A Week In Chicago, IL, On A $47,000 Salary Cost of Living

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Want even more Money Diaries, plus $$$ advice from a kick-ass, all-female team of financial advisors, and tips on how to save more than $500? Pick up our new book: Money Diaries: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Your Finances… and Everyone Else’s. It’s out now — order here!

Today, as part of Your Spending In Your State: an administrative assistant working at a nonprofit who makes $47,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a six-pack of Coronas.

Occupation: Administrative Assistant
Industry: Nonprofit
Age: 27
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary: $47,000
Additional Income: ~400/month from tutoring
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,457.21

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $850 (I live with my boyfriend and we split rent proportional to our salaries, but split utilities/electric/parking in half. I end up paying about $850 for everything; and he usually ends up paying around $1,690. Parking is $235 total per month.)
Student Loan Payment: $0 (My parents had a college savings account for me and I worked hard to pay the rest off.)
Car Payment: $175.26
HSA: $52
Health & Vision Insurance: $135.3
Rental Insurance: $0 (My boyfriend pays.)
Car Insurance: $0 (My godsend parents pay.)
Netflix & Phone: $0 (My parents pay.)
Hulu: $0 (I use my friend’s account.)
HBO & Amazon Prime: $0 (I use my boyfriend’s accounts.)
TV/Internet: $0 (Basic is included in our rent and we haven’t upgraded…yet.)
Gym: $0 (We have a nice gym in our building and there’s a gym at work that my company pays for.)
New York Times Subscription: $8
Donations: $6 to NPR
Savings: I put $450 per month into an account I have with a financial investor. I can’t contribute to my company’s 401(k) yet, but once I can, I’ll put 5% of my salary into that. At my previous job, I worked up to 7% of my salary into my 401(k) with a 5% match from my employer.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off. BLEHHHHH. I snooze it, of course. 30 minutes later my boyfriend, R., pokes me and asks if I’m planning on getting up today. Rude. My internal thought process was that I remembered I’m going to a workout class later tonight with a coworker, and who wants to shower (read: wash their hair) twice in one day? Not me.

7:45 a.m. — I run out of the apartment so I can stop at Starbucks on my way to work. I walk to and from work every morning, which is very convenient and saves me a ton on transportation costs, but it takes about 25 minutes for me to get there (20 if I’m booking it!). I have the Starbucks app, so I get stars when I purchase a drink, which goes toward a free drink eventually and totally justifies my $5 latte…right? $4.96

8:30 a.m. — I roll into work armed with my skinny vanilla latte, ready to face the day!

12 p.m. — Lunch today was a leftover sandwich in the work fridge from a meeting on Tuesday. Thank you, catered lunches. I’m very fortunate in that my company has one to two catered lunches for meetings every month, and they always order extra for their hungry staff. I eat lunch at my desk and read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – please, for your own sake, go read this book. It was amazing in so many ways. I really need to find a book club in my new city…

2 p.m. — I get a text from R. asking if I want to go to Au Cheval for dinner. Even though we live a 10-minute walk from it, we’ve never been, because wait times are crazy. It’s supposed to be the best burger in Chicago, but I’ll be the judge of that. Since he’s not working today, he said he’ll go put our names in at 6/6:30 p.m. so that by the time I get home from my workout class, we should be ready to go eat. He’s my hero. We try to make Thursdays our date night because R.’s a consultant and is usually gone Monday through Thursday.

4:40 p.m. — I skip out of work five minutes early like the rebel I am so that I can catch the train. I meet my coworker (who was working from home) for a legs, butt, and arms class. It’s my first time working out at this studio, so I get a free trial class! It’s awesome and I’ll definitely get a monthly membership. $2.50

6:40 p.m. — Dripping in sweat, I text R. that I’m on the train home and that I desperately need to shower before I show my face in public again. He says the wait at Au Cheval is one and a half to two hours, so the timing should be perfect. $2.50

7:45 p.m. — We walk towards Au Cheval in search of a pre-dinner cocktail. On the walk, we get a text saying our table is ready, so we scurry over before they can give our table to someone else! And what. A. Meal. I’m not usually a hamburger person, but I am one happy lady. R. and I split the bill evenly. I cut my burger in half so that I can save some for lunch tomorrow. I ALMOST forget my leftovers at the restaurant, but R. saves the day. $38

10 p.m. — We get home and I just want to crawl into bed, but I know I need to wash my face. I started a new skincare routine last week and I am determined to stick this one through and actually do every step every day. (It’s three to five steps, so it really shouldn’t be hard, I’m just really lazy when it comes to my beauty routine.) I wash my face, use a chemical exfoliant, and apply a vitamin C serum, under-eye moisturizer, and face moisturizer.

