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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance”

The Money Diaries: The Slightly Lovedrunk, Bar Hopping New Yorker

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Today is another post in the Money Diaries series, which is based off New York Magazine’s Sex Diaries. We’ve collected stories from real people about their spending habits over seven days, anonymized them, and posted them here.

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Today’s post is by a 28-year old woman who’s keeping an eye on her account balance while living up the nightlife in New York City.

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DAY ONE

10:15 a.m: Decide to forgo breakfast this morning as part of a weight- and finance-maintenance plan. Instead I select a cup of company-subsidized Lipton hot tea from the kitchen.
1 p.m: Intended to hit the street cart for lunch today, but my boss’ boss comes over to my cube and wants to go to a deli downstairs. I have a review coming up, and I suppose I need all the brown-nosing points I can get. I get a buffet assortment of three chicken salads, green beans, and other random greens. Grand total: $7.75. I sigh.
3:30: Work BFF comes over to my cube and says she wants to go get some froyo. I can’t resist the lure of cold, whipped ice-sugar, so I shell out $2.75 for a small double-dutch chocolate in a cup.
7 p.m: Date at a Midtown lounge with a former lawyer.
7:45 p.m: Get so tired of trying to sell myself as a competent, beautiful, and Fun (with a capital F!) woman that I order a second Ketel One and tonic to his one rum and Coke.
8 p.m: Decide he looks a little like Erik Estrada and doesn’t seem terribly focused, even though he’s a nice guy. He picks up the tab, which is also nice.
8:05 p.m: Start missing my ex-boyfriend. A lot.
8:20 p.m: Hug my date goodbye and thank him.
8:30 p.m: Wander down 55th Street depressed as hell. Decide there is only one cure for my heartache and enter a karaoke bar perched on the top floor of a Japanese restaurant.
9:45 p.m: Two $5 Kirin Lights and four $1.50 song cards later, I notice I’m getting teary as the woman sitting beside me sings Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s definitely time to go home.
10 p.m: I convince myself I’m too sad and buzzed to take the subway, so I blow $10.50 on a cab ride.
10:15 p.m: A bit irritated with myself for spending so pointlessly this evening, I try and make up the difference by eating leftover kung pao chicken takeout from my fridge instead of ordering dinner.

DAY TWO

9:45 a.m: WebMD.com has convinced me that I have strep throat, so I make a pit stop at my doctor’s office on the way in to work. Copay: $20. He writes me two prescriptions: One for an antibiotic and one for Allegra, even though I don’t have allergies.
11:45 a.m: The drugstore pharmacist tells me it’ll be $10 for the antibiotics and $35 for the Allegra. I decline the Allegra, because I think I have a few tablets of Claritin in my desk drawer. Pharmacist seems annoyed at my frugality.
1:35 p.m: Nothing will stop me from going to the gyro cart today. I pick up a $4 lamb-stuffed pita and a 75-cent Diet Coke and consider lunch a financial success.
2:40 p.m: I am terrified of logging in to my bank’s website and viewing my checking-account balance, but I do anyway. Because I live in New York City and because I pay half of my monthly salary to live alone in a studio apartment, I really shouldn’t spend more than $63.85 until next month.
2:46 p.m: I think hard. I SHOULD have a $250 check for a freelance article I wrote in March coming in the mail soon. But until it comes through, I need to seriously cut back.
4:59 p.m:
Like any good, cliche New Yorker, I see a therapist every week, and today I had my first appointment with a psychiatrist about, ahem, chemically stabilizing my moods. Copay: $20.
6:45 p.m: I grab a slice before going out. I do a double-take as I pay: My pizza place raised its prices from $2.75 for a slice of one-topping pizza to $3. This makes me infinitely sad for some reason.
7:30 p.m: A coworker of mine won a free keg of beer from a shoddy Irish pub. I somehow get away with drinking for several hours and paying only a dollar for a tip.
12:30 a.m: As I stumble back to my apartment, a cute former coworker of mine texts me that he wishes he were single…because of me. It’s a damn shame, because I happen to know for a fact that this guy is fiscally responsible, even though he doesn’t make a ton of money.

