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

October 16th, 2008 - 66 Comments

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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66 Comments

 

Comments

  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.

  10. I agree with Colin, it does take a lot of courage to write it all down for everyone to scrutinize….as long as she can learn from it. It really is amazing how obvious it is to see some ways to improve, but so difficult to implement…if indeed, this is very common behavior.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel for the boyfriend. Sounds like he’s buying her attention. He’s most likely a poor chump she’s using for a while and will break up with again as the mood strikes her….or when he wises up and stops paying for her.

  11. Agree with Colin — I know many, many people like this. Rarely are they “bad people.” It’s too easy to paint people with a broad brush, especially via a blog comment.

    What 1-2 things would you suggest she do to hit her goals?

  12. She spent ~$350 over the course of a week including doctors visits, food and fun. It looks like she doesn’t make large investments (TV’s, cars, etc.) and she works freelance on the side – extra income. Given a decent income at her main job she is keeping herself moderately under control – and while in her youth. She has ~$390 to last her 17 days with a probable $250 coming in. That puts her right about on budget given a slight cut in expenses. (640 total as opposed to 700, a $60 shortage).

    Although she didn’t mention saving money she mentioned a savings (and potentially dipping into it) – so who knows if she left that out of the article – and who said she was asking for sympathy and not just expressing her thoughts? Clearly, an artsy, emotional and open girl (see dates, bf references, BFF references, feelings imbued in writing and the fact that she’s a journalist). She has a more carefree style and personality than what looks to be the hard noses that post responses her on Ramit’s site (great site btw!) – see prior posts. Don’t get me wrong, all of you are most likely on a better 20 year savings path/plan, but that’s your style, not hers, and that’s ok. Her habits aren’t all bad, granted she does drink a bit, as well as not watch her finances closely (surprised to see more money in her account) and could curb that but she also seems to get by even through her bad habits.

    All in all, I’d say she has room for improvement, but she’s not doing entirely bad for herself either.

  13. This girl needs to grow up. 28 and still playing high school games with guys. The money part is even more ridiculous. Being almost 30 is old enough to know better.

  14. I don’t understand why the responses are so harsh on this one . . . she never spent a penny she did not have, and as far as we can tell from this has savings and does not use credit cards. The comments act as though one should never go out to eat or out for drinks with friends. She made some unhealthy eating choices for sure but didn’t do anything lavish – took the train out to the beach, got reasonably priced drinks and only spent money she had.

  15. The criticisms sound harsh because she is TWENTY EIGHT YEARS OLD. The behavior seems a bit immature for someone who is 28. If she was 22, I’d completely understand. But 28?

  16. Two interesting things to note:

    1. How much her spending is tied to her negative emotional state, whether she’s upset, nervous, etc. We all do this to some degree, but it’s hard to fix, especially in the moment.

    2. I also feel bad for the guy, but I feel like it’s common (although maybe not to this extent). I know many guys spend lots of $ on their girlfriends because they feel the need to be the provider, which obviously girls will take advantage of. But they both want it so it’s kind of a sad win-win situation.

  17. Wow, it seems like this girl eats out for every single meal… no wonder she is short on cash. Maybe if she could start packing some breakfasts and lunches she wouldn’t have to feel so bad about a night out with friends or be too broke to buy some cheese.

    What I don’t like about these posts is that almost all of them just pay lip service to the idea of saving money, but they don’t actually DO anything to make that idea reality. She had company tea one day and another day her lunch was free (because she’d paid twice as much previously). Wow…

  18. The first thing she should do is starting keeping track of her money using a checkbook. I think both times she wanted to know how much she had she checked it at an ATM, which can get you in trouble if you forget about an outstanding check or upcoming ACH payment.

    The other thing I would do is I would focus on expanding my freelance opportunities to earn extra cash. I know it’s important to relax, go out with friends, etc, but it seems like she’s got a good amount of free time outside of her regular working hours that she could spend cranking out articles or tracking down opportunities. I’d also make sure I get paid ASAP for these things. Not sure how long she’s been waiting for the $250, but during 7 days I probably would have called them at least twice to see what the hold up was.

