Money Diaries logo

A Week In New York, NY, On A $5,500 Stipend

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: an intern who makes a $5,500 stipend and spends some of her money this week on bisexual earrings.
Editor's Note: This diary was written in June 2022.
Occupation: Intern
Industry: Start-Up Health App
Age: 24
Location: New York, NY
Salary: Stipend of $5,500 for summer internship
Net Worth: -$6,000 (I have $4,000 in my checking account right now and $7,100 in savings. I have $17,000 in student loans but I'm still currently in school.)
Debt: $17,000 in student loans
Paycheck Amount: $5,500 lump sum
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,600 (I'm subletting a studio apartment at a generously discounted rate)
Student Loans: $0 (not paying student loans yet!)
Netflix: $9.99
Hulu and Spotify Package: $4.99
Apple iCloud Storage: $2.99
Internet: $54.99
Utilities: $70-$150
Car Insurance: $1,300 every six months, paid for by my parents on a joint account
Cell Phone: Parents pay
Laptop: $61 monthly installment

Annual Expenses
FabFitFun Box: $200
Amazon Prime: $119
Advertisement
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 no question about it. My parents are immigrants that did not have access to education — they didn't even graduate high school. Growing up I was always told they came to the United States so my sister and I could have a better life and have access to opportunities they did not have. This did not guilt me in any way; I just understood it as my life. Both of my parents worked blue-collar manual labor jobs, and they said if I didn't go to school I would have to work jobs like them. I never felt like I didn't want to pursue higher education and I enjoyed learning, regardless. My parents never told me what I could and could not major in or study, they're just proud of whatever I do. My mother's income paid for my very affordable state tuition during undergrad, and I am currently in graduate school. I am paying for this with student loans and a $20,000 gift from my godmother.
Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I was constantly hearing that we couldn't afford things. My parents' income changed dramatically when I turned nine and they were able to afford a house in a pretty decent part of town. After the home purchase, I was still hearing that they couldn't afford things. My parents weren't home much because they were always working. This taught me at a young age that needing money can take away from simple pleasures like spending time with your family. I was alone for a large portion of my childhood since my sister is significantly older than me and I knew I didn't want to live like that as an adult.
Advertisement
What was your first job and why did you get it?
I got my first job at 14 working at my high school's cafeteria. I got this job to help me afford frivolous things like getting my nails done, movie tickets, and whatever else I wanted to purchase since I was never given an allowance.
Did you worry about money growing up?
Not really. My parents were always complaining about money but we never went hungry or had issues with utility and water bills.
Do you worry about money now?
Somewhat. I was recently let go from my well-paying part-time job during the school year due to budget issues, so I don't have a consistent income right now. I'm just relying on personal funds and funding from my internship and a university award I was given. I'm confident I'll be employed eventually and I'm trying to focus on my internship right now and gain connections and experiences to succeed. I have a decent amount of money saved from previous jobs.
At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
This is a complicated question. I suppose for the most part when I graduated undergrad at 21. I moved to a brand new city and my dad gave me his old car that was paid off. I still use that car now. My parents pay for my car insurance and phone bill, which is a huge help. I pay for all other expenses on my own and I do not rely on them or think about them as a safety net. My parents are retired now, so I can't really rely on them.
Advertisement
Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
As mentioned before, my mom paid my tuition in undergrad and I received a $20,000 gift to put towards my graduate school tuition. I'm unaware of the specifics of my parents' finances, but I hope to get something in a will one day.

Day One

10 a.m. — I wake up discombobulated because I got way too high watching BoJack Horseman last night and stayed up until 1:30 in the morning, ugh. I shuffle over to my tiny kitchen and make a breakfast of avocado toast and scrambled eggs with a Chobani Flip yogurt (I'm obsessed with these). I also make coffee in my Moka pot and froth up some Elmhurst oat milk with Silk almond milk vanilla creamer.
11 a.m. — I don't have much going on today, work-wise. Long story short, our app stopped working yesterday so work has been light for me while our coders work on the issue. I put in some extra notes from yesterday's meeting in a document and lay around.
12 p.m. — I decide to take advantage of the free time I have and purchase a ticket to see Top Gun: Maverick at the matinee price. Score! $15.98
2 p.m. — I heat up some leftover pesto ravioli I made last night, and add chopped grape tomatoes and spinach. After I eat, I walk over to the movie theater.
5 p.m. — Movie is done! I loved it and cried like three times.

