A Week At A University In New York, NY, That Costs $52,000 A Year

Welcome to Money Diaries - College Edition, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern women: money. We're asking college students how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.

Today: a Student/Technical Assistant at a university that costs $52,000 a year who spends some of her money this week on Ito En Green Tea.
Occupation: Student/Technical Assistant
Industry: Higher Ed
Age: 20
Location: New York, NY
Salary: $15,600
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $540 (after taxes)
Allowance: $150 (from my mom)
Yearly Tuition: $12,000 (The sticker price is $52,000, but $40,000 is covered by scholarships, I also will be graduating in three years instead of four.)
Gender: Woman

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $650 (for one room in a four-bedroom with three roommates)
WiFi/Gas/Electric: $60
Loans: $0 (I'll graduate with $3,900 of debt left, down from $8,000. I've taken out around $4,000 in student loans in my name each year I've been in school. My dad paid $36,000 toward my schooling.)
Acorns Account Fee: $2
Acorns Contribution: $120
Spotify Premium: $5
Metrocard: $127
Health Insurance: $0 (on my dad's)
Cell Phone: $0 (mom's plan)

Day One

9 a.m. — I slept over at my boyfriend, J.'s, last night and he makes me coffee before he leaves for a meeting. I take a shower and make oatmeal with pumpkin seeds and half a banana before I leave around ten. The sun is shining and I have no pressing need to be on campus yet, so I take a leisurely walk. I find the Complete First Season of Flight of the Conchords leaned up against an apartment building, seemingly up for grabs. I text my friends about the find, and we make vague plans for a movie night. I feel a little absurd carrying it on the train, but I don't really want to put the street DVD in my backpack with my clothes, so it stays in my hands for all to see.
12 p.m. — J. and I link back up to snag some free Lunar New Year dumplings from the film department where he studies and I work, we snicker at the sight of one of the famous professors out here grabbing free food with all of us broke students.
1:30 p.m. — Say goodbye to J. and head to my final class of the week, a senior thesis seminar. It's hard because I've drifted from my major since declaring it, and I've found it really difficult to get excited about the material anymore. I'm not sure what in this field I have the drive to write 25 pages of original research on. The professor is great, though, which is encouraging. I think his no cynicism rule may prove to be the most difficult part of the class.
4 p.m. — Finally home! There's a new subletter and I feel awkward greeting them, but they seem cool! I put laundry away and return to the kitchen to experiment with some of the agar agar and instant coffee one roommate/friend left behind when they left to study abroad this semester. I make a normal dinner of chicken and broccoli and a chaos meal of hand-whipped espresso foam, coffee jelly, copious sugar, cream of wheat, and almond milk.
6 p.m. — I have a little panic attack! I work at the same campus facility as an ex with whom I had a bad relationship and worse break-up. I left the ex, F., to be with my current boyfriend, J., in April, and F. spent the summer and all of fall semester harassing J. and I at parties and lurking when I was working. I start spiraling, worrying our managers think I'm unprofessional because of his behavior, so I text him for the first time in months, asking if he and the managers have spoken about it. They haven't. This does nothing to assuage my worry and now I'm embarrassed for showing my belly to the worst person. I make plans to go to J.'s to read while he does work, just to be somewhere else in the presence of another person.
9 p.m. — I buy a pack of American Spirits from the gas station next to my apartment. I'm ready with my Studying-Abroad-Roommate's left-behind fake, but the Sunoco guy doesn't even ask for it. I take the train to J.'s house and listen to Kimya Dawson to try and feel better (it only marginally works). $14
10:30 p.m. — The train is stopped within feet of my stop, with radio silence from the conductor. The man sitting across from me takes a swig from his twist-off bottle of wine. I'm jealous.
10:40 p.m. — Finally make it to J.'s. We sit in his living room and I relay my panicky afternoon; he assures me that I am not damaged or stupid and that he doesn't resent me for having feelings. After about an hour of crying and Big Relationships Feelings Talks, he regales me with his crazy subway story of the day, then tucks me into bed. We have sappy loving sex (ew) before he goes back downstairs to work on his script (which needs to be finalized by tomorrow). I read Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism for like half an hour before I fall asleep and J. returns.
Daily Total: $14

