Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We’re asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.
Today: an unemployed person in NYC who spends some of her money this week on a Popeyes chicken sandwich.
Location: New York, NY
Net Worth: $53,291 ($10,621.17 in my checking account, $17,993.21 in a brokerage account, $10,138.47 in an HYSA, $14,538.19 in my retirement accounts).
Paycheck Amount (weekly): $441 unemployment check.
Rent: $1,500 for the living room in a one-bedroom apartment. I live with one roommate.
Patreon: $10 to support an artist friend.
Health Insurance: on my parents’ plan.
Cell Phone: on my aunt’s plan.
Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Yes. Both of my parents have college degrees and many family members have advanced degrees. I know a few people who make six figures without a college degree but I do not have the skillset and discipline to go that route. I earned a bachelor’s degree at a public university on a full-ride scholarship. My parents paid for any expenses that weren’t covered by the scholarship. For spending money, I saved up what I got from internships.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My parents really emphasized the narrative that they came to the US as refugees with nothing and worked their way up. They believed in saving money and shunning American consumerism, to the point where it seemed like they were play-acting as poor even though they had achieved financial success. This behavior may have come from a fear of losing everything again and how easy it is to fall through the cracks in this country. My dad set up a credit card for me at the age of 4 so I could build credit. My parents invested in stocks and warned me that investments are risky.
What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was working in a research lab at a local university to improve my college applications and to see if I wanted to do a PhD. I got the position through applying to a summer program for high school students. I didn’t really need the money but it was nice to have.
Did you worry about money growing up?
I never heard my parents worry about paying the bills, except when my dad lost his job during the 2008 recession. My mom made a little money as a caretaker but we were essentially a single-income household. My dad owns our house and we were never short on toys and music lessons. We usually took a vacation once a year to see family.
Do you worry about money now?
I don’t really budget. Due to my upbringing, sometimes I agonize about saving an extra five dollars but I don’t bat an eye at spending large sums on rent. However, New York City is expensive and there is always a possibility that I run out of money before I get a job.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I became financially responsible for myself once I graduated college at age 21. I have informally loaned about $14,400 to friends, which I could call on if I need to. I could always move back in with my family for food and shelter.
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents give me money for my birthday or holidays, averaging $5,000/year.
8:30 a.m. — I fling myself out of bed and sprint to the bathroom to wake myself up. I don’t usually get up this early but my boyfriend, H., set an alarm so we could make it to a fusion breakfast burrito pop-up in Brooklyn. After getting dressed, we Citi Bike over to the pop-up.
9:30 a.m. — As we wait in line, I am reminded of why I left Brooklyn for Manhattan. The stark contrast between the people waiting an hour for a $20 burrito and the longtime residents of the neighborhood makes me uneasy. H. pays for the Citi Bikes and the burritos. The burrito is good but quite salty.
11 a.m. — H. and I bike over to our friend’s apartment to pick up some acoustic panels and video games he’s giving away. I take the subway home and lie down for a bit. There are few things in life I love more than being horizontal. Then I listen to some dance music to hype myself up for a poker tournament today. $2.75
1:30 p.m. — I take the subway to the tournament. I make sure to post an Instagram selfie in my $600 sunglasses. $2.75
2 p.m. — I give the host $30 to cover drinks and the buy-in. I’ve lost hundreds of dollars since I learned to play poker five months ago. I’m surprised to end up in the final table but ultimately I do not cash out. $30
7:30 p.m. — After the tournament, many of us are exhausted and brave the rain to get poke bowls nearby. It’s not my first choice since East Coast poke isn’t that great. Unluckily, I forgot my umbrella and rain boots at home. $11.38
8:30 p.m. — On my way to a housewarming, I pick up a bottle of cabernet sauvignon which will pair well with the smoked meats they’re making. I catch up with some friends and spot some Twitter microcelebrities. An annoying girl I know shows up at the party. I think I dislike her because she reminds me too much of myself. $15.24
11 p.m. — I get a slice of smoked brisket but miss the pork ribs. I talk to a guy who runs a fruit importing business and he gives us a remarkably sweet passion fruit from the fridge.
12 a.m. — I notice a rare appliance in the kitchen and send a picture to H. He replies that it’s $7,000. Woah.
