A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $173,000 Income

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
Today: a software consultant working in tech who makes $173,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a gin and tonic.
Occupation: Software Consultant
Industry: Tech
Age: 34
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $133,000 base + $40,000 bonus
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $3,366 (post-tax)
Gender Identity: Woman
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,000 (I live alone in a one-bedroom loft downtown)
Student Loans: $0 (I went to school on scholarships)
Utilities: $40 - $100
Insurance: $77.50 (Health, Dental, Life — all taken out of my paycheck each period)
401k/Roth: $716 (taken out each paycheck, my employer matches up to 6% and I max out my contribution each year)
Savings: $500-ish (varies by month but in addition to my 401k I contribute to various IRAs and Index funds. Currently have about $250,000 spread across various accounts. The power of compounding interest, people!)
Wifi: $0 (included in rent)
Prepaid CTA Card: $20 (I usually prepay $100 at a time, which lasts for several months)
Gym: $0 (my building has a gym I use for free)
Netflix: $0 (I use my sister's account)
Credit Cards: $0 (I pay for almost everything with my credit cards because points, but I don't carry a balance. I pay it off immediately each month.)
Donations: $50 - $100 (to various charities and the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, etc.)

Day One

7:15 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I'd rather do almost anything than face this Monday. I haven't been sleeping super well lately so I give myself 10 minutes of laying in bed contemplating life before starting my day.
7:30 a.m. — I'm not a coffee drinker (I know, I KNOW) and I'm usually not hungry for breakfast first thing in the morning either so I typically start with just a big glass of water while I boot up my laptop(s) and begin sorting through email. My job requires a fair amount of travel, but the trade-off is I have a ton of flexibility to work from home when I'm not on the road and today is going to be a work from home day for sure.
9:30 a.m. — After I get through everything urgent in my inbox and take a couple of client calls, I decide I should eat something. I guess this is a good time to mention that I went through a pretty terrible breakup about a month ago and I'm still not really over it (boyfriend of almost two years suddenly decided he wasn't in love with me, which was crushing because I was rather crazy about him). I'm one of those people who loses my appetite when I'm sad and stressed, which I have definitely been for the past few weeks, but I know skipping meals isn't going to do a damn thing to make me feel better so I grab a Chocolate Seasalt One Bar and nibble on it while I continue working. Breakups are the worst.
12 p.m. — I've recently started seeing a therapist and have my third appointment with her this afternoon. Even before the breakup, I had noticed a lot of anxiety and an overall dip in my mood so this is probably long overdue regardless. I'm a big believer in therapy, but finding the right person can be tricky; the last time I saw someone was about five years ago and she was great until she moved away. So far so good with this one though! Because it's a gorgeous fall day and I have a little extra time, I walk the mile or so to her office for my appointment.
1:30 p.m. — Therapy complete! I pay my co-pay of $25.40 on my way out. I always feel such a mix of emotions afterward and I mull these over as I start walking home. It can be emotionally exhausting to talk about myself and my feelings for an hour, but at the same time I almost always leave feeling better. Today we talked about some patterns I've noticed in my romantic relationships over the years (I'm a serial long-term relationship gal who happens to be wildly attracted to emotionally unavailable men) and the fact that I'm not responsible for other people's choices or behaviors, which of course sounds obvious but I find it really helpful to hear this from an unbiased third party. There's a random parade going on (why?) and a lot of the streets downtown are closed so I cut my losses and jump on the train back home. I use my prepaid Ventra card (included in expenses above). $25.40
2 p.m. — Back home and ready to knock out the rest of this work day. I make myself a quick lunch of an apple, vegetables and hummus, and some cheddar cheese and then get back to it. I end up getting pulled into several client calls that take up the rest of my afternoon so at least it passes quickly!
6 p.m. — A new yoga studio opened in my neighborhood not long ago and I got a new student package that's about to expire so I reserve a spot for tonight's class. $75 for 30 days of unlimited yoga, which is a great deal in the city! This will be my seventh class. I like the studio a lot and it's super convenient, so even though I have a gym I can use for free in my apartment building, I'm going to look into their other packages once this one expires.
