MR Money Diaries: Harling Chronicled Her Spending for a Week

Note that Harling handles our social media accounts, not our finances

08.08.16
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Confession: I’ve never implemented any particular “strategy” when it comes to budgeting — mainly because I don’t really know where to start. You’d think Personal Finance 101 would be a required course at every college, or at least a commonplace one. Instead, I spent my formative years of education taking classes like “Theater in the Catholic Imagination,” in which my classmates and I lay on yoga mats and platonically massaged each other under the supervision of a one-armed Jesuit priest. Our final exam was a Jingle Bell Rock flash mob. I am not making any of this up. I got an A.

So here I am, a 24-year-old adult woman with the spending habits of a blind puppy who loves expensive salads and hates passing up a good sale on YOOX. I will say that I always pay my bills on time, I don’t shop while intoxicated and I recently started *trying* to put 10% of every paycheck into savings again (a habit that died when I first moved into my own apartment and this thing called RENT began swallowing my paychecks whole like a competitive hot dog eater).

I’m relaying this information because I do not want you to throw tomatoes at me when you find out I buy oatmeal every morning instead of making it myself, and I have no intention of stopping even though it would save me $91.52 a month.

I started my diary on a Thursday and chronicled my spending through the following Wednesday. If you’re going to throw tomatoes, please use soft ones. Shall we begin?

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My morning routine started per usual with a stop at Oatmeals in the West Village, where I purchased a medium-sized oatmeal topped with bananas and greek yogurt. It costs $5.72, and I get it every morning because it makes me excited to start the day. I think that’s easily worth $5.72, especially because I walk to work every day and therefore spend $0 on transportation services.

Yvonne and I went to The Butcher’s Daughter at around 11:30am to purchase $4.35 almond milk lattes and say hello to the barista, Max. He gives us all the gossip about celebrity patrons and what they order. Apparently Leonardo DiCaprio is a fan of the Brazilian Blast smoothie, which makes perfect sense.

I spent $10.18 on a Sweet Green grain bowl that I get almost every single day for lunch because I am boring. It’s a custom creation with wild rice, kale, sweet potato, carrots, purple cabbage, chickpeas, portobello mushrooms and pesto vinaigrette. Highly recommended.

I spent $4 on a vanilla soft serve ice cream from Cha Cha Matcha so that I could take a Boomerang of it for the Man Repeller Instagram. I was still too full from lunch to eat it, so I gave it to my intern, Catherine. Such is the glamorous life of social media.

I met up with four friends after work to go Citi Biking on the West Side Highway. I spent $13.07 to rent a bike. We rode to Brookfield Place and ate dinner in the food court, where I spent an additional $13.07 on a veggie rice bowl from Num Pang plus a baby Perrier. Hilarious money-related joke coming in hot: the dinner conversation was priceless.

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My iced matcha latte with almond milk was half price because I had a star reward. Hooray for rewards programs.

I grabbed my usual $10.18 Sweet Green grain bowl thingy before heading to Penn Station to catch an afternoon train to Rhode Island, where I was visiting my family for the weekend. The subway to the train station cost $2.75, and the actual train was free because I was riding with my dad and he paid for my ticket. Hooray for dads.

Dinner was consumed at my parents’ house and therefore also freeeeeeeee.

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The human male specimen referenced above is actually my boyfriend, Austin. I know! Plot twist! I’m basically the Shonda Rhimes of MR Money Diaries. Our 4 drinks + 2 appetizers + 2 entrees came out to $187.68 total and we split the check.

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Today was a relatively low-expense day because all meals were eaten with my parental units, and my evening train back to New York was covered by the round trip ticket my dad had purchased for me on Friday. I decided to sleep at my parents’ apartment uptown that night because I had a dentist appointment early the next morning near where they live.

Before exiting Penn Station, I bought a $5.43 toothbrush at Duane Reade because I was worried my parents would not have a spare. Pre-dental appointment tooth hygiene is absolutely vital.

