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A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $180,000 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.

Today: a tech consultant who makes $180,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up diary. You can read the diarist's original diary here.
Occupation: Consultant
Industry: Tech
Age: 35
Location: Chicago
Salary: $180,000 + 20-25% bonus (I've received a promotion and a raise since my last diary)
Net Worth: ~$470,000 ($178,378 in my 401(k); $77,204 in a Vanguard Index Fund account; $106,618 in an IRA left over from when my previous employer was acquired and I had to convert my 401(k); $57,012 in a high-interest savings account; $50,923 in a CD that is about to mature; and about $2,000 in Bitcoin that I tend to ignore because it fluctuates wildly)
Debt: $0
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $4,166.28
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,000 for a one-bedroom condo where I live alone.
Utilities: $50-$100 (for gas and electricity; water, wifi, recycling, etc., are included in my rent)
Gym Membership: $180 (unlimited access to group classes like yoga, spin, HIIT; I also have a small gym in my condo building that I can use for free)
Insurance: $85 (medical, dental, life — taken out of each paycheck)
401(k): $991 (taken out of each paycheck; I max out my contribution each year and my employer matches up to 6%)
HBO Max: $6.25 (split with my boyfriend, H.)
Netflix: $0 (I mooch off my sister)
Donations: $200 (split between No Child Hungry, Planned Parenthood, and the Equal Justice Initiative, plus whatever random other organizations/political campaigns I donate to on an ad hoc basis throughout the year)
Savings: $200-$500 depending on the month and what else I have going on.
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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?
Absolutely. Both of my parents went to college and my dad was a faculty member at the university I ultimately attended, so I don't remember a time when I didn't just assume the next step after high school would be college. My parents placed a very high value on education and impressed upon me from a young age that getting one was the best way out of the impoverished, rural town where I grew up. I'd like to think they would have still been supportive if I'd chosen to do something else, or even take some time off between high school and college, but honestly, that thought never even crossed my mind. Luckily, I liked school and was a good student, so I was able to earn an academic scholarship that covered my tuition for all four years of undergrad. My parents covered my room and board and textbooks, but I was responsible for any extras I wanted, like going out with friends.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I remember talking about money in the macro sense much more frequently than in the micro sense. That is to say, my parents talked to me and my sister frequently and in general terms about saving, not spending more than we could afford, paying cash for everything, and being extremely leery of credit cards/debt. We never talked about how much money we had, how much we should save, etc. So even though I'd say I learned a lot of great money habits from my parents, it wasn't until I was out on my own that I started to learn anything specific about how to invest, how to plan for retirement, etc.
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What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first official job was as a lifeguard at our city pool when I was 15. I got the job because I wanted to save up for a car and because, in my small town, the city pool was THE place to be in the summer. I quickly realized how much I liked making money and the independence that came with having my own money, and I've had a job or jobs of some sort ever since.
Did you worry about money growing up?
No, not really. In hindsight, we were pretty solidly middle class growing up and I think there were some lean years, especially when we were younger, but my parents did a really good job of saying, "You don't need that right now," instead of "We can't afford it," whenever we'd ask for things that we in fact did not need and/or couldn't afford. I also grew up in one of the poorest areas of America, so we were comparatively well-off, even if our lifestyle might seem modest in other parts of the country. Both of my parents had good jobs and we were fortunate to be able to do things like play sports, have new clothes for the school year, and take a family vacation most years. I grew up completely surrounded by abject poverty, so mostly I just felt thankful for everything we did have.
Do you worry about money now?
Not on a day-to-day basis. I make a good living and I've built up a solid safety net should anything go wrong, but I do still worry sometimes whether I'm saving enough, making the wisest choices I can with my money, and whether the economy is going to just nose-dive right off a cliff at some point in the wake of COVID.
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At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
Twenty-two-ish, when I finished graduate school and got married. (Spoiler alert: The marriage did not last long.) My parents' rule had always been they would help us out as long as we were still in school, but once we graduated the expectation was that we'd be fully functioning, independent adults. They would have let me move back home after college had I needed to, but I would have been expected to pay rent and help out with bills if I had.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
Yes, I received a few thousand dollars as each of my grandparents passed away over the past decade. Some of it went toward paying off credit card debt I'd racked up in my early 20s (despite my parents' best efforts, that lesson took a while to sink in), and most of the rest of it went toward financing a cross country move in my late 20s.