7:30 p.m. — Class is fantastic, proving yet again that it's never a mistake to move your body when you're feeling down. On my walk home I stop by the Jewel near my apartment for groceries since I haven't exactly been doing a ton of cooking lately. I get apples, limes, pickled jalapeños, baby bell cheese, carrots, hummus, lentil noodles, eggs, and a six-pack of beer, all the while keeping an eye out for my ex. We live only a couple blocks apart and the last thing I want to do is run into him at the grocery store right now. Luckily, I make it out unscathed! $36.77
8:15 p.m. — I take a quick shower to rinse off from class and make myself an onion, tomato, and jalapeño omelette for dinner while rocking out to a Florence and the Machine Pandora station. I text with my mom and sister while I eat, clean up the kitchen, then settle in to do a little bit of reading/writing. I've never been into journaling, but I love to write and after this last breakup one of my best friends suggested writing a book about my dating experiences. I don't know that I'd ever actually turn it into a book, it's so personal and intimate, but for the past few weeks, I've found it extremely cathartic (and enlightening!) to write about my relationship history. I'm one of those people who doesn't really know how I feel about something until I write it down so this has been hugely helpful for processing things.
10:45 p.m. — I brush my teething and get into bed where I read the last few pages of Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Talking to Strangers, before turning out the lights. Bedtime is the toughest part of the day. I fight the urge to send my ex a shameless, embarrassing, "I miss you" text and instead remind myself that I will not beg anyone to love me and that these feelings will eventually pass and life will move on. Goodnight!
Daily Total: $62.17

Day Two

7 a.m. — Up with my alarm and again I allow myself 10 minutes to lay in bed and contemplate life before getting up. I'm trying to be deliberate about starting my day with positive thoughts and reminders of all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for instead of mopey, relationship grossness. I'm going into my office today so I hop in the shower where I wash and condition my hair and shave my legs. My office dress code is fairly casual, but I'm trying to soak up the last few days of decent Chicago weather for a very long time and want to wear a skirt today. I dry and curl my hair, do my very simple make-up routine (seriously, I have no idea how make-up works, you guys), which typically consists of tinted moisturizer with SPF, light powder, blush, and mascara. I dress in a bright pencil skirt with a denim button-down and I'm out the door.
8:15 a.m. — I live right next to the train station, which is ridiculously convenient and one of the many reasons I love my apartment. My commute is short enough that it's tough to get much reading or podcast listening done so I usually just bring headphones and use this time to blast some pump-up jams to get my head right for the day.
8:30 a.m. — I make it to work and drop my bag at my desk before filling up my Swell bottle with sparkling water from our fancy office machine. My office does a pretty kick-ass job of providing snacks so I also pick out a banana and a greek yogurt from the kitchen to eat while I work. People always seem to wonder what consultants actually do and while I can't speak for all of them, my job is to work with clients who want to install new software systems. I travel to their offices, learn their businesses, then design and build software to meet their needs, help them test it, then hold their hands while they roll it out to their employees. Today I have a lot of meetings with my current client who is pleasant enough to work with, but exceptionally high maintenance.
12:15 p.m. — It's one of those days where I've been on calls all morning and my brain is fried, but I've yet to accomplish any real work. So. Many. Meetings. I take a very quick break to refill my water bottle and grab an apple, a string cheese, and half of an Italian sub from the kitchen. We don't always have lunch provided. but there's a recruiting event going on in the office today and I will basically never pass up free food. I quickly scan through the news while I eat at my desk then get back to work.
4:15 p.m. — I start winding down for the day and contemplate how I want to spend my evening. My instinct lately is to surround myself with people and distractions as much as possible but I also really want to give myself time and permission to get reacquainted with just being alone too. I got so used to spending almost every night with my ex that I now sometimes struggle to feel content by myself. I know I have a lot of social things planned for the rest of the week so I decide to just head home for another quiet night in. It's a lovely day outside, so I walk the mile home instead of taking the train.
