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A Week In New York As A Law Student

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: a law student who currently has no income and spends some of her money this week on boxed white wine.
All currency in USD.
Occupation: Law Student
Industry: Law
Age: 24
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $0
Net Worth: ~$20,300 (~$32,000 in cash savings, $800 in investments, and ~$,3500 in 401(k), minus $16,000 student loan debt (maybe soon to be $6,000 — thanks Biden!))
Debt: $16,000 in student loan debt
Paycheck Amount: $0
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,550 (I live with two random roommates in a two-bed flex apartment. I do miss having a living room/entertaining space (which currently serves as one of the bedrooms), but it is worth it for reasonable rent in a great location plus amenities. Rent includes water and gas.)
Loan Payments: $0 (my loans are deferred while I'm in graduate school)
Electricity/Wi-Fi: ~$75
iCloud Storage:$0 .99
Spotify: $4.99
Kindle Unlimited: $10.65
Streaming Services: $5 (I pay for Peacock and mooch off friends for others)
Cell Phone & Insurance: Very grateful to have these expenses covered by my parents. I was on my own health insurance while working, but given that I'm back near home and a student again, I'm taking full advantage of the family 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, there was always an expectation I would attend college. Both of my parents have graduate degrees and I have always loved school. I paid for undergraduate with a combination of scholarships, jobs, loans, and some parental contributions. I am currently a law student. I have always wanted to be a lawyer, but took two years to work as a consultant between programs in order to make sure I really wanted it before making the time/money commitment. I'm financing my current program with savings from work and loans, and expect to have about $150,000 in student loans by the time I graduate. This is a really scary number, but actually pretty standard for law students, and the firm salary scale reflects this. I considered going to a less expensive program, but rank really matters for a lot of job opportunities. I ultimately decided to make the investment in my future, knowing that it will require a certain amount of time in the private sector to pay it off.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
Yes, and I am grateful that they did! My parents live frugally and prioritise saving for retirement, etc. My mom grew up pretty poor and taught my sister and me about the importance of things like grocery budgets from a young age. My parents required us to split any birthday or holiday money 50/50 between spending and savings to get in the habit of saving. We were taught that things like manicures, takeout, etc. were for special occasions, not everyday occurrences.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
My first job was as a hostess at a local country club when I was 17. I got it for spending money in college. Once I got to college, I worked on campus all four years, then started full-time as a consultant after graduation.

Did you worry about money growing up?
No, I'm extremely privileged to have grown up without that burden. My parents were older when they had me, which meant they were very financially secure by the time I was born. They both stepped back from their high-intensity corporate jobs to raise us and so we certainly were not rich on their salaries, but we always were very comfortable and were never limited in terms of extracurriculars, etc.

