A Week In New York City On $16/Hour

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.
Ahead of National Twins Day, we present Twin Week, where we’re tracking the spending of five sets of twins. Just because twins share the same DNA, doesn’t mean they share the same money habits, so we thought it’d be a fun experiment to compare and contrast the way millennial twins are saving and spending. Here’s a set of twins living in Minneapolis, MN, and New York City, respectively.
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This diary: a video intern/store associate who makes $16/hour and spends some of her money this week on gum. Her sister is a production intern.
Occupation: Video Intern/Store Associate
Industry: Film
Age: 20
Location: New York City
Income: $16/hour at the store, but my internship is unpaid. I work around 30 hours per week (usually four to five days) at the store, and 20 hours at my internship (two days in the office and one event per week).
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $900, plus $45 for utilities. (The room actually costs $1,150, but my roommate's boyfriend is living with us for the summer so we agreed he'd pay a share of the rent. My housing is usually included in my tuition, but for the summer I'm on my own.)
MetroCard: $121
Student Loan Payment: $0 (With my parents savings and my financial aid from my school, I don't have any student loans. Yet.)
Spotify Student Account: $4.95
MoviePass: $9.95
Netflix, Hulu & HBOGo: $0 (My parents pay.)

Day One

8:30 a.m. — After snoozing my alarm for a record breaking 30 minutes, I finally get out of bed. I think about working out, but then realize I'll be late for work if I do, so I take a shower instead.
9:15 a.m. — I make coffee and two pieces of toast for breakfast. I'm working at my internship in Brooklyn today, and I live in Harlem, so I have to get going if I want to get there at 10:30.
12 p.m. — I've been at work for a couple hours now uploading and sorting through photos that I took at an event we had on Saturday night. I'm a video intern at a film festival, so I'm responsible for most of the in-house digital media production for the marketing team to use. I snack on trail mix from the (free) snack selection at my other job to hold me over until lunch.
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2 p.m. — I'm finished with the photos, so I break for lunch. (I can basically go whenever it's convenient for me.) I picked up pre-made spring rolls at Trader Joe's when I was there yesterday, so I head out of the office to eat them. Normally, I'd sit outside because I hate eating meals at my desk, but it's disgustingly humid outside today so I decide to indulge myself and head to a cafe.
2:15 p.m. — I get an iced coffee and cookies because they look good. During this past school year my coffee spending habits got really bad, but this summer I've barely bought any coffee at all, so this is a bit of a treat for me. I settle into one of the couches and drink my coffee and eat my spring rolls. I'll save the cookies for later. $5
3:50 p.m. — My coworkers are having a meeting at the table where I'm sitting, and they offer me tortilla chips. I accept, of course. I've learned to take free food wherever I can get it!
4 p.m. — One of my responsibilities in the office is to “quality check” the films before we screen them to make sure the file isn't weird or corrupted — a.k.a. I just have to watch the films. I don't particularly like the film I watch today (which is out of the ordinary, since I usually do) but I still think I learned something from watching it.
6:05 p.m. — I'm going to hang out with some friends in Bushwick! Even though I'm traveling within Brooklyn, the ride is still nearly an hour. I can't complain though, I feel really lucky to have great friends in a city as big and isolating as New York can be. I text my roommates (who are also my close friends) to say I won't be home until late. Since I live with a couple, I figure it's considerate to let them know when I'll be out of the house if they want to get up to any...you know...funny business.
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11:37 p.m. — After watching Hercules, snacking on my friend's food, and drinking her boyfriend's wine, I begin my long train journey back uptown. They got the food from the free snack table at his job, so I don't feel bad about taking it. We haven't seen each other in a long time since our schedules and living arrangements are not as convenient as they are when we're in school. It's so great to see them! I listen to Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Eagan for free from my library app on my ride.
12:30 a.m. — Who knew getting from Bushwick to Harlem would be so difficult? I end up having to leave the station and walk to another. I'm very grateful for my unlimited subway card. I end up turning off my audiobook, since I'm too tired to focus. I opt for music instead.
1:24 a.m. — Finally home! I wash my face and chat with my roommates, who are still awake. I'm tired though, so I head to bed.
Daily Total: $5