5:30 p.m. — As soon as I get home I change into workout clothes because if I sit down for even 10 minutes there's a very good chance I'll talk myself out of going to the gym. Instead, I head downstairs and run a couple of miles on the treadmill to warm up then do various bodyweight exercises and an ab workout. I finish with some stretching and rolling.
6:45 p.m. — For dinner I heat up frozen lentil noodles with tomato sauce, add fresh parmesan and pour myself a glass of red wine. I do some mindless internet browsing while I eat and end up booking a hotel and flight to Las Vegas for a friend's birthday party in a few weeks. I have a bunch of credit card points and miles saved up so no actual dollars spent on this, which is another perk of traveling so much for work! I clean up the kitchen, take a quick shower, and settle in for a quiet evening of Netflix. I didn't see Breaking Bad when it originally aired so now I'm binge-watching and I AM OBSESSED.
10:30 p.m. — Brush teeth, get into bed, remind myself that I am a badass and drift off to sleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:15 a.m. — Same work from home morning routine as before. Big glass of water, emails, etc.
10:30 a.m. — I break for a snack of sliced cherry tomatoes with a dash of salt and a hardboiled egg and start a load of laundry before getting back to work. My client is being especially needy right now so I spend a lot of time this afternoon trying to reassure them that everything is going to be fine and the project is on track even though it feels overwhelming right now. They decide they want me to come onsite for some face to face support anyway, so I book a flight and hotel for next week. I have a corporate card, but I prefer to use my personal credit card and just expense it so that I still get the reward points. ($375 expensed)
12:15 p.m. — I have plans this evening so I decide to get in a quick lunchtime workout while I can. Unfortunately, I don't have a ton of time, so I run a mile on the treadmill to warm up and then do various free weight exercises and some light stretching before I head back upstairs. Definitely not the most intense workout of my life but it'll do for now.
3:30 p.m. — I reach a good stopping point, which is convenient because I have an appointment right after work and need to get ready. I shower, dry my hair and get dressed in black jeans, black Adidas hightops, and a maroon zip-up hoodie. I don't bother with makeup because I'm going to meet a friend of mine who is an esthetician to try dermaplaning for the very first time!
5:15 p.m. — My friend, I., works at a day spa that is nowhere close to either a train or a bus so Lyft it is. It's a little pricey this time of day, but I use the feature that rounds each fare up to the nearest dollar and donates the difference to a charity of my choosing (Girls Who Code) so that helps justify the expense. As soon as I walk in I. pours me a glass of champagne and takes me back to a treatment room. $11
6:45 p.m. — An hour and a half later and I'm feeling mellow, relaxed, and blissful as hell. Since I was her last client of the day, I treated me to an extra long facial after the derma planing, plus another couple glasses of champagne and a whole lot of much-needed life talk. I swear, every single time in my life I've been knocked for a loop by some stupid boy it's a village of incredible women who bring me back to life and that is something I will never stop being thankful for. I'm categorizing this under Health instead of Beauty because while it's definitely an indulgence, I'm looking at it as a little extra self-care after a particularly shitty month. $125
7:30 p.m. — I haven't seen this particular friend much this summer so we decide to walk around the corner to a little bar she knows of on Michigan Ave. to catch up over a drink. Because she gave me a huge friends and family discount on the spa treatments and is also just a generally wonderful soul, I pick up the tab for us both. We each drink two gin gimlets while we discuss life, relationships, and the merits of a hot tub movie marathon vs. going to see a movie in the theater this weekend. $42
9:45 p.m. — I. drops me off at my apartment on her way home and I realize that it's getting late and we never actually ate dinner. I'm definitely not interested in cooking anything this late so I make myself a super healthy meal of deconstructed nachos, which is where I just eat tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, and pickled jalapeños individually. I eat them standing at my kitchen counter because I am an adult and I do what I want.
Daily Total: $178

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — It's another work from home day because I have several early meetings and a lot of work to do. Big glass of water and I get down to business.