5:30 p.m. — I have plans to meet up with one of my good friends from college. She's cooking dinner for me, so I run to the Trader Joe's wine store to pick up two bottles of wine. $21.38

6 p.m. — I rush over to the subway and swipe my Metrocard that I loaded $40 on a while back. I don't use the OMNY system because continually charging my card just gives me anxiety, I'd rather load a large sum in one go. I'll be sad in 2024 when the card goes away!

6:40 p.m. — Finally get there and my friend is going all out for me! She makes zucchini fritters and Mediterranean chicken. We talk and drink wine while she cooks. We bring dinner to her rooftop and look at tiny views of the Chrysler Building and gossip about people in college.

9:30 p.m. — After dinner and a bit of smoking, I decide trekking back to the subway and taking two trains would require a bit too much mental energy and I would probably get super paranoid. I take an Uber home and somehow got unlucky to have a really talkative driver. I guess he can't see my brain's half melted right now. $25.08

11 p.m. — The rest of my night consists of watching BoJack Horseman and heating up half of a Levain cookie before passing out.

Daily Total: $62.44
Advertisement

Day Two

8 a.m. — Wake up feeling surprisingly fine. I take a shower because I realize I forgot last night and I feel really gross. Living in NYC, I always take a shower before bed. I do my usual morning skin-care routine of the Tula Cult Classic face wash, Laneige Cream Skin toner, Glow Recipe Hyaluronic Serum, Origins GinZing eye cream, Clinique Moisturizing Gel, and Biore UV Sunscreen. I make a matcha latte with my same oat milk and creamer frothed mixture and have a Chobani Flip yogurt. The s'mores flavor is the best one, don't @ me.
10 a.m. — I turn on The Kardashians while doing some admin work. The end of the episode is when (spoiler alert) Khloe finds out Tristan cheated AGAIN, shocker. I love it, the rest of the season will be juicy now!
2 p.m. — Finish up some meetings and spend the rest of the day doing work while watching the Our Father documentary in the background. I make my favorite Mediterranean-inspired salad with some pearl couscous, grape tomatoes, feta, avocado, and shallot to snack on.
6:30 p.m. — I go on a hot girl walk and stop at Whole Foods on the way home. I get cucumber, zucchini, applesauce, coffee grounds, Chobani Flips, salad kits, and some other snack items. $58.46
7 p.m. — I rush and get ready to meet up with one of my friends from college. She made a reservation at a fancy Korean spot. I throw on a Reformation top, thrifted Levi's, some Reeboks, and rush out the door.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — Dinner is SUPER good and the place is so aesthetic. We shared wings and I got a truffle japchae with a cherry martini. We go back to my place after to put our leftovers in the fridge and drink some wine on my roof while we wait for her friend to meet up with us. $60.11
11 p.m. — We go to a Latin club where they play lots of Bad Bunny. His new album is fantastic so I'm having a great time! I get a margarita. My friend pays but I pay her back on Venmo. $15
12:30 a.m. — We head home. I immediately take a shower, sit out on the fire escape looking at the skyline for a bit, turn on some BoJack, and knock out. I'm so excited to actually move here full-time one day.
Daily Total: $133.57

Day Three

8 a.m. — I'm hungover, but also not? I make some Moka pot coffee with my usual cream and milk and call my mom. I have a key lime Chobani Flip, get on Slack, and catch up on work assignments I need to do. To mix up my morning skin-care routine, I use the Beauty of Joseon sunscreen. This sunscreen is the best one hands down, but it's a bit heavy for summer.
12 p.m. — I make a salad kit. It's nice when you actually put groceries to use. I throw in an avocado and mix in some garlic salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to spice things up.
Advertisement
1 p.m. — I'm bored and I remember I'm running out of my holy grail lip pencil, Kylie Cosmetics Love Bite. It's a discontinued color that I've been using since it came out in 2017, so I found a seller on eBay with five-star reviews. Should be fine, right? $32.40
2 p.m. — I chat with a friend about a healthcare consulting position that opened up at a big company. I've been trying to pivot away from the nonprofit industry. I'm open to consulting and just anything that pays well at this point. I'm so tired of being underpaid, which is why I wanted to dabble in the tech world. I'm not being paid great here, but I love the people and company and hope I can make good connections.
4 p.m. — I eat leftovers for an early dinner with some green juice and text my friend about going to a bar in Brooklyn tonight. An old acquaintance from college is DJing there, so I want to support and also go to this bar because apparently it's really fun. We both decide we're pretty tired and we'll reassess at around 7. I try to convince her anyway and vow to leave super early since I need to catch a train to visit my sister tomorrow morning anyway.

