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What One 33-Year Old Spends in Chicago, IL | Millennial Money

Eric from Simple Savings Cents shares what he spends in a month as a 33-year old in Chicago, IL. From food stamps to banker, Eric shares how he got out of credit card debt and started his journey towards financial freedom.

What do credit card debt, growing up with food stamps and a banker all have in common? Bet you wouldn’t think it was part of someone’s journey into financial freedom. 

Eric from Simple.Savings.Cents story, to be exact. 


In this post, Eric shares his money journey from growing up in a household that sometimes had to use food stamps to get by, to working as a banker and having no idea how to actually money. 

After getting into about $20k of credit card debt and struggling to find a new, higher paying job, his girlfriend convinced him to attend a real estate seminar that introduced him into the idea of passive income and financial freedom. 


And Eric, despite facing some limiting beliefs, was totally sold. This seminar catapulted him into paying off his debt, fully funding an emergency fund, saving 25-35% of his monthly pay, and he’s now on track to retire in the next ten years. 


Gear up– he’s got a great story and some awesome reading recommendations. 

Watch the Interview Between Simple.Savings.Cents and Clo Bare

From Food Stamps to Working as a Banker

My upbringing was pretty standard but discussions of money and personal finance were not topics that were common at the dinner table. 

Although it was standard, we definitely had our fair share of rough patches and my mother had to collect food stamps at times just to put food on the table. 

As I moved through childhood into adulthood, I was told that you must go to school, get a degree, and get a good job.  Sound familiar?

Well, that’s exactly what I did.  I completed my undergrad in Business Administration and was recruited into a ‘Fast-Track Management’ program with PNC Bank. 

This was the summer of 2011, as the U.S. was coming out of the Great Recession.  I felt very lucky and grateful to have scored work right out of college, actually, before I even graduated.

I was “killing it”.

A Banker Who Did Not Practice What He Preached

It was a solid job and a great opportunity to learn the retail banking industry at a young age straight out of college.

I would go on to work in the retail banking industry for the next 7 years.  This was a role where we sold bank products to your everyday consumer.  Credit cards, checking/savings accounts, personal loans, mortgages, investments, etc.  

While coaching people every day on personal finance, there was one core flaw.  

I was not practicing what I was selling.

Credit Card Debt and No Emergency Fund

I was in credit card debt, had no emergency fund, and had no clue what the hell a 401k was truly for.  Now, think about that, I spent 7 years speaking to people on personal finance but had no clue what the hell I was doing with my own money.  This is an unfortunate truth for a lot of those flashy suited up banker’s you see at your local bank.  

Learn how to build an emergency fund in Clo Bare’s “The Ultimate Guide to Emergency Funds”. 


I knew a change had to be made.

I would spend the next year or so consuming and learning as much as I could about personal finance topics and not the widget-hungry banker strategies I had been taught for 7 years in corporate America.

Toxic Job Became a Catalyst for Change

After years of working in the banking industry, I had a major “Ah-Ha” moment in the summer of 2019.

I was in a toxic job position with no growth opportunities.  So like most will do, I began my job hunt and phone screenings, job interviews, etc. 

There had to be a better way and with over 10 years of skills in relationship management, sales, customer service, and an eagerness to learn new skills, I’d surely score a job with higher pay no problem.


Well, things didn’t pan out as I had envisioned.  


I, surprisingly, got denied and told “not qualified” interview after interview.  It was a super defeating feeling to know your value and know your worth.  Then, have someone tell you..


“No, we don’t find you valuable here. Next.”


To be blunt, no one or one company should ever make you feel that you are not valuable. This type of rejection pissed me off.  It was this ‘emotion’ that propelled me into taking action.  But first, I needed my lovely girlfriend to give me the following “kick-start”….

The Random Real-Estate Investing Seminar that Changed Everything

As I was going through this tough patch, my girlfriend signed me up (without consent) to some random real-estate investing seminar.  To this point, it was a topic I’ve heard about but never really did any reading or research into it.  At this time, it was a foreign topic to me.