Do you worry about money now?
Yes, constantly. It has been hard to go from having a lucrative consulting salary to having no income at all. I'll have to start taking on debt in my second year of law school in order to pay for tuition and living expenses, so I worry about paying that off. I've run the models and know it's possible to pay off all the debt after a few years in big law, but I will be stressed until that happens. Financial security has always been my employment priority, which has led t prioritising jobs with high salaries. In the meantime, I am lucky to have plenty of savings to live on this year, and I try to remind myself that I need brain food and things that bring me joy in order to make it through law school and reap the rewards.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
My parents did contribute to part of my undergraduate expenses, but the vast majority was covered by a scholarship, RA housing, and student loans. Excepting these tuition contributions (a huge, privileged caveat), I have paid for all of my own living expenses since my sophomore year through a combination of jobs. Over the summers, I took part-time food service jobs in addition to unpaid internships to cover rent. After graduation, I was completely independent, including providing my own health insurance, etc. My parents do still pay for my cell phone bill and will treat me to dinner if they're visiting. My parents very much believe in “pulling yourselves up by your bootstraps” and their children being financially independent. However, if I ever had a true emergency or got really stuck, my parents would be able to help me. They would also always let me move back in temporarily, but would likely be unwilling to pay rent for my apartment. I wouldn't be comfortable taking the risk of a three-year (expensive!) graduate program without this safety net.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
I received my parents' support with some tuition for undergrad, for which I am very grateful.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I scroll through Twitter and Instagram before getting up and getting ready for the day.
8:15 a.m. — One of the negatives of living with two roommates is that it can be hard to find time to commandeer the kitchen for meal prep. I take advantage of the empty kitchen in the morning to roast spaghetti squash and Brussels sprouts for dinners this week while sipping my morning coffee. While those are roasting, I clean up my room and cut up some veggies and hummus for lunch.
10 a.m. — I walk to the subway to commute to class. It only takes about 30 minutes to get from my apartment to campus for class, but I like to leave lots of extra time because I hate being late. It is so hot today that I'm already sweating by the time I hop onto the train. $2.75
1:30 p.m. — I head outside with my friend, L., to eat our packed lunches and take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. We talk about an essay we have due and how exam prep is going for each of us. We both prefer to study independently, but it has been nice to have someone to commiserate with about outlining.
3:30 p.m. — More class — I get distracted midway through by an email notification about a Sephora sale. I'm running low on Kiehl's face cream, and take advantage of the sale to get a big refill pouch at 15% off. I check out, then snap myself out of it and go back to paying attention in class. $71.75
5 p.m. — I swing by 7/11 and grab an iced coffee and $10 worth of lottery tickets before heading to the library. I never gamble, but feel like I have to jump on the bandwagon with the Powerball this high. $13.39
7 p.m. — I head back to a classroom for a meeting with my moot court team. We're waiting on feedback on our outline from our coaches, but we talk internally in the meantime about areas for improvement and our tasks for the next week. We also look over some draft memos we've found from other teams to see how our competition is handling the arguments.
8:50 p.m. — I pop off the subway and just make it to the local grocery store before it closes to pick up a few ingredients that I forgot during my weekly grocery run. The local store is definitely more expensive, but you can't beat the convenience for last-minute items. I get enchilada sauce, taco seasoning, bread, and some peach iced tea. $13.74
9 p.m. — My friend, E., calls me while I'm walking home and we catch up. It's been hard to be far from my friends in D.C. since moving to NYC, but I really appreciate how much effort they've all made to make sure I still feel connected. We catch up about her work drama and I tell her about school. Once home, I heat up the spaghetti squash I made this morning while doing lunchtime dishes. Devour it with some parmesan cheese on top.
Daily Total: $101.63

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — We have a day of school today so I have a relaxed morning in bed reading a trashy Kindle Unlimited book.
9 a.m. — I finally get up and immediately go to make coffee. I'm useless without it! I throw on some athleisure clothes and pack up my books while snacking on a croissant. I leave the house around 10 and walk to the public library near me to do some studying for the day. I need to finally write the aforementioned essay, and keep outlining for finals. I'm working on my recall for different cases right now, which is difficult given that we've read over 200 by this point in the semester.
3:30 p.m. — I'm starting to go cross-eyed, so I head home for a change of pace. I chop some veggies and eat them with hummus and crackers while chatting with my roommate, S. I'm still procrastinating that essay, so I decide to take a quick nap.
5 p.m. — I force myself to finally write this essay. It is not good and I am displeased with myself, but it is what it is at this point. Definitely a wake up call that I need to study more in this class.
9:30 p.m. — Heat up some more spaghetti squash and Brussels sprouts and eat them before settling in for the night.
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Another day begins! Today is a busy one, so I take a peek at my calendar before I get up to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. I make coffee and eat breakfast (another croissant) while waiting for my roommate, S., to be done taking a shower so that I can get ready for the day.
10 a.m. — I head to campus on the subway and meet with my TA to get feedback on my most recent writing assignment. I was disappointed that I didn't do as well on this assignment as the last one, but I think it's because I'm still a little confused by some of the technicalities. The TA is wonderful and really helps clear up some lingering questions. $2.75
11 a.m. — First class of the day. At the break, I realise that I've forgotten my water bottle and duck into the café to buy a bottle of seltzer. $2.38
1:15 p.m. — I dash across campus to an event with a judge who I am potentially interested in working for this summer. There is unexpectedly free lunch — score! — so I grab some gourmet pizza and munch while learning about the judge's career and what he is looking for in terms of interns. One of the things that surprised me about law school was how soon you have to start thinking about where you want to work for your first and second summers. You basically have to make a lot of really significant decisions within the first few months and just hope you picked correctly. One of my moot court teammates is also at the event, so we catch up on the way to our 2:30 classes.
4:30 p.m. — I have a short break between classes and decide I NEED a coffee to get through the rest of the day. I wait in the world's longest Starbucks line to get a sweet cream caramel cold foam. I try not to buy coffee too often, but god, this cold brew is amazing. Just the thing I needed to get through my next class. I refill my Starbucks gift card to pay. $15
7:15 p.m. — After my last class ends, I head back to the subway to commute home. Thankfully, the train is empty and I'm able to sit for the ride. I call my mom as soon as I get back to Brooklyn and talk to her on the walk home just to say hi. She and I got very close after I left for college and now we talk almost every day. $2.75
8 p.m. — I try a new recipe — Tex-Mex stuffed peppers — while hanging out with my roommates. I subscribed to New York Times Cooking earlier this year to try and get out of a cooking rut, especially with being back on a student food budget. I don't eat meat 95% of the time, so it's been helpful to find more creative vegetarian recipes. My roommate, M., fills S. and me in on the details of her most recent Bumble date, which went well. I'm happy for her, but hope this doesn't mean we're about to acquire an unofficial fourth roommate.
10 p.m. — I open an Amazon package that arrived for me earlier in the day. I ordered an assortment of random beauty necessities: more disposable masks, hard wax for my legs, fake nails, and a bottle of ginger shampoo that purports to work well with soft water. My hair texture has been weird ever since I moved this summer, and I'm hoping this shampoo might help it be less limp. $38.77
Daily Total: $61.65