    She might also want to consider a little bigger place but with adding a roommate. It might actually end up being cheaper.

    After I did those things, then I’d worry more about cutting costs, but honestly if she can bump up the freelance work and make it a point to save every other freelance payment, then I think she’d be fine. Doesn’t really matter to me what she does with the money as long as she’s got enough to fall back on in an emergency and eventually retire with. If she wants to drink her weight over the course of a week, more power to her.

  19. Like the others mentioned… she seems to have an emotional attachment to spending money. As in, when she is in a bad mood or feeling upset, she spends money as a “reward” to try and make her feel better. That is a financial no-no. I went through a similar, though much smaller, episode a couple years back and it really needs to go away. If the author is reading these comments, I really hope that she brings up this issue with her therapist.

    I’ve seen worse… if she is within budget, that’s great. The problem I see, and I think the other readers are seeing, is that she complains and worries of being broke yet continues to spend spend spend in situations that don’t need spending.

    I would love to hear what her take is on the situation after she looks over her diary. Is she willing to make changes?

  20. You has a fulfilled life, I need to hang with her

  21. As far as getting paid for her freelance work, I think I can speak to that. As a freelancer in the publishing industry (not a writer, though), I’ve noticed that over the past couple of years, the time it takes my clients to pay me has doubled (30 days used to be average, but now it’s 60 or more). With any market downturn, publishing gets hit pretty quickly, so her late freelance fees are probably way out of her control. And enforcing a penalty for late fees is near impossible for a freelancer.

    On another note, the reason I keep reading these money diaries is that I inevitably identify with something the diarist is going through (in this case emotional spending: having a good time, want it to last, spend; having a horrible time, want to feel better, spend). The judgmental comments are not only unhelpful, but also, more likely than not, something the authors have already beaten themselves up for already. They’re submitting these diaries for constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, not a public flaying.

  22. Wow. One more reason not to live in New York. I know there are lots of things to do there, and people can come up with tons of reasons to go there, but when you have to live paycheck to paycheck just to survive, it’s just not worth it. I am not sure what she is working toward, but it doesn’t seem that she has some grand aspirations of a high 6 figure income anytime soon. I could be wrong.

    Of course, she spent as much in one week (NOT counting what her boyfriend spent) as I spend in an entire frivolous month on myself (lunch, going out ,etc.). Yes, I live in Pittsburgh, so the prices are a lot lower, but so are the wages paid. I’m with the others about having a lack of empathy. She’s approaching 30 and still behaving like an early 20s bar hopping girl.

    There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but there was a lot of extra spending going on. And the beer prices? Buy it from the distributor and drink it at home. I like to socialize, but I can socialize over water and drink with friends in the comfort of my own place. Also, it costs to sing karaoke? Dear lord, if they start charging around here, that will be the end of my karaoke singing days.

    Aside from her lack of spending control which probably come from the issues she is seeing a therapist for (nobody goes just because everyone else does, that is truly foolish), New York City is a prime example of what is wrong with our country. We allow businesses to create the fad or the trends and then pony up whatever exorbitant prices they wish to charge us.

    It’s time that people started keeping their money in their wallet when faced with an outrageous price. All of the beer she drank could be purchased at bars here for $4 or less per draft. There was nothing special about any of them. Perhaps the wholesale price is higher in NYC, but it’s not so much higher as to be worth $14 a draft. There had better be someone spoon feeding me my beer and wiping my chin for that price.

    I’m rambling now. Great post. Looking forward to the next one.

  23. Yup. Yup. The commenters are waaaay to harsh on our diary friend. Please excuse her from your boring non-money spending lives. I can’t imagine if she were funding vacations with her credit cards (like some of my fiends) or flirting with random guys to get her alcoholic satisfaction at the pub.

