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A Week In Chicago On A $225,000 Salary        

Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

This week: a senior sales engineer who makes $225,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on concert tickets.
Occupation: Senior sales engineer
Industry: Tech
Age: 26
Location: Chicago
Salary: $225,000
Assets: Checking (main account): $18,109; checking (small purchases account): $709; HYSA: $90,093; self-directed investment account: $7,863; retirement fund: $117,339; real estate: $295,000
Debt: Mortgage: $173,633
Paycheck Amount: 75% of my annual salary comes in as regular base salary pay — this amounts to $4,250 biweekly — and the remaining 25% is a commission check for sales. The market segment can vary quite dramatically, but it averages out at $2,500 a month.
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Monthly Housing Costs: $1700/month PITI; $340/month HOA fees
Monthly Loan Payments: $0
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Disney+ Bundle: $25 (mostly subsidized by my credit card company)
Dog Training: $100
Monthly Parking Pass: $120
Mental Health Counseling: $300 (partially subsidized by company wellness credit)
Panera Unlimited Sip Club: $11 (I used to live near a Panera and loved to work from there since I work remotely. Now I’ve moved and should probably cancel.)
Other Streaming Services: $10
Index Fund Shares: $1,000
Car insurance: $99
Phone & Internet: $120 (expensed to company)
Gas: $25
Electric: $70
Savings: Whatever is left over from my commission check goes to my HYSA.
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Higher education is valued very highly in my family. Both of my parents have advanced degrees. I was fortunate enough to win a full-tuition scholarship. My parents paid for my housing, and they gave me a book allowance of $2,000 each semester. Everything else I paid for myself with savings from babysitting and summer internships.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Finances were talked about often in my family. Maybe too much. I remember my parents listening to a popular radio show about becoming debt-free during my formative years. This made me terrified of debt. I didn’t even get a credit card until last year, and I still pay it off every single week. Until college, my allowance was paid out monthly. I was encouraged to pick up odd jobs and began babysitting in seventh grade to pay for things like class trips and clothing items.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was babysitting in seventh grade for parents of younger children at my school. I wanted extra spending money for non-essential things.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I worried a lot about money. Partially because of the aforementioned radio shows my parents would listen to and partially because I went to a school where most of my classmates were very wealthy. We had pretty much everything we needed growing up, but it was a bit difficult for me to understand why my friends were spending weeks in Europe over the summer or going on lavish ski trips, and I wasn’t.
Do you worry about money now?
Not really. I make enough money for myself to not really worry too much about it. I treat my friends and younger siblings to things, I can buy nice gifts for my family members, and I can afford to buy most things that I want. I try to send a large amount of my money straight to savings and my retirement fund.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself at 22. My parents had me move out immediately after college graduation, and I have been on my own ever since. If something disastrous were to happen to me, I’d like to think my family could help out.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I had a $2,000 per semester allowance in college.

Day One

8 a.m. — I’m going on a cruise with some college friends in June and had been holding off on booking flights. Last night, two of the friends called me to coordinate flights. I go ahead and book it this morning. $352.96
11 a.m. — I bought my condo about two years ago, and one of the things that has driven me crazy about it is the toilet seat. I put it off until now, but I head to Home Depot between meetings to pick one up since I know I’ll have a lot of guests this week. I pick out a white enamel model with brass hardware to match the rest of the bathroom furnishings and install it later that afternoon. $65.87
3 p.m. — I get a letter that my tolltag from Texas is expired. I don’t live there anymore, but I do take an annual road trip down to visit family. I pay the outstanding tolls and renew my tag. $28.68
7:30 p.m. — I pick up my little sister, G., from the airport. It’s her spring break, so our parents sent her up to spend the week with me. Her flight lands at 7 p.m., and I have an HOA board meeting I need to virtually attend at 8 p.m., so we stop for fast-food dinner, and I take my call while she works on some homework. I pay. $21.37
Daily Total: $468.88

