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. 

Background

Occupation: Senior Project Coordinator

Industry: Medical Communications

Age: 22

Location: Jersey City

Salary: $55,000 annually

Debt: $22k (student loans)

Paycheck Amount (and how often): $2,115.38 every two weeks

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Monthly Expenses/Subscriptions

Rent: $0 – I’m currently apartment searching but still live with my parents at the moment.

Spotify: $5.31

Netflix: $0 – My sister lets me use hers 🙂

Apple Storage: $2.99

New York Times: $4

Phone Bill: $67.82

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

Although higher education was never really discussed when I was younger, it was always expected of me to do something with my life. My sister is 7 years older than me so while she was going through the process of applying to college, I was very observant and decided for myself that I would do the same when my time came. 

I was really fortunate that my academic scholarships/grants covered the cost of my tuition and almost all of my housing. Freshman year, my dorm supplies were all gifted to me by my sister and mother so I didn’t have to spend any of my money on that stuff and my father bought the books I needed for my classes. As an upperclassman, the additional scholarships I received from my involvement on campus and my position as a Resident Assistant really helped out as well. 

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

When I was younger, I don’t think money was ever an issue – and if it was, my parents did a really great job of hiding that from me. I was never left wanting or needing anything. As I grew up and started asking for more costly things like a Nintendo DS, iPod, laptop, etc., I was almost never given it immediately. These things were always gifts for special occasions like my birthday and Christmas. I’m guessing this was a way to factor the items into their budget but thankfully, my parents were always able to provide me with the things I needed and then some.

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

Honestly, I’m still learning, but I really started in high school when I got what I viewed as a real job. I’ve learned from observing my parents, watching movies/tv shows, and a financial literacy class I took in high school.

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

I do not have a savings account, I used to when I was younger, but closed it back in high school and only utilized my checking account – but I will likely be opening one soon. 

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

My first job was being an assistant to the Data Analyst at the charter school my mother worked at. For years I would volunteer at the school and help in the business office and eventually when I was like 15 the Data Analyst and Business Administrator made it an official position for me. Around the same time, I also started working in the aftercare program at the school 3-4 days a week.

I started working so I would have money at my disposal when I wanted to do things with my friends. I didn’t have to always ask my parents or get approval for the things I wanted to buy.

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

While I’d like to believe I was fully responsible for myself in college, you can probably tell I had some help along the way. When the pandemic hit and I was forced to move off-campus, I was able to move back in with my parents who supported me without a second thought. They also pay for the weekly groceries so I try and pay for things whenever I can like if we order takeout – it’s definitely doesn’t even it out but I do try to contribute. I am also looking to move out and into my own place so yes, I worry about money. I worry about being able to afford and maintain an apartment and sustain a life given how much is still uncertain in the world.

I also sometimes think about how I’d be able to support my family – not that they’re asking me to but I’d like to be able to eventually.

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

I do not have any inherited income (I wish :/ ) but I do think in the last 18 months my parents have proven to be my safety net (and me, theirs) and they would probably help me out as much as they could if anything was to happen. 

Spending (Monday-Sunday)

Day One: 

I woke up already counting down the hours until I could get back in bed and go to sleep; the weekend is just too short. After hitting snooze twice I finally got up at 7:45 AM, brushed my teeth, and got ready for the day. I made a coffee using my new Keurig I bought last week and then headed to my desk to go through my emails from the weekend.

I had about 4 hours of back to back calls so before my 11 AM call, I made another iced coffee to help me focus. 

We had a virtual event this night from 5-7 PM so around 4 I took a quick trip to get some fresh air and stop at Dunkin’ to get another iced coffee for me and a donut for my mom – $4.97

Once the event was underway, I didn’t have to do much but listen in and take some notes to relay to the team afterward. 

My boss always tells us to order dinner and expense it when we have events so that’s what I did – my chicken salad from Chipotle was great as always. – $0 (This would have been $18.49 with the delivery fees and all)

After the event ended, I took my dog for a walk to get outside for a bit. Then I came in watched some Netflix for a bit – finally watching The Vampire Diaries and I fully recommend it! After a few episodes I felt myself getting tired so I took a shower, did my skincare routine, and knocked out by 11.

  • Daily Total: $4.97

Day Two: 

This morning was pretty similar to Monday except I woke up a little earlier and drank my first iced coffee of the day outside on my deck before work started.

I had fewer calls this day and they were sporadically scheduled throughout the day which gave me a lot more time to get through my to-do lists. We had another virtual event the next day so I was really prepping for that and getting things done in advance of the meeting. 

At some point in the day, I heated up my leftover Chipotle for lunch and before I knew it the workday was over. 