10:15 p.m. — I read for a bit in bed and then pass out. I can tell my body is going to be sore tomorrow from that workout…

Daily Total: $47.96

Day Two

6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off and I wonder to myself, as I do every morning, why I don’t just set my alarm for later, as I rarely actually get up at 6:45. I showered and washed my hair after my workout yesterday, so, again, I justify sleeping in. I also reason that my legs need extra time resting.

8:15 a.m. — My Friday morning tradition is stopping at Einstein Bros. for a bagel on my walk to work. I know it’s such a waste of money, but there’s something about a freshly toasted bagel with butter or cream cheese that just never disappoints me. $2.33

8:30 a.m. — Neither of my bosses are in the office today, which means it’s going to be a slowwwww day at work. I spend the morning chatting with my coworkers, answering the five emails I receive, and working out my fingers by scrolling through all of the social media.

12 p.m. — Time flies when you’re having fun! It’s already lunch time! I eat my leftover burger from last night and leftovers from earlier in the week that have been sitting in the work fridge. I talk to one of my coworkers, C., about the BBQ he and his wife are hosting for all of our friends in Chicago later today. Then I text R. and give him the deets. I spend the rest of my lunch (and a little extra time) finishing my book — I just can’t put it down!

5 p.m. — R. offers to pick me up from work today and I couldn’t be happier! He’s talking about getting a haircut this weekend, and I realize I don’t remember the last time I got a haircut. I find a salon a few blocks from our apartment that has pretty reasonable prices, so I book a 5:45 p.m. appointment. $47

6:45 p.m. — On my way home from the salon, R. texts me and asks if we should bring anything to the BBQ. I agree that it’s the nice thing to do, so I stop at the grocery store on my way home and pick up a six-pack of Coronas and a bag of Doritos (buy-one-get-one free!). $13.41

7 p.m. — Armed with our goodies, we head over to the train to get to C.’s house. $2.50

1 a.m. — We all had too much fun at the BBQ, and friends who live near us are calling an Uber, so we decide to jump in. We offer to split with them but, in the drunken haze, I don’t think they split it, so we get a free ride home! Score! (Or maybe R. paid… I should ask him about that.)

Daily Total: $65.24

Day Three

7 a.m. — I wake up wanting to cry. Why do we drink? I complain to R. and then roll back over and sleep for three more hours.

10 a.m. — I wake up hungry. We have no food in our apartment, so it’s time to go to the grocery store, which is conveniently one block away. I want a bagel sandwich, so we pick up freshly made bagels, eggs, and an avocado. R. pays.

12 p.m. — Sleep is calling, but the couch isn’t comfortable. (Sometimes there’s an awkward angle for your neck when you’re trying to sleep on your side and watch TV, ya know?) I grab our comforter from the bedroom and make myself a bed on the carpet in front of the TV. R. laughs at me, but I fall asleep for a marvelous nap, smiling.

4 p.m. — I get a notification to pay our monthly parking (we have a garage in our apartment building). R. and I split down the middle, which is nice because he doesn’t really use my car but helps me pay that expense anyways! I pay the parking up front and then he takes $117 out of what I owe him for rent.

5 p.m. — We made plans earlier in the week to go to the final Grant Park Music Festival tonight with friends. Fun fact: The Grant Park Music Festival is the nation’s only free, outdoor classical music series of its kind. Yay, Chicago! I’m struggling to get myself off the couch and behave like a real human, but we need dinner. I use my gourmet chef skills and whip up a box of mac and cheese. (Don’t judge — it cures all.)

6:15 p.m. — We run to the grocery store to pick up wine, brie, crackers, and prosciutto for our picnic at the park. R. pays, so I grab the Uber. $10.60

9:45 p.m. — Neither R. nor I are classical music lovers, but wow, that was a great concert! We had a blast and decide to walk home (a little over a mile) because it has turned from a humid day into a gorgeous night. We stop at a bar we like and have a drink to cap off the evening. R. pays.

11:45 p.m. — We are home and in bed, ready to take on the day tomorrow! (And I did my skincare routine again – yay for consistency!)

Daily Total: $10.60

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — I sleep in a little today because I’ve been finding myself so tired recently. R. is already up. He’s flying out very early tomorrow morning for work, so he has things to get done today, and I made him promise we would clean the apartment and do our laundry later. (It’s very pathetic — we have a washer/dryer in-unit and I still can’t keep up with my laundry pile.) We eat bagels and drink some coffee. When I moved to Chicago, my mom gave me some great coffee from her favorite used-to-be-local coffee shop. We finish the last of it, and I am sad and think of my mom. I give her a call while cleaning the kitchen because we haven’t chatted in a while. (36 hours. I talk to my mom a lot. Because she’s so great!)

