What I Spend in a Week as a 23 Year Old in Chicago

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Where did my money go?” If you have, then you are not alone. A recent Business Insider survey shows that about 54% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. A lot of this comes down to having high expenses. And many people do not track their expenses at all. I recently went through my expenses to see what I spend per month to identify potential problem areas. Here’s what I spend in a week in Chicago as a newer homeowner:

What I Spend in a Week

Here’s a quick snapshot of what I spend in a week. I’ll divide up my spending by category, starting with housing.


Housing is most often the biggest expense for people today.

A couple of years ago, I bought a two bedroom condo in Chicago for $153,000. It’s a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit, and I only paid a 12% down payment to make the purchase (though I could have gone as low as 5% down with the loan I used).

Because I got a 2 bedroom unit, I have an extra bedroom and bathroom which I can rent out.

Since I’m able to “house hack,” I dramatically reduce my net housing costs. On average, housing costs me only about $75 per week.

Let me take a brief moment to discuss this powerful real estate investing strategy in greater detail.

My House Hacking Strategy

House hacking is where you buy a property with extra space and then you rent out that extra space. It’s that simple.

House hacking is a great way to save money spent on your primary residence.

Since financing options are very good for owner-occupants, you can usually start with relatively little money compared to a more traditional real estate investment. You can then take advantage of low mortgage interest rates to lock in a mortgage rate that can be offset by the additional room(s) that can be rented out.

This isn’t to say there’s no risk to the strategy, but it’s a great way to break into the real estate game. You have to pay for housing every month anyways, so finding a way to subsidize it through rental income is a huge plus.

By renting out the second bedroom for $800 per month, I was only out of pocket $100 month for the mortgage, insurance, taxes, and condo fees. I also pay around $225 per month for utilities. That comes out to around $325 per month out of pocket, or only $75 per week.

There are many different ways to house hack. You could buy a multi-family unit, or put your spare room on Airbnb or rent it out yourself. There are lots of different options.

If you are interested in reading more on buying a home, check out this article here.


Another area people tend to spend a lot of money on each month is food and drinks. Daily lunch and coffee trips can add up quickly!

However, I tend to cook most, if not all of my meals (especially because Chicago has strict restrictions on restaurants during the pandemic). In any event, I’d rather cook a nice meal at home than have to eat outside in a makeshift tented area during the winter.

It ends up saving a lot of money and I have fun with it.

In total, between my wife and I, we spend around $300 per month on groceries, so food and household supplies costs me about $70 per week.

what I spend in a week on food

Transportation Expenses

The cost to own and operate a car can add up quickly. Credit Karma has provided data that shows the average monthly car payment on a new car is $568, and $400 for used cars.

One way to save money on a car is to buy an older car with lower miles outright. My wife have one car and really haven’t been driving a lot with Covid-19 placing a lot of restrictions in Chicago, especially while we’ve been in school.

The condo I live in also comes with a parking spot, so parking is free! With the free parking and rarely leaving the condo, I spend about $25 per week for transportation costs, combined with the occasional train ticket for heading downtown.

Phone Bill

My phone bill is a lot lower now than what it used to be. I recently switched my cell-phone provider to Google Fi. So far, I’ve had a really good experience with Google Fi, and actually have a referral link that you can use to save $20 off of your phone bill.

It’s worth a look, especially if you’re unhappy with your current plan.

One way you can save money on your cell phone is to buy used phones or an older model. Newer iPhones retail for well over $1000! A previous year’s model will often sell for a lot less.

The phone I own was the previous year’s model when I bought it, and it cost a few hundred bucks at the time. It gets the job done just like any other good smart phone.

Since I own my phone outright, I don’t have to worry about monthly payments for a financed cell phone. Otherwise, my Google Fi plan is $40 per month, so I spend about $10 per week on my phone bill.

Fun Budget

I have a savings account specifically dedicated for “fun.”

This let’s me “pre-pay” the expenses for those activities which my wife and I enjoy doing.

When the time comes to do some fun activity, we simply look at how much money we have in the “fun” account. That is our budget for picking an activity.

Unfortunately with the pandemic, my wife and I have not been able to go out and enjoy some of our favorite past-times.

For example, I love Baseball, but haven’t been able to go to a game this year. We also haven’t been able to go to any of the musicals that my wife especially would like to see. And, as I mentioned earlier, we have been cooking almost all of our meals due to the pandemic, so we don’t spend a lot of time at restaurants.

Our fun budget will likely increase slightly as time goes on, since we automatically put 1% of our income towards it. Right now, our income is relatively low since I’m studying for the bar exam and my wife is finishing graduate school. Once we’re working full-time, this will climb accordingly.

For now, on average, I allocate about $12 per week for fun.

Clothing & Variable Expenses

I don’t buy new clothes that often. Much of my current wardrobe are gifts from others, and I really only buy new clothes during sales (usually around Black Friday).

In all, I spend around $150 per year on clothes. This averages out to $3 per week.

I also include a category for variable expenses in my budget. The purpose of this is to account for anything outside of the categories I have mentioned above.

I think it is a good idea for everyone to include some type of miscellaneous fund in their budget, as surprise expenses will definitely pop up at some point. I allocate about $12 per week for this.

Conclusion – What I spend in a Week

To recap, here’s a list of my main expenses each week:

  • Housing – $75
  • Food – $70
  • Transportation – $25
  • Phone – $10
  • Fun – $12
  • Clothing – $3
  • Variable Expenses – $12
  • Total – $207

As you can see, I do try to keep my everyday living expenses low. But I’m still able to enjoy a comfortable living situation, even while my salary is low as I study for the bar exam. House hacking is a big key to this.

I’m also able to consistently set aside money to invest. I allocate $100 each week towards a retirement IRA account. I can save up to buy more real estate or stocks. And I can pay down debt more aggressively.

saving on expenses

I encourage everyone to take a quick look at his or her spending and create a simple budget. Identify the areas that take up the greatest share of your budget, and go from there. You might be able to save some serious cash from week to week that can go towards your financial goals!

This website, and any communication stemming from it, while hopefully informative, should not be taken as financial or legal advice. Assume all links are affiliate links. I am an Amazon affiliate.

Jack Duffley

Jack Duffley is a real estate investor and attorney based in Houston, TX.

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