Day Two

8:40 a.m. — J. has to be up early again for class, which means I'm up too! He graciously makes me coffee (usually I'm the up-early, coffee-making one) and I get dressed and ready while he does so. I make myself the same oatmeal and linger an extra hour after he goes, sipping my coffee.
10 a.m. — I get to the subway platform. My metrocard has been taking like six or seven swipes before it goes through lately, which I'm convinced is a ploy by the MTA to get people to use OMNY.
10:30 a.m. — The professor I was supposed to meet with at 11 has to bail when her childcare falls through. I start walking through Nolita to take the long way home when my mom facetimes me from her drive into work. I tell her about everything that happened last night, and she echoes what everyone else has said in terms of needing to let go of “what's he gonna do next” fear. She also admonishes me for smoking, and asks what I want for my birthday this year, as it's coming up.
12 p.m. — Get home and finish Capitalist Realism. I text a temp who I worked with last semester and my friend C. about it, as they had both recommended it to me. I also finish Elfriede Jelinek's Lust, the other book I've been working on lately. Jesus, it's grim and not what I needed right now.
2 p.m. — I make myself a turkey and hummus sandwich and watch a few episodes of The Critic on YouTube. I want to marry Jay Sherman.
2:30 p.m. — Head out to meet B., my older cousin, at the school where he's a grad student. I'm joining him at the Decolonize This Place/FTP action at Grand Central, mobilizing against police presence in the MTA.
4 p.m. — We move from B.'s school to Grand Central, where the main action is taking place. I grew up in Portland and went to a lot of protests in high school, but this is my first in New York. There are lots of cameras on us; reactionary-content-grifters getting in faces with their phones, trying to provoke a reaction, and a veritable swarm of cops, some in full anti-terror gear. Organizers go around the crowd updating people where the action will move after this.
6:30 p.m. — We break from Grand Central and head out to Restoration Plaza. B. and I take the train out of Time Square, and the lights look wild against the fleets of police on the street. There are cops on our train looking for protestors, and some high school kids make a break for it just before they get on. B. and I have the benefit of looking like total yuppies, so we arouse little suspicion. The cops ride on our car the whole rest of the way, and we periodically hear descriptions of an "unruly crowd at West Fourth" come through over the walkie-talkies.
7 p.m. — We link back up with the group and march through Bed-Stuy. I have complex feelings about my presence here as a white person, on one hand, it feels like Good Allyship™️ to show up and use my privilege as a Nonthreatening Blonde to put myself between more vulnerable marchers and the police; but on the other hand, it feels a bit like resistance-LARPing, and I worry all the other white people and I are diluting the gravity of the message. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, but it feels better to show up and try something than to sit at home and watch.
8 p.m. — Finally, the action ends and protesters disperse. B. and I and two of his fellow students go to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. B. pays for a Tecate and two tacos for me. He and his friends/colleagues tell stories from the original Occupy days over the beers. We talk a bit about the Mark Fisher I just read, and my own Ph.D. aspirations.
8:30 p.m. — I say goodbye to B., and catch the bus up to my friend, L.'s, apartment. He's having a few of our friends over to celebrate the semester starting back up. We drink white wine and watch music videos. My friend, C., brought his girlfriend A., who's lovely, and in a similar boat to me, graduating a year early.
11:55 p.m. — T., my friend/roommate and I split a Lyft home because the busses get unpredictable at this hour (she agrees to give me cash later, she doesn't have Venmo). Before we go inside, we do some light chain-smoking and talk about boy drama. $11.96
Daily Total: $11.96