DAY THREE

10:30 a.m: Oh, holy God, I am so hung over that it feels like I’ve eaten a ball of yarn. I come up with 71 cents for a whole-wheat bagel with butter on it, hoping that it will somehow soak up the excess alcohol in my stomach. Ow.
1 p.m: Lunch at a Midtown diner with a friend. We switch off on paying the check each time we eat together, so today my grilled cheese was free. Nice.
3:28 p.m: Somehow I’ve gotten a reputation at work for being the woman who always has quarters for the chocolate-covered-almond machine. I give one to my boss and one to the features editor. I’m trying to make nice with the editor so he’ll give me some writing assignments. Is it wrong to try and buy respect? And with quarters, at that?
4 p.m: I pick up a prescription at Duane Reade, and because my doc gave me a $35 promotional coupon for the medication, it’s totally free. That has never happened to me in my entire life.
7:15 p.m: I grab a $3 slice before yet another date that I’m dreading.
9 p.m: Date at an Upper East Side lounge with a guy who works in finance. He tells me he works for a private equity fund and explains it to me. I still don’t totally understand what that is, but it’s nice to know he’s good with numbers. He also picks up the check, which is very nice.
1:15 a.m: My ex-boyfriend texts me and says he misses me. We text each other until 2.

DAY FOUR

10:30 a.m: I need coffee. No free tea today – only java will do. I spend $3.69 on a small black coffee and yogurt/granola parfait at a deli downstairs from my office.
2 p.m: Half-day Friday! I decide to go to lunch with my boss and my work BFF. I shell out $10 for a delicious pork curry over ramen noodles.
5:45 p.m:
I am running on barely any sleep (had a hard time falling asleep last night after trading texts with the ex), so I grab two Red Bulls from the deli. Those things are expensive. Grand total: $5.
7:30 p.m:
I’m running around my apartment in a Red Bull-fueled frenzy getting ready for dinner at a steakhouse with said ex-boyfriend. We haven’t spoken or seen each other in two weeks – a break that was my idea. I certainly don’t want to walk all the way to the subway in three-and-a-half-inch heels, so I blow a cool $20 on a cab way down to the Meatpacking District.
10 p.m: Steaks were had, a wine bottle was uncorked, after-dinner drinks were consumed and a relationship was rekindled. My no-longer-ex-boyfriend picks up the three-digit check. I feel spoiled, grateful, and incredulous at the same time.
12 p.m: After dinner, boyfriend and I grab a couple of beers at a Greenwich Village haunt. I figure that I should pay for at least something tonight, so I spend $13 on our tab, which consisted of a Pilsner Urquell and a Bud Light.
12:30 p.m: Boyfriend pays for the cab home.

DAY FIVE

9:15 a.m: Time to hit the Jersey shore for a bit of beach time with three of my pals. Price for a PATH train ride to Jersey: $1.75
10:15 a.m: I’m so insanely tired that I buy a Diet Coke. I pick up a Poland Spring as an afterthought, as it’s probably not good to subsist solely on Diet Coke, Red Bull, and booze. Total: $2.50
3 p.m: Ahhhh, sun. We’re all hungry, so I grab a hot dog and a frozen Coke for $6.
5:15 p.m: We pile into the car and hit a seafood restaurant that looks out onto the water. I have a delicious meal of oysters, a cod sandwich, and chips. And a pina colada and a Corona, of course. We split the check four ways. My portion is $29.88.
7 p.m: We each pitch in $5 for gas money.
9:30 p.m: Hit up an Irish pub near Herald Square. I drink two Harp drafts and half a Bud Light, which costs me $20.
10:30 p.m: Boyfriend shows up and whisks me back uptown to drop my things off, and then to his ‘hood in Brooklyn. He pays for the cab rides.
12:30 a.m: We hit a taco joint for tacos, nachos, and one margarita each. I contribute $10 to the cause.
2 a.m: Cab back to boyfriend’s apartment. I throw in $5.
2:30 a.m: Boyfriend mentions offhand that the accountant he recommended for me this past tax season didn’t get my payment, even though he said they invoiced me. I get really flustered, because I’m normally so good at paying all of my bills on time. Boyfriend sweetly offers to pay for it, and I immediately say no. You can’t put a price on pride, y’all.

DAY SIX

1 p.m: Free concert at McCarren Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! I contribute $5 for the cab ride there and realize I have zero cash left. I hold our place in line while boyfriend runs out for giant iced lattes and turkey sandwiches, which he pays for.
3 p.m: We’re standing in the rain with no umbrellas, still waiting for doors to open. I guess nothing really comes free.
4 p.m: Show is awesome, and the free people-watching is even better.
5:30 p.m: Boyfriend grabs us burgers, a bag of chips, and two Bud Lights. I’m embarrassed that I have no cash.
7:15 p.m: Boyfriend and I stop by a fancy cheese store for crackers, pate, and brie for tonight.
8:30 p.m:
I’m cleaning the apartment for my two friends who are coming later, while the boyfriend offers to run to the grocery store for fruit, chips, and delicious French onion dip. He picks up the tab for it all, and I continue to feel bad that he’s paying for so much.

