An Unpaid Intern's Week In New York, NY

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
This week, we’re taking a look at the way interns are spending across the country. Internships can be a key way of getting experience, gaining entry into fields, and making connections, but not everyone has the ability — in terms of timing or finances — to make it happen. For those who do, managing an internship during the traditional work and school year, or working full-or-part-time over the summer can provide an exciting (or nerve-wracking!) preview of life after college.
Today: a grad student and unpaid intern who makes $15,000 per year and spends some of it on ingredients for cauliflower tacos and transparent umbrellas.
Occupation: Grad Student & College Counseling Intern
Industry: Education
Age: 24
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $15,000 (varies)
Paycheck (Weekly): I try to make at least $300 per week from my retail gig, freelance tutoring and college advising, and babysitting — but it varies.
Monthly Expenses
Housing Costs: $600. I live in a 400-square-foot apartment with my boyfriend and an additional roommate and we have the deal of the century on rent.
Loan Payments: $0. I am VERY lucky.
All Other Monthly Expenses:
Gym Membership: $10
Internet & Utilities: $30 for my share
Savings: I aim to save at least $100 per month, but it depends on my income.
Charitable Contribution: $25. This month, it was for an event whose proceeds went to victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
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7:30 a.m. — Today is a gym day. I like to get there by 6 a.m. before work, something that is easier to do since it's close to my apartment and I can still shower and eat at home. I drink some of the cold brew from the giant mason jar I make weekly, and I heat up oatmeal. I pour maple syrup on top and cringe when I notice the bottle is almost empty. High-quality maple syrup from the farmers' market is my vice. It's expensive and I don't look forward to purchasing it soon.

8:15 a.m. — I start walking to my internship, entertaining myself with the dulcet tones of Harry Potter & The Sacred Text, my current podcast obsession. The walk is about a mile and a half and I'm proud to say I've never chickened out and taken the subway — rain, shine, snow, or freezing temperatures. (I did take a Via once, but I literally had the flu.) I work in the guidance office of a high school three days a week as part of my masters and school counseling certification. (Think student teaching, but for guidance counselors.) It's an unpaid, but a necessary job for me to have on my career track.

12 p.m. — Lunchtime! Today is yogurt and clementines. I brought sliced peppers as a snack that I'll probably eat later. My school isn't located in an area with any tempting lunch options, so I bring my lunch (and snacks) to work every day. My supervisors, forever grateful for my (unpaid) work, do buy me coffee or a snack pretty frequently because they know my money is tight. I already have a job lined up for next year (a rarity in my field, I'm insanely early) so I guess my hard work is paying off.

4 p.m. — I'm home from work and am trying to beat the 5 p.m. rush at the grocery store, so I head out with my reusable bags in tow. My boyfriend and I constantly use our downtime at work to find recipes, and we tend to eat vegetarian to save money (and eat more veggies). Tonight, we're making cauliflower tacos. Thankfully we already have all the spices we need and tortillas in the fridge, so I just buy cauliflower, chickpeas, tomatoes, bell peppers, black beans, and guacamole. This should hopefully last us a few days for lunch. $15

5 p.m. — I get home and see an email in my freelance inbox. I do a lot of private essay editing and tutoring to make money on the side, and it's the hottest season for that kind of work. I recently raised my rates in accordance with my sparkling new masters degree, and I hope that won't be an issue. (This client is a referral from an old client, who paid a much lower rate that I charged before I graduated from college.) I call her up and chat with her about her son and the family's needs. After about 30 minutes, she agrees to pay my current rate. Score! I make an appointment to meet with her son next weekend to start working together.

6 p.m. — Boyfriend is home. We make dinner together and watch an old episode of Chopped. Despite our shared Food Network addiction, we made a conscious decision to not pay for cable. That doesn't mean that we don't use every app at our disposal to watch what we want. Luckily, his dad is more than willing to share his FIOS password with us. I know that we could pirate things, but I try to avoid that whenever possible. I also don't use an ad blocker for that reason.

Daily Total: $15
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6:30 a.m. — I wake up to the sound of my lottery alarm. I am a Broadway addict but it's expensive so I enter lotteries (almost daily) for shows I'd like to see. The tickets are usually around $40 and I never win, but if I ever get lucky one day, I will absolutely cough up $40 to see Lion King, etc. I sometimes use TDF or TodayTix, but those are very limited and can be expensive. It's a win-win, I guess: see Broadway, or don't spend $40.