Day Two

7 a.m. — It’s my birthday! I put in a mobile order for G. and me at a nearby coffee shop for breakfast, and by the time we walk there with my dog, it’s ready. My drink is free since it’s my birthday, so I order an extra fancy one as a treat. $15
11 a.m. — G. and I have a concert this upcoming weekend, and I just found out I earned a spot on my company’s top performers’ trip to Bali in May. Since I have several fun events coming up, and it’s my birthday, I bite the bullet and go ahead and click “checkout” on the Anthropologie basket I’ve had sitting idle for two weeks. Included in the cart are a silver beaded purse, perfume, a nice charcoal gray eyeliner, and a lipstick. I’ve been looking for a fun purse for a few weeks. This one is small enough to fit in my suitcase, so I will definitely bring it with me on all my upcoming travel. $168.63
5 p.m. — I fill up the car with gas on my way to dog training. $34.43
5:30 p.m. — On the way to my dog’s training, I pick up a pound of assorted cookies for everyone in class. We have a tradition of sharing sweet treats on special occasions. These are from a local bakery I haven’t tried yet, but they turn out great! The class enjoys about half of them, and G. and I spend the rest of the week eating them. $22.63
6 p.m. — One last stop on the way to dog training, I cash in another birthday reward and pick up some iced tea. $6.05
7 p.m. — Birthday dinner! We keep it simple this time with Chicago dogs. I’m having a “nicer” birthday dinner later this week with my friends. Once again, I pay for both G. and myself. We each order a hot dog and drink, and we buy some tots to share. No tots get eaten, so we take them to go. They are still in my fridge days later. $29.75
8 p.m. — We go to Coldstone for dessert. It’s good, but my Twix mix-in is not as mixed in as I would like. I pay. $19.18
10 p.m. — I pick out a semi-formal dress for Bali. With my birthday reward, my cart total comes out to only $5.30. Score! $5.30
Daily Total: $300.97

Day Three

10 a.m. — My friends and I all join the online queue for tickets to a popular film score composer. I end up making it through the queue. I wind up with some pretty bad seats, but I get them for market value, so it’s still a win! My friends transfer me the money for their tickets. $175
10:30 a.m. — G. has an appointment at the Apple store. They don’t have them in her college town, so she’s booked it for today. We arrive to the mall early and wander around until the appointment time. My AirPods case bit the dust on a business trip a few weeks ago, and I’ve been holding it together with a hair tie ever since, so I buy a new charging case while we’re there. $83.94
12:30 p.m. — I have work calls to join, so we stop at Panera for lunch, taking advantage of that Unlimited Sip Club membership I need to cancel. I pay. $21.29
5 p.m. — G.’s going to cook mac and cheese for dinner, so I walk to the store for a few grocery items after work. We already have pasta, so I buy milk, sour cream, and shredded cheese to fill in the gaps. $8.46
Daily Total: $288.69

Day Four

5 p.m. — G. and I take it a little easier today, eating leftovers for breakfast and lunch. We decide to do a cozy craft night, so we journey to the craft store for some paint-by-number kits. $29.73
5:30 p.m. — We stop for Chinese takeout on the way home. This time, G. and I split the bill. $15.83
Daily Total: $45.56

Day Five

2:30 p.m. — G. and I head to the airport to pick up my friend. We take a wrong turn and end up paying for one hour of short-term parking. $4
7 p.m. — Birthday dinner! G., a couple friends, and I all head to a local ramen shop for dinner. I pay for my meal, G.’s meal, and pork gyoza for the table. $42.80
8 p.m. — I pay the bill for the laundry delivery I arranged following last week’s business trip. Laundry is my chore nemesis, so I sometimes pay for pick up and delivery if I have a large quantity that needs doing. $30
Daily Total: $76.80