Then while going through my personal email/notes to myself, I realized my credit card bill was due in a few days so I went ahead and made a payment – $300

I also ended up doing a little online shopping and buying a new birthday present for my best friend. Her birthday isn’t for a few weeks but I saw it and knew I had to get it! – $27.95

My mom and I weren’t really hungry when it came to dinner time so we just made our version of a charcuterie board to snack on. 

A little later we took our dog out for a walk and got some air before coming in and doing our nighttime routines. 

  • Daily Total: $327.95

Day Three: 

I’m not usually a breakfast person but after not really eating dinner last night I woke up starving so this morning I made some peanut butter toast and had a banana with my coffee. 

Wednesday mornings, my calendar is usually pretty open so I use that time to go through our various status documents and update our projects to reflect our progress.

My mom got home with the groceries around noon so I also took a few minutes to help her bring everything in and put it away. She also bought me my favorite coffee pods so I had to make another cup.

After my afternoon of meetings and calls to prepare for our virtual event, we had a bit of a break before the meeting so I relocated to the kitchen for this call so I could help my mom make pesto chicken and broccoli recipe she found online. If I’m being honest, I was probably more of a hindrance than a help but don’t tell her I said that.

Once the meeting wrapped up, we ate dinner, took the dog out, etc – you know the drill. 

My best friend texted me and we made plans to go to a local Italian festival on Friday aka my motivation to get through the week! 

I watched one episode of The Vampire Diaries and felt myself ready to dose off so I shut my laptop and went to sleep. 

  • Daily Total: $0

Day Four: 

Thursday baby! My last full day of the week. I woke up to a notification that $4 was charged to my credit card – thanks New York Times. – $4

Before work started, my mom and I decided to drive to Dunkin’ for mini bagel bites, and I, of course, got an iced coffee too. – $10.26 

We make it back just in time for my first call of the day, a regroup to discuss the two events we had this week. The rest of the day is pretty much the same as usual, with a few meetings and tracking the progress of our projects.

On my lunch break, I ended up ordering a vinyl record of Taylor Swift’s Folklore album. – $37.06

Since we actually wrapped up earlier than expected this day, I went for a little walk before dinner. Not much else happened this night besides me painting my nails and watching The Vampire Diaries – shocker I know!

  • Daily Total: $51.32

Day Five: 

I actually have an earlier start time than any other day on Fridays due to client availability but that’s okay with me because we also have Summer Fridays so we usually log off by 12/1 PM if there’s nothing super hot for the rest of the day. And this was one of those days! 

After logging off, I crawled back into bed for a little while and just laid there watching TikToks because I needed it. Plus my best friend didn’t finish with work until 6 anyways so I had the time. After my little laydown, I took my dog out and we basked in the sun for a bit before she started panting and we had to come in for water. 

Later in the evening, I walked to Journal Square and took the Path to Hoboken, where I walked to the festival to meet my best friend. – $2.75

We got dinner at the festival (-$8 each) and then after a couple of hours of walking around/dancing in the crowd, we decided to go to a bar in Hoboken for a few drinks to celebrate her new job – $30 each

Since we had been drinking and it was late, we decided to split an uber back to our places but that meant it was more expensive than usual. -$33.48 each

  • Daily Total: $74.23

Day Six: 

My family was coming to visit in a few days so my mom and I took the day to run errands. 

First, we made a stop at Starbucks for some coffee which I paid for using a gift card my job sent me in the mail. –$0 (This would have been $11.68)

At Target we just picked up the essentials like diapers, baby wipes, and anything else that they needed. – $37.12

We also went to Trader Joe’s to get these cinnamon cookies my nephew lives on. We don’t usually go here but since we needed to get his cookies, we also picked up a bunch of other things because it’s Trader Joe’s, duh! –$74.88

After we got home, I also helped my mom set up the guest room in our house so it would be ready for them when they came. And as usual, we take the dog out and spend a little extra time outside because it is the weekend. 

  • Daily Total: $112

Day Seven: 

Sundays are always so weird to me. I generally like to keep the day free to do nothing and just tidy up/mentally prepare for the week ahead but sometimes I feel like it’s my most draining day. 

I tried to sleep in this day but woke up by 8:30 a.m. anyways and then I kinda just laid low for the morning and watched the news, listened to my record player, etc. 

In the afternoon, I usually clean and reorganize everything, put away clean clothes, take out the recycling, and so on. It’s not the most aesthetic day but it needs to be the most productive.  

  • Daily Total: $0

Graphic by Alexis Morales

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

Yes and no – a majority of my money does often go towards coffee, but I was busy at work so I didn’t spend much money during the week. I also had to pay a credit card bill and for everything at Trader Joe’s which doesn’t usually happen.

I do tend to spend more on weekends when I meet up with friends but there are also some weeks when I don’t spend anything. I know I’m lucky to have more expendable income but that doesn’t mean I feel the need to spend it recklessly – at least not this week. 😃

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

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