Day Two

9:20 a.m. — For the first time ever, I wake up before my alarm. I decide to stay in bed scrolling through social media. After about 20 minutes, I finally get up to shower, get dressed, and do my makeup. I head to the kitchen and make coffee and toast for breakfast, and then cook zucchini and cut up cucumbers for a little lunch salad. I pack it all up, and I'm out the door before 11.
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11:15 a.m. — I have to go to my school to pick up a package, so I take a different train than usual. I get my packages sent to my school address, because packages get stolen from my apartment a lot and the mail center at my school is secure. I traded my morning shift at the store for a closing one so I'd have time in the morning to do this, since the mail center hours are really limited in the summer. It feels so weird to be on campus, but I've also been missing school a lot lately. Being an adult is hard.
11:30 a.m. — I have a package of clothes from the store I work at (we love a discount) and one from my mom. Sadly, the pants from my store end up being a size too big (yes, I tried them on right away), so I have to return them and order another size. The package from my mom contains a late birthday present from my older sister — a pair of earrings, which I love!
12:20 p.m. — I get to work at the store early! Time is on my side today.
2:30 p.m. — My work friend buys me coffee for switching shifts with her. It's cold brew from a fancy place near the store and it is DELICIOUS, but it makes me lightheaded :(. I give her the rest.
3 p.m. — I meet more work friends in the garden around the block and eat my packed lunch, plus an apple I got from our snack selection.
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3:50 p.m. — I've been meaning to buy gum, so I stop at CVS before my break is over. I get two packs. $3
6:15 p.m. — Another break. I munch on trail mix from the snack selection.
9:47 p.m. — We end up getting through closing fast, so I get home earlier than usual. I microwave a sweet potato and eat it with tomatoes and avocado for dinner. I smoke a little before I eat because eating high is fun, and then chat with my roommates about our days and what I should do with my day off coming up. I do my dishes and start cooking again, this time both lunch and dinner, since I'm going to be working really late tomorrow. I make a big portion of pasta with spinach and tomatoes. My high ass eats some, but there is plenty left for tomorrow.
12:25 a.m. — After cooking, hanging out with my roommates, and messing around on my phone, I get up and get ready for bed.
1:44 a.m. — Who am I kidding? I watch an episode and a half of The Handmaid's Tale.
Daily Total: $3

Day Three

8:45 a.m. — I roll out of bed a little late and quickly shower, get dressed, and put my makeup on. In the kitchen, I make my coffee and toast, but I have a little avocado so I use that on one piece and some of my roommate's jam (I asked) on the other. Today is internship day. I pack up my bag, which is extraordinarily heavy because I have to bring my camera, laptop, lunch/dinner, and the coffee that I didn't have time to drink. Miraculously, I make it out the door on time.
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11:37 a.m. — Apparently one of our sponsors bought a ton of fruit and vegetables for a show that we had no other use for, so my boss offered some for the office to take. I snag a mango and a cucumber!
2:10 p.m. — Lunchtime! I spent the morning working on cutting an hour long Q&A video into a two-minute long promotional video to post on our social media, and I think it's coming out pretty well. I usually get pretty vague briefs for my tasks, so I get to actually exercise my creative muscles, which is out of the ordinary for most creative internships. Today for lunch, I decide to explore this park by the office that the other intern recommended to me that's by a body of water (a river???). I call my mom because I feel like it's been a while since we talked.
3:10 p.m. — I'm feeling really tired, so I take coffee from our office coffeemaker while I finish up my video. My boss offers to let me and the other intern go take a couple hours for ourselves before we work a screening tonight, since normally we don't work screenings the same day that we're in the office. I'm itching to finish the video, and once I finish, I have to quality check movies (fun), so I decide to stay.
6 p.m. — It's time to head to the park for the screening. I've never been to Fort Greene before but oh my god, everything about it is stunning! I make a mental note to check apartment prices because one of my guilty pleasures is looking at apartments in neighborhoods I know I can't afford.
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7 p.m. — There are free snacks here, thanks to some sponsors. I get a popsicle and a bag of chips and chat with the other intern before the show starts. My call is always way earlier than I think it needs to be, so I spend a lot of time standing around. Finally the crowd starts filling up enough for me to get some good pictures, so I start shooting.
9:20 p.m. — I love people-watching at our screenings. Perk of being a photographer is that looking at people is part of my job description. A different crowd of people comes out every time, and it's so interesting to observe. Plus, since this screening is in a park, there are SO many friendly dogs.
10:10 p.m. — THERE'S PIZZA. It's for the volunteers technically, but I don't get paid either, so I take a piece...or two.
10:45 p.m. — Show's over, and there's no after party tonight, so I take my leave. The other intern stays to help clean up, but that's not in my job description. (She's a festival intern, so it's in hers.) Of course I want to leave a good impression on my internship, but if I may reiterate, they do not pay me. I will do the very best of what is asked of me, but they're not exploiting aaannyy extra unpaid labor out of me! Plus I'm exhausted, and I have to get up for work tomorrow. At the train station I give a homeless man a dollar because he is really nice, and I think that good karma made the conductor hold the train doors open a little longer so I barely made it! $1
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12:15 a.m. — Finally home. I wash my face and then go to my room. I'm so tired, but I have to fix a hole in my pants that I want to wear tomorrow, so I do that while finishing my episode of The Handmaid's Tale. Then I sleep.
Daily Total: $1