So, it was a Saturday morning at 10AM.  The last thing I wanted to do was listen to some stranger sell me some pipe dream.  (Negative Nancy here, I know)


As I sat there, pretty much from the get-go, the speaker had me hooked.  I was being sold but I was damn okay with it! There was a lot to consider and learn but there was one thing that really piqued my interest.

The Limiting Beliefs that Held Me Back

It was an eye-opening moment where I learned that you can earn income and money other than a normal W-2 job.  To this point, I really only believed that working a job was my only way to earn money. Sure, I’ve heard about entrepreneurship and starting a a business but I had a ton of limiting beliefs:

  • “Rich people start businesses”
  • “Starting a business is risky”
  • “Sure it sounds good, but that’s not me”
  • “You will lose money”

What this seminar was teaching me was that there are countless ways to earn income if you are willing to learn how.  Now, reeling from the anger of interview rejection, I began researching diligently into ‘financial freedom’ and how to make money without a traditional 9 to 5 job.

I went home that day and searched more personal finance books around this topic of financial freedom.  I was hungry for more information into all these new ideas I just learned.  And, I did finally get a new job and ended up leaving that toxic work environment behind. 

Paving a New Path

These days, I am working on building some online businesses and doing tons of reading on real-estate investing.  Ultimately, with the end goal of providing financial freedom for my girlfriend and I within the next 10 years.

As you might have guessed by now, I find great inspiration in reading.  My goal is to read 1-2 books per month.  There is a great quote floating around out there that says, “Reading is like having a conversation with some of the greatest minds in history.”

Some of my top reads were:

what I spend in a month as a 33 year old millennial in chicago

Where I'm At Today: Net Worth and Simple Savings Cents

What I learned is saving money is damn paramount. I had to get into a habit of paying myself first before paying everyone else. 

Now, as soon as I get paid, I make a transfer to retirement and savings. It is a habit now that the very morning I receive a paycheck I am transferring into my retirement and savings accounts.  

My Current Financial Picture

Currently my financial picture looks a little something like this:

  1. Retirement & savings contributions typically average 25-35% of my monthly take home pay.
  2. I’ve grown my emergency fund to 10 months worth of expenses in 8 months, next goal is to have 1 full year of expenses.
  3. I have no debt other than a 0% loan that values under $10K.  I’ve managed to pay down nearly $20K in credit card debt over the years.  Hallelujah!
  4. My goals are to retire in the next 10 years from wage-paying work.  This doesn’t mean ‘stop working’.  But rather, to achieve true financial freedom to ‘choose work’ versus ‘having to work’.

What I Spend in a Month: Spending Report

Now, let’s talk about what I spend in a month. 

I’ve made it a point to live well below my means.  It really isn’t about how much cash you’re raking in if you spend all of it and more on junk.  In the below spending report, you’ll get a glimpse on what the categories are that break down my budget and roughly what I am spending in each. 

Chicago Rent

So my monthly housing payments comes out to 21% of my monthly take home pay.  Most gurus will tell you that you should always keep your monthly housing payment to 30% or less. 

To this, I agree. This gives you much more freedom to spend and save on things that are important to you. My girlfriend and I are actually exploring ways we can reduce this even more through Real-Estate Investing. Don’t go ‘house-broke’.

The lower, the better!

Credit Card Debt

I am right now paying down a 0% interest loan valued under $10K. 

Due to the nature of the loan, I am typically throwing as much as I can to this after hitting my savings and investing goals first.

So there really is no fixed required monthly payment. I’d highly recommend that if you have family or friends who can lend you the money, take it. Much better option than paying interest on high-interest credit cards.  

Monthly Haircuts

I typically get a haircut once a month (oh you fancy, huh?)  No, not at all my friends.  Supercuts is the move.  I pay $20 for a haircut. I used to go to Floyd’s Barbershop and pay $38.  When I had no clue about personal finance, I used to pay $70 for SAME type of haircut every month.  