Day Four

6:30 a.m. — Early alarm today to get ready for my morning class. I take a quick shower, then check the weather before getting dressed. It has been unseasonably warm this past week in New York, but I'm pleased to see it is a crisp 48 degrees this morning. After throwing on makeup and drying my hair, I make coffee and eat a yogurt for breakfast. I throw the last serving of spaghetti squash into my lunch box along with some Goldfish and clementines (always have snacks!) before heading to the subway. $2.75
8:30 a.m. — As I suspected, I did NOT do well on my essay. The only comfort is that it appears from the professor's comments that no one did very well. Little reminders that everyone is struggling can be helpful sometimes — imposter syndrome is so real at a school where all of my peers seem so brilliant and confident.
11 a.m. — My next class of the day is simulation-based, and we're pretending to counsel a client in preparation for a simulated mediation next week. While it feels a little silly at times to be roleplaying, I think it does help develop skills we otherwise wouldn't have the chance to until later in our careers.
1 p.m. — I eat lunch while attending a DOJ career webinar about their summer internship program. I didn't realise before law school that almost everyone works in PI or government for their first summer, so I've been scrambling to figure out what I want to do this summer before I'm eligible for a firm job next summer. I'm torn between trying to stay in NYC and going back to Washington, D.C. for the summer. I love D.C. and all my friends there, but think it might be good to avoid jumping back into my comfort zone right away.
5:30 p.m. — I pack my stuff up and head to a panel event that features associates from a number of firms that have internationally focused practice areas. I know that is what I'm generally interested in, but am still learning about the different practice areas within international law, and trying to figure out the specific quirks of each firm. Two friends from my section are also there and they try to convince me to go to one of the happy hours on campus afterward, but I want to get a head start on readings for next week. I take the subway home. $2.75
7 p.m. — I stop by the liquor store to get a bottle of wine for tomorrow night. I pick out a red to share with friends and a white for myself. When I get home, I unload the dishwasher and heat up some of yesterday's stuffed peppers. The recipe turned out okay, but it could use a little more seasoning and kick. $41
8 p.m. — I had intended to get a head start on a writing assignment, but I end up cracking open the bottle of white with my roommate S. and gossiping for a few hours. My roommates were random people that I met on Facebook, but we actually get along pretty well!
Daily Total: $46.50

Day Five

9 a.m. — Morning classes are canceled today, so I take advantage of the free time to get a grocery run in, grabbing lots of fresh veggies, sweet potatoes, milk, eggs, English muffins, and apple cider, as well as some laundry detergent, tissues, and deodorant. I also grab sour cream, butter, and potatoes in preparation for pierogi night tonight. I definitely feel the pain of inflation when checking out. $82.10
10:30 a.m. — After getting back from the store, I make a spinach/egg/cheese breakfast sandwich and some coffee, and throw in a load of laundry. I am extremely lucky to have in-unit laundry in NYC!
1 p.m. — Get Starbucks (paid for with money from my earlier card reload) before I get on the train to campus to do some studying. Find a desk with a nice view of the park and get cosy on this rainy day. $2.75
4 p.m. — Meet with my moot court team again to talk about our first draft. We're still waiting on feedback from the coaches on our outline, but we make progress drafting the other elements of the memo and talk through some creative theories we're considering using. I take the subway back to Brooklyn at 6 and quickly swing by my apartment to pick up the ingredients I got earlier. $2.75
6:30 p.m. — One of my best friends, B., is visiting for the weekend from D.C. I am so excited to see her and we planned a pierogi night to celebrate. Making large batches of pierogies is my specialty and I love to use it as a reason to bring everyone together. Our other friend, K., lives alone and is hosting, so I walk to her apartment. Her neighbourhood is just lovely and has so many gorgeous brownstones. I call my mom on the way there to say hi.
9:30 p.m. — After an involved cooking process, we have over 100 pierogies ready to eat! It is the first time our friend, F., had joined B., K., and me for this ~event~ so it was fun to teach her how to make them — we all got covered in flour. We all stuff ourselves with pierogies and red wine while listening to Taylor Swift, truly a perfect night.
12:45 a.m. — I take the subway back to my apartment, quickly remove my makeup, and fall into a deep sleep. $2.75
Daily Total: $90.35