2:30 p.m. — I prepare for a tutoring client I’m going to see at 4. One of my friends got me a gig with the organization she tutors with. It turns out it’s a lot more work than I originally anticipated, so when you average it all out, I’m not really making good money, but money is money.

5:30 p.m. — I pick up Thai food on my way home from tutoring. It’s our Sunday night tradition. We’ve been trying to find a GREAT Thai place around us, but haven’t yet found one we love, so we’re trying a new place tonight. It’s not great, so next week we’ll be on to the next one. $28.96

7:30 p.m. — We pull ourselves off the couch and go to the grocery store. I buy groceries to make myself one big zucchini lasagna for the week, and R. buys some small toiletries for his upcoming business trip. $36.22

10 p.m. — Early to bed for us — R.’s alarm is set for 3:45 a.m. tomorrow to make a 6 a.m. flight for work!

Daily Total: $65.18

Day Five

3:45 a.m. — Alarm #1 goes off. Please, lord, make it stop. R. leaves around 4:30 a.m. and I don’t really go back to sleep. Happy Monday.

8:30 a.m. — Make it to work right on time, even though I’ve technically been up for hours. Can you tell I’m not a morning person? Then I remember my boss is taking me and a few other new employees out for lunch, and my day instantly improves! I stop in the kitchen to grab a big ol’ cup of coffee and make myself a yogurt parfait from my grocery haul yesterday (plain Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries and granola – yum!). I feel very fortunate that my company provides good coffee for employees. At my last place, we got Folgers, and I was not a happy camper (but that’s not something I should really complain about because it was nice they had coffee for us at all!).

10:30 a.m. — Even though I know I’m going to have a big lunch, I can’t quiet my mid-morning snack craving. I have leftover brie and crackers from our picnic in the park and it’s calling my name. I think about my cholesterol as I sit and eat, wondering when was the last time I got it checked? I’m from Wisconsin and was therefore raised on high-cholesterol foods (milk, cheese, custard – not ice cream), so I feel like I have a superpower that prevents me from having high cholesterol. That’s a thing right?

2 p.m. — Lunch was AMAZING. I could get used to a two-hour mid-day break…might have to make a note to the boss. Only a few hours left of work! My friend texts and reminds me to Venmo her $14 for the movie ticket she bought me. We’re going to see Crazy Rich Asians tomorrow and I’m so excited! $14

6:45 p.m. — It was pouring rain on my walk home and my umbrella was no match for those Chicago winds. I take a quick shower to warm up and then make the zucchini lasagna I bought ingredients for yesterday. I eat a leftover meal from last week (chicken stir-fry) while it cooks because I’m starving and I hate wasting food! I call my grandma (as I do every Monday evening) and we chat for 15 minutes about our weekends and the upcoming mini-family reunion this. My grandma is 91 years old and a little firecracker, still living by herself in her condo. She’s an impressive little lady and I’m very fortunate to call her my grams.

8 p.m. — I’m going through some old mail and see some letters from the ACLU/SPLC. I’m really bad about making consistent donations, but I donate $18 to each on the spot. In Judaism, multiples of $18 are typical donation amounts, and it’s a little way that I connect with my religion every time I donate to good causes. $36

1 a.m. — I crawled into bed around 10 p.m., planning to read for 30 minutes before falling asleep. Buttttt I just started reading My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman and I can’t put it down. It gives me all the feels. So I finish it (I try to read two to three books per month!) and finally get to bed in the early hours.

Daily Total: $50

Day Six

7:15 a.m. — It’s another snooze morning for me (this seems to be a pattern…). I don’t feel guilty though, because R. woke me up way early yesterday, so I deserve an extra 30 minutes of sleep! Once I wake up, I shower, put away some remnants of laundry from the weekend, tidy up the apartment, start the dishwasher, and am out the door by 8:10.

8:30 a.m. — I get into work, make myself some breakfast (same as yesterday), pour a cup of coffee, and get a glass of water. All necessary things to get my day started. I then promptly cancel the workout class I was supposed to attend at lunch time — I’m too tired and I need to spend my lunch break prepping for my tutoring client tonight.

10:30 a.m. — Time for my favorite part of my morning: my morning snack! It’s the same as yesterday. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.

12 p.m. — Tutor prep + leftover zucchini lasagna for lunch. The lasagna is kind of soupy and not the greatest dish I’ve ever made, but it will do for the week. And it’s kind of healthy, so that’s always a plus. I grab a soda from the office fridge to round out my meal.