Day Six

9 a.m. — Picking up more friends from the airport. I stop for coffee and donuts on the way. $9.82
1 p.m. — Since we have two more houseguests, I drop them off at my house and then run to the store to purchase some more sheets and pillows. I get at least one houseguest a month, so I don't mind buying more stuff. $75.83
2 p.m. — All five of us take the train and a bus to Wicker Park for some shopping. $4.50
3 p.m. — First stop is one of my friend’s favorite clothing brand’s only brick-and-mortar store. I end up picking up a funky jacket that I find in the sale rack. $137.81
3:30 p.m. — Next stop is a fancy coffee shop. I try a chai latte that includes rose cold foam, cardamom, and pistachio syrup. It’s an odd combination, but I like it a lot! I end up sharing the drink with G. $8.17
4 p.m. — We realize no one has eaten since 9 a.m., and my friends want to try Chicago dogs, so we head to a place that makes a really good vegan version. I pay for mine and G.’s. This time, we’ve learned our lesson and do not buy fries or tots. $26.21
5 p.m. — We leave Wicker Park and take the train to the Loop. $2.50
5:30 p.m. — The rock artist we are here to see is hosting a pop-up shop. We wait about 30 minutes in line for our turn. The poster I want isn’t in stock, so I pick out a tote bag with the same design. $21
7 p.m. — Half my friends got rock concert tickets for tonight, while the rest of us are going tomorrow. We part ways at a Which Wich after eating a quick dinner. I pay for myself and G. $30
7:15 p.m. — Time to start heading back north. The half of us who aren’t seeing the concert tonight take the train up to Lincoln Park. $2.50
8:55 p.m. — I buy a margarita for the comedy show. $16.51
9 p.m. — I treat three of us to tickets for a comedy show at Second City. It’s hilarious, and it was well worth the $25 ticket price. After the show, I end up following the troupe on Instagram and spend more time considering whether I should join one of their classes. $78.75
10 p.m. — It’s getting late, and I want to hurry back to walk my dog, so I spring for an Uber for the three of us back to the North Shore. It’s well worth it to not have to switch trains. $29.98
11 p.m. — Time to wash those new sheets. After we get back from the comedy show, I take everything down to the laundry room and run a load. $1
Daily Total: $444.58

Day Seven

11:30 a.m. — Everyone sleeps in this morning, since half my friends went to the rock show and the other half of us went to the comedy show. G. and I watch the race highlights from the F1 Grand Prix that we couldn’t watch last night. Once everyone is awake and ready, we all walk to my favorite coffee and pie shop for brunch. I pay for myself, G., and a slice of turtle cheesecake that we all share. $36.83
1:30 p.m. — Time to take the train into the city for a day of sightseeing. We head down to the Loop and arrive around 2:30 p.m. $2.50
2:45 p.m. — We all decide to visit the Art Institute. As an Illinois resident, I get a discount. The museum is well worth the money, and we stay until it closes. My feet are really starting to hurt from the boots I’m wearing to the rock show, so I sit down with G., and we plan out dinner with the shortest walking distance in mind. $28
5:30 p.m. — We pick out a Thai restaurant right next to the concert venue. G. and I share a plate of spicy basil fried rice, and I get a coconut milk tea. It’s exactly what I need to keep going. The restaurant only gives us one bill, so I pick up the tab, and everyone promises to venmo me for their share later. $126.51
6:45 p.m. — They have the poster I wanted! I go ahead and buy it because I like to collect concert posters for my living room. $38.04
7 p.m. — Last time I went to one of this artist’s concerts, I fainted from wearing my coat and getting overheated, so this time, I find the coat check and pay my $2 to leave it there. $2
7:15 p.m. — I decide to try one of the signature cocktails for the concert. It’s a vodka with pineapple juice and cherry purée, and it’s pretty good. $20.57
10:30 p.m. — It’s late, and once again, I want to get back to my dog, so the three of us hop in an Uber and head back up north. We get home in 22 minutes versus the hour and 15 minutes it would have taken by train. $31.93
Daily Total: $286.38

The Breakdown

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