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — I wake up and take a hot shower while my coffee is brewing. I have some Mini Wheats with milk for breakfast.
9:30 a.m. — I pop off the fake nails I had on from last week and prepare to adhere new nails and paint them. It matters to me that my hands look nice and well-manicured, but I am a girl on a budget, so I buy the fake ones in bulk and do them myself. I decide on a nice dusty rose color. My friend, H., FaceTimes me while I paint them so we chat and catch up about her week.
10:30 a.m. — I get great news from British Airways that they've finally agreed to refund me for delay-related expenses from this summer — they've been dragging their feet about the $1,400 (!!) in expenses they caused by stranding me in London for a few days. Hopefully, the deposit arrives soon.
6 p.m. — My mom calls me while I'm eating dinner (more stuffed peppers) to tell me that DSW is having a 25% off sale. I actually have $125 in rewards on my account, and combined with the sale, manage to snag two pairs of leather work flats (one nude, one black) for a total of only $1.45 out of pocket! My old flats were pretty well worn from two years of work, so I've been meaning to get replacements ahead of on-campus interviews. The site keeps giving me an error code so I call customer service to get the order placed — I can't let a deal this good go! $1.45
11 p.m. — Skin care, scroll TikTok, head to sleep at a normal hour.
Daily Total: $1.45

Day Seven

7:30 a.m. — I already know when I wake up that today is going to be expensive. I love when my friends come to visit, but it can be hard to spend time with everyone who still works, especially since I used to be able to spend a lot more money. I want to do all of the things, but it hurts the budget for sure. Knowing that this weekend would be expensive, I stayed in last weekend to save $$$ in preparation. Before heading out, I do a load of laundry, chop veggies for lunch this week, and take out the trash.
9:30 a.m. — I meet B. on the train to head into Manhattan for breakfast with our friend M. It's the first time we've been alone without K. in a while, and it's good to catch up 1:1. We go to a cute Moroccan café in the East Village for brunch. I get the herb omelette with pita and labneh and a coffee. We pay separately — my total is $33.72. $36.47
11:15 a.m. — B. and I walk across to the West Village, where I head to the library to get a book and she meets another friend for coffee. I read for an hour, then subway back to Brooklyn for a quick outfit change. $2.75
2:30 p.m. — I meet B. and K. at a neighbourhood biergarten to hang out before we head to a women's soccer game. I get one beer and we all split a pretzel. C. generously pays.
3:30 p.m. — We take the subway to the PATH to take the train into New Jersey for the game. I pay B. $60 for the ticket while we're on the way there. $65.50
5 p.m. — I make a beer run while B. and K. find our seats for the game. I grab two Stellas and an IPA ($49.58 — ouch) and get ready to root for the US Women's National Team as they play Germany. The US Women win and the energy of the crowd is infectious! WOOO! I decide to buy a USWNT sticker on my way out to add to my water bottle. $55.58
7:30 p.m. — To avoid the insane crowds at the PATH station, we decide to grab pizza near the stadium. We join many other jubilant fans in eating bad pizza and drinking house red wine. We're a little drunk by this point, so B. fills us in on all of the drama from a recent family event. K. kindly pays.
9 p.m. — Back to the PATH, then the subway in order to get home. I give B. a big hug goodbye as I get off the train, then walk home. $5.50
10 p.m. — Hot shower, fold laundry from earlier, and guzzle water. Put my feet up because they are SORE after walking a whopping 21,000 steps! I pass out pretty early in preparation for class tomorrow.
Daily Total: $165.80
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