A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $58,000 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 senior video producer who makes $58,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on Campari.
Occupation: Senior Video Producer
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $58,000
Net Worth: $10,337.50 ($5,580 in savings account, $3,819 in a 401(k), $764 in my personal checking, $62 in a travel savings account, $175 in a joint savings account with my girlfriend for our dog (my half $87.50), $50 in a joint checking account with my girlfriend that we use for food, rent, and utilities (my half $25). My girlfriend and I split rent proportionally to our income as she makes about $10,000 more than me, but we split everything else 50/50. We have a joint credit card that we use for fun purchases — going out to dinner together, seeing a movie, etc. — that we pay it off 50/50 every month. It's just easier than Venmoing all the time! I also have a car from 2005 that my parents purchased used when I was in high school, but I doubt it's worth anything.)
Debt: $0 (I pay off my credit cards every month and my parents paid all college expenses that weren't covered by scholarships.)
Paycheck Amount (biweekly): $1,623
Pronouns: She/her
Advertisement
Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $950 (my part of our $2,000 rent for a two-bedroom apartment with laundry, wifi, and water. My girlfriend, C., makes slightly more than me so she pays a bit more than me plus the $25/month pet fee)
Utilities: $80 (my half)
Phone: $40 (paid to my mom)
Health Insurance: $173.83 (taken out of my paycheck pre-tax)
Prescriptions: $15 every three months
401(k): $90 (taken out of my paycheck pre-tax, my company matches the first 2% and I contribute 4%)
Savings: $200
Renters' Insurance: $7.50 (my half)
Pet Insurance: $20 (my half)
Compost: $10
Spotify Premium/Hulu: $10 (we use friends'/family's accounts for other streaming services) 
iCloud Storage: $2.99
Donations: $30 (split between mutual funds and an abortion fund in my home state)

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?
Yes. My parents were both the first in their families to go to college, so it was super important to them that I go as well. Luckily for me, their values mostly aligned with my interests — I loved school and worked hard to get into a "good" school. I attended a public out-of-state university and was super privileged in that I didn't have to worry about paying for it. My parents paid for room and board and any tuition that was left after merit scholarships, which covered 50% of my first year and increased to about 90% by my senior year. They also paid for me to study abroad for six weeks one summer.
Advertisement
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents were both savers and taught by example. I think the most explicit instruction is that I received a small allowance for doing chores as a kid, and they had me split it up into three buckets: spending, savings, and tithing. When I got older, they helped me open a bank account that was attached to theirs and added me as an authorized user on their credit card. If I used the card, my mom would take out that amount from my checking to pay it off.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job the summer after my sophomore year of high school, working at Old Navy. I wanted spending money to shop and see movies with my friends. I worked different retail jobs throughout high school summers and winter break — my parents were very clear that school was my job during the year — and when I got to college, I picked up a few different on-campus jobs to pay for any fun expenses.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. I had no idea how much money my dad made, but I knew it allowed my mom to stay home and me to go to a private religious school (emotional trauma is expensive!). My dad grew up very low-income, so I always saw our financial picture in contrast to that experience.
Advertisement
Do you worry about money now?
Yes. Right after college, I got a job at my current company making $14 an hour. I knew I could keep growing at this company, but I was only able to stick it out because my parents let me stay on their health insurance for a year. (This was a huge leg up, but also very stressful.) As of 2022, I'm definitely more comfortable, but I still worry about short-term stuff like vet bills and car repairs as well as long-term stuff like rent increases and retirement.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became mostly financially responsible for myself at 22 when I graduated college and moved to Chicago, though I did remain on my parents' health insurance until this year. My parents are definitely a financial safety net and I know they'd let me live with them rent-free if anything went wrong. My girlfriend and I are also a sort of safety net for each other in that we're each happy to cover more of a joint expense if the other person needs it (she fronted the cost for some furniture when we moved in with each other, for instance, and I'd pay her back the next week when I got paid).
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received about $1,000 from one of my aunts on my mom's side when I graduated high school. She never had kids and did this for all of her nieces and nephews.
Advertisement