6:50 a.m. — Out of the shower and eating breakfast — cold brew and oatmeal once again. We're running low on milk, which I point out to my boyfriend. He says that it's our roommate's turn to buy milk, but I know that won't happen for days (if ever) so I make a note in my phone to pick some up. Sometimes it's worth $3 to prevent a blowout over something small and petty.

7 a.m. — I'm out the door and on my way to my easiest, and favorite gig. I have to take the subway to get there, and I notice that my MetroCard is running low. Crap. I throw $30 on it because that's what I have in cash, and go uptown. In New York City, there are people who will pay you to walk their kids to school. I've had this job for two years and I love the little boy like crazy. I have to arrive by 7:45 a.m., feed him if he hasn't had breakfast yet, and walk him to daycare. I also pick him up from daycare and babysit when his mom is running late. As she runs out the door, she tells me today is likely to be one of those days. I'm basically part-nanny, part-toddler-walker. I make $20 for the morning run, and $50 for the afternoon. $30

11 a.m. — After my toddler BFF is safely at daycare, I head to a nearby park to read. I work at a retail job about twice a week that's located between my apartment and the apartment of the family I toddler-walk for. Normally, I go home and eat lunch, but I lost track of time today. I stop at a nearby deli for a sandwich and kick myself for being so dumb. If I weren't going to be on my feet the whole time, I'd probably push lunch off, but I know myself. I need to eat something fast. $7.50

4 p.m. — We just got some new skirts at my store and they are beautiful. I want one so badly, but I put it on hold. I'll wait until the end of my next shift to buy it. I get a really nice discount, and I tell myself that I'm "building up a quality wardrobe" as an excuse. Really, I should be saving my pennies. Not today skirt, not today.

7 p.m. — I walk back to daycare to pick up my little BFF. He is very excited about the craft they did for Father's Day and I have to stop him from crushing it as we walk. We get home and share a delicious snack of popcorn, and play with Legos. It's still beautiful out, but he rejects my plan to go to the playground because he knows that he'll have to wear sunscreen. His mom arrives home around 7 p.m. and offers to call me a Via home because it's so much later than expected. I told her no; as kind as it is, the subway will be faster. She Venmos me my pay for the day, plus a little extra "for my patience."

7:30 p.m. — I arrive home to leftovers for dinner. The tacos reheat beautifully. My boyfriend offers to clean up, so I plop myself in front of our window unit and play video games. I've been loving Fire Emblem and splurged on the new game last month, but am slow to actually finish it. I play for a few hours before tucking in for the night.

Daily Total: $37.50
3 of 9
6 a.m. — I head to the gym and run into a friend from high school, who also lives in the neighborhood, but doesn't normally go before work. We make plans to have dinner sometime soon. I don't have a ton of money to go out, so I tend to try to invite people over for meals to catch up. Lets see if she takes the bait.

7:30 a.m. — Breakfast! The maple syrup situation is getting dire. I'm buying some this weekend for sure. I enter the Broadway lotteries and chat with my boyfriend before heading to my internship.

10:30 a.m. — Back at my internship, the AC is dying and it's HOT out. I am sent out to go get everyone iced coffees. My supervisors Venmo me for the coffees ($15), including my own.

11:45 a.m. — I'm heating up cauliflower tacos in the microwave when one of my students pops her head into the office. She gives me a handmade card to thank me for all the help and support I've given her as her counselor. I want to cry, but settle on hugging her and my personal email in case she wants to stay in touch. She was one of my favorite students this year and I'm so touched by her gesture.

3 p.m. — It's slow AF in the office because our students are in finals, so my supervisors send me home early. This is the last formal week of my internship, so there's not a ton for me to do. I hit my required number of hours a while ago, but it's generally frowned upon to leave before the end of the school year. I have enough time to walk to my tutoring appointment, so I fire up a podcast and start trekking. I know it's better for me to walk for 30 minutes rather than needlessly take the subway, and I'm sweating by the time I get to tutoring.

5:30 p.m. — My tutoring session goes well. This particular student is a really talented artist, and her latest endeavor is homemade pins. They're not really my style, but I think my sister would like them so I buy one from her at her discounted "friends and family" rate. Her dad writes me a check (I prefer Venmo but it's fine), and I stop at the bank to deposit it before going home. $3

5:40 p.m. — It's too hot. I cave five minutes into my walk and take the subway. Another MetroCard swipe down the drain.

