Living in Chicago On A $94,000 Salary

Welcome to Money 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. (Thanks,New York mag , for the inspiration.)

Today, a finance consultant in Chicago paying for a wedding ring, cake, and toast, during a few days in St. Louis.

Occupation: Consultant

Industry: Finance

Location: Chicago, IL

Age: 25

Salary: $84,000 (annually; bonus last year was an additional $10,000)

Paycheck Amount (2x a month): Approximately $4,400 after taxes

# of roommates: 0 (I live in an studio, which my fiancé will move into after the wedding)

Monthly Expenses:

Rent: $1,550 per month for a studio apartment in River North

Loan Payments: $0 (full scholarship for undergrad, finished most of my master’s degree during undergrad so I only had one extra semester of tuition, which my parents graciously paid for)

Utilities: $25 (average for electric, I only turn on AC when absolutely necessary)

Phone Bill: $0 (family plan)

Health Insurance: $0 (parents’ insurance, my brother is still on it too and it costs them the same so no point in getting my own)

Renter’s Insurance: $30

Savings: Minimum $1,000/month to savings account with 1% interest. I also max out $5,500 for my Roth IRA and contribute the max 6% match for my 401(k).

Spotify Premium: $14.99 (family plan for my fiancé, brother, and some friends)

Cable/internet/landline: $0 (included in rent)

Church Tithe: $700 average, more towards end of year

Day 1

7 a.m. — I reluctantly wake up and start getting ready for work. I grab a peanut-butter oat bar from Trader Joe’s for breakfast and pack a La Croix and leftovers for lunch.

12 p.m. — I eat leftover shrimp fried rice I made last week. My fiancé and I were out of town this past weekend so I planned ahead for leftovers. With the wedding a little over a month away, and a potential home purchase next year we are saving money anywhere we can.

5 p.m. — I walk home. I work in consulting and luckily my client for the past few months is in the Loop so I walk roughly a mile to and from work each day. Free exercise! I try to walk at a brisk pace to get my heart rate up on my FitBit.

7 p.m. I head to the grocery store to pick up some broccoli for dinner. I’m going out of town on Thursday so I don’t need much. I also pick up a frozen Kashi meal and two burritos to refill my emergency lunch stash and a bag of chips because it’s on sale. $14.83

7:30 p.m. — We were back home in St. Louis over the weekend and my fiancé’s mom packed us a bunch of food. She’s the best! We eat rice with kalbi and my fiancé makes broccoli stir-fry. There are leftovers so I pack the rest up for lunch tomorrow.

Daily Total: $14.83

Day 2

7:30 a.m. — I’m walking to work when I realize I forgot to pack breakfast. Luckily, my brother gave me a $25 Starbucks gift card for my birthday over the weekend so I order a reduced-fat turkey bacon and egg white sandwich on my phone. By the time I get to the Starbucks a couple of blocks away it’s ready for me to pick up. I love the Starbucks app, and I don’t even drink coffee that much.

12 p.m. — I heat up my leftovers for lunch and eat at my desk. On Tuesdays I’m in back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a short break from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

5 p.m. — I stop by Target on my way home. I’ve lost all my pens so I pick up another pack of Pilot G2s and also a new notebook. $14.31

6:30 p.m. — I fold laundry and clean my apartment. Afterwards, I fold my laundry and then head to the gym to work out. My building has a great gym which is available for all residents and it’s almost always empty.

7:30 p.m. Sweetgreen just opened in Chicago so a couple of my friends and I meet up for dinner. I get the Guacamole Greens salad. The cilantro-lime-jalapeño vinaigrette is amazing. $10.79

Daily Total: $25.10

Day 3

7 a.m. — Ready for HUMP DAY. I wake up two minutes before my alarm and head out on time for once. I pack a peanut-butter oat bar for breakfast.

12 p.m. — Today several people from my church that work in the area are meeting up for lunch. We hit up the new, fancy food hall that just opened. I arrive late so my friend gets me grilled fish and veggies. I Venmo her. $10

6 p.m. — I’m using the last of my classes for my introductory month of ClassPass. There was a sale for $19 for the first month, I calculated the expiration date incorrectly though so one of my 5 classes will expire unused. My friend and I meet up for a barre class.

7 p.m. — I heat up leftovers for dinner while catching up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Don’t judge me.

8:30 p.m. — I meet my fiancé at Pinkberry for dessert. We share a medium yogurt with so many toppings that they give us an extra cup for them. My fiancé pays.

9 p.m. — We walk down the River Walk all the way to Lake Shore Drive so we can watch the weekly fireworks that they set off every Wednesday. It’s much less crowded than Navy Pier where most people go to watch them.

Daily Total: $10

Day 4

7:40 a.m. — It’s pouring today, and I have an early meeting so I’ve decided to work from home in the morning. I eat a banana with peanut butter and drink a glass of almond milk.