11:30 a.m. — I feel like I haven't eaten very many real/green vegetables so far this week which is not great so I take a break and walk to Jewel to find something for lunch. I get mixed greens, arugula, pepitas, an avocado, an onion, and parmesan crisps. I also pick up my birth control at the pharmacy while I'm there (covered by my insurance). $26.25
12:15 p.m. — Back home and I make myself a big salad with mixed greens, arugula, tomato, avocado, pepitas, and a drizzle of olive oil. I eat it with an apple, a few parmesan crisps, and some pretzels and hummus while I work. I also text with some friends about plans for the weekend as well as the upcoming trip to Vegas.
4:30 p.m. — I shut down for the day and take a quick shower, then dry and curl my hair and do my usual makeup routine. My friend, M., has been trying to talk me into using the professional matchmaker service he used in the past and I've finally agreed to at least see what it's about. I'm skeptical at best, but I will admit there's some appeal in having someone else help with the initial legwork of meeting someone, especially given how much I travel. How does one dress to meet a matchmaker though? Is this like a date in and of itself? I put on black skinny jeans and a black turtleneck with brown ankle boots and a brown belt and hope for the best.
5:30 p.m. — We're meeting at a hotel bar in the loop which I would ordinarily just walk to, but it's raining and gross out so I opt for a Lyft instead. $7
6:30 p.m. — Well that was certainly something. It went about as expected with the matchmaker asking me tons of questions about myself and what I'd like in a partner, right up until it came time to discuss pricing, at which point my head nearly exploded. ($5,000 for three matches, are you fucking kidding me? That's going to be a hard pass from me, thank you).
7 p.m. — It's still raining and traffic is terrible, so I decide to have a drink at the hotel bar while I wait for it to clear up a little. I'm minding my own business, texting with some friends about this matchmaker scam, sipping a glass of bourbon, and end up getting pulled into conversation with the guy sitting next to me who happens to be in town for a conference. At first I can't tell if he's hitting on me or just being polite, but he seems nice and I'm feeling a little down at the idea of being at a point in life where I'd even contemplate paying someone that kind of money just to not end up alone, so I don't mind chatting.
8:15 p.m. — Okay so, he was definitely hitting on me, which becomes apparent when he sends his coworkers ahead to their dinner reservation and stays back to have another drink with me. He's obviously flirting and I'm not sure if it's the second glass of bourbon or the desire to just be a little bit reckless, but I don't stop him when he leans in to kiss me. He asks for my number before leaving to meet his coworkers and asks if he can see me again this weekend while he's in town. He also somehow manages to sneakily pay for my drinks, which I don't even notice until he leaves. What an unexpected turn of events!
8:30 p.m. — I take a Lyft home, change into pajamas, and heat up more lentil noodle pasta. While I'm eating, bar guy sends me a text saying he regrets leaving and wishes he'd skipped dinner to have another drink with me. He seems sincere and even though I know nothing will come of this since he lives on the other side of the country, I'll admit, it's a nice boost to the old self-confidence anyway. We exchange a couple more flirty texts, I thank him for the drinks and read for a few minutes in bed before turning the lights out around 11. $6
Daily Total: $39.25

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — I wake up to my alarm and contemplate going into the office, but it's a pretty light work day and I want to finish early, so I decide to stay home instead. I realize the laundry I did the other day is still in the dryer and I am completely overwhelmed at the thought of folding and putting it away. This tendency for normal, day to day chores to feel almost paralyzing was actually one of the first things I noticed a few months ago that made me realize I might be struggling with unrealized depression and needed to find a therapist.
8:45 a.m. — I zip through emails and an internal team call, then block my calendar off for the next few hours to do some heads-down work because I am convinced there are people who would have me attend 40 hours worth of meetings every single week if I let them.
11:45 a.m. — I take a break to go to the gym and contemplate folding my laundry while I'm up. Nope. Still not ready to tackle that task so I make peace with the fact that I'm at least getting in a workout today. I do 20 minutes on an elliptical, a bunch of bodyweight exercises, and some stretching, then head back upstairs and shower quickly.