6 p.m. — We are at the very end of our cauliflower tacos and I can't be mad about it. While we eat, I call my mom to figure out logistics for this weekend. There's a family wedding and it's fancy, so I want to make sure I'm not missing anything before it's too late.

7:30 p.m. — Tomorrow is a busy day for both me and my boyfriend so we decide to buy groceries before we get into our PJs. (We're grandparents in twenty-something bodies. PJs by 8, and in bed by 9:30 most nights.) We stock up on yogurt for me, buy milk for the apartment, and get the fixings for Thai chicken lettuce wraps, which we'll make tomorrow. He pays.

Daily Total: $3
4 of 9
6:30 a.m. — I'm up and hitting the Broadway lotteries again. I shower and eat my breakfast. Today, I slice an apple into my oatmeal to give it some flavor and try to ration my maple syrup so that it lasts until Saturday. It's not as good.

7:45 a.m. — I am at the end of my block when I realize I forgot my lunch. Ugh. I double back to get it, and then run to the subway. I arrive uptown just in time. My toddler BFF is very excited about his playdate after school today, and his mother tells me to take a cab to her sister's apartment from daycare. She'll reimburse me for that and my ride home. I am mildly freaked out about the lack of a carseat involved in this plan, but it should be a short ride.

11 a.m. — During my break at my retail job, I notice that the skirt I've been coveting is selling quickly. I make a comment about it to my manager and she says the one I set aside will have to go back on the floor at the end of the day because we've already sold out of my size. (They're not supposed to hold goods for us for more than a day, but she'll bend the rules for us sometimes.) I eat my yogurt and do some mental gymnastics to justify the damn skirt.

4 p.m. — I try on the skirt at the end of my shift in the stock room. It's beautiful...and I'm buying it. My coworkers laugh as I grumble and I fork over my cash. Even with my discount, it's half my wages for the day. Worth it. $35

4:15 p.m. — I have a little bit of time before daycare pickup, so I hang at a Starbucks and start texting a friend. I am grateful for the AC and the delicious iced tea I buy. My friend agrees to plans this weekend. We don't set anything in stone, but she's always on board to do something fun and inexpensive. $5

5:30 p.m. — Despite my anxiety, the cab ride is fine. I still think he should have been in a booster seat but I'm not his parent. I drop him off at his cousin's place and decide to take his mother up on her offer to pay for my Via back home. I actually take the Via to my tutoring appointment, because it's a flat rate ($25) — I don't feel bad about it.

7:30 p.m. — Tutoring is over. I'm exhausted, but decide to walk the 14 blocks home. I text my boyfriend to get started on dinner. I'll jump in and help (and clean) when I get home.

8 p.m. — I put on a Twitch stream on our Smart TV as we eat dinner. Our roommate makes a surprise appearance for dinner (he's rarely home before 9 on most nights) and offers to help with the cleaning. I've been so busy today and just want to conk out, but I wash the dishes as promised. He washes the big pan, which is heavy, and I am grateful for the help.

Daily Total: $40
5 of 9
7:30 a.m. — Today is the last day of my internship! I eat oatmeal with the very last drops of maple syrup on top. Delicious. I'm psyched to start my real, full-time job (that I get paid for) and stop running around, but I love this school and my coworkers here.

12 p.m. — We go out for lunch for my last day and the staff gives me a thank-you present of customized stationery and mousepads; I love them. (I got each of them flowers last week that arrived yesterday.) I make sure to order something on the cheaper side, but in the end, I still end up spending about $15 after tip. I rarely eat out, so this is a delicious treat. $15

4 p.m. — I call my mom as I walk home from my internship. The lunch and gift exchange was nice for closure, but it's still bittersweet. She tells me she's happy that I had such a good experience, but that she's glad I'm moving on to a phase in my life "where your job title won't include so many slashes." Okay, fair.

5:30 p.m. — I walk over to my boyfriend's office and we stop at a wine store to pick up a few bottles for tonight. We get on the subway and I tell him about the gift from my supervisors. He jokes that I'm the only person in the world who is excited by stationery.

6:30 p.m. — We do a monthly game night with a group of friends. There's a rotating cast of characters and one couple is missing tonight. We play Citadels and Sushi Go, and have a potluck dinner; we provide the wine.