    Please remember why we have money… to spend… to live. The point is to have money for spending (not hoard it). If you want to hoard it figure out how to make more. Don’t penny pinch on everything. Please realize there’s another token here, and that’s we despise cheap people just as much as the frivolous.

    I also noticed she didn’t pay any bills that week. I was only imagining my weekly diary if you added in groceries, bills, credit debt etc. I must be a really bad person.

    As for tips. Go to the grocery. Plan brown bag dinner (instead of that pizza slice thing). The pizza’s probably gross too. Get a bike or something, maybe that would be better than cabs and subways (and better for your health). Brew your Joe at home. It’s a bit better and much cheaper that way. After all that, you won’t have as much guilt about the extras on the weekend.

  24. Hi, guys. This is my diary. I want to appreciate all of the helpful suggestions you all have given me. I’m grateful especially for Bryce’s comment, as I think that sums up my situation very well. I’m actually quite amused by some of you calling me “immature,” because most people I know say I’m one of the most mature people they’ve met for my age. I don’t fancy myself “cute.” I’ve gotten to where I am (all the way from the Midwest) due to a lot of hard work and perseverance. Also, readers, I am a “woman,” not a “girl.” Even if you don’t approve of my behavior.

    Granted, I was going through a crazy emotional week because half of the time I was on a break from my boyfriend (sorry if I wasn’t clear — the “ex” I mentioned is my current boyfriend: same person), but by no means am I “using” him. I love him very much. We’re still together, and have been on and off for a year. The expensive dinner he paid for was a successful attempt to win me back (what he said during the dinner was more important than its monetary value). He happens to make WAY more money than I do, which leads to him paying for me more often than not. I do admit, though, that his expensive tastes cause me to spend more than I should sometimes. We cook a lot more often now, mostly at my behest.

    Just to clarify my own situation: I have a high-interest-bearing emergency fund/savings account and a 401(k), both of which I contribute to with each paycheck. Those contributions all add up to about 11 percent (maybe a little more) of my income. I have no debt. Yep, I need to quit drinking so much. And, yep, I need to start eating healthier. (That’s one thing I learned by reading the comments!) And, of course, I need to curb my frivolous spending.

    I think the checkbook suggestion is the one that would most help me. I’m going to listen to my dad’s advice from 10 years ago and try that. I’ve also ramped up my freelance work, which is another thing some commenters mentioned; I’m doing consistent side work now and pitching lots of publications for extra cash. And that’s a great point that some of you made about emotional times leading to unnecessary spending. I’m going to make a point of breathing and refocusing and then (inexpensively!) picking up a book or quietly watching last week’s episode of “Mad Men” for the third time.

    Another thing that some of you brought up: New York is an insanely expensive place to live. And it’s an insanely social place to live (age 30 is the new 20, etc.). In other cities, it’s much more normal to meet at a friend’s place for beer, but when one of your friends lives on the Upper East Side, one lives in Jersey, and one lives in Brooklyn, it’s much easier to congregate at one bar. Sometimes the best you can do is not order the $19 specialty pomegranate martini.

    And, for anyone who’s curious, the medication I was prescribed is working out so well for me that I do much less reckless drinking and spending (and crying, btw). If any of you are feeling emotionally out of control, I highly recommend getting help for your problems. It’s worth the extra money.

  25. Sorry — I meant, “I appreciate all of the helpful suggestions…” Also, Ramit: I LOVE the illustration you picked for my diary. So fun.

  26. GREAT response comment (I probably would’ve flipped out at some people and called them names that rhymed with ‘bouchedags’) – good luck with all of that, Jane.

  27. God I love the comments on this blog.

  28. Initially her situation as a single girl trying to keep up in NY by starvation & budgeting made me say, Great girl! I had to stop reading cuz it was starting to make me ill how chasing one’s social life made her spend irreponsibly. As a New Yorker, I can relate. But shopping for groceries & cooking at home does wonders. So does not running around town trying to keep up with friends, which is actually not creating one’s own life. But I wish you the best with your boyfriend, & as a writer. It’s more than planning for $, planning on creating your own identity helps shirk money-blowing temptations.