7 p.m. — She's too tired to go. I anticipated this, so I was already out on a hot girl walk. I stop by a few thrift shops where I end up getting three pairs of shoes. Yikes — I have no idea how I'm going to fit all of these in my suitcase when I move out. They were all great finds, I swear! $65.73

8 p.m. — I then head over to Trader Joe's to grab my favorite frozen pizza (the tomato brie tart) and some cooked chicken breast to add to my salads before finally heading home. $13.98

11 p.m. — The rest of my night is dedicated to BoJack, cleaning up the apartment, and eating pizza. My feet are in so much pain from aimlessly walking all around so I slather on some lidocaine that I bought my first two days of moving here. Very necessary!

Daily Total: $112.11
Advertisement

Day Four

7:30 a.m. — My alarm goes off, but I snooze three more times. I'm planning to head to my sister's place on the 10 a.m. train. Today's a day for instant coffee with my milk and creamer, some raspberries, and a Chobani Flip. I'm having trouble forcing myself to eat quickly, but I don't want to spend any money at Grand Central. I fill up my Hydroflask, throw pajamas and toiletries in my backpack, put a Babybel cheese and applesauce in my belt bag, and walk to the subway. I swipe my preloaded card.
10 a.m. — I miss the Metro-North train by a minute. I purchase a round-trip ticket and am thankful there's a 10:30 train! $35.80
11 a.m. — I listen to a Call Her Daddy episode on attachment styles on the train, but I quickly get bored. I think I much prefer it when she interviews celebrities and influencers. I spend the rest of my time listening to Harry Styles and re-reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.
12:30 p.m. — I get to my sister's house. I'm an auntie to two great little nephews so they take up my entire day. I eat some pasta and broccoli at her place.
7:30 p.m. — Kids are in bed, yay! My sister and I walk to the liquor store because she's been craving dirty martinis. We also walk to the corner store to get olives. She pays. Being the younger sister is awesome because I never pay for things when we're together.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — My sister makes a fire and we chat outside with martinis. These martinis are not really great, but it's fine. I think I just prefer espresso martinis.
11:30 p.m. — I take a shower and go to bed. My night routine is pretty much the same, but my oil cleanser is the Hada Labo Gokujyun Cleansing Oil and I add in the Glossier Super Pure serum. If you have acne-prone skin… run, don't walk, to get this! You'll thank me later.
Daily Total: $35.80

Day Five

8:15 a.m. — My nephew wakes me up, but I stay in bed and snooze for a bit.
9:30 a.m. — My sister and I go out to get coffee. I get an iced latte and my sister gets an iced mocha. Both of these drinks are with oat milk, of course. She pays again! We meet up with my nephews at the park and play for a while. Being here is great, but it's also free birth control for me. I'm contemplating freezing my eggs in a couple of years because this is really not in the cards for me any time soon.
12 p.m. — We eat lunch at home, which is just a random assortment of leftovers and pizza. I play games with my nephews and watch them for a while.
3 p.m. — It's time to go home. I get on the train and keep reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and listen to Tove Lo and Hozier.
Advertisement
4 p.m. — My cousin texts me and confirms if I'm going to NYC Pride. I'm shocked as I completely forgot about this, and remember the decision I made last month that moving forward, I will stop going to Pride as an ~~ally~~. I recently shared my identity to my closest friends and my partner, and I feel confident going. I get a cute shirt and earrings that kind of scream "I'm bisexual" from Amazon. I really try not to shop there, but Prime delivery is necessary considering Pride is at the end of this week. $33.13
5:45 p.m. — I swipe my MetroCard to head home, and it is my last swipe.
6:15 p.m. — I lay down for a bit and I force myself to wake up to finally make some dinner. I make spinach and chive pasta with chopped zucchini and chicken sausage. I drink some green juice.
7:30 p.m. — I lay in bed for another embarrassingly long amount of time before I decide to load up the dishwasher and deep clean the kitchen.
11:30 p.m. — I FaceTime with my boyfriend for a bit before I force myself to turn off the lights. I'm a night owl, so I could be up until 1:30 easily, but tomorrow's Monday.
1:30 a.m. — I still end up being awake until 1:30. Fun!
Daily Total: $33.13