11 p.m. — Back on the subway, my boyfriend and I discuss the possibility of moving. At the end of game night, when we decided where it will be held next month, he made his usual joke about us hosting it. The punchline in our group is that our apartment can hold five people max, and our game night group can be up to 10. Someone quipped that now that I have a job — other than "Broke Grad Student" — we should move. Another friend said there are a bunch of available units in her building, which is much closer to my new school. We really are getting the deal of the century on rent in our current apartment, but it's tiny for three people. Maybe we should look into a new place and what we can afford.

Daily Total: $15
6 of 9
7:30 a.m. — I wake up to a panicked phone call from my mother. It's our family friend's wedding today; she planned to take outdoor pictures but it's supposed to pour, so everyone is looking for clear umbrellas. My mom asks me to Prime Now some to my apartment because I live near the venue. I clear out the Prime Now store of clear umbrellas ($62) and my mother reimburses me later.

10 a.m. — The umbrellas arrive and I run them over to the hotel where the bride is staying. One of her bridesmaids comes down and thanks me profusely. While I'm in that direction, I stop by Sephora and buy my best friend a birthday present. I'm seeing her on Monday, and I know she is a makeup addict who sticks to drugstore products. I like buying people high-end versions of their daily items as gifts because those are the kinds of things they will never spring for themselves. I knew this purchase was coming, but it still stings a little. I do think she'll love her new lipstick and eyeliner though — and I pat myself on the back for resisting the temptation to buy something for myself. $40

11:45 a.m. — Back from my errands and I am HUNGRY. Boyfriend is out with a friend, but I think we'll probably eat lunch together. I make myself a second cold brew and eat two clementines while I wait for him.

1 p.m. — Boyfriend comes home and we eat leftovers of the chicken lettuce wraps for lunch. They're even better the second time around. Boyfriend went to go see a friend who is house/dog sitting, and he raves about how nice that apartment is.

1:50 p.m. — We start to watch an episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix. My boyfriend brings out his laptop and, "for fun," starts researching what we could afford if we moved out, factoring in my new and improved "real job" salary. He makes a lot more money than I do and lives in our closet apartment for my benefit. (He also pays a bigger proportion of the rent than I do.) The number he comes up with is more than our current rent even WITH a roommate. However, a cursory glance at StreetEasy with what he calls an "extremely conservative" budget moves me from the "But our rent is so cheap..." to the "Holy crap, we can live like real people!" camp. Maybe a move is possible after all.

4 p.m. — It is pouring and I don't trust anything I do to my hair to stay. I get a blowout at a place near my apartment. It's pretty cheap for my neighborhood, but still expensive. $40

7 p.m. — All dressed and gussied up, we begin walking to the venue after a 20-second debate about taking a cab to stay dry. We arrive at the wedding venue (mostly) unscathed.

1 a.m. — The wedding is over and I want pizza more than anything in the world. I treat me and my boyfriend. $5

Daily Total: $85
7 of 9
11 a.m. — I am so hungover. Last night was crazy fun, but we maybe should have taken it easier on the alcohol front. I ask my boyfriend if he wants to run out for bagel sandwiches. He laughs and tells me I'm a creature of habit. We usually keep some delicious bagels from his hometown in our freezer, and he put them in the fridge to defrost last night. Bless him. We make egg and cheese on bagels at home.

2 p.m. — My friend meets me at my apartment and we decide to go to Central Park. We walk through the park and catch up on our weeks. We stop to drink some water and there's a young woman singing and playing guitar. I'm not big on paying buskers when they're on the subway, but today in the park, I'm in a good mood and this girl is seriously talented. I throw some cash in her case. $3

6 p.m. — I get home from the park and my friend heads back home. We make plans to go out again next week. Right after I sit down, I get a call from a client who is freaking out. I talk her down, discuss where her son is in the college process, and assure her that he will be ready to apply to college even if we take a break while he's at a summer program. She insists on me checking in with him at least once, and I schedule it for one week from now. She thanks me for my flexibility and later Venmos me for our time on the phone. I wouldn't normally charge for that time because I wasn't working with her son, but if she's willing to pay me, I'm not going to turn her down.

7:30 p.m. — We finish our lettuce wrap leftovers for dinner. They're still tasty, but I'm definitely ready to introduce something else into my diet. Roommate comes home from a trivia hosting gig with cupcakes; it was one of his cohost's birthdays. They're a little stale, but are generally delicious and I devour them. Roommate asks if we want to start GLOW on Netflix. I'm definitely liking it, but my boyfriend seems less into it. I'm reminded that I like my apartment dynamic, and maybe moving wouldn't be the smartest thing right now — even if we could afford it.

Daily Total: $3
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