Day One

9:30 a.m. — I get to sleep in a bit today because my company has the day off. I've planned a little day out for myself as a treat. My girlfriend, C., still has to work and has already taken our dog out and given her breakfast, so I can leisurely go about my morning routine: I take a shower, moisturize, put on sunscreen, take my antidepressant, and fill in my brows. My hair is curly and I try not to use heat on it, so I wait for it to air dry while making a lox bagel and reading my current book: The Season: A Social History of Debutantes by Kristen Richardson. I don't have any connection with debutantes besides watching Downton Abbey, but I picked the book up at a library sale a few weeks ago and the history is fascinating.
11:30 a.m. — I take our dog on her afternoon walk and then head out to the train. I tap on using my Ventra card (pre-paid), which autofills with $20 every time I'm low. I get off the train and walk to the Chicago History Museum, my destination for today. The museum entrance fee is discounted for Chicago residents. $17
2:30 p.m. — I spend a couple of hours in the museum, which has two great rotating exhibits: one on the photography of Vivian Maier and one displaying ten fashion pieces of Black designers. I'm not as interested in the permanent exhibits, but I do get to see Lincoln's deathbed, which I guess is something? When I'm done, I get an iced latte with oat milk from the museum cafe and walk towards the lakefront, where I call my mom. We talk for about an hour. $4.59
Advertisement
3:30 p.m. — I start heading back home the long way. I buy a sparkling water from Whole Foods ($1.71) and tap onto the train. I get a bit motion sick, so I get out to find some food. I buy a Chicago dog from a hot dog place right by the stop and eat it while I walk the rest of the way home ($5.59). $7.30
5 p.m. — I get home and remember I promised to go pick up a dog crate from a Facebook Marketplace seller, so I drive over ($35/$17.50 my half). $17.50
5:30 p.m. — On my way back, I pick up dinner ingredients at Trader Joe's: pizza crusts and sauce, white onions, and wine ($9.99 my half). At home, I caramelize the onions and make a flatbread to go with the leftover salad from yesterday. I love cooking, so I do almost all of the kitchen cleaning and C. does the laundry (which I hate) and bathroom cleaning. $9.99
8 p.m. — C. and I hang out, watch some Survivor, and take the dog out for her nighttime walk. I head to bed around 10. My nighttime routine is Mary Kay skincare courtesy of my mom, who buys it from my aunt who sells it, plus Vitamin D and birth control (I'm a lesbian in a relationship with a cis woman, so lol, but it makes my very awful periods way more manageable and stops new uterine cysts from forming).
Daily Total: $56.38

Day Two

Advertisement
6 a.m. — C. and I wake up to give the dog her anti-anxiety pill. Unfortunately, she has to get a surgery today. It's really sad to see her in pain after surgery!
8 a.m. — We walk around the corner to our vet to drop off the dog. On the way, I put a package into the mail dropbox with a skirt I sold on Poshmark. On the way back from the vet, C. and I stop by our local coffee shop and get lattes ($11.45/$5.73 my half). At home, I have some Greek yogurt for breakfast. $5.73
9 a.m. — I log on to work and spend most of the morning in meetings. At lunch, C. and I eat leftover pizza and make a Chewy order for a huge bag of dog food, a comfy pad for the new crate, and a dog coat and boots for winter. It comes to $147.91 ($73.96 my half) and we'll get $15 cash back from our credit card. $73.96
1 p.m. — Spend some time having a sexy little mental health moment. Our walk this morning activated my allergies and now I'm stressed about our dog's surgery plus convinced I have COVID. Last weekend I went to a music festival in DC and a friend I saw ended up testing positive. I haven't had it yet and am still generally cautious, so even though I've been testing negative all week, it's A Thing in my brain. I have a cry, develop a headache, and call off work sick for the rest of the day (I haven't taken sick time since February, so I feel fine about it). I take a nap and immediately feel all better and then it's time to pick up the baby from the vet. It's $1,496.16 total, but pet insurance pays 80%, which brings it down to $299.23 after our claim is approved (my half is $149.62). $149.62
Advertisement
2 p.m. — The dog is doing so well after her surgery. I breathe a sigh of relief and decide to take a walk while C. is working and can watch our sleeping dog. I end up at Starbucks, where I purchase an iced tea and my guilty pleasure, a cake pop, and read on their patio for a bit ($8.79). On my way home I stop at the corner store and get a 12-pack of key lime LaCroix and some Oktoberfest beer as a thank you to C. for comforting me while I was freaking out earlier ($22.08, my half $11.04). $19.83
6 p.m. — We planned on staying chill and ordering food in because of the dog's surgery today. I get a salad with fried “chicken” tofu and pimento mac and cheese and C. gets fried chicken and biscuits. She pays and Venmo requests me $33 for my share plus delivery and tip. We're both emotionally exhausted, so we shower love on the dog for a while and watch some TV, then I take a bath and finish my book. Skin-care routine, the dog gets her pain medicine, and we're all in bed around 11. $33
Daily Total: $282.14

