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. 


Occupation:  Part-time Sales Associate

Industry: Retail

Age: 20

Location: Jersey City, NJ

Debt: None ?

Paycheck Amount: $450-600 biweekly

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Monthly Expenses/Subscriptions

Rent: $0, I’m lucky enough to live at home with my parents and on campus for free

Spotify: $5.31 (this comes with Showtime and Hulu so that’s a plus)

iCloud Storage: $2.99

Netflix and Disney+: I use someone else’s (thank god because if not I wouldn’t be watching anything on them lmao) 

Phone bill: $45 (my portion)

Car insurance: $138 

Gas: ~$80 a month (Usually it’s $20 a week, depending on how busy I am) 

Tolls: Maybe $30-$40 a month but sometimes higher 

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

College was never something that I was really pushed towards in my household, but it was always an option on the table. My parents never made me feel like I had to go in order to be successful; I wanted to go so they supported me the best way they know how.

My parents didn’t graduate middle school so the idea of college or even the process of applying for college was brand new to all of us when I told them I wanted to go. As a first-generation college student entering my third year at my university, I am very grateful.

I have not had to take out a loan yet. I am truly blessed to say that and I am grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. Between my scholarships from my school and grants from the EOF program and Residence Life, my tuition is fully covered. The most I have ever had to pay out of pocket is maybe a $100 lab fee and books.

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

While I grew up in a family of 5, I don’t really feel like we had to worry about money. If my parents couldn’t afford to buy us something or go out to eat or go on vacation they were honest with us, but we never really did without.

There was always something to eat on the table. Honestly, at one point I knew we even qualified for food stamps, but we didn’t need them. When it came to conversations about money my dad always encouraged us to save as much as we can so once we move out, we have at least a few thousand in our back pocket as “just in case” money.

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

I honestly don’t know if there is an age. There was always advice from my parents about spending money wisely, but never a “let’s teach you how to budget” kind of thing. Shit, I am still learning though.

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

I opened my savings account in October of 2020. It’s an online savings account where interest grows on it every month depending on how much you have in there. I think it’s .40% of however much you have in there.

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

My first job was babysitting in my junior year of high school. I started working just to have some pocket money. It was a family friend and honestly, it paid well, like $15-$20 an hour.

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

I don’t think I am fully responsible yet. I don’t have to pay rent and I don’t have to always worry about groceries because I still live at home. I haven’t taken over my car payments yet so I am grateful to my parents for still supporting me in that way.

Sometimes I do worry about money because I want to help my parents in the best way that I can but they have always made sure to tell me that while I am in school, academics come first and I should give when I can but if I get overwhelmed and feel like there are certain monthly payments I can’t make, like my car insurance, I can communicate that with them.

I try not to ever ask my parents for money, to be honest. When it comes to things like books and gas money, those are the things I want to be able to handle on my own, that’s why I work.

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

My safety net is my parents right now but if I need another job, you will find me applying for 10 positions in 2 days because I know I need to work. Whether that’s working on campus or an outside job. And no, I do not have any inherited income. 

Spending (Wednesday-Tuesday)

Day One:

Today, aside form a few errands, I spent the day with my family, just hanging out in the house but somehow spent the most today.

For breakfast, I really wanted something from the bakery so I picked up a breakfast sandwich. $3.55

In the afternoon, my mom and I went to Walmart to go shopping for some gifts for a family friend. $123.69  

After shopping, my mom and I got McDonald’s but she paid for it – thanks mom!

When we got home, I realized I needed to send my brother money for the food he bought us last week. $27

Later that night I also had to Venmo a friend for the previous night. $134

  • Day Total: $288.24
Day Two: 

I was with my family and we went to a wake for a family friend who passed but the service was in New Yok so that was about $27 in tolls.

Then later that night, my boyfriend came over for dinner, but then afterwards we went to get ice cream for the family. $31.34.

I also realized I needed to pay my phone bill. $45

  • Day Total: $103.34
Day Three: 

I had work at 6 AM and my break was at 11 AM so I got a drink from Dunkin which was $4.56 and then I got a sandwich from Starbucks for $5.81

Then for lunch, I drove home and made a sandwich so I didn’t spend any more money since I already bought breakfast.

After work, I really wanted to treat myself to a new apple watch band and a new phone case. $45.85

A little later, I drove to the park to work out and I went to my brother’s for dinner.

That day my iCloud storage charge also hit my account. $2.99

  • Day Total: $59.21
Day Four: 

Thankfully I didn’t have work today so I drove to my boyfriend’s house and we just chilled and went to the park to workout.

At night we ordered in some Papa Johns. $55.48

  • Day Total: $55.48
Day Five: 

I worked a full shift today so before I went to work I made a sandwich for lunch so I didn’t have to spend money.

But then after work, I bought myself a workout outfit that was $28.96. Then I drove to my on-campus apartment and made dinner.

  • Day Total: $28.96
Day Six: 

I worked half a shift today so I didn’t buy any breakfast or really any food.

Afterward, I drove to campus and made food there.

Later that night, I got some frozen yogurt with a friend $20.56

The rest of the night was pretty chill; I just listened to music and hadd my own little dance party in my apartment. 

  • Day Total: $20.56
Day Seven: 

I woke up super late and I did not feel like cooking so I ordered some UberEats for a late lunch. $22.00

All-day I just switched between shows on Netflix and Disney+, which was a great time in my opinion.

Later on, I just heated up leftovers from when I made dinner the other night and continued watching my shows.

  • Day Total: $22.00

Graphic by Alexis Morales
Is this what a typical week of spending looks like for you?

Honestly, heck no lmao

The most accurate things are Dunkin and Uber Eats. My phone bill and my iCloud are only monthly so they just happened to hit this week.

And I rarely go out and spend money like that so this week was a lot of splurging, which doesn’t normally happen. 

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

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