Day Six

8 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I turn the alarm off and reset it to an 8:30 alarm.
8:30 a.m. — Okay, I'm up. I make instant coffee today with creamer and milk, some raspberries, a Chobani Flip. I hop into a very intense meeting.
Advertisement
11 a.m. — I am overwhelmed! I sit and do nothing for an hour because I'm so overwhelmed, which I know isn't helping. I decide some food will help. I don't have a toaster, so every time I want to toast my bread I have to put it on the pan with some butter on it. I slather on some prepackaged chicken salad from Whole Foods, add some Cholula, and eat it with some Mediterranean salad. I know these leftovers have been in here for a while, but my fridge is set at 35 degrees for this reason.
3 p.m. — All meetings for the day are done and I wrap up some work. Today's been intense. I realize I haven't left the house at all…
4 p.m. — Looks like no hot girl walk is happening today. I start looking into workout classes that could motivate me to leave the apartment more on days like this, so I look into ClassPass. I sign up for the one-month free trial they have going on and contemplate going to a BODYROK class, but I'm intimidated by all of the equipment. I decide to do it anyway and booked a class for Wednesday.
6 p.m. — I keep reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I have a complicated relationship with how I feel about Mindy Kaling now (I used to be a hardcore fan), but I won't deny she was a trailblazer for representation in my community. She's still really funny and has clearly been through a lot, so I'll like her with caution and I know that she's given other South Asian women confidence and the ability to be out there in the media and share their own stories.
Advertisement
9 p.m. — Wow, I kept reading. I forgot how hilarious this book is, even though I don't understand all of her elder millennial pop culture references. In between my reading, I reheat the last of my truffle japchae, shower, and do a sheet mask. It feels nice to break up my evening routine and read for once.
9:30 p.m. — I heat up half of a Levain cookie and plan to watch SNL skits, but my boyfriend FaceTimes me instead!
11 p.m. — I scroll through the Reddit NYC influencers snark channel and look at apartments on StreetEasy.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up with no alarm, which is great. I hydrate, make some coffee, and do my skin-care routine. I got a sample of the Supergoop Unseen sunscreen in a Sephora trial-sized kit I purchased, and I really like it but I'm not sure it's worth the price.
11:45 a.m. — My coworker tells me she got exposed to COVID, so out of precaution we're not meeting up to work on user testing and waiting until next week. I realize I haven't eaten anything yet today, so I make a salad kit and add avocado with sliced chicken breast. I also clean up the apartment. Living in a studio means everything gets messy when you just simply walk from one end to the other and it drives me nuts.
1 p.m. — I schedule a hair appointment for tomorrow after my workout class and keep chugging along with work. I do lots of data entry, which is the worst.
Advertisement
3 p.m. — I'm feeling burned out, so I decide to go on a walk down to a park. I end up taking a few wrong turns and it takes me longer than I expected. I'm super thirsty, so I pop into Trader Joe's and get a watermelon juice and two of my favorite KIND bars. I basically chug my juice while my friend/ex-coworker calls me to fill me in about work drama going on. $6.11
5:30 p.m. — This was an unnecessarily long hot girl walk. I flop on my bed feeling exhausted and watch an episode of BoJack. I hop in the shower to rinse off. My hair is in serious need of some TLC but I know I'm getting my hair done tomorrow so I push through without washing. I add some Sunday Riley retinol to my routine tonight. I don't know how I feel about this retinol; I feel like every time I use it I just break out.
7:30 p.m. — I heat up some leftover pasta. I have nothing to watch, so I very skeptically turn on the Gossip Girl reboot. I know, I'm super late. I'm just against reboots.
7:45 p.m. — I turn it off after 15 minutes. I heat up the other half of my Levain cookie and read while longingly looking at this group of friends hanging out on their string-lit rooftop across the street from me.
10:45 p.m. — I finish the book! I plan to read Kaling's second book tomorrow, but it's lights out for now.
Advertisement
Daily Total: $6.11
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series

Advertisement