Day Three

8 a.m. — I have a training for my second job on campus from 10-4 today so, I get up and dress in a pair of wide-leg black jeans, a gray turtleneck under an oversized striped sweater from the Great American Apparel Sale of 2016, Blundstones, and my go-to leopard coat. I eat my usual breakfast (usual to the point that I'm shocked to have made it this far in the diary without mentioning it) of greek yogurt, chia seeds, and frozen raspberries. I also make myself half a Chemex. The New Subletter mentioned that they are a barista, and told us coffee grounds are communal because they get them free!!
9:40 a.m. — On a later train than I'd like because I forgot it's the weekend and my train is only running to Manhattan once every 20 minutes. I make it to the training only five minutes late, thank god.
12 p.m.— We break for lunch, which is thankfully catered. I make a plate of grilled chicken, veggies, pickles, and tabouleh.
2:20 p.m. — The training wraps up far earlier than expected! I come away with a laundry list of emails to send and a clamshell box of leftovers from lunch. Our team leader takes us out for boba after and I get a rose black tea with 25% sweetness, almond milk, and tapioca. I sip it and do not think it's 25% sweet. I start to get a headache and wind up throwing half of it away, which makes me feel guilty. I hop on the train to meet J. in midtown where he's casting a role. I told him I'd bring food, but I realize I forgot to grab a fork. Guess he'll have to use his hands/a comb or just wait.
3 p.m. — Arrive at the studio. You know I'm passionate about both J. and police abolition because I don't know what else could get me to go to midtown twice in two days.
4:30 p.m. — Head back to campus to charge my phone, pick two books up from the library, and grab a fork to polish off leftovers with J. before he has another meeting.
6 p.m. — Say bye to J. and take the subway to the Trader Joe's in Brooklyn. Trader Joe's is insanely crowded and out of nearly everything, so my shopping is super disorganized — I get capers, chicken breast, tuna, parsley, black bean fusilli, Greek yogurt, frozen raspberries, and a grapefruit for $26. On my walk to the bus, I see two teenage girls hug and tackle each other, overjoyed and screaming. It moves me to the point of tearing up. My emotions have been all over the place these past few days; I usually have a solidly stoic register. $26.11
7 p.m. — I give two dollars to a man who asks for change while waiting for the bus. Listen to a Spotify-generated playlist of JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown, and Freddie Gibbs on the ride home. $2
9 p.m. — Chat with my dad on the phone while tidying my room — he gives me some interesting avenues to explore for my undergrad thesis. I make a simple dinner of black bean fusilli, parsley, tuna, and capers, and talk more with The New Subletter while I cook. We agree to get the kitchen all sorted tomorrow (there's so much food left behind and now moved in that we're running out of fridge/cabinet space). I eat while perusing PDFs about EU austerity and the Eurozone crisis for class. J. asks if he can send me the newest draft of his script so I can take a look at it. I'm happy to oblige.
Daily Total: $28.11