5:10 p.m. — I call my mom on my walk home (pretty typical). I think I talk to my mom every day on average (sometimes we don’t talk, but sometimes it’s three times a day). It blows R.’s mind that I have so much to say to her, but I just do. I change for tutoring, shove some snacks in my face (Goldfish and cheese wrapped in prosciutto leftover from the picnic), and think about how much more R. would love me if he could see me right now, so I send him a quick Snapchat of me pouring Goldfish into my mouth from a cereal bowl. We like to keep our relationship sexy. I’m out the door by 5:25.

6:50 p.m. — I love the extra money from tutoring, but it definitely interferes with my social life. My friends are meeting at a bar for drinks/apps before the movie, so I race north to try and catch them (and a drink) before the movie starts. I can’t figure out how to get into the parking garage, so I opt for street parking. It’s a half mile away, but at least it’s free! I make it to drinks by 7:20 and order a white wine and much on the apps they ordered.

7:40 p.m. — Uh oh! Gotta get to the movie theater! My pays for the drinks and food and says she’ll Venmo us later. The movie time was 7:45 and we walk into the theater at 7:50 to find the movie has already started! I don’t go to the movies often, but since when are there NOT 20 minutes of previews? Luckily we all read the book, so it’s not a problem.

9:45 p.m. — The movie was amazing! I call R. on my walk to my car, but he’s still working, so I call my mom again. We talk about whether I’m going to come home for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. My family is more religious than I am, but I like to celebrate the high holy days with them in the synagogue I grew up going to. I’m in my garage by 10:15. I’m never going back to not having a garage parking spot again — it is such a life changer.

10:20 p.m. — I put away the dishes from the load I started this morning, wipe down the counters, and text R. to talk about how much I hate when he travels. Brush my teeth, do my skincare routine, and crawl into bed to watch Parks and Recreation on my iPad before falling asleep!

Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

7:10 a.m. — I set my alarm later this morning because I know I’m not going to shower. It’s hard having long hair, I tell ya! I lay in bed browsing Instagram and Facebook for what I thought was 15 minutes but turned into 30. How does that always happen? Time to rush the morning routine. I throw on some makeup, get dressed, get some zucchini lasagna into a Pyrex container, and am off!

8:40 a.m. — I got into work a little early today, only to remember my boss is out this morning, which means I’ll have a lot of free time. I do my usual routine of coffee, breakfast, grabbing a glass of water, and chatting with coworkers. I’m back to my desk by 8:40 to find a ton of emails in my inbox — time to get to work!

10:15 a.m. — My mid-morning snack craving hits again! I polish off my brie and cracker staff and make a quick donation to the Grant Park Music Festival for the concert we attended last weekend. $18

11:40 a.m. — Snack pangs strike (read: boredom). So I go into my snack drawer and find some chips. Hopefully this will hold me over until 1 or 2. I’m tutoring tonight, so I won’t be home until 7 and don’t want my stomach grumbling while I’m trying to teach!

12:15 p.m. — I spend the next 45 minutes on/off hold with a medical supplies company. On the bright side, it gives me extra time to read my new book ( Exit West by Mohsin Hamid).

1 p.m. — Time for lunch! I spend my lunch hour checking into my credit card purchases and investments. I personally buy stocks on Robinhood and have invested $2,000 there (I’m up $88 — yippee). I found that I don’t like Robinhood because I don’t care enough to do the research to make informed decisions, so I think I’ll stick with putting money into the account my financial adviser handles. My grandma set me up with this guy when I graduated college and reminds me to put money in every year. I quickly transfer $100 from my savings account — it’s not a lot, but every bit helps! I do a little prep for tutoring tonight before my lunch hour is over.

2:45 p.m. — The day is dragging, so I go to the staff fridge and grab a Diet Dr. Pepper. I know it’s not good for me, but I don’t think I had one yesterday, so every other day is an improvement!

4:45 p.m. — I head out for the day and hop on the train to get to my tutoring client by 5:15. $2.50

6:30 p.m. — On my walk to the train I pass by a local wine shop and pop in. The owner is so nice and comes over to talk to me about the different wines. I tell him I want a red that’s easy to drink and can go with a variety of things so that I can pop it open whenever a friend comes over, but is inexpensive. He gives me a suggestion and I buy two bottles — I hope they’re good! $25.34

7:30 p.m. — I take the train home. There’s a huge group of students getting on the train, so I put my headphones in, turn on Pod Save America, and then my phone promptly dies. Great. I get home, plug my phone in, heat up some lasagna, pour myself a big ol’ glass of vino, and curl up on the couch to watch The Office for the millionth time. R. calls, so we chat for a bit. $2.50

10 p.m. — I turn off the TV, brush my teeth, do my nighttime skincare routine, and head into bed. I start reading a new book, Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers. I love her writing and it’s a perfect way to end my day. I fall asleep by 10:45.

Daily Total: $48.34

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29
 


Do you believe in super being called "God"?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Related Articles

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


Confirm you are not a spammer! *