  29. I suddenly feel much better about myself.

  30. seriously?? she barely spends any money compared to most people in NY? I would be interested to know her salary though since that puts in all in perspective.

    When i lived there in my 20s, i spent way more on cabs, dinners and drinks not mention clothing and beauty stuff (living in NYC is very expensive). This girl has NO Debt AND savings!! I dont even think she has a problem unless she makes less than $60K a year. The only think frivolous is a the gym membership if she never goes…

  31. @Jack: I agree with you 100%. I might have also suggested folks take their pissy condescending tones and shove . . . but I won’t.

    Jane, I commend your bravery. I’ve learned a lot from Ramit and his roving band of commenters and it sounds like you have too. The high cost of living in NY and low salary in my then-chosen field (publishing, oddly enough) led to me choosing to move out of the city and eventually leave the NE for good. I’m much happier for it, but I think you are kicking ass to stay there and make the best of it financially. The freelancing gigs are great, but I know what a total pain collecting on those can be — not to mention the stress of constantly pitching. And I ENVY your savings.

    Kudos to you as well for talking to the shrinkydink. God love folks who don’t have to go to one, but for those of us who do, it’s so worth it. I was tempted to say the payoff is unquantifiable, but when I look back at my own emotional spending patterns, I can say, with certainly, that my $6.48 a month generic anti-depressant easily saves me $300 a month (or more) in unnecessary purchases. That said, make your damn lunches and eat breakfast at home. :-) You can have 2 pomegranate martinis a week if you do that! And pomegranate is so good for you, the drinking is almost healthy. See?

  32. Jane, I’ve been wanting to move to New York and this REALLY makes me want to take the plunge! I, too, commend you for an overall healthy financial life.

    One thing you might try to improve your emotional/habitual spending is to go on a “spending fast” for a couple weeks. All the things you buy now, just stop. No “slices,” drinks out, take-out, new clothes, cab rides, unhealthy snack foods, etc. Just set a small budget for basic food, and don’t buy anything else. You might be surprised at how you’ve gotten into the habit of spending mindlessly, and if you can just break the habit you’ll marvel at how much less you can spend (or at least spend on things that really bring you enjoyment, not just convenience).

    So if you stop considering cabs as an option, you’ll just take the subway home, no big deal. Then, if you really want to, you can gradually add these little luxuries back, one at a time, consciously. Plus if you stop drinking for a bit, you’ll become more of a lightweight and need less alcohol to do the trick. :-)

    Good luck!

  33. For a second I thought it was your diary, and then I assumed you were gay when I read about the boyfriend.

  34. Bravo to Jane for your followup comment and for having the courage to publically following your spending. I agree with Ramit about conscious spending. Sounds like you’ve already got good insight into your spending, so this post is more for everyone else:

    http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/conscious-spending-how-my-friend-spends-21000year-on-going-out

    As long as you are aware that you are spending that much money on those things and you’re ok with it, you’re doin more or less fine, especially with your side work, 401k and savings. Cheers! Good luck in the future!

  35. I agree with Lance. Even as a twenty (almost thirty) something, I cannot relate. There are days where I would “splurge”; like coffee at a nice indie cafe and lunch out when I didn’t bring it from home. Living in the Bay Area, though its cheaper than NYC, but I don’t make a comparable salary to be able to enjoy those little indulgences. I also know too many people who have to decide between prescription drugs and transportation to get to work so I overall cannot relate to Jane.

  36. Being a 20-something in LA, I have to say I can relate to this posting. But some of the comments here are a bit harsh. She isn’t using credit cards or racking up debt. She isn’t going to parents or friends for some extra cash, like I’ve seen in previous money diary entries. Based on her reply, she’s contributing to a 401K and a savings account. While her spending may be a bit wreckless and need some controlling, it is totally within her grasp. Her situation isn’t all that bad. By packing lunches and snacks for the day at work, she can probably save some money that way and still continue to have a social life.

