How We Make It Work: $140K in Chicago

"We had some unplanned costs this month. But, all in all, it's certainly not bad. And it better not be. We both work our butts off to sustain such a lifestyle."

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It’s a question that’s often on the minds of anyone who’s ever looked at the high cost of raising kids today: how do parents make it work? We wondered too, which is why we’re asking parents around the country for a peek into their financial lives: what they earn, spend, save, and invest as well as what financial headaches they face, what tricks they’ve learned along the way, and what, if anything, they’ve figured out. Will the answers we receive get the a-okay from financial advisors? Not always. Are they honest looks into families trying to provide for their kids? Absolutely. Here, Jerry, a 45-year-old married father of a 9-year-old-daughter in Chicago discusses what a month of spending looks like in his world. 

I’m the GM at a hotel in Chicago. I make $95,000 a year. After taxes? My take-home comes down to about $68K or so. Makes you re-think $95K doesn’t it? My wife is a teacher. She makes $45K a year. After taxes, it’s about $37K. This isn’t to mention insurance and stuff like that, which I don’t have in front of me. But, with all that taken into consideration our combined income comes to about 90K.

We live in an apartment. A two-bedroom downtown. It’s not big, but we’re not stepping on one another either. Our rent is $2,850 a month, utilities included. Expensive for the city, but we like our neighborhood and it’s not bad for us all to get to work or school.

I’ve got a 2015 Toyota Rav 4. Good car. This is my second. Reliable, good gas mileage. Monthly payments are at this point $450. Costs me about 40 bucks to fill the tank, which I do about every week. So monthly that’s about $120 a month.

Major expenses? Groceries, certainly. Say what you will be we are a Whole Foods family. Costs us about $130 or so a week, so that’s about $520 per month. Toiletries and such we get from; those cost us about $100 a month.

Then there’s clothing. Our daughter, who is nine, is growing. Seems like every couple of weeks she’s outgrown something.  Aging gets ya. [laughs] So we end up spending, oh, a couple hundred dollars a month on new clothes.

My daughter attends public school. But school supplies can be costly. This semester she needed her own laptop for school work. We toyed with the idea of going refurbished but bought her a brand new laptop because we figured it’d last longer. Cost us $700. Those things add up so we need to be aware of them.

She also loves figure skating. She’s been going to classes for a couple years. Those cost $320 for 10 hour-long classes per month. And remember how I said she’s growing? We just had to get her news skates this month. That was $40 there. Of course it’s worth it. For one, she loves it. For another? She’s good. She and I have been watching the Olympics together, and the skaters have given her so much joy and inspiration.

Weekend activities. Let’s see. We went to the field museum last weekend. A good winter Chicago activity. That was $48 combined for my wife and I and $17 for our daughter. Spent nearly all day there. We grabbed a late lunch afterwards. Some Mexican place. That cost us $70. Plus we grabbed snacks and drinks during our time in the museum. So total for that day, about $160-something? I often work weekends, so that was a nice day. Well worth the cost.

My wife and I try to go to dinner alone. Babysitting cost comes to about, oh, $60 and then dinner and a movie for us is $100 total. But, as they say, the experience is priceless.

Investments? Well, we have a 401k that comes out of my account. Take four percent of my paycheck pre-tax. We also have a retirement account and a few other investments like a college account. We throw about $1,000 per month into various investments

This month ran us a bit high, as we had some unplanned costs. But, all in all, it’s certainly not bad. And it better not be. We both work our butts off to sustain such a lifestyle.

The Monthly Breakdown:

Rent: $2,850
Groceries: $520
Extra Curricular Activities/Equipment: $360
Family Fun: $160
Car Payments: $450
Gas: $120
Clothing: $200
Toiletries: $100
School Laptop: $700
Investments: $1,000
Dinner and Sitter: $160

Total: $6,620

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