping to find a birthday gift for my grandpa. He wears baseball hats when he works on his farm, so I decide to get him a “World's Best Grandpa” hat, which is kitschy, but I know he will love it. It's $13.95 with free two-day shipping off Amazon. $13.95
3 p.m. — I work on reports for my other schools for the rest of the day (I service three schools throughout the city) and then leave work and head to the literacy center where I volunteer on Monday nights. I work with adult English learners who have recently moved to the U.S. and are committed to learning English. It is hands down the most inspiring part of my week. I love my student I'm currently working with — she already knows three languages, casual. One of the women who works at the center mentions that she's in a comedy show this Friday night at Second City. I buy two tickets online for me and B. $26
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6 p.m. — I get home and am STARVING. I immediately eat a slice of chocolate cake — because it's vegan, so it's healthy, right? Right? B. arrives home soon after, and he quickly makes a Thai chicken soup for dinner. I love him and his cooking abilities.
9:30 p.m. — I spend the rest of the night rewatching Gilmore Girls on Netflix (I have no shame), take a bath with eucalyptus oil, and head to bed early. I haven't been sleeping that great because of back pain, so I'm hoping to get some extra hours tonight. I do my quick nighttime routine of washing my face (I use Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel a few times a week and just water the rest of the time) and applying Thayer's Witch Hazel toner and a small amount of Origins anti-aging serum.
Daily Total: $39.95

Day Three

5:30 a.m. — I wake up early because the baby in the apartment next door is crying. I usually have a fan on at night that drowns out the sound, but I forgot to turn it on last night. B. sleeps through it, but I'm very sensitive to noises. It's only a half hour earlier than I had my alarm set for originally, so I don't mind. I decide to go down to our gym and walk on the treadmill for a few miles to wake up and de-stress a bit. A former student from one of my schools was killed last week, and I've been feeling really sad/anxious in response. I listen to My Favorite Murder and let my mind wander while I walk.
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6 a.m. — Back upstairs, I pull up my work calendar and see I have nothing hard-scheduled for today. I work ahead whenever I can, and I'm actually caught up with all of my evaluations and reports right now. I have a lot of sick days stored up, so I decide today would be a great day to take a mental-health day. My back has also been hurting more than usual (I have back issues stemming from competitive swimming in high school), so it will also be a good chance to go to the chiropractor for an extra session.
9:45 a.m. — I fell back asleep and slept in SO late! This is a really big deal for me, since I usually get up around 6 on weekdays. I feel so great after sleeping more, and I text B. to let him know that I'm feeling better. (He apparently left for work while I was sleeping!)
10:30 a.m. — After a simple breakfast of yogurt and an apple, I call my chiropractor and schedule a 3 p.m. appointment, and then decide to go to a yoga class at 11. The weather is blah, but I'm feeling pretty content after all the sleep and using my sunlight lamp (which I refer to as my “happy lamp”). I started using it when I was 10 years old, because my parents noticed that my OCD symptoms got a lot worse during the winter, and I still use it now for more general S.A.D.
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4 p.m. — I had a great day of yoga, eating chocolate on the couch, and a spine adjustment to top it off. I decide to make dinner since I know B. had a stressful day at the lab. I browse my saved recipes and decide to go for vegan mac 'n' cheese. I've tried several recipes, and this one is by far the best — I got it from Cookie and Kate, which is one of my favorite food blogs. I like to cheat with this recipe and sprinkle some cheddar cheese over the top once it's all done, just to give it a little extra kick. (I am sorry to all the real vegans out there — I respect you, but I passionately love cheese.)
6 p.m. — B. gets home and we eat while talking about our days. Then we work on a puzzle together while watching Star Wars. Marriage is truly a wild ride.
9 p.m. — Even though I slept in so late, I start to feel tired and decide to do my nighttime face-wash routine and lie in bed reading My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik, which was a wedding gift from B.'s aunt and uncle. The book is very good but dense, and I fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6 a.m. — I'm up and ready for Wednesday, which is usually my busiest work day of the week. I shower and wash my hair, blowdry, moisturize, and brew a large pot of coffee. I pack a lunch of overnight oats, an apple with crunchy peanut butter, dates, and popcorn, and sip coffee while I try to decide what to wear. I've reached the point of winter where I'm bored with all of my clothing and can't wait to start wearing sandals and tunics again, but unfortunately this is Chicago and there's still at least two more months of sweater weather.
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7 a.m. — I stop by church on the way to work (Ash Wednesday, Catholic guilt, etc.), but it's not open yet. I stand with a few other freezing parishioners for a few minutes to see if they will open so I can get ashes and pray for a hot second, but no luck.
7:30 a.m. — I arrive at work, check my emails, and am immediately swept up in a tide of meetings/therapy/testing.
12:30 p.m. — I take a quick break for lunch and text my sister to ask her if she has any ideas for what to get our dad for his 60th birthday. We're thinking about finding a signed Bruce Springsteen poster or record on eBay. I also look at flights home again and decide to book now, since they're cheaper than when I looked a few days ago. I pay $286 for a roundtrip and tell my mom to not worry about Venmo-ing me; I have enough saved up, and I feel like at this point it's my responsibility to pay for my travel. $286
4 p.m. — I drive home, park near our apartment, and catch the train to go downtown for my therapy appointment. I've been seeing my therapist for about three years now, and I really like her. We spend the session talking about some of the secondhand grief and trauma I've been feeling through work. I cry and feel much lighter after I leave her office. I also grab two mini vanilla-bean scones from Starbucks to stave off hunger until dinner. $4.69
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6 p.m. — I arrive home and B. is finishing up dinner. He has made fried chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes. I didn't eat a ton today, so I'm starving, and I devour dinner while we talk about our days. He had a better day today, which makes me happy — the PhD life can be insanely stressful, and I know he often feels a lot of imposter syndrome/guilt/general anxiety even though he is doing a great job.
7 p.m. — I talk with my sister and mom on the phone and catch up on my sister's work and new boyfriend and my mom's recent trip to visit my grandparents. My grandma has advanced dementia, and my mom and her sisters take rotating turns spending weekends with her. I can tell my mom is really excited that I'm coming home next week, which makes me even more excited to visit.
9 p.m. — Bedtime! Am I 25 or 70, who knows?
Daily Total: $290.69

