Bread, cash, moolah, paper, dollars, money.

No matter what you call it, we all know money talks but it’s also a topic that’s often avoided – until now.

Money Talks* is a Slice of Culture series where we ask real people in Hudson County not only how they make their money, but also how they spend it, specifically during a seven day period. 

This Week: A Graduate Student with Two Jobs

Background

Occupation: Administrative Staff/Part-time Sales Associate/Student 

Industry: Higher Education/Customer Service

Age: 23

Location: Bayonne, NJ

Salary: $36,000

Debt: $80k+ for student loans

Paycheck Amount (bi-weekly): $1,200

Pronouns: she/they

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $700

Bus Pass: $3.20/day

Renters Insurance: $8

New York Times: $4

PSEG: $35-145

Verizon: $28

Metro PCs: $60

Did your family expect you to attend higher education? Did you attend? If so, how did you pay for it? 

Yes, my mom expected me to go to college because she never did. While studying for my bachelor’s degree, my mother paid what was left after I took out all available loans/scholarships. Now that I am working towards my masters, it is half paid for by my job and half through loans. 

Growing up did you worry about money? Were there conversations about money in your household? 

Yes, we struggled very much with money and being able to keep up with bills. My mom often talked about us needing to cut back on things. Sometimes we didn’t have enough money for TV and WiFi. There were even some days when we had no hot water. 

At what age did you learn how to manage your finances? Who taught you about finances? 

I had to learn the hard way once I got my first big girl job. I initially got too excited and started splurging. I had to learn the basics: how to keep track of my spending, paying my bills, budgeting for groceries. 

Do you have a savings account? If so, when did you open it?

Yes, my checks go straight into my savings, which I opened when I got my first job. I also have a savings account from my childhood that I keep emergency funds in. 

What was your first job? What prompted you to begin working?

My first job was at Claire’s and my mom wanted me to work because she wasn’t financially able to support me. 

When did you become fully responsible for yourself? Do you worry about money?

I became fully responsible for myself in my sophomore year of college. That is when I began paying for everything, including my groceries, phone bill, and credit card. I also served as a Resident Assistant from that time on (including summers) which took care of my housing as well. 

Do you have a financial safety net? Have you ever inherited income? If yes, explain. 

My mom is retired now but ever so often she offers to help me. I have not inherited income and I am not expecting any money after my parents pass.

Spending

Day One: Sunday 

I went for a run on the Bayonne bridge. I like to get exercise in the morning to bring up my spirits and give me energy. 

I came back home did laundry and some homework before I made a stir fry for lunch with groceries in the fridge and saved the rest as meal prep for the week. 

I also paid my phone bill for the month. $60

  • Day One Total: $60

Day Two: Monday 

In the morning I got ready for work and took the bus over to my job. I paid for my bus tickets for the week on the NJ transit app. $9.60

Once I got to work, I got hungry so I bought snacks from my job’s mini market. $1.60

For lunch, I had my snack and a salad kit. Later that night I went home and had dinner, hung out with my roommate, and then did some homework before bed. 

  • Day Two Total: $11.20

Day Three: Tuesday

Another day another dollar — work again today. 

I forgot my lunch today so I bought a salad from Wonderbagel with kettle baked potato chips and pomegranate and blueberry sparkling water.  $12.50

  • Day Three Total: $12.50

Day Four: Wednesday 

Last day working in the office this week.

I didn’t pack lunch because I didn’t have much of an appetite this morning but because I felt drained I ended up going to Dunkin’ Donuts and getting an iced coffee with two shots of espresso and a beyond sausage sandwich. $8

After work, I went home and enjoyed my leftover stir fry and watched some Netflix before bed. 

  • Day Four Total: $8

Day Five: Thursday 

I worked from home today and had off from my part-time job. 

I spent the day checking my emails and doing what I needed to do around the house. 

While working from home I set up for a meeting and planned my grocery shopping for the next day. 

  • Day Five Total: $0

Day Six: Friday

Today I got paid! 🤑

So as any real adult does, I went to Walmart to pick up some groceries for the next two weeks. $150

After grocery shopping, I went home to get work done. When my roommate got home we cleaned up our spaces and enjoyed an early night to bed. 

I also Zelled my roommate half the rent for the month of December. $350

  • Day Six Total: $500

Day Seven: Saturday 

Today my roommate and I planned to hang out with our friend. My roommate bought the groceries for the meal and cooked while we freshened up the apartment for their arrival. 

Before they arrived I did some online shopping to purchase a gift for someone from a Facebook wishlist group. $25

Then I bought myself a healthy cookbook and some vitamins off Amazon. $25

After a night of movies, laughter and good food we didn’t end up falling asleep until around 3 a.m. 

  • Day Seven Total: $50

Graphic by Alexis Morales

Is this what a typical week of spending looks like for you? 

Most weeks I am more serious about meal prepping so I don’t have to spend as much money on food while at work, but this is very similar to what I usually spend in a week. 

*Disclaimer: This series and questions were inspired by Refinery 29’s Money Diaries.

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