Day Four

9:10 a.m. — I ignored my alarm a few too many times, and now I'm up late. I shower, get dressed, do my makeup, and then rush to the kitchen to make coffee, breakfast, and lunch. I have a piece of toast with a banana for breakfast and pack a sandwich with a plum on the side for lunch. I'm almost out the door when I realize I'm not going to be coming home for dinner, and I don't want to buy food out. I put another plum and a box of tomatoes in my bag to help hold me over. I'm really running late now, so I rush out the door.
10 a.m. — The next downtown train pulls into the station as I walk in. Bad news, because today is the day I'm supposed to refill my card, so I can't rush through like normal. If I don't catch this train, I will definitely be late to work at the store at 10:30. A woman opens the emergency exit door to let her stroller in, and I sneak through. I scheme how I can avoid paying the fare again, because if I can put off getting a card for a whole day, then I can basically save about $12. Hmmm...
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10:27 a.m. — Not only am I not late, but I'm three minutes early!
1:40 p.m. — Lunchtime. I head out to the garden and eat while listening to my book. I check my email and remember I get paid today! My paycheck is always less than I expect because of taxes, but money is money.
6:20 p.m. — On a quick break, I eat popcorn from our snack selection and check my email. My boss at my internship wants me to upload the photos from the event last night, and I let him know I'll do it before Monday.
7:30 p.m. — I'm off! Today was a crazy day at the store because I met five customers who are also from Minnesota! I head to a bookstore/cafe to kill time before a friend's surprise party in this neighborhood, since I don't want to go all the way home. I spend some time working on my screenplay on my laptop and get a coffee. $3
1:26 a.m. — Heading home from the party! I ruined the surprise because I'm an idiot and of course I did, but we still had a fun time. Cake and wine on the house! My subway scheme fails, and I end up refilling my Metrocard on my way home ($121). It hurts, but it's the last time for the summer, so I bite my tongue.
Daily Total: $3