Day Five

6 a.m. — Up and moisturized — let's do this thing. Today I have a longer commute because I've been reassigned to help another psychologist at a school that's about a 45-minute drive from my place, and I know traffic will be brutal. I don't really mind, because we're all a team and I really like this psychologist. I just wish the school was closer. I pack a lunch of leftover vegan mac 'n' cheese, an apple, dates, and carrots. It's slightly warmer out today than usual (mid-40s), so I bust out my new pantsuit romper that I got at Uniqlo a few weeks ago. I grab my coffee, fill my water bottle, take a Larabar for the road, and I'm off by 7:15.
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8:25 a.m. — I arrive at the school — it took me even longer than usual because there was a police blockade that cost me about 10 minutes.
12 p.m. — I spent the entire morning testing students and writing up reports, and I'm absolutely starving. I scarf down my entire lunch in one sitting, which I rarely do, and then text B. to see how his day is going. The nice thing about being reassigned is I can leave once I finish my work, as long as I've worked enough hours to count as a full day, so I plan to leave today around 2:45 so I can get home in time for a 4:30 yoga class.
4 p.m. — I make it home right in time to quickly change, pack my yoga bag, and walk over to the studio for the 4:30 class.
5:30 p.m. — Done! The class was okay — the teacher was a new substitute. I really like him personally, but he doesn't quite have the flow/timing down yet, so it wasn't as good of a workout as usual. I spend some time talking with him after and assure him he's doing a good job, because I can tell he feels self-conscious. I can imagine it's very difficult when you're first starting as a yoga teacher — I know I wouldn't do any better.
6 p.m. — I am going to make pad thai tonight, but realize we're out of rice noodles. I run over to our local co-op to grab them ($3.99). I also see that plums have just come back in season, so I fill up my produce bag ($3.24). I could honestly eat fruit all day every day. $7.23
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7 p.m. — B. gets home and we enjoy pad thai while watching Hasan Minhaj's show Patriot Act. We watch the student-loans episode, which makes me simultaneously depressed and also grateful that I can at least afford to pay off my loans. Luckily, B. doesn't have any student loans (he got a lot of scholarships and financial aid for undergrad and has paid off the portion that was paid for via student loans, and his PhD is covered by the university), so once he starts making more money, he will also contribute to paying off my loans. I start to panic and log in to the FedLoans website and schedule an extra payment on my highest-interest loan. I qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but I'm not counting on it. I know of a lot of people in my field who have attempted to apply for it and haven't been accepted, and given the current state of our Department of Ed, I'm not feeling overly hopeful that it will even still exist by the time I would qualify.
10 p.m. — The student-loans episode made me anxious, so it takes me longer than usual to fall asleep tonight. I put a hot pack over my eyes and B. massages my jaw. I know it sounds weird, but I tend to clench my jaw when I get anxious, so this helps to relieve the pressure.
Daily Total: $7.23