1 a.m. — One of the best parts of living in Manhattan is that there are enough people on the streets to walk around safely at night. I walk home and get ready to sleep.
Daily Total: $62.12
10 a.m. — I lie in bed and catch up on social media. I follow an Instagram account that promotes free stuff around the city. I see that a bunch of brands are giving away ice cream today.
2 p.m. — I put on a pair of rain boots and walk over to get a free ice cream bar. I’ve never had real Dippin’ Dots before so I also head to their shop. Tragically, they ran out of free ice cream. I sit down in a Taco Bell and eat my ice cream bar while gazing at the rain outside. On my walk home, I grab a free electrolyte drink from another brand activation. I put it in the fridge for a hot day.
3 p.m. — I drink a meal replacement shake and chat with my friends online. I am very lazy so meal replacement shakes often happen when I can’t be bothered to cook.
4:30 p.m. — I walk to my friend’s place to teach her piano. We’ve been doing lessons for several weeks and she has been a quick learner. In exchange, she cooks dinner for us. I get to noodle on the piano for a bit since I don’t have one at home. I’m waiting for someone on Buy Nothing to give away an electric keyboard one day.
6 p.m. — My friend makes delicious mapo tofu. While we eat, she asks me for advice on her love life and I try to guide her away from making rash decisions. I’m honored that she trusts me with very personal stories.
9 p.m. — I head home, get ready for bed and go to sleep.
Daily Total: $0
10 a.m. — I wake up to texts from our coworking group chat. Our usual spot is shutting down so we are scouting out free coworking spaces.
11 a.m. — I walk over to check out a bare-bones coworking space but it’s closed for some reason. I go back home, annoyed at whoever is running the space. I don’t really do work at coworking spaces. I am just looking for a place to meet new people, hang out with friends during the day and play on my laptop outside my home.
12 p.m. — I eat week-old dim sum leftovers with broccoli and pasta for lunch. One day, I want to take a class to learn to cook properly.
2 p.m. — I get an email about a free movie screening for next week. I quickly send the link to my friends and we manage to RSVP before the seats fill up.
3 p.m. — I apply to a few jobs. There are way too many shady third-party recruiting agencies posting on job boards. I spend most of my time filtering those out.
5 p.m. — I feel tired after scouring job boards and I take a nap.
8 p.m. — When I wake up, it’s dark outside and I’m disoriented. I check my phone. My friend, T., has texted, asking me to get dinner. We meet at a nearby restaurant and get fusion burritos. We make plans to try a hyped Vietnamese restaurant this weekend. $8
10 p.m. — We walk around for a bit and then I go home. I pay the deposit for a reservation at the Vietnamese restaurant. It’s pretty expensive — I hope it’s good. I spend the rest of the night scrolling on my phone. $41.20
Daily Total: $49.20
11 a.m. — I’m in the mood to clean so I close some browser tabs that I have had open for three years. The pages give me a glimpse into my state of mind back then. After I close a tab of volunteer opportunities, I feel bad about not volunteering and managing my free time better.
1 p.m. — I have a meal replacement shake mixed with a rotting banana for lunch. The taste is nauseating but I try not to let food go to waste.
2 p.m. — I catch up on social media and listen to baroque music. I love listening to music that transports me to a different time and place. I make plans with a group to go to a Brooklyn loft party and an underground rave.
6 p.m. — I get tired from scrolling through social media and I take a nap. I wonder how much screens are damaging my eyes.
8 p.m. — I am running late to meet my friends for board games. I hate having to spend money on restaurant food because of my poor planning but I am hungry. I grab a Popeyes chicken sandwich then walk to the board game café. $5.98
8:30 p.m. — I get to the board game café. I show my old student ID to the cashier for a discount and pay the $8 entrance fee. We manage to play two games before they close. $8
11 p.m. — We walk around to different late-night food spots. I’m not in the mood to eat anything.
1 a.m. — My friend doesn’t want to go home so I suggest heading to a club. She’s not feeling it so I head home and send some banger memes to my buddies before bedtime.
Daily Total: $13.98
11 a.m. — I catch up on what happened on social media overnight. I don’t dare to look at my screen time reports.