Day One

6:30 a.m. — I wake up without an alarm, likely because I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. last night. That's way earlier than my usual bedtime, but my boyfriend, J., and I ran the Chicago Half Marathon yesterday, so we were pretty wiped out. Since I'm awake I decide to go ahead and get my day started. I kiss J., get dressed, and walk back to my house, because I stayed at his last night. This is as good a time as any to say that I wrote a Money Diary a couple years ago after going through a really bad breakup. I met J. a couple months after I submitted my first Money Diary, right before the world shut down, and we've managed to survive almost two years together now. J. and I accidentally ended up quarantining with my parents for almost two months at the very start of our relationship (which would have been stressful under the best of circumstances, but was certainly not something I ever thought I'd do with someone I'd known for, like, 11 minutes), but we managed to survive and are still trucking along.
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7 a.m. — I'm not a big breakfast eater or coffee drinker, but I have added a prenatal vitamin to my routine every morning. I'm most definitely NOT pregnant, but in the early days of the pandemic — 4,827,340 years ago — I noticed my hair starting to fall out at an alarming rate. I finally broke down and got bloodwork done, which came back normal, so I was stumped. My sister had just given birth at the time and had a bunch of leftover vitamins, so I tried them and they seemed to work, so here I am. I grab my vitamins, fill up my water bottle, and log onto my laptop to see what's up for the day.
9:30 a.m. — After a couple hours of wading through emails and a team meeting, I'm hungry. I pour myself a bowl of cereal (Special K Fruit and Yogurt till I die) and start a load of laundry before I get back to work.
11:30 a.m. — It's been a busy morning with my very difficult, very high-maintenance client, and I can feel myself starting to get irritated, so I step away for a few minutes. I take a quick shower then slice up a Fuji apple to eat with almond butter. I'm willing to go on the record as saying almond butter is my favorite of the nut butters and I don't care who knows it.
12:15 p.m. — I've got meetings most of the afternoon, so I settle in for the long haul. While I'm on a team-call that I never have to speak on, I browse the internet for a gift for my mom's birthday in a few weeks. I settle on a coat that I think she'll like and know she needs, which I have shipped to my sister's house since she'll be with my mom on her actual birthday. $180
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3:30 p.m. — I come dangerously close to forgetting all about the laundry I started this morning and leaving it in the washer indefinitely. I put the laundry in the dryer.
6 p.m. — I'm done with work for the day so I shut everything down and head downstairs to meet J. for a walk. (Note: Illinois is one of only a handful of states that have fully re-implemented mask mandates, so for the sake of brevity just assume anytime we're out and about we've got our masks.) Last spring/summer when things were much more locked down we started going for long walks in the evenings and it truly saved my sanity. I'm glad that's something we've continued, even though the world is more open now than it was last year.
7 p.m. — We meander down to the riverwalk and end up stopping for a drink on a patio along the way. We decide to split a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc because this place has half-off bottles on Mondays. J. pays. (We do not have any joint finances, so we mostly just take turns picking up the tab for shared expenses and assume it more or less evens out over time).
8 p.m. — We decide to walk back to J.'s house since his fridge is fully stocked with all our leftovers from the weekend and mine is embarrassingly empty. He heats up yesterday's leftover pizza and Saturday night's trash fried rice for us and we dig in. Trash fried rice is fried rice made with all of the vegetables and/or meat in the fridge that's about to go bad and would otherwise have to go into the trash if not used immediately.
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9 p.m. — Since we just scavenged for leftovers, there's minimal kitchen clean-up when we're finished, so after dinner we migrate to the couch and end up watching a couple of episodes of Ted Lasso (oh my god, you guys, this show!) before heading to bed. I brush my teeth and scroll through IG for a few minutes before lights out around 10:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $180