  37. She should have put out with the guy who looked like Erik Estrada.

  38. It’s amazing how quick we are to judge somebody else’s lifestyle. Someone mentioned after a different post, how if they weren’t spending it wouldn’t be as much fun or interesting to read.
    Spending money or not spending money is not always as easy as one might think. The psychology of having or not having money is incredible. I’ve noticed, that I tend to spend more money when I have less of it and constantly thinking of not spending money than when my I feel comfortable with my cash flow. When combined with environment (NYC) that pushes to spend, how can it be easy not to live paycheck to paycheck?
    Thanks Jane for posting, if anything for reminding me that I’m not cut out to be an east coast woman, my dreams will be just that. I like these posts because it’s interesting to see the struggles EVERYONE has with money.

  39. Two suggestions

    Read an Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. His mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (http://www.michaelpollan.com/indefense.php)

    Focus on just one goal at a time (http://zenhabits.net/2008/09/really-simple-goal-setting).
    An easy goal is to bring breakfast from home. I bring yogurt for the week on Monday and keep it in the group fridge. I keep granola stashed in my filing cabinet. Combine for a filling breakfast! Go for the full fat yogurt (aka creme top)… protein, fat, and fiber will keep you full the longest.

  40. Jane, just a little suggestion, bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes, then change into your heels at work. Comfortable walking shoes include cute flats, or even sneakers. I know NYC loves fashion, but don’t sacrifice your wallet and health for it.

    Oh, good job on cooking at home. Just pack your lunch and snacks to work, and even go to meet up at nice parks with friends and have a picnic (I guess that’s a new in the city ;) ). You can do it Jane :D

  41. Just another reason why New York scares me.

  42. I love this post…and love the comments. It kind of reminds me of my last couple of weekends. I live in CT and travel to NYC and Boston often, however this weekend I was in Philly and was impressed with how well my money stayed IN my pocket. It’s so much cheaper in Philly.

    Ramit, I love this blog…keep up the good work

    - Mid 20s in CT, F

  43. I am 29 y/o guy who lives in DC and would say my friends and I have similar spending habits as Jane and also maintain no debt, savings, etc. I am curious if some of the initial comments on this blog would have been the same if you were a guy. I think there is definitely a double standard for women financially. I also think some older folks do not realize that people “settle down” later in life these days for a variety of reasons such as staying in school longer for law, masters, phd’s, and how expensive the housing market has been the last 6 years.

    I appreciate some of the advice people have given Jane. I can probably use it too.

  44. I’m about the same age as Jane, live in a similar city, and have similar habits. I save a bit more than 15% of my income, but after that, I spend whatever I want on whatever I want.

    A lot of people my age have kids, and they spend all their money on their children. I’ve chosen to forgo both the expense and the fun that come with kids, so why shouldn’t I spend the money I would spend on daycare, carseats, and toys on things that I find fun? I don’t have expensive hobbies or electronics or weekly manicures; I just like to go out with my friends and eat in restaurants and drink beer. That’s my lifestyle; don’t tell me that I’m immature or frivolous or irresponsible just because it’s different from yours.

  45. I agree with AC’s suggestion to have a spending fast. I did this with a friend last year, we allowed ourselves to buy nothing but necessities for 2 months. It became so much fun to compete with each other and get through the day on as little as possible that it was addicting. It’s a good way to go extreme and “shock” yourself into good habits.

    Another thing, I cook a huge dish every Sunday and that’s my lunch for the week. It usually costs me about $8 – $10, and I really notice the savings.

    Thanks for sharing, and I’m still shocked at how quick some of you are to judge. Maybe your vice isn’t spending too much but I’m sure it’s something.