Day Five

10 a.m. — Good morning! It's the first full day off I've had all summer. Usually, if I have the daytime off, I have to work at night and vice versa, but since I worked that other show this week, I have an unexpected free day. I'm VERY excited to have a whole day to do whatever! I wake up and shower at a leisurely pace. My friends and I make a plan to go to Governors Island today, which is just off Manhattan and full of art, parks, and water activities.
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10:30 a.m. — The straps of the shirt I want to wear today are too long, so I quickly sew them up. My roommates and I chat, another friend arrives, and we head down to the deli next door for bagels and coffee.
11:45 a.m. — It always takes longer than I think it will to get bagels, but eventually we do and we bounce. I cover for my friend and he Venmos me. We begin the train trip down to the bottom of Manhattan. $5
12 p.m. — We make friends with a beautiful little mini Aussie puppy on the train named Logan. He's the best and I would die for him.
1 p.m. — We catch the ferry to the island ($2.75 for one way) and meet our other friends there! Then we walk around and explore the fort, the art, and the park space. So beautiful! $2.75
2:45 p.m. — After thoroughly enjoying our brief visit, we head back to catch the boat back. The friends we met on the island made plans to to meet up with another friend in Manhattan, so we split and head back to the ferry. I wish we could have stayed longer — the park was so nice! They don't check tickets on the way back, so I don't pay the fare.
4:10 p.m. — We meet up with our other friend at her place and decide to make edibles! We're very careful with the quantity because last time we did this we were so high we could barely move. My friend says not to pay her back because she's going home soon and wants to get rid of her weed, and I don't push the issue.
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5:30 p.m. — Edibles are too chill, so we smoke. We're also all starving, so we head out to get pizza, and I get two slices and a soda for $3. I haven't had soda in so long! $3
6 p.m. — We stop at a thrift store, and I get a cool silver bracelet for $1. $1
6:30 p.m. — We're still very high, so we stop at Ben & Jerry's. It's three pints for $20, so my friend pays and I Venmo her $5. $5
8:45 p.m. — After ice cream, we head to the train to meet our friends for an open bar near midtown that she somehow won. (I don't know the details, I just got the invite.) We get there and find out they are being tough on fake IDs, and we don't want to push our luck, so we decide to head back to our friend's place. It's raining, and we don't want to walk around aimlessly. We smoke another joint and watch Get Smart.
12:30 a.m. — We say our goodbyes and part ways. Today really felt like a relaxing and fun summer day, which is exactly what I needed! On the ride home, I plan what I'm going to wear to work tomorrow.
Daily Total: $16.75

Day Six

10:30 a.m. — I wake up and hang out in bed for a bit. Then I shower, get dressed, yada yada. I make a big brunch for myself today because I won't get a lunch break since I'm only working a five-hour shift at the store. I use up the last of my avocado for avocado toast with a fried egg on top. Then I fix my nails while watching The Handmaid's Tale.
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1:30 p.m. — Barely made it to work on time because the trains on the weekend are consistently inconsistent. I'm in the shoe section today, which is my least favorite. I grumble.
4:15 p.m. — On my break I snack on clementines and pretzels from our snack selection. Have I mentioned before that free snacks are the #1 best thing about my job? A coworker invites me out to dinner with some other people from the store, but I can't go because I can't afford it, especially after my spendy day yesterday.
6:30 p.m. — After we close I end up buying a sweater that I've been eyeing for a while. It was originally $50, but I get it for $20 with my discount. I know this isn't sweater weather, but I really can't help it. Sweaters are the best article of clothing. Also, I recognize that I basically turned down dinner for a sweater, and I now regret it. Whatever. $20
7 p.m. — At home I make a light dinner and work on lunch for tomorrow. I watch an episode of The Handmaid's Tale while I eat. I remember my friend is organizing a fake ID purchase, because it's no longer realistic that I am 23. My roommates and I take photos for it, I get all the info organized, and I send my friend $35. $35
10 p.m. — I end up watching The Neon Demon and more Handmaid's Tale until I fall asleep. Turns out I only need one day off, because I am extremely bored.
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Daily Total: $55

Day Seven

9:05 a.m. — I wake up and do my morning stuff. Shower, makeup, coffee, toast, and then I'm out the door.
10:30 a.m. — I'm in the shoe section again today. I accept it because my favorite work friend and I have lunch scheduled together.
2:30 p.m. — Serendipitously, both my work friend and I start our periods today by surprise. We run out to get supplies before we head back to the store to eat our packed lunches. $4
4:30 p.m. — Someone walks in on me when I'm in the bathroom. Turns out I've been locking the door wrong.
6:30 p.m. — I get to leave work early because I have to work a screening for my internship. Today was very slow and very boring, so I'm grateful. I snag snacks from the snack selection before I go. I suspect there'll be pizza at the screening, but this is just in case. I also score a free pair of pants that are damaged (so we can't sell them). I text my friends and ask their sizes and grab them pairs, too.
7:30 p.m. — There's pizza! I take some.
9 p.m. — I take photos of the cast and director of the film we're screening. Directors are always nice, and actors are always kind of jerks. Anyone know a science to that?
12:05 a.m. — Finally dismissed, and I'm exhausted. Boss lady says don't come until noon tomorrow. What a relief!
2:30 a.m. — Oh my god, what a nightmare getting home. After four transfers and one quick cry-break, I finally make it home. I pass out basically immediately upon entering my apartment.
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Daily Total: $4
Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women's experiences 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.
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