How a 29-year-old Chicago-based student services program manager at a medical school spends:

  • SALARY:  I make $60,000 per year as a student services program manager at a medical school. I've never asked for a raise, but when negotiating salary during a job offer, I've asked for more than the advertised salary and received it (about $5,000 more a year).
  • SAVINGS: I have $1,500 in my savings account right now. A year ago we drained our savings ($12,000) to buy a car with cash. It was worth using our savings to not have a car payment!
  • MONTHLY EXPENSES: I pay $920 to rent a large one-bedroom on the South Side of Chicago. I contribute to a 401(k) and pay for my own health insurance. My partner and I subscribe to Amazon Prime and SlingTV (in lieu of cable); we recently cancelled Netflix because we weren't watching it much. Monthly bills include internet, cell phone service, gas, electricity and daycare for our 11-month old daughter.
  • DEBT: I am in debt. I'm on an income-based repayment plan for my student loan debt. I pay about $650/month. When we have extra money in our checking at the end of the month, I sometimes throw that at the student loan payment as well. We are lucky to not have credit card debt.
  • INVESTING: I am not yet investing.
  • SPENDING VICTORY:  The best thing I ever spent money on was daycare! Our daughter loves her teachers and friends, and my husband and I love that we get out of the house and contribute to society.
  • SPENDING REGRET: I sometimes consider graduate school a spending regret. I'm not necessarily using my master's degree, and it's given me a lot of debt. I gained a lot of skills and have a lot of clout because of my degree and the institution I attended, but is $70,000 in student loans a benefit? I'm not always sure.
  • CHARITY: The last charities I donated to were the Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Chicago Canine Rescue and the International Rescue Committee. My husband and I donate to charities on each other's behalf, rather than give gifts, for holidays and birthdays.
  • IF I WON THE LOTTERY: I would probably pay off my student loans and then put the rest in our "future house" savings account.
  • GOALS: I want to build our savings back up to ideally $10,000 in the next three to four years, and save enough for a down payment on a house.
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