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Payday! I wake up, brew my coffee, and do some quick online banking (paying off credit cards, moving money into savings, scheduling payments, etc.). I see two of our friends who live in the area have texted me asking if we want to get dinner in Chinatown tonight. I respond with an enthusiastic YES. In my opinion, Chinatown has some of the best food in the entire city.
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8 a.m. — I stop and get gas on the way to work ($23.01). Today is full of meetings, and I'm also running lessons in the first-grade classrooms today, which is one of my favorite things ever. $23.01
4 p.m. — I power my computer down and head out for the weekend! I quickly stop at home and change into jeans, and then head over to my friend's house to hang out with her and her bearded dragon until our husbands get done with work and are ready to head to Chinatown.
6:30 p.m. — We arrive at our restaurant and are told there's a 45-minute wait, so we put our names down and head across the street to a bakery that I love. I get a red-bean-paste cake and B. gets a butterfly cookie — I pay ($2.50). Then my friend says she wants to walk over to a candy store that specializes in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese candy. I initially plan on not getting anything, but once I see their selection, I get a package of Hi-Chew, assorted different hard candies, and a pack of mochi with red bean paste ($11.38). $13.88
7:30 p.m. — I love hot pot and could honestly eat it every week. We get a half spicy/half herbal broth and add lamb, chicken, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese broccoli, corn, dumplings, and noodles. On the side we get chili sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and garlic. Mmmmmmm. It comes out to $20.98 per person. I pay for B. and myself, since B. paid for our date night last week. $41.96
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10 p.m. — Copious amounts of delicious Chinese food + the end of the work week = falling asleep immediately as soon as we get home.
Daily Total: $78.85

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I wake up annoyingly early and try to fall back asleep while cuddling with B. Once I realize that sleep isn't going to happen, I get up and make some coffee. I see that it's going to be a cold but sunny day, so I text one of my good friends from grad school to see if she wants to go for a walk by the lake today. We've stayed really close and try to catch up in person at least once a month.
9 a.m. — B. finally gets up, and we enjoy a lazy morning of cuddling, calling our parents, and finishing a puzzle. I start feeling a bit restless after a few hours and decide to go for a run outside. I don't typically run outside during the winter, because I'm not a hardcore runner and I also hate the cold, but it's so sunny that I feel inspired. I run from our apartment to the lakefront and back, which is about two miles. That's a long run in my book.
11 a.m. — I meet up with my friend at a bakery in the neighborhood. We split an apple turnover (I pay) and both get coffee ($6.30). It's so great to catch up and to bitch about work with someone who is in the same profession! We also talk about her wedding planning, which I can sympathize with since I just went through this process last year. After exhausting all possible gossip topics, we go for a sunny walk around the lake. $6.30
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1 p.m. — When I get home, B. is in the process of making huevos rancheros. He also makes guacamole for me upon request, since we have two ripe avocados. B. makes the best guacamole ever, and I am truly blessed to be married to him.
5 p.m. — We head downtown on the Metra ($8.50). I pay because B. bought us tickets to see Captain Marvel. We're going to the AMC, which means reclining seats! $8.50
8 p.m. — We get home and immediately start making homemade pizza while talking about how amazing Captain Marvel was. Brie Larson is a goddess, and I will fight you on that. B. loved the character of Monica and hopes that she will have her own Captain Marvel movie in the future, following along with the plot of the comics. We make two pizzas — one with pesto, broccoli, and cheddar, and one with beets, arugula, and ricotta. We both decide the pesto is the winner.
Daily Total: $14.80
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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