  46. Jane,

    It’s good to hear you’re back on track.
    In your diary you already appear well aware of what you’re doing well and what should change. Problem is that you’re letting yourself be surprised by the moment rather than setting your rules in advance. Grant yourself a moment and draw up a budget with what you would to spend on lunches, leisure, etc. versus what you are actually spending; then come up with solutions. When cutting, focus on recurring items. I’m not telling you anything new: just do more of what you’re already doing (home-cooked dinners).

    BTW, eating out less often seems like a much, much better idea than its alternatives (either spending so much on eating out that you’re unhappy about it, or having boyfriend pay for you and feeling bad about it).

  47. Perhaps you should consider going cash-only for a month. After getting paid, withdraw everything except enough to cover any auto-pay bills (wouldn’t want to add “$25 insufficient funds charge” to the list of expenditures…). Maybe seeing your wallet get thinner and thinner will help you put the brakes on your spending. I also agree with the suggestion to start logging all of your expenses — that was my New Year’s resolution this year and I’m still doing it, as burdensome as it is sometimes. It’s pretty interesting to compare how much you spend on eating out, taxes, and savings…

    Also, you might want to consider stashing all freelance earnings in a separate account (such as an ING Direct or similar savings account) — maybe that could be your vacation fund, or savings for a house, etc. If it’s only a small portion of your income and it’s erratic, it’s probably best if you don’t depend on it for daily living expenses.

  48. The same thing happened to me with the allergy meds. Except the copay was $50, and I took it like a sucker.

  49. Jane is correct in many ways.
    I live in NYC as well and yes, the cost of living here is extremely high. I think her behavior is fairly normal for a late 20-something in NYC; however it is not a trend I like or subscribe to. My wife and I cook all the time and rarely go out to eat or bars. I have found the age to marry is much higher in NYC than other areas of the country, and people date (like they were early 20s) well into their 30s. It is the culture of this city for better or worse.

    Just so people don’t think I’m some old fart, I’m 29, married, and live on the Upper East Side (paying _crazy_ rent, but not 50% of our income).

  50. ok, first off, buy fruit for a whole week and put a day’s worth every day in your bag. At least you will eat a couple pieces of healthy produce no matter what else your day throws your way.

    ok, second, order one drink but then afterwards just make it mineral water. you will save money (and health!) in aggregate b/c you will be drinking only 1 alcoholic drink and then, more importantly, something healthy afterwards.

    Think of the water as a treat to your body and the alcohol as a treat to your mood.

    you will get there just have patience with yourself and start adopting little, easy healthy habits you can do every day.

  51. If Jane had been the same person in DC I could have sworn I went out with her last week (not the super expensive date).
    This isn’t too bad since she is putting the savings as a priority, and also covering all of her housing, food, and bills before the spending in the diaries. As long as you don’t move yourself to maintaining the lifestyle on credit you should be fine.
    P.S. I agree that I probably wouldn’t have read through the comments or looked at the next one if one entry was 7:15pm – noticed direct contribution was given to my 401k which is diversified by choosing…. (we only like to see the drama).
    Good luck with the future finances.

  52. These comments are ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. Look, I’m as frugal as the next PF-blog-frequenter. But I see nothing wrong with this. Absolutely nothing about this woman’s diary entry indicates that she is out of control or spending irresponsibly.

    Yes, she says that she spends more than she would have liked. Don’t we all? Compare this diary to that of the 25 year old woman who wrote a money diary. That girl didn’t have enough to pay her bills, had a habit of overcharging her credit cards, asked her mother for money, then went out shopping for new clothes–all the while claiming about how she HATED her lack of independence and how stressed she was about her money!

    It’s unfathomable that the 2 diary entries got similar comments. This New Yorker has savings, 2 streams of income, a rich boyfriend, and enough self-knowledge, apparently, to know how she wants to live her life and what she needs to live that way. Kudos to her, I say. She’s doing a great job with her money.

  53. Hey Ramit,
    First time here. I am curious. What does it mean to you when you say the word “rich”. Other than that, do like the site and your style of writing.