12 p.m. — I wash the dishes and cook quinoa and green lentils. A friend invites me to a group dinner tonight but I say no because I should go out to eat less.
2 p.m. — I eat lunch and think about cleaning my room. Instead I clean up more browser tabs.
5 p.m. — I shower, then take the subway to an art gallery for a collage-making event I heard about on Instagram. The gallery is small and everyone is crowded around one table. Everyone seems to know each other and I don’t try to talk to anyone. I thought it would be a relaxing activity but I feel like I don’t have enough space to make a thoughtful piece. $2.75
8 p.m. — I go to Brooklyn to meet H. for a gathering at someone’s apartment. The apartment has stunning views of the skyline. I chat with some friends and eat tacos. I spend some time enjoying the view with H., then head home on the subway. $5.50
12 a.m. — I buy four tickets to see Barbie this weekend. $70
Daily Total: $78.25
9 a.m. — The sound of construction outside my window wakes me up. Living next to a busy street is the price I pay for an affordable room in a central location. I pick up my phone and catch up on group chats in bed. I am fascinated by an Instagram account of a Taiwanese man who has a pet deer.
10 a.m. — I eat a banana for breakfast. I read about deer antler development and try to find papers to validate my hypothesis on why some people feel tense in the neck and jaw after taking LSD. The research doesn’t seem to support my hypothesis. I’m not cut out for academia.
2 p.m. — I fry up a scallion pancake and broccoli for lunch, then have a nectarine for dessert. I read about what a “girl dinner” is.
3 p.m. — I pay the remaining balance on the beach house rental I got for a group of my friends for the last week of summer. I text everyone to send me their share. $2,200
4 p.m. — I go to a pop-up vendor fair to support my friend who’s DJing. I am easily the least cool person there. One of the hosts of the event is very sweet and introduces me to her friends. I try my best to make conversation but I’m an introvert and they drift off. $2.75
5 p.m. — While I wait for more of my friends to show up, I donate $2 to the DJs. $2
7 p.m. — I need a drink to cool off so I get a tasty passion fruit juice from a Dominican place nearby. My friends finally arrive and we dance. I get a few free stickers from the vendors. $3.24
10 p.m. — My friends are chatting and smoking just outside the fair. A new friend offers me some whiskey from her flask and I decline. People are moving on to the next party so I leave and take the subway home. $2.75
11 p.m. — I hop into bed and start scrolling on my phone and replying to messages. Four hours later, I go to sleep.
Daily Total: $2,210.74
10 a.m. — I wake up and check social media.
12 p.m. — I eat some quinoa then head out to get boba with friends. I get a green tea with sweet foam on top. We take our drinks to a park and talk about our plans for the weekend. On the way back, I stop by a new store with lots of cute Sanrio merch. I can’t justify buying anything and I don’t have room at home anyway. $6.53
4 p.m. — At Trader Joe’s, I pick up drinks for the parties this weekend, eggs, plant-based milk, veggies and fruits. I lug the groceries home and check my local Facebook Buy Nothing. A generous person left 30 pounds of Levain cookies in a community fridge so I walk over and get a five-pound bag. $33.28
6 p.m. — I make spinach and scrambled eggs for dinner and have a Levain cookie for dessert. I remember why I dislike these cookies: They’re so rich that I can’t have more than half.
9 p.m. — I put water, some hard cider and the cookies in my bag. My friend and I head to our first party of the night in Brooklyn. The crowd is a bit older than us and I end up only talking to people I already know. I share some cookies with friends. $2.75
11 p.m. — Our group takes the subway to a rave. The venue is very Berlin. The DJs can’t really mix but I enjoy dancing to the nostalgic 2000s and 2010s hits. A digital nomad white guy tries to tell us about his very cheap plot of land in Ecuador; we don’t really want to hear about his micro-colonialism. Some ravers set off fireworks. $2.75
2 a.m. — A resident of a nearby building screams that he’s going to call the cops. We take that as our cue to go home. A new friend is nice enough to drive us back to Manhattan. I definitely owe him and it’s always a treat to see the city on a night drive.
4 a.m. — Still high off the energy of the rave, I scroll through my phone in bed. Eventually I fall asleep as the sun rises.
Daily Total: $45.31
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior. Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual’s experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Do you have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Submit it with us here.
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