9:30 a.m. — It stopped raining so I head into the office. My coworker has graciously brought doughnuts for everyone from Doughnut Vault. I eat an almond doughnut while trying not to think about my wedding diet.

12 p.m. — I brought leftovers to work so I heat them up along with a La Croix (I’m obsessed and I have a whole box leftover from my bridal shower). I call the local bakery that’s providing our cake and cupcakes to pay the balance. We just got the Chase Sapphire Reserve card so I pay for the remaining balance, we get 3% back because it counts as dining. Cake is expensive, y’all! $536.50

6 p.m. — I make shrimp fried rice for dinner and eat before heading up to Montrose Beach for my fiancé’s beach-volleyball game. I already had all the ingredients on hand. My fiancé pays for the Uber to the beach.

9 p.m. — Celebratory drinks at the bar on the beach because my fiancé’s team won the championship game. I order a Corona, and we cheer Usain Bolt on to victory. When the bill comes we all split it, my fiancé pays for my beer. We grab an Uber home, which he also pays for.

Daily Total: $536.50

Day 5

10 a.m. to 12 p.m. — I heat up the last of the leftover beef and tofu for lunch. While on my lunch break I buy the Kindle version of Dark Matter. My best friend and I have been trying to read more so we take turns picking books to read, it’s my turn to pick. I’ve been trying to spend less with the wedding coming up so I reserved a copy at the library but there are a million people ahead of me and my friend’s already started reading it. $12.99

2 p.m. — I head out early for our office’s quarterly Town Hall which is at a restaurant in River North. On the way there I swing by the jewelers to pick up my wedding band which is being custom made to fit with my engagement ring. I ask the jeweler if my fiancé has already paid, he apparently forgot to so I run down to the ATM around the corner. $370

2:30 p.m. — There’s free food and an open bar at the Town Hall so I get a glass of white wine and load up on chips and guac, sliders, and carrots. I’m heading back home to St. Louis for the weekend and don’t want to eat at the food cart on the train. Work perks!

6:30 p.m. — I meet my fiancé at the train station. We watch movies and nap to pass the five-hour train ride down to St. Louis. My fiancé paid for our train tickets in advance.

12:30 a.m. — Finally arrive in St. Louis! I’m so tired my fiancé drops me off at home, and I pass out.

Daily Total: $382.99

Day 6

8 a.m. — Good morning, St. Louis! I wake up with itchy eyes, my allergies are kicking in already. My Dad makes me French toast and tea for breakfast. He’s the best.

9 a.m. — My fiancé and I head to the chapel we’re getting married at to meet with the wedding coordinator on details. It takes a lot longer than expected. There are so many things I didn’t think about. I make a note of several follow-up items.

10:30 a.m. — My mom and I head to the bridal shop to pick up my wedding dress. I pay the remaining balance. My parents have graciously given us $20,000 for the wedding. I tried to refuse the money but they insisted… We’ve kept the budget tight, which is crazy to say because $20,000 is a lot but it’s actually the average cost of a wedding these days. We found lots of ways to cut costs, like scrapping a champagne toast. Yes, we’d love a champagne toast! Oh it’s $4 per person? NEVERMIND REGULAR ALCOHOL WORKS TOO. $637.80

12 p.m. — I meet my family for lunch. It’s my mom’s birthday weekend so my brother and I treat everyone to lunch. She loves seafood so we go to an oyster bar and order scallops with pork belly, seafood pasta, raw oysters, and oyster chowder. I split the bill with my brother. $68.83

5 p.m. — My fiancé and I head over to our friends’ house for a backyard seafood boil. It’s the last time all of us will be in St. Louis so it’s really a farewell dinner. We bring watermelon, chips, and lemonade. My fiancé pays.

Daily Total: $706.63

Day 7

9 a.m. — I make myself toast with peanut butter at home and drink some tea before heading to church. I pick up my fiancé along the way.

12:30 p.m. — We meet up with some of my fiancé’s college friends for lunch at a great local caf é /bakery. I order a sandwich and a giant ginger cookie. My fiancé gets the sandwich-and-soup combo. The sandwich is massive so I save half for the train ride back to Chicago. I pay for both of our meals. $23.71

3 p.m. — My fiancé’s mom is always afraid we never have enough to eat and always packs us an obscene amount of food to take home. We usually bring back an extra bag filled with food. This time she’s packed us hot braised chicken, kalbi, frozen ribs, sandwiches, pickled vegetables, fruit, and some aloe drinks. She would’ve made us take more, but my fiancé refused.

5 p.m. — We arrive at the train station and settle in for the ride back to Chicago. It’s about five hours if everything runs smoothly and there are no delays. I eat the other half of my sandwich and drink some aloe.

11:30 p.m. — Back to Chicago! We Uber back (he pays) and after unpacking all the food, I fall asleep immediately.

Daily Total: $23.71

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual diarists’ experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

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