DAY SEVEN

10 a.m: I hit my bank’s ATM on my way to work and take out $100. I have $387.28 left in my checking account. That’s not as bad as I thought, but it has to last me another 17 days, and that includes two upcoming therapy sessions. I’m really starting to need those two freelance checks I’m owed. I really, really do not want to dip into my savings account for emergency cash.
1:45 p.m: I have GOT to eat something green and fresh after inhaling junk for the past few days, so I go with three of my coworkers to a deli around the corner and hit up the salad bar. Total comes to $6.
2:30: I recently got an ominous-sounding letter from my insurance provider saying that a procedure from my last vision checkup isn’t covered. With visions of $500 invoices dancing in my head, I call the doctor’s office to ask what the letter means. The nice receptionist tells me that the doctor chose to just write that procedure off rather than charging me for it. I fall all over myself thanking her.
2:58 p.m: I see that my gym has deducted $21.40 from my checking account for monthly dues. Perhaps I should consider actually going to the gym in order to get my money’s worth.
7:30 p.m: Slice of pizza, $3.
8:30 p.m: Boyfriend invites me over. We work separately, in silence, on different things: he on his taxes and me on my freelance assignment. We both complete our tasks.
10:30 p.m: Against our better Monday-night judgment, we grab a couple of drinks. My round of delicious Victory Hop Wallop draft beer costs $14. I look at him. Victory, indeed.

In sum: $347.11 spent, $71 of which was on booze; 8 unnecessary cab rides; 7 instances of alcoholic behavior; 6 dates; 2 financial freakouts; 1 CHiPs reference; 0 freelance checks received via mail.

Update: The anonymous poster, “Jane,” leaves a comment below.

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To be featured anonymously in a future Money Diary, click here.

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67 Comments

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  1. Was that a 28 year old or an 18 year old?

  2. Interesting reading but it is almost impossible to empathize with her situation. She has a lot of needless spending going on. She doesn’t seem to be willing to make any sacrifices to save, but complains that she has no money and that New York is expensive. There are plenty of people out there doing more with what she has — without a boyfriend’s subsidies.

  3. In sum: $347.11 spent, $71 of which was on booze; 8 unnecessary cab rides; 7 instances of alcoholic behavior; 6 dates; 2 financial freakouts; 1 CHiPs reference; 0 freelance checks received via mail.

    Identification is the first part of correction. It will do you good to trend your expenses (use mint.com or something) and then see which area you need to cut down on and find ways to do it.

  4. Wow indeed. I agree with HB’s comment.

  5. Geez…she’s financially and socially irresponsible. I can’t even follow this post – she’s talking about going on dates, yet then begins mentioning a boyfriend, all the while carrying on a text-affair with an ex? And don’t even get me started on the financials.

    It’s hard to empathize with someone who says “I really shouldn’t spend more than $63.85 until next month” then goes on to spend her own and other people’s money with utter lack of control. This is just one example of how the citizens of our country can’t manage money.

    Grow up. You’re not cute anymore.

  6. sounds like the kind of girl i always end up with on blind dates.

    as a 28 year old alcoholic barfly/native new yorker, even i have trouble sympathizing.

  7. I think it’s interesting to note that her spending goes up exponentially when she’s with her ex-boyfriend.

    Also, I’m not sure that cheap junk food is the way to save on money. Eating from the lunch cart is a success? I pack oatmeal w/ dried fruit & flax for breakfast ($1.20 per serving over 2 business weeks), drink company coffee, bring a healthy lunch, and pack small snacks. Eating the way she is, is not cheaper or healthy.

    There’s also a correlation to emotional spending – a cab ride, karaoke bar, gyro. Why not try to find a non-spending comfort/reward, like a hot bath, 30 minutes bad TV or curling up with a good book? It will be far more rewarding & soothing.

  8. You guys are pretty rough. This behavior is very common amongst 20-somethings. At least this girl has the courage to write down her experiences and hopefully learn something from them.

    Good for her & thanks for a very interesting post.

  9. Yeah, totally agree with the comments. What ever happened to buying a 12-pack of Sam Adams or some microbrew at the start of the week and boozing it up at home in privacy? Probably costs, what, $20 for the week?

    Some call it alcoholism, I call it financial responsibility.

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