I took a $14.72 cab uptown. I hate taking cabs and try to always take the subway, but there is no direct route from Penn Station to the Upper East Side. It was also 11:00pm at this point, and I really wanted to be in bed.

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After the dentist, I took the subway down to Nolita, where Man Repeller HQ resides. I stopped at The Butcher’s Daughter on my way and purchased a bowl of muesli and a bottle of sparkling water for $7.61.

My lunch only cost $1.18 today because I made sweet, sweet love to a Sweet Green cashier. JK the salad actually cost $10.18 but I had a reward for $9.00 off. What a time to be alive!

It started POURING at around 6:30pm — no joke: I received an actual flood warning text on my phone. Needless to say, walking home was not an option. I split an Uber with Yvonne despite the 3.8x surge. We were terrified to look at the bill, but there was a random promotion running that gave us 50% off the entire ride. My portion came out to a reasonable $15.18. Witchcraft.

Postmates delivery was also operating with surge pricing because of the rain. My dinner from By Chloe came out to $20.76 including tip. For a salad. Wah.

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Yvonne paid for my latte because she owed me money for a kombucha I had purchased for her the previous week.

SweetGreen was out of rice, so I changed up my order. It was more expensive AND it sucked. I love rice.

I spent $7.50 at Grumpy’s on iced teas for Yvonne and an intern candidate, plus $3.00 on a chocolate chip cookie for Kate. But then Kate reimbursed me and Yvonne went rogue and Venmo’ed me $10, so…I somehow made a profit? Yvonne, if you’re reading this, I owe you $2.50.

I met a friend for dinner at Jack’s Wife Freda and spent $24.76 on a vegetable curry bowl plus tip.

I stopped in The Strand on my way home to look for a coffee table book but ended up buying a pair of Frida Kahlo socks because they were the perfect gift for the yankee swap housewarming party we were throwing the next day at the office. I also splurged on a sheet of emoji wrapping paper for $1.25 because it felt morally wrong not to once I saw it behind the register.

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I know this is a money diary and I am technically supposed to be discussing finances and such, but I would like to take a brief nanosecond to say how much I LOVE THE MAN REPELLER COMMUNITY. I left our housewarming party full of the warmest, fuzziest feelings. But feelings are very low in actual calories and I was still kind of hungry after only grazing a little bit at the event, so I bought a chocolate chip cookie from By Chloe on my way home.

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……… <–That extended ellipsis is meant to communicate my bewilderment at having spent $321.28 on…existing? By “existing” I mean “buying food,” because that seems to be the primary guzzler of my money. I didn’t even buy anything fun–like this bikini I have been eyeing or this silk cami that would cost me approximately 1 million grain bowls. When it comes to chronicling my more frivolous spending propensities, I’ll leave you with the closing words of one Taylor Alison Swift:

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Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Reece Hudson bag.

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  • Orla

    I frequently have similar concerns that most of my income goes on food and drinks. At least your food choices are decent Harling, mine mostly come in wine glass-shaped form. And the more I think about that, the more I want wine. Vicious circle stuff.

    • Aydan

      truth. That was my thought on this — I’ve realized recently that so much of my spending is on things that don’t last, so I justify by saying I’m buying myself experiences (travel, shows, plays, etc. etc.). I guess so long as it doesn’t get out of hand and it makes me happy I’m good!

    • Harling Ross

      Ah, the wine glass-shaped vicious circle. I AM FAMILIAR.

  • Vickee

    Okay, time to try this money diary because I never seem to know where all my money goes at the end of the week/month -__-

    • Harling Ross

      It’s disturbingly enlightening.

  • Ellie

    Am slightly disturbed by how much you spend on oatmeal.. The socks sound amazing – pic on recipients feet?

    • Harling Ross

      It’s really really good oatmeal. Seriously.

      • Grace b

        I feel the same way about my beloved breakfast tacos, $6 for two bean and cheese with the most delicious salsaaaaa. -Lives in Texas

        • Ana P

          You pay $6 for 2 bean and cheese?????? All I can say is: Treat yo self .