  54. To “imelda”: That was my past diary. It was written during a particularly bad few weeks financially. I BORROWED $200 from my mother, which has since been repaid, and most certainly did not buy new clothes (reread it, honey… I said there was a temptation.)

    To Jane: I applaud your courage as well! And you’re doing just fine. You have money going into savings and aren’t overspending. Bravo as well for your diplomatic response.

    I hate that the first group of comments are so unnecessarily harsh. She never said she was broke, she said she was trying to save, so why crucify her for eating out and having a few drinks?? She’s 28 and seen as irresponsible bc she’s having fun, but it’s true that the response would have been different had she been a man. She’s addressing her emotional spending and issues with therapy and medication. At least she’s not in denial, and running around spending like nobody’s business! I wish people would stop assuming that the actions and habits in each diary are the way a person lives 365 days of the year. She had just broken up with her bf, and was emotional. I find it completely normal that she’s spending time with friends and having a couple cocktails (however emotionally charged they may be) to help with the distraction of a break-up. Think back, people… you’ve probably done it too.

    She’s by no means the mess that everyone makes her out to be.

  55. OK, if I were you, I wouldn’t feel bad about mooching off my boyfriend. You mentioned he was working on his taxes… for the Oct 15 deadline? I work at a CPA firm and the only clients we have who haven’t filed a return by October are the ones who are making 6 figures a year in INTEREST INCOME. I bet he has a crap-load of money he hasn’t told you about.. either in investments or held in a trust. Don’t worry about letting him pay so much =)

  56. Anya –

    My initial harsh comment was not so much at the spending choices – eating out here and there, overspending a bit – whatever.

    The disgust came from the way the author’s relationship with money – complaining, stressing, feeling helpless, mooching off of others – and not seeing it within her own personal responsibility to change that. When I see someone recognize their situation – “I really shouldn’t spend more than $63.85 until next month” – then complain – “I continue to feel bad that he’s paying for so much” – then do NOTHING about it – “And a pina colada and a Corona, of course. We split the check four ways. My portion is $29.88″ is what disgusted me off so much.

    It’s the “American Way” to buy stuff you can’t afford, and this blogger lived up to that in every way. I don’t feel bad about harsh comments at all. When you expose yourself on the internet, you better be prepared for the ugly reflection the mirror gives back. Rereading this for the second time (after reading everyone elses comments and agreeing with many of them), I would not change a word of my initial analysis.

  57. Jane, I really want to know what gym you belong to that charges less than $23 a month!? I live in the city as well and based on my life and my friend’s lives this is pretty typical, although I have plenty of friends that do not have savings outside of automated 401k and that are also in debt. So despite other comments, I think you’re doing just fine. 50% of my income goes to just my rent as well. It’s hard to balance saving for your future and your social life in such an exciting/expensive city. My only recommendations is to pack yourself a healthy lunch (you’ll feel better and save money), take the subway more often, split cabs with friends, and occasionly cook dinner at home.

  58. I wonder if Jane has paid her accountant yet.

  59. Jane: Sounds like you’re getting it together. It’s huge that you’re saving and have no debt — so at least you’re not digging yourself into a hole. I think it’s really promising that you’re trying to find ways to increase your cash flow. Lots of people spend a lot more energy devising $0.75 spending cutbacks than figuring out how they can earn more. The former is often a losing strategy when you’re making so little money that it already guilts you out to enjoy a couple of drinks with friends, IMHO (cutbacks that force you to be less social are hard to sustain, especially if you’re single). Not that it’s not worth cutting back on frivolous things that don’t give you real satisfaction — e.g., I doubt you get hugely more satisfaction from a deli lunch than from a frozen entree from the grocery or a PB&J — but a lot of your spending seems to be social, and NYC can be very lonely if you’re stuck in your apartment every night.

    For the record (responding to one commenter above), one can get an awesome slice of pizza in NYC for $3. As a matter of fact, a $3 slice on about any street corner in NYC is about twice as good as the so-called best slice in almost any other city. I’m not sure why (some people claim it’s the water), but it’s true!