  • Now = $20 per month ($240 per year)
  • Floyds = $38 per month ($456 per year)
  • Bougie Haircuts = $70 per month ($840 per year)

That’s an extra $600 per year I am saving and investing by getting a cheaper haircut that works for me.

Oh, how far we’ve come *pats self on back*.

Bills (Cell, Utilities)

Right now, I am with T-Mobile under a family plan and pay around $50 per month for my phone. I also am the proud owner of an iPhone 8. With that being said, I intend to keep that phone until the screen literally can’t function anymore. As far as utilities go, I only am responsible for electricity for our unit which breaks down to about $15 a month (split with girlfriend).

Restaurants/Eating Out

Eating out in Chicago is impossible to avoid.  There, I said it.  Clo Bare may disagree with me or understand me, we shall see.  Our food options in this city are some of the best in the country! So, when it comes to eating out, I budget for about $300-$350 per month on eating out.  This may be high for some, but this is a number I hit while also still saving 20-30% of my monthly pay in savings and retirement.

As the city started opening up more post COVID-19 quarantine, this is an area I did have a screw up and went over a bit. Nothing crazy but I went over budget by $50-$100. However, I am okay with that cause I keep a “reserve” account with an extra $100.  This account is for situations like this where I go a little overboard. Oh…and 1 more thing…

Deep dish pizza is KING. Don’t @ me NYC lovers.

Health Care

This is a pretty hefty expense monthly.  However, my employer reimburses nearly all of this expense. For the first time in my professional career, I went out and purchased healthcare on my own due to my current profession in the insurance industry.  Healthcare is EXPENSIVE.

Again, I am not really paying for this expense but the initial premium sticker shock was real. We gotta do better in America.

Side note: Here is a little pro-tip. Despite being reimbursed for this, I am always looking for ways to optimize my spending. This monthly premium is tied to a cash back credit card. So I charge it to the card and when I get my reimbursement, I pay it off immediately with my employer’s own money. 

Groceries (Just Me)

I don’t spend more than $200 per month on groceries. Right now, I shop only for myself in our household. This is an area that I will probably increase a little bit. 

What we consume is a very important expense and I do side with the gurus who state that we should pay premium prices on what we put in our body. When I was in college, I once went grocery shopping at the dollar store. Never again.


Last month, I put away about 7% of my monthly income towards a Roth IRA. 

My accounts are in self-directed funds with low expense ratios.  These are mainly ETF’s that mirror the S&P 500 and the market as a whole.

I’ve shifted most of my savings here to a Roth IRA. Clo Bare has a great article on this topic of various IRA’s.  To me, our country is spending a ton of money and that money has to come from somewhere. 

With the Roth IRA, I’ll take the tax hit up front and enjoy tax-free withdrawals down the road when the government decides to collect for all this excess spending.


For October, (when I sent in my guest post) I contributed 22% of my monthly take-home pay to my savings account. This is a liquid fund I hold with Marcus. With the recent uncertainty in the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve decided to really jack up the savings into my emergency fund. As we move through the year and through the pandemic, I may begin to shift more of these funds into my investments.

Why I Created Simple Savings Cents

Now that have a handle on my money, I have a huge passion for teaching others what I had to learn the hard way. In March 2020, I created “Simple.Savings.Cents”, a financial education platform. I was sick and tired of selling products to people to meet widgets and sales versus what was actually improving someone’s financial well-being.  

One thing about me is that I am passionate about helping others. I believe we all have something valuable to share with the world and we should look to inspire and help others succeed. For me, coming from the retail banking industry, I feel I have a duty to educate society on advancing themselves, financially. To help others learn from the mistakes and screw ups I made. To do what your ‘local bankers’ should be doing.

Just Get Started

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my story and I hope you find some motivation and inspiration to tackle your own financial goals. We all have to start somewhere. Sure some may be further ahead than you are but the most important step you can take is to start. Simply get started.

About Eric from Simple Savings Cents

Eric writes to make personal finance simple over at  You can also find him posting daily motivation and inspiration on Instagram @simplesavingscents

“Simple Finance for Easier Living”

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what I spend in a month as a 33 year old millennial in chicago

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