1 p.m. — My goal is to finish by 4 p.m. today so I buckle down and push through the rest of the afternoon. I'm going to dinner with friends later but I never ate breakfast so I make myself an avocado toast with an egg and arugula, plus red chili flakes and chili oil on top. Delicious!
4:15 p.m. — Annnnnd ready, set, weekend! I shut my laptop, do quick makeup, put on black jeans and a black sweater with an olive green jacket, and head out. I walk over to a friend's apartment for happy hour with some good friends. I drink a couple of fancy spiked seltzers (judge me all you want, I love these things) and eat chips and queso while we catch up. They're all VERY intrigued by the bar guy and encourage me to definitely see him again this weekend if he asks.
7:45 p.m. — Now that we're all sufficiently cocktailed we decide it's time to find food and settle on venturing toward one of the trendy places in the West Loop. Odds we'll get in anywhere on a Friday night with no reservation = slim to none.
8:15 p.m. — Incredibly, we're able to get a table on the patio of the first place we stop. There's an excellent skyline view and its a beautiful fall night so none of us mind being outside. We order cocktails (I get a green chile bramble) and a bunch of small plates for the table. We try a couple different hummuses (hummi?), feta spread with pita, roasted vegetables, and two different kebabs. At the end, I'm still slightly hungry but end up just ordering a glass of wine instead. One of my friends pays and we all Venmo him our shares. $50
10:15 p.m. — While we're contemplating next steps, bar guy from the night before texts to ask if I have plans later and my friends all insist that I invite him to meet us out. He says he'll let me know when he's free and in the meantime, a few of us decide we'll go to another West Loop spot just a couple blocks away for more drinks.
11:30 p.m. — The bar is packed! I'd forgotten how busy this place can get on a Friday night, but I manage to catch the bartender's attention and order a round of drinks for us (gin and tonic for me). We get lucky and a table opens up that we're able to snag. We talk about life and dating and after a second round of cocktails I can tell I'm starting to feel sad and a little bit drunk, which is never a great combination. This place is very much a scene and I start to feel overwhelmed by the idea of eventually dating again, which I assume is a great indication that I'm not ready for that yet. I decide it's probably best for me to call it a night (younger me would have absolutely stayed out all night and drowned those feelings in vodka) so I close out, tell my friends goodnight. I pay for our drinks, but my friends are great about staying on top of stuff like this so I know it'll even out later. I'm pretty close to home so I decide to walk back. $45
12 a.m. — I get home and have a good, long, soul-cleansing cry before I get ready for bed. I miss my ex terribly and even though I know this isn't at all rational, there's a part of me that's afraid I'll be alone/sad/miss him forever. I want to punch those thoughts right in the face, but this is the shit that crosses my mind sometimes. Younger me would also absolutely drunk text him tonight but I don't fall for that trap either because I know for a fact that's a great way to feel like garbage tomorrow morning. Also, bar guy never followed up to meet so I tell myself my friends are my soulmates, get into bed, and pass out.
Daily Total: $95

Day Six

6 a.m. — Why am I awake this early? Absolutely unnecessary! I get up long enough to get a glass of water and back to bed I go.
10:15 a.m. — Whoa! Okay, 6 a.m. was early but this is excessive. I ended up falling into the deepest sleep I've had all week though so I know I must have needed the rest. I lay in bed for a little bit longer sorting through all of the feels I felt last night and trying to decide how I feel about things this morning. A good cry and a long sleep can work wonders, it turns out, and I decide I'm doing pretty okay this morning.
1 p.m. — After a couple hours of puttering around the house reading, talking to my sister, and generally enjoying a leisurely morning I finally get in the shower and get ready for the day. The sun is shining so I walk over to some friends' apartment where we have absolutely no plans whatsoever and I couldn't be more thrilled by it.
6:15 p.m. — We spend the afternoon just hanging out, drinking champagne on their balcony, and generally laughing our asses off at various nonsense, which in my mind makes for the perfect afternoon. We've been snacking throughout the afternoon but everyone is starting to get hungry for a real meal so we decide to go for a walk until something strikes our fancy.