  60. “Also, readers, I am a “woman,” not a “girl.” Even if you don’t approve of my behavior.”

    Jane, you are most emphatically a girl. Actually, I shouldn’t insult girls like that. It was hard for me to consider what improvements you could make to your spending habits because I was consumed with loathing for your lifestyle before I finished the column. A barfly mooch who relates to guys like a 17 year old girl. And the therapy was a crowning touch. Welcome to Yuppieville, Exhibit A. Don’t breed, whatever you do. Or at least wait until you’re 60.

  61. why does she need an accountant??
    Turbo tax baby!! I dont think ur tax situation is complicated enough to need an accountant!!

  62. Jane, IGNORE all the comments from the constipated money nerds in here. Carry on with what you are doing! Dating rich boyfriends, cabs, bar hopping, concerts, hangin out with friends.. keep swimming in all that craziness, don’t think twice about it. This is life, this is now, this is yours, no one can take it away from you. Do you want to be kicking yourself a decade later for having missed out on all the fun in your youth just to save a couple more grand a year?
    Except er.. stay away from medication for your emotional problems. It can only aggravate those problems in the long run. Instead settle into some healthy exercise habits that doest need a gym yet will keep you emotionally and physically healthy and robust: 1) daily deep breathing exercise aka Pranayama 2) Yogic asanas for half hour daily, especiallly Suryanamaskars 3) daily jogging for half hour, you can even run back and forth inside your apartment if you can’t schedule going outside. 4) eat antioxidant rich food daily like green tea, papayas and grapes. Believe me if you gather the DISCIPLINE for the above daily routine, you willl find yourself at the top of your game, professionally and socially, plus stay young and beautiful loking well into your forties. The key word is discipline to stick to the healthy routine. To do that, keep reminding yourself of all the rewards that such disciplne will bring you. The pain for the gain is not really a pain, is it.

  63. I have to say it’s really easy to assume things about a person. I admit whilst I was reading I was tutting here and there but then noticed that you do have to spend money. Yes as many of you mentioned her spending ties into her emotions but who isn’t affected? We’ve all made silly mistakes but there is no sign in her diary of massive expenditures on needless things. In New York I can appreciate that the cost of living is high but this just consists of going to bars to meet people as Jane mentioned.

    I also have to say that it just appeared to me to be a-not-so-average week of expenditure for Jane. Given the details of her savings and about 11% of her income going towards it she clearly does not spend like this every single day of the year. I think had it not been just after breaking up with her boyfriend and then during her rekindled relationship the spending would not have been frivolous.

    One thing I would really like to say which sounds like common sense is try to make time for breakfast at home. Missing a meal is a really bad way to start the day health-wise and finances wise. It forces you to starve longer than you need to resulting in needing a quick fix usually in the form of a binge and can end up causing quite a dent on the finances.

    Being a woman who has been threw a particularly difficult break up I understand that sometimes you aren’t yourself and it can be beyond your control for a short while.

  64. I would have to chime in with the many others above that have come in the defense of Jane. She’s really neither totally irresponsible, nor immature, nor certainly out of the norm in terms of a standard upcoming 28 year old professional in New York City. Perhaps the dynamics of this city alone are to blame, but seriously, people should stop having a moral high ground and just let her be. As you guys noted, she has her 401K and also doesn’t abuse credit cards. All of us are on this blog in order to become more frugal, and the fact that she not only recognises it but exposes it for our views must be truly commended. I would also note that her spending behaviour is by no means restricted to women, but men are equally fickle in their spending habits.

    Ramit: our thanks should go to you for stimulating this debate and for the great blog in general. I am learning a lot and am encouraging other friends to look at this, at the cost of coming across as cheap.

    Dmitri

  65. “In sum: $347.11 spent”

    And it would have been quite a bit more if she didn’t have boobs.