Day Three

8 a.m. — I wake up to a $50 refund from the bus ticket I'd bought to take me to and from the music festival last weekend. It never ended up showing, so my friends and I (plus like 20 other people waiting for the bus) had to Uber about 50 minutes to the venue. I take the dog on a very tender little walk, and she's very frustrated that she's not allowed to play with any other dogs because of her stitches. I log onto work at about 8:30, have some yogurt for breakfast, and get started on a bunch of meetings and some virtual video recording.
Advertisement
1 p.m. — I take a quick lunch break to make a lox bagel then go back into meetings for a few hours. C. has a half-day, so she heads out to do some shopping for herself and picks up groceries from Whole Foods on the way back. It's $48.37 ($24.19 my half) for spinach, paneer, ginger, rice, more bagels and cream cheese, snacks, and more sparkling water. I watch a few episodes of Ghosts (the UK version) then start making a very non-authentic palak paneer for dinner. It's not as good as a restaurant version, but it's definitely my best try so far, so I guess that counts for something. $24.19
7 p.m. — C. and I are pretty housebound while our dog heals from her stitches, so we decide to have a movie night. We have some wine while watching the new Mila Kunis Netflix movie, Luckiest Girl Alive, which I have to say, I can't recommend. After the movie, we take the dog on her nighttime walk, give her her pain meds, do our skin-care routines, and get in bed to watch some YouTube videos before falling asleep around midnight.
Daily Total: $24.19

Day Four

10 a.m. — It's the weekend, baby! I take the dog on her morning walk and have some Greek yogurt with blueberries for breakfast while C. is still asleep, then clean the kitchen from last night and take a shower. I also spend some time FaceTiming my parents, who are recovering from COVID. They both just felt like they had a bad cold, but I'll be glad when they officially test negative — this probably also contributed to my COVID anxiety earlier in the week.
Advertisement
3 p.m. — C. has a recording scheduled for her podcast, so I head out to take a walk. I also realize I haven't had lunch yet, so I head over to a poke place and order a small bowl. I eat on their patio while reading my new Book of the Month, The Family Game. BOTM was a Christmas present from my mom last year and I absolutely love it. I can tell right away that The Family Game isn't my usual type of book, but I'm happy to read a silly and fun thriller for fall. $13.84
4 p.m. — I decide to extend my walk and head over to a local wine shop to add some excitement to another night in. I get a bottle of pinot noir for $25.48 ($12.74 my half), which is more than we usually spend on wine and thus date-night appropriate. I walk another mile or two while listening to the Teen Creeps podcast, then pick up two decaf lattes on my way home ($10.46, $5.23 my half) to surprise C. $17.97
6 p.m. — I cuddle on the couch with the dog and read more of The Family Game while C. heads out to get ingredients for dinner. I want to make a spinach/basil pesto pasta with smashed Brussels sprouts, so she grabs pasta, more spinach, parm, basil, and sprouts ($27.53, my half $13.77). I cook, clean up the kitchen, and we open the wine while planning a spooky double feature of Saving Zoe and My Best Friend's Exorcism. $13.77
Advertisement
11 p.m. — By this point, I'm so wrapped up in The Family Game that I'm opening it up even when C. pauses the movie for a bathroom break. I have to know what happens!! I finish the book (the ending is fine) and then we walk the dog together. Then we watch some YouTube videos in bed and go to sleep around 12:30.
Daily Total: $45.58