Day Four

9:30 a.m. — I wake up with nothing pressing to do, scroll Facebook, and drift back in and out of sleep for the next hour and a half. I'm not phenomenal at self-motivating when I don't have any urgency. Finally, I get up and make breakfast, chat with New Subletter, and make myself a shot of espresso. It's a real tamp-the-grounds, wand-for-steaming espresso machine, and my roommate got it used off of eBay, so it's decently finicky. I manage to pull a halfway decent shot with New Subletter's professional guidance. I make that into an americano and sip it while eating my raspberries, greek yogurt, and chia seeds.
2 p.m. — Do the NYT sudoku of the day, knock out some readings for class on Tuesday, and plan out my meals for the week. I get dressed in an off-white thermal turtleneck (also from the Great American Apparel Closing Sale of 2016), black tights, and a vintage camel Miu Miu mini-skirt. The skirt's a few sizes too big, and I haven't had a chance to get it tailored yet, so I cinch it at my waist with a gaudy cowboy belt I inherited from my great-grandpa. I use up the last of my turkey in today's sandwich, along with some roasted cauliflower and broccoli for lunch.
3:45 p.m. — Pack a bag and head out to meet J. at his house. We're making turkey chili for his family, so we first walk to the butcher to get two pounds of ground turkey, then to Brooklyn Fare for the rest of the ingredients. It comes to around $30 I think, but his parents pay. We get home, realize we forgot the jalapeño, and head right back out to a bodega. Chop veg, brown meat, and get chili simmering. We play 20 questions while dinner cooks, and I learn that the guy I thought was Josh Gad is actually John Hodgeman.
8:30 p.m. — We head out to a rowdy screening of CATS! at the Alamo Drafthouse. J. got us tickets last week. We swing by a liquor store on the way there and he gets us a fifth of vodka to mix with the seltzer I brought. Once we're in our seats, he orders a gin fizz float too. We split the cost of that, and I steal a few sips but stick mostly to the vodka soda. $7.50
11 p.m. — J.'s cat boyfriend is a tie between Skimbleshanks and Macavity, whereas my cat boyfriend is 100% the magical Mr. Mistofelees. We're still feeling a bit too rowdy post-screening to go back to J.'s, so we swing by a neighborhood bar on the walk back. It's oddly closing up, despite the website saying it's open until 1? We head to the deli across the street instead to get a 16oz 11% double IPA to split, for maximum alcohol to dollar efficiency. J. pays the $5 and I tell him I'll give him two bucks in cash when we get back to his house.
11:30 p.m. — I don't love the flavor of the beer, so J. winds up drinking most of it. We wind up having a big “What does graduating in a few months mean for us?” conversation and talk through his imposter syndrome. He's drunk and weepy, and I'm glad I can kinda repay the favor of comforting, as he did for me on Thursday. I reheat some leftover chili for him before we go to bed.
Daily Total: $7.50

Day Five

10:30 a.m. — Wake up blissfully late, neither of us have immediate pressing obligations for once! I get dressed (same outfit as yesterday but with a different turtleneck) and make us coffee and a little oatmeal for myself. J. is always really loopy when he wakes up, and it's very endearing. We have a leisurely morning like we haven't been able to have in a while. J. walks me through his plan for a Gremlins 3 reboot when he's a Famous Director, and we plan an extremely hypothetical trip to Montreal for the end of the semester.
12:20 p.m. — J. walks me to the train. I take out my Metrocard and realize I never wound up giving J. cash for the beer. I help the man sitting next to me with his game of Tetris on his phone on my ride home.
1:30 p.m. — Meal prep for Tuesday and Wednesday (roasted sweet potato and hard-boiled eggs with mixed greens for lunch, chicken breast and black bean rotini with capers and parsley for dinner), make lunch for today (Trader Joe's kale gnocchi and chicken breast), reply to some emails, and scroll Facebook for a bit. The New Subletter is in the kitchen, we chat for a good hour and a half about making art while making a living, and they show me some of their photography. They also make me a little mug of coffee with their Aeropress, which is super nice.
4:45 p.m. — Head out on my way to work, my Metrocard is acting up (as it does way more at my station?) but there's a woman near the gate nice enough to bump it open for me, so I don't miss a train. I listen to US Girls on the ride into Manhattan.
8 p.m. — Work's been pretty slow. I read a few chapters of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams for class and start Sophie Pinkham's Black Square for pleasure. One of my new year's resolutions has been to read more, aiming for one book a week. I've been playing catch up, but if I can finish this one before Wednesday I'll be at four out of five. Black Square is the most readable of all my picks so far. I eat my dinner of black bean rotini, broccoli, and two medium-boiled eggs.
10:30 p.m. — Off work and on the subway. I text B. about meeting up to talk more about potential graduate program stuff. I listen to Yung Chomsky on the train ride home and when the woman sitting next to me gets up, I realize she has a Fountainhead tote bag. Coastal elite bubble cities whom.
11:30 p.m. — Brush teeth, wash face, take two melatonin gummies, read more Black Square until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