Day Two

7 a.m. — Up with my alarm and after *whatever euphemism we're currently accepting for having sex* I head home to start my day. Today is jam-packed with meetings and calls so I hop in the shower as soon as I get home, then grab my vitamins and water bottle before logging on for my first call at 8:30.
10 a.m. — I'm hungry but I have very little food in my house, so I end up settling on a coconut and vanilla Vital Performance protein bar. It's aggressively mediocre, but it'll tide me over until lunch.
12:30 p.m. — For lunch, I use my last couple of eggs to make an omele-dilla which is this thing I made up where I scramble some eggs and while they're cooking, I lay a tortilla on top so that as they cook they adhere to the shell. Then I top with some shredded cheese, some spinach, and some salsa. Gordan Ramsey, eat your heart out.
4:45 p.m. — I'm pretty much over work for the day so I change out of my work leggings into my workout leggings and walk to the gym to meet my friend, N., for a hot power yoga class. By the end, my muscles are shaking and I'm covered in sweat but I feel amazing. N. and I chat for a few minutes after class and make plans to see each other later this week before parting ways.
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6:30 p.m. — On my way home, I stop by Jewel for groceries because, as we've already established, I'm in dire need. I grab apples, baby spinach, mixed greens, an onion, bell peppers, broccoli slaw, carrots, Babybel cheese, everything bagel rice cakes, eggs, Greek yogurt, a couple of Luna bars, baby (fancy) tomatoes, avocado, and chicken breasts. $56
7:30 p.m. — As soon as I get home I make myself a giant salad for dinner using much of what I just bought, plus I add pepitas, bleu cheese crumbles, and a drizzle of olive oil. I eat while texting with some friends who live out of state and watching videos that my sister sends me of my niece. She apparently asks for donuts first thing when she wakes up every morning now, so I think we can safely assume that kid is going places in life.
8:30 p.m. — Yes, I ate dinner in my sweaty yoga clothes but after I clean up the kitchen, I take a quick shower and change into pajamas. I have every intention of reading before bed, but if I'm being honest I'm a little mentally fried from the day and end up just mindlessly scrolling IG instead. I text J. to tell him he's a man among men before I turn the lights out and head to bed around 10:30.
Daily Total: $56

Day Three

7 a.m. — Up with my alarm, long commute from the bedroom to the kitchen, same routine as usual.
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9:30 a.m. — This morning when I break for a bowl of cereal, I also take a few minutes to order flowers to be delivered to one of my best friends/coworkers who lives in another state. She just wrapped up a hellish project and I want her to know I'm proud of her. I find a florist in her area and place an order for delivery tomorrow. $80
12:30 p.m. — More meetings before I take a break to make pretty much the same salad as last night (mixed greens, broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, sliced fancy tomatoes, pepitas, bleu cheese crumbles, and olive oil) and refill my water bottle. I read the news while I eat which is a mistake because it sends me into an absolute rage spiral — my sympathy and tolerance for people who refuse to get vaccinated has been utterly exhausted, you guys. Once I pull myself out of said rage spiral, I fire off a donation to Together Rising because the state of the world feels very heavy right now and even doing something small still feels better than nothing. $100
3:15 p.m. — I have a break between meetings so I take a very quick shower and stress-eat a handful of shredded cheese straight from the bag while standing in front of the fridge in my bath towel.
5 p.m. — Wednesday evenings I have therapy right after work so I log off and walk the mile or so to my therapist's office. I was seeing a different therapist a couple of years ago but she went on maternity leave right at the beginning of COVID, then chose not to return to her practice, so I had to start over with someone new. Luckily, I hit the therapy jackpot when I found my current one. I feel very thankful to have insurance that covers the bulk of these sessions (my co-pay is $25), and to have found someone I like and connect with so well. $25
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6:45 p.m. — After therapy, I walk over to J.'s house because he's making dinner for us tonight. We're not quite hungry yet so we each have a glass of wine and talk about therapy and the rest of our respective days while we sit on his balcony and watch the sun start to set.
7:15 p.m. — Bless him, J. loves to cook and tonight he makes spinach and feta turkey burgers with roasted green bean fries. It's all delicious and I help clean up the kitchen after we finish.
8 p.m. — J. has some work to finish up so he heads into his home office and he encourages me to borrow his whirlpool tub while he's working. I grab a book (The Man Without a Face), add some lavender bath salts to the water, and have a nice long, relaxing soak. Afterward, we watch an episode of The Queen's Gambit before brushing teeth and heading to bed around 10. On days like this, I feel especially thankful for J. as a partner.
Daily Total: $205

Day Four

7 a.m. — I'm awake and walking home at my usual time. On my way into my building, I stop and grab my mail and notice I've finally received (what I hope will be) the last bill from my egg-freezing procedure earlier this year. I decided after that break-up a couple of years ago to look into freezing my eggs. With COVID and everything else, I wasn't actually able to schedule the procedure until this past spring. I'm not entirely convinced I want kids and that's something J. and I are still not quite ready to decide on either way, so I'm really glad I went through with this process. It certainly wasn't cheap but I was pleasantly surprised (okay, shocked) to discover my health insurance covered a significant portion of the cost. $1,024
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10 a.m. — Mid-morning break from work to slice up an apple with almond butter.
1 p.m. — My client is tragically behind on some of their deliverables, which is causing a lot of tension for everyone, so after a pretty tense morning, I decide to go for a midday run to decompress. It's beautiful outside, so I change into shorts, slather on some sunscreen, and head out for a six-mile loop through downtown and along the lakefront.
2 p.m. — Finished with my run and just sort of... standing in the middle of my apartment trying not to sweat on everything.
2:30 p.m. — Showered and ready to tackle the rest of this afternoon. I quickly scramble a couple of eggs and top them with cheese, homemade salsa, and pickled jalapeños from my COVID garden before I sit back down to work. (After I made it through the bread-baking and home workout phases of quarantine last year, J. and I exiled ourselves to my parents' house for a couple of months and leaned pretty hard into the "gardening and preserving our own vegetables" phase.)
6:30 p.m. — J. comes over and we go for our usual evening walk around the neighborhood. I'm not especially in the mood to cook when we get home so I decide to make us each a big Cobb salad which only requires minimal cooking in the form of roasting a couple of chicken breasts and boiling some eggs. Oh, and bacon. On a bit of a whim, I throw together a cilantro/avocado/garlic/lime dressing that is surprisingly delicious.
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8:30 p.m. — J. helps me clean up the kitchen then heads home. I need to get a little more work done tonight (gross), so after he leaves, I pull out my laptop and settle on the couch. Gotta love it when a client is three days late getting something to you then expects you to turn it around immediately!
9:45 p.m. — Both my focus and my motivation are seriously waning at this point and I've gotten enough finished that I decide what's left can wait until tomorrow. I brush my teeth then get into bed and scroll through IG for a while. Do I need to spend an hour watching strangers on the internet do funny dances? No. But does this mindless dissociation make me feel better and help me relax before bed? Also no.
10:30 p.m. — J. sends me a sweet goodnight text so I tell him I love him and finally drop off to sleep.
Daily Total: $1,024

Day Five

7 a.m. — Back on my bullshit. Happy Friday!
9:30 a.m. — My schedule is suspiciously but gloriously low on meetings and calls today! I get through the urgent things that came in overnight then break to grab a Luna bar and scroll through the news for a few minutes.
11:30 a.m. — Because my schedule is more flexible today, I have time for a midday workout again. I sign up for a spin class with my favorite instructor (included in monthly gym membership) and change into bike shorts and a sports bra. I also eat a scoop of almond butter right before I head out.
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1:15 p.m. — Back from class (which was awesome!) just in time for my only meeting of the afternoon. I dial in, then go on mute so I can make myself a vegetable omelette — onions, peppers, spinach, and cheese — while I'm listening.
2 p.m. — Call wraps up and I hop in the shower.
4:15 p.m. — I'm officially over work for the week so I close my laptop and move over to the couch to chill out for a bit. J. and I are going for our usual evening walk later, but he's still working so I alternate between reading A Soul Full of Coal Dust, which I highly recommend, and texting with friends about our respective weeks and upcoming weekend plans.
6:15 p.m. — Head out to meet J. for our walk. We take our normal route along the riverwalk and stop for a glass of wine at City Winery, which we drink while boat- and people-watching. We casually debate the merits of becoming boat people (i.e. buying a boat), which, spoiler alert, we are NOT going to do. J. pays for the wine.
7:15 p.m. — Another of our quarantine traditions that has continued is Sushi Fridays, which is exactly what it sounds like — ordering sushi for dinner on Fridays. Before we leave the riverwalk I place an online order for pickup at our favorite neighborhood sushi spot, then we walk over to pick it up. It's not quite ready when we arrive so we each order a drink (Sauv Blanc for me, sake for J.) and share a complimentary bowl of edamame on the restaurant patio while we wait. Since J. got drinks a couple of nights this week, I pay for dinner. $112
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8:30 p.m. — We make it home with our sushi and I take a 5 mg edible, then we change into pajamas and eat spicy tuna rolls and various sashimi while we watch an episode of Ted Lasso. The sushi is delicious as usual and I'm feeling that contented, Friday evening feeling that comes after a busy but productive week. When Ted Lasso is over we switch over to Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO Max.
10 p.m. — My edible is kicking in and I'm very ready for bed. I brush my teeth and am asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow, which is a rare occurrence for me.
Daily Total: $112

Day Six

7:30 a.m. — It's unusual that I can sleep much past 7:30, even on weekends, and this morning is no exception. However, thanks to the edible, I slept hard and I wake up feeling great. J. and I like to work out together on the weekends so I change into some shorts and a sports bra I keep at his house and we head out for a run along the lakefront path.
9 a.m. — Finished with our run so I grab my stuff and head home to shower and get ready for the rest of the day. We're going to an open house in a different neighborhood later and I want to get a few things done around my apartment before then.
11:30 a.m. — I take a shower, then spend a few minutes vacuuming my rugs, swiffering my hardwood floors, putting away the dishes that have been sitting in the dishwasher for several days, and do some general tidying up around my house.
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12 p.m. — In between showering and chores this morning, I've been snacking on Babybel cheese, salt-and-vinegar almonds, and chopped vegetables with homemade ranch dip made with Greek yogurt. I decide I'm not really hungry for a full lunch with all of that, but I stick a Luna bar in my purse for later just in case, because #pursesnacks will save your lives, people.
12:15 p.m. — I head out and walk a few blocks to a bus stop to meet J.. He's brought me a walk-tail for the trip (a Ketel One canned spritzer), which is lovely of him. I've learned that I really have an affinity for tipsy real estate browsing — who knew? The bus arrives right on time and I use my Ventra card to pay. $2.25
1 p.m. — We make it to the open house and browse around for a while, then take a walk through the surrounding neighborhood. We're not quite to the point of moving in together, but it's something we have started talking about considering when both of our leases are up next year. For now, it's just fun to look and daydream.
2 p.m. — It's a gorgeous day so we decide to walk part of the way home instead of taking the bus. We stop in a 7-Eleven to buy more walk-tails then cut over to the lakeshore path and walk home along the lake. Once we make it back downtown we part ways. J. heads home to do J. things and I walk over to hang out with some of my friends at their house.
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7:15 p.m. — I've spent the whole afternoon with my friends N., Q., and E. just hanging out, listening to music, and having an impromptu champagne-fueled dance party, and it's been glorious. I'm starting to get hungry though, and I'm definitely cocktailed out, so I decide to walk home before it gets dark out. I promise to text them when I'm home and head out.
7:45 p.m. — I make it home, text my friends to let them know I'm safe and that they're all magnificent unicorns and the loves of my life, then contemplate dinner. The champagne I drank earlier is really trying to convince me to order Thai food, but the hungry part of me doesn't want to wait an hour for it to be delivered, so instead I throw together my own spicy peanut stir fry creation with chicken and vegetables.
8:30 p.m. — After I eat, I put on a face mask and take a hot bath, then I crank up the A/C to near arctic temperatures and climb into bed with my laptop (I refuse to have a TV in my bedroom, but sometimes I do cheat and take my laptop to bed) to rewatch old episodes of The West Wing until I fall asleep around 11. It's been a very good day.
Daily Total: $2.25

Day Seven

8 a.m. — I actually sleep in a little today and wake up without an alarm! I spend a while internet-scrolling in bed and contemplating what to do with myself today. While I'm lounging, N. texts to see if I want to take a morning yoga class with her, which I absolutely decide to do. I sign up immediately, then get out of bed and make myself a cup of hot tea to drink while I read for a few minutes. I was influenced (ha, put that on my gravestone) to try collagen back when my hair seemed to be falling out, so I pour some of that into my tea as well. I honestly can't tell if it's made a difference at all but also, given my lack of consistency in using it, it's entirely possible that's a me problem and not a collagen problem. We may never know.
10 a.m. — Walk over to the gym for yoga with N.
11:15 a.m. — Home from another sweaty class and immediately jump in the shower to clean off and get ready to meet J. I also scarf down the rest of my stir fry leftover from last night before I head out.
1 p.m.. — J. has a belt he needs to return, so I meet him and we walk over to Nordstrom for that. I browse while he's dealing with the belt, then we decide to walk to Millennium Park just for the hell of it.
3:30 p.m. — We meander through the park for a while then walk back home via the riverwalk. Along the way, we stop for a glass of wine at City Winery and boat/people watch (again). I pay this time. $35
5:15 p.m. — We've gotten our fill of boats and people, plus it's Pizza Sunday (yet another pandemic tradition of ours) and I'm getting hungry, so we walk back to our neighborhood and debate what kind of pizza we want. Ultimately we decide to stop at a spot near J.'s house because their patio is surprisingly uncrowded. We split a Caesar salad, plus a spicy sausage and a pepperoni/truffle pizza. I bought the wine earlier, so J. pays for the pizza.
7 p.m. — We get back to J.'s place and he decides to spend a little time in his home office getting ready for the coming week. I take my book out to his balcony and read for a few minutes while he's working, then we end the evening with another episode of Ted Lasso. In bed by 9:30 to hopefully rest up for another busy week!
Daily Total: $35
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