Day Five

9:30 a.m. — I wake up and make C. and I each a sunny side up egg on half a bagel before we play a few levels of Cuphead together on her Switch. I was introduced to the game by a coworker a few months ago and thought it looked fun even though I'm not really a video game person, and now C. and I are obsessed. We cannot beat this carnival clown boss for the life of us! C. wants to do a deep clean today and reorganize our home office, so I put away some of my laundry before picking up my next book, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. For lunch, I have leftover pesto pasta.
2 p.m. — I head out to meet my best friend from college, Z., for a movie. I tap onto the train (pre-paid), then head into a gifty-type shop because I'm early. I pick up a Zodiac sign matchbook for C. as a treat since she loves using novelty matchbooks for candles. $3.31
3:30 p.m. — It's movie time! I meet Z. and two of her friends at the theater, where I buy my ticket and a canned red wine ($21.16). We're seeing Bros, which I feel obligated to see in a moment of gay/lesbian solidarity, but is actually way funnier than I expected. After the movie, I convince everyone to pick up empanadas for dinner with me from a nearby shop, where I grab vegetarian empanadas to bring home for me and C. ($36.12, $18.06 my half). $39.22
Advertisement
7 p.m. — I take the train home (pre-paid) and C. has done so much laundry and vacuuming, god bless her. We eat empanadas then I take a bath while reading more Bel Canto. We regroup to each have a gin and tonic and watch Ginger Snaps, a Canadian teen werewolf movie that we both really enjoy. Then it's the same drill as usual: the dog's nighttime walk, skin care, meds, and bedtime around 11.
Daily Total: $42.53

Day Six

8 a.m. — I get up and immediately start working. After a while, I walk the dog and make myself two scrambled eggs. I have a lot of meetings, so I work pretty much straight through until lunch.
12 p.m. — I walk over to Trader Joe's and pick up pumpkin beer, bagels, cream cheese, chickpeas, lentils, carrots, vegetable broth, and cherry tomatoes ($33.35, my half $16.68). At home, I roast the chickpeas and eat them in a salad with tomatoes, spinach, and TJ's vegan Caesar dressing. I usually make all my salad dressings myself, but Caesar is too hard to whip up during lunch. $16.68
5:30 p.m. — I call it a day from work and order two pumpkin-carving kits on Amazon, using my mom's Prime for free shipping ($21.82, my half $10.91). C. and I are having a BYOP pumpkin carving party (bring your own pumpkin) in our backyard next weekend and we're supplying the tools. I make a lentil stew recipe I saw on TikTok with carrots, potatoes, onion, and spinach. It's just fine. $10.91
Advertisement
7 p.m. — My mom and I have a tradition of watching Dancing with the Stars every week, so I open a pumpkin beer and start watching. I pretend that the dog is very invested in this year's showmance. I text my mom any time anything crazy happens, and vice versa. C. watches a few dances with me, then goes into the office to practice songs on her keyboard.
10:30 p.m. — Last walk of the night, dog meds, my meds, ready for bed!
Daily Total: $27.59

Day Seven

7 a.m. — I'm up early today because I'm going into the office. I leave enough time to take the dog out, but she's fast asleep next to C., so I skip it and just pack up a single-serve Greek yogurt from the back of the fridge and some leftover stew. I tap onto the train and read more Bel Canto during my commute.
8:15 a.m. — Arrive. My work uniform is just transitioning to fall, so I'm in wide-leg trousers and a button-up cardigan with loafers and socks. (It's pretty much the same in the summer with a short-sleeved shirt and no socks. I'm very original. In the winter I'll add a turtleneck and boots!) I fill up my water bottle and grab a free office coffee, then chat with one of my coworkers.
1 p.m. — I eat my Greek yogurt at my desk and have another coffee. Soon a coworker comes over and we chat about some LGBTQ+ content we've been trying to get off the ground, and before I know it it's lunchtime! I heat up my stew and bring it outside, where I eat while texting my girlfriend to ask for cute dog pics. After I finish eating, I go for a walk while listening to the Decoder Ring podcast. The highlight is seeing a little white Pomeranian with his tail dyed neon orange!
Advertisement
5:15 p.m. — Everyone heads out and goes to their respective train stops. At home, C. and I eat more leftover stew. C. goes to physical therapy while I do a Yoga with Adrienne workout and then read while cuddling the dog. I try to take her out twice, but she refuses since it's raining.
8 p.m. — Today was almost a no-spend day! Alas, C. and I have been influenced by the hot House of the Dragon actor to make a “negroni…sbagliato…with prosecco in it.” (Negronis are my favorite cocktails so we'll definitely use the Campari.) Since she drove to the physical therapist, she has the car and decides to do a big Trader Joe's haul. She gets Campari, prosecco, gin, lots of veggie protein options, kale, brioche, half and half, decaf coffee beans, and more ($156.05, $78.03 my half). This should last us through the weekend. C. makes us both a negroni sbagliato, we play more Cuphead, and we finally coax the dog to go on her nighttime walk. We all head to bed around 11. $78.03
Daily Total: $78.03
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement