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The Money Diaries: The young employee about to lose her job because of the economy

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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.


Today’s post is by a 23-year old woman living in NYC who has had a steady, well-paid job for the past year. She recently found out her company is going under due to the bad economy, and at the time of this writing was looking for a new job.

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12:30 pm: At work, I pick up falafel for lunch, $4. I don’t cook a lot at home, so I tend to go out for lunch everyday. I’ve found that it doesn’t hurt my food budget too much—dinners are usually pasta, eggs, ramen or canned soup, so I actually spend very little on food overall.
6:15 pm: Bought 2 boxes of mac and cheese (Krasdale, on sale, 40 cents each) and a corkscrew at the grocery store near my house, $3.82 total. Also picked up a 75-cent candy bar. I’ll charge half the cost of the corkscrew to my roommate when we do our monthly receipt reconciliation.


9:30 am: Worked from home today, spent $1.25 on a bagel. I treat myself to a bagel every week or two from this great bagel place near my house.
1:45 pm: Got a phone call from a fellow college alum who is working at an organization I’m applying to. She accepted my request for an informational interview, and we’re set to meet on Friday! I’ve been trying to get in touch with her for weeks, so this is great news.
5:00 pm: Checked my bank account—biweekly paycheck was deposited, $1600.20.


12:30 pm: Took a walk through Bryant Park during lunch today, while it was snowing, and they were handing out free hot chocolate. Since I wasn’t all that hungry and the hot chocolate helped fill me up, I spent only $3.50 on lunch (half a sandwich).
6:00 pm: Stop at the grocery store and pick up $11 worth of groceries, which included food for 2 dinners and a box of cereal. While paying I use my debit card and get $30 cash back—I never pay ATM fees!
6:15 pm: Arrive home and find that I have received a $256.40 check in the mail for consultant translation work that I did. Nice!!
7:00 pm: After speaking to my Mom about my father’s Christmas present, I go onto and buy him a $200 exercise bike. Because of the job loss I had originally planned on getting him something that was only going to cost $25, so this pretty much blows my gift budget out of the water. My mother and brother will pay me back two-thirds of the cost, though, which helps. I also spend $8 on Tales of Beedle the Bard, since I can’t resist and I can get free shipping on it. $209 total; that check I just received will really come in handy!
7:30 pm: I log into my ING account to make a transfer, since I got paid yesterday. I add my monthly $1,000 to my current 5-month savings account—only $1,400 more to go until I have a full 6 months worth of cash saved! Needless to say, this fund has kept me sane and free of panic since finding out that I’ll soon be unemployed. With this fund, and considering my expenses are low and can mostly be covered by unemployment, I’m not too scared.


4:00 pm: For lunch I brought a leftover burrito from last night’s dinner, but I end up peckish and run out to grab a $1 bag of M&Ms.

6:00 pm: Meet my friend for churros con chocolate (a Spanish dessert) and tapas at a restaurant near her office. This place was more expensive than we’re used to; I end up spending $18 and was not totally full. It was still worth spending time with my friend and bringing back memories of our time in Spain. Later, at home, I have a bowl of cereal to fill me up.


11:00 am: Doctor’s appointment this morning, $25 copay. I get my first ever flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine—both included in the copay. I’m getting all of this done now because in a month I won’t have health insurance, and I want to minimize my risks of getting sick.
12:00 pm: Pay $1.25 in library fines while checking books out from the library—I borrow 3 books on business, success, and surviving unemployment. I usually pay a few dollars per month in library fines because of how actively I use the library, but for the amount of reading/movie-watching I get in return, it’s well worth it.
12:30 pm: Pick up a salad for lunch, $5.91.
2:00 pm: At work, I send off a job application that I worked on last night. I’m happy with my cover letter, but it’s an ambitious position to apply for. We’ll see how it goes.
6:30 pm: I go home to my parents’ because my dad’s exercise bike has arrived. We order takeout for dinner, Mom’s treat—but she has me greet the delivery man, so I stick an extra $5 bill into the change I give her. My parents don’t have a lot of money but often insist on treating me and my brother, which makes me feel kind of guilty. On the other hand, I realize how lucky I am that they want to help us—and that if I run out of money before finding a new job in 2009, they’ll be there to take me in.


12:30 pm: I spend $7.32 on soup and a half sandwich at the overpriced Pax—it’s a lunch I frequently buy. I also stop at Duane Reade and spend $10.81 on an umbrella, which I’m in dire need of.
1:00 pm: I meet my fellow alum for our informational interview, and I make sure to keep it to 20 minutes, though she seems happy to offer her time. I also get a glimpse of the offices and the people who work there. All in all, it was very worthwhile.
5:00 pm: I meet one of my oldest friends after work and we browse the holiday windows along Fifth Avenue. I also help her shop for gifts in the Bryant Park holiday market. Despite the miserable weather, we enjoy spending the time together—meanwhile, I don’t spend a dime.


10:00 am: Woke up early (for a weekend) and did a volunteer project with NY Cares, reading to poor kids at a nearby church. I walk to the church and back rather than taking a bus.
1:30 pm: Back home, I treat myself to a box of Oreos and off-brand Ritz crackers, $4.32. I spend the rest of the day in bed, watching DVDs and doing nothing at all. Most days of my life I worry that I’m lazier than most people, and that I don’t accomplish enough, but this day makes me realize that I have not kicked back and allowed myself to do absolutely nothing for a long, long time. It’s a nice way to end the week.

In sum: $1,856.60 income, $311.93 spent, $1,000 saved, 1 job application submitted, 1 act of networking. Not as well as I should be doing, perhaps, but I’m satisfied with the results. The exercise bike really inflated my expenses and I’ll be recouping some of that cost later in the month. As for my job-hunt, I think that doing one really good job application while I’m still employed is reasonable at this point – since I do have money to tide me over, I’m determined to apply only to jobs I really want. If after a month or two I’m still unlucky, I’ll broaden my search.

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

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  1. “Not as well as I should be doing, perhaps, but I’m satisfied with the results”

    That’s my fav quote. lol.

    Seriously though sounds like a solid plan, and a great attitude. I hope everything goes well.


  2. To me it seems that she is doing pretty good with her finances. Sure there is a thing or two that she could have not bought (like the M&M’s 🙂 – but these small and inexpensive things are what keep us happy!
    I’d say nice job!

  3. Seeing as you’re saving over half of your income, I’d say that you’re doing a great job! The only thing I would say is to watch your spending when eating out, but you have to have a little fun, right? Maybe you could take advantage of the constant discounts on gift certificates–they usually run about $3 for a $25 gift certificate.

  4. I know you didn’t list all of your meals, but it sounds like your eating habits could use some work. Oreos, Ramen Noodles, and Ritz crackers are not something to live on. Why not snack on fresh fruits or vegetables?

    I think of eating healthy as an investment in my future the same as my retirement savings. It’s not worth it to save a buck and harm your body by eating low quality foods. What good is all the retirement savings if you aren’t living a long healthy life to enjoy it?

  5. I agree with Alan- it’s worth “splurging” on real food; man cannot live on boxed macaroni and cheese alone! (and I know because I used to!)

  6. It sounds like shes doing well considering the circumstances, but I would have liked to know a little more about her living situation and how she plans on taking care of that. She’s netting about $3200/month and living in NYC with one roommate. Unless she has some kind of unique arrangement, it seems that even with a 6 month emergency fund once her primary income goes away, this would become a serious issue quickly.

    Overall though, it was nice to read one of these where the person wasn’t a complete disaster

  7. I would like to know more about her background as well. Are these 7 consecutive days? It appears that she works at the office on Sunday through Friday.

  8. I’ll echo what has been said by Alan, it sounds like more of a diet issue than a financial issue.

    I’m not one to shove fruits and vegetables down people’s throats but you can easily get a salad or a sandwich or make some cornbread or something.

    Of course, I type this while on break at work eating a package of Austin cheese crackers. Oh well, at least I can get 12 packs of them for $1.88 at Walmart* so at least it’s cheap junkfood. 😉

    Sounds like otherwise this girl has her head screwed on right and has a plan for the future.

  9. You eat out at lunch (expensive) but eat as cheaply as possible (cheap but really unhealthy)… why not find a balance? I can buy a whole weeks worth of lunches for the price of one out. Go to the clearance rack at your grocery store and look for discounted bread. I haven’t paid more than 50 cents for a loaf in a long time. Put in it the freezer or fridge and it’ll last as long as you need it to. A package of turkey that lasts a week and a half is $3.50. That’s a generous time estimate – I make huge sandwhiches. A week’s worth of baby carrots is another couple bucks, plus a 12 pack of soda as a ‘treat’ (store brand!), and you’re looking at around $8 for an entire week’s worth of lunches, and then some. Plus, I find home made lunches more satisfying than anything I can buy, though I usually eat out ounce every other week or so, just because. This frees up money you can spend on dinner, even if it means upgrading the occasional ramen dinner to actual pasta!

  10. Money-wise, she sounds right on target. I am jealous to hear she has almost 6 months of emergency savings. Since discovering that Suze Oreman recommends 8 (close enough), I’ve been really feeling the guilt. And I don’t even have to worry about being laid off!

    Way to go girl!