  • Krista Anna Lewis

    Using emojis like you do is a total incentive to track my spending (which is just as, if not more scary). Also, that bikini is sold out and it’s making me sad even though I cannot afford it.

    • Harling Ross

      I need that bikini.

      • Kelly

        But, that silk cami is STILL available 😉

  • Kate

    Given my distinct lack of money skillz I have no comment to make other than Harling, you are the greatest and your articles are my new MR fave ?

    • Harling Ross

      Well you are my new human fave!!!!!

  • Emily

    This whole series is so insufferable. “I’m a privileged white girl who never had to worry about money! Aren’t my wasteful spending habits cute?”

    • Claire

      i disagree. you cant relate to everyone, and me and my (white, asian and black) friends here in berlin love this series. why does everything need to be relateable to everyone? just skip this article if it is insufferable. how do you watch tv, read a book? i can totally enjoy stuff that i cant relate to, but even if not, id just not read or watch it then… the author has a good job, makes her money and spends it on unneccessary food instead of saving it, shes in her twenties and can enjoy having no responsibilities like a house or kids… i dont get your specific problem with this.

    • Harling Ross

      Hi Emily, I hear your point about how a money diaries series can shine an uncomfortable spotlight on privilege. While I might make self-deprecating comments about my spending habits, I absolutely do not think wasteful spending habits are cute. I try to be very thoughtful about how I spent my money, and I never spend beyond my means. I hope that in sharing these diaries on Man Repeller, our readers will see them as a safe space to open up about their own spending habits. And hopefully we can learn from each other—because we’re all learning, right?

      • mary

        I appreciate that you engaged thoughtfully with this comment! Thanks, Harling!

        But also I think that the problem is that the money diaries **don’t** shine enough light on privilege. That’s why they’re falling a little flat for me, I think, as they are also falling flat for Emily.

        If the money diaries made a more direct/explicit effort to examine privilege, they’d also be more useful to readers like me. Spending $300/week is a lot different for someone with student loan debt, just for one example, than it is for someone whose family could pay for their education and therefore has no debt. That’s the kind of contextual information–and privilege–that these money diaries don’t actually address but that affects decisions re: weekly spending.

        • ESW

          This wades into “What is MR supposed to be?” because yes, it takes on serious issues, but it is not trying to be Kiplinger’s, you know?

        • Amy Mills

          Yea agreed – also I think there is a way to still be playful while engaging in this discussion. Like, I really enjoyed Amelia’s post because I found it super relateable. She was irresponsible at times, but in the end she states: “Being able to live above your means and then scrambling to fix your mess by eating Baby Bell cheese snacks and hitchhiking around town come every bill cycle is 100% a privilege that does not go over my head.” This makes sense to me.

          This is the first time a Money Diaries post bugged me, and admittedly it was out of jealousy (ie why can’t i have been born in an uptown family and be able to but a matcha latte every day).

      • Disqus errors

        I wish this series could show a more complete financial picture of the authors’ spending habits. I live in New York and make a decent salary for a new grad, but can’t imagine spending this much on random food. If you told me that the author lived with their parents, or was flat broke at the end of each week, or something to explain a little more, I might understand (although I have a feeling that those things aren’t talked about because lots of the writers a) are very wealthy, or b) are going broke to keep up with their very wealthy friends).

    • I think the tone of the series is lighthearted because of the medium. This isn’t an investigative piece about the spending habits of people. Besides, though they might laugh about it in the article, you never know what insights they gained from it.

      I’d also like to say that no one has the right to judge what other people spend the money they earned if it doesn’t affect anyone else. That oatmeal isn’t hurting anyone, is it?

      • Natasha

        I think everyone here has got a valid point! I think, for me, these money diaries as they are are fun reads. It’s always interesting to see how other people live. But they could be more than just fun reads; they could be opportunities to dig a little deeper into our relationships with money, to learn more about ourselves and sketch out