7:30 p.m. — We end up at an Indian place I've never been to and once again, split a bunch of shared plates including paneer, cashew balls, and three different vegetable dishes. We all order a couple of beers with dinner as well, which I pay for while another friend pays for the food. None of my friends get too picky about making sure everything is split evenly at every meal. We all figure over the course of our lives it'll average itself out and we leave it at that, which I love. $24
10:30 p.m. — Nobody is ready to go home yet so we walk to another bar that has an arcade and spend some time goofing off like we're teenagers again. I don't actually play any games, but I do sip a cocktail and take lots of funny pictures of my friends. While we're there, bar guy texts to see if I'd like to meet up later. Later? It's nearly midnight and he completely blew me off last night so there's not a chance in hell I agree to see him now. $12
11:15 p.m. — I share the texts with my friends and we all agree this dude has missed his opportunity and I'm definitely not interested in some half-drunk midnight meetup now. I'm honestly a little bit offended and my friends help me craft a message that is civil but also conveys my disappointment at how presumptuous he's being. He immediately apologizes and makes some excuse about how busy he's ended up being with work stuff while in town but how much he'd like to see me for even one drink. It's fine but I'm over it and have no plans to keep in touch after this.
12:15 a.m. — We decide to call it a night and walk home. I have the longest walk so I text my friends once I'm home safely, tell them that they're all magnificent unicorns and the loves of my life before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $36

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I feel like I have a lot to do today, so I don't spend much time lounging in bed once I'm awake. The first order of business is cleaning my apartment, and I'm also determined to finally deal with that laundry today too. I Swiffer all my hardwood floors, scrub my bathroom, vacuum the rugs, wipe down the kitchen, and then finally, finally fold and put away the laundry. I don't necessarily intend to do this, but I end up spending an hour weeding through my closet and coming up with a bunch of clothes and old purses to donate. Since I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for my work trip, I go ahead and get packing out of the way as well.
11:30 a.m. — I don't usually go to the gym on Sundays, but I decide to keep the productive morning rolling with a workout. I figured the gym might be packed right now but it's actually empty, which is just how I like it!
1:15 p.m. — After a shower, I make a salad and sit down with my laptop with the intention of doing some more writing. I get a phone call from T., one of my best friends from graduate school and talk to her instead. We haven't talked on the phone in months and before I know it, several hours have passed. I've got football on in the background, but I'm not really paying attention to the game because I'm enjoying our conversation so much.
4:30 p.m. — I finally get off the phone and realize I'm going to have to hustle to get ready. I. and I have decided to go see the new Joker movie at a theater several miles away and I actually love watching previews so I don't want to be late.
5:30 p.m. — I get a Lyft to the theater and even though this is a pretty easy-to-spot landmark, the Lyft driver gets very confused and misses the entrance. I don't want to wait for him to go all the way around the block so I tell him it's fine and just hop out and walk. It's not a big deal but I'm constantly amazed at how poor those GPSs seem to be sometimes. $8
5:45 p.m. — I beat I. to the theater by a few minutes so I get in line to get our tickets. Good thing I got here when we did because we get the last two seats in the entire theater! They're in the second row, which is not ideal but we'll be fine. Neither of us is that picky about such things. I. arrives and she pays for popcorn and drinks for us both, and we agree that nothing beats classic movie theater popcorn with extra butter. $26
8:30 p.m. — Well...I don't know what to think about that other than holy shit, Joaquin Phoenix. At the risk of giving out too many spoilers, I'll just say that I love comic book movies more than just about anything and I was surprised and disappointed that this one strayed pretty far from the comic book version of the Joker's past. I. agrees and drops me off at my place on her way home.
9:15 p.m. — Once again, we didn't have a real dinner unless you count the huge tub of popcorn we devoured, but I have to be up so early to catch my flight tomorrow I decide just to go ahead and forego it tonight. I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. (ouch), tell myself tomorrow starts a new week that is full of endless possibilities and head to bed.
Daily Total: $34
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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