8 a.m. — I wake up and check caucus results only to see that they.....don't exist. Take a shower, make chia seeds, raspberries, and Greek yogurt for breakfast, along with a Chemex to take in a thermos. Wear a pair of second-hand wide-leg chinos with low-profile Doc Martens and a velvet button-up. I tie my hair back in a low ponytail at the nape of my neck with a thin patterned red scarf, which when paired with the velvet shirt makes me feel like a pirate.
9:30 a.m. — I find a five euro note on the subway platform. Not especially useful now, but not a bad thing to find at all.
12:15 p.m. — I eat the salad I brought from home with egg and roasted sweet potato. I'm going full tinfoil hat about the Iowa caucus with my group chat of home friends. Head to the library to pick up more books on Freud that I need.
1 p.m. — I meet my professor at a nearby coffee shop to discuss potential avenues for an undergrad thesis. I get a macchiato. It's helpful to reign in what I'm interested in versus what would be possible to research, but the meeting runs a little over, and I wind up ten minutes late to my next class (oops). $4
4:45 p.m. — Out of my second class of the day. I head to Walgreens before work to get two packs of gum and a bottled Ito En Green Tea. On the way into the office, I snag a pack of roasted seaweed to snack on from the tray of food up for grabs. $6.39
10:05 p.m. — More reading, sudoku, and crosswords with the occasional troubleshooting call. I've already chewed half of the first pack of gum (bad habit) and I'm dead tired. Put on the newest billy woods album (honestly, I usually just shuffle my Spotify which contains most of these artists, but writing down what I listen to has made me much more conscientious of it, hence more playlists and albums).
10:50 p.m. — Finally home! Wash face and brush teeth. One of my roommates (who's been away for most of this diary) is back tonight, and a touring band is crashing on their couch tonight (truly a feat, as that couch is tiny). At one point, my roommate and the band set off the smoke alarm. I wind up falling asleep closer to 1 a.m.
Daily Total: $10.39

Day Seven

9:20 a.m. — I let myself sleep in a little later than usual, make coffee, and yogurt/raspberries/chia. The kitchen is in a state of disarray from last night, oh well. I get dressed in a pair of way-too-big secondhand black Wranglers, my great grandpa's gaudy belt, and a vintage patterned Marni top.
12:05 p.m. — I pay a medical bill for an ambulance ride I took back in August. My insurance reimbursed me for 90% of this (it was $1,361 in total), and I dip into my savings from when I was working full time during the summer to pay the remaining ten percent. I'm extremely fortunate to a) be on my dad's insurance still, and b) have money saved up. $136
1:30 p.m. — Eat a salad at home with more roasted sweet potato and two medium-boiled eggs, then head out to catch the train and go to class. The turnstile is acting up again, so another kind person waiting for the train trips the gate again so I don't miss it.
4:45 p.m. — Out of class! I head to the radio station where my friend, Q., has a show right now. He matched with my friend/roommate T. on Bumble and wants my advice as to whether or not it's a friend thing or something he should pursue. I tell him to go for it!!
5:30 p.m. — I go to work, this is the shift I was dreading, as it's right after my ex wraps up, and his behavior in the 5-10 minutes we overlap is unpredictable. Today I am simply ignored completely, which honestly is probably the best-case scenario. It still makes me shaky and anxious for a solid 15 minutes. Oh well. I'm probably being overdramatic. Do some sudoku, reorganize some cables, watch the Bon Appetit everything on the menu videos. J. swings by between meetings to say hello, and we make plans for tomorrow.
10:20 p.m. — Off of work a little early today. Catch the train, get home around 10:50. There's another little roommate shindig happening, but I'm so beat, I elect to stay in my room and attempt to finish Black Square. I have about 60 pages left by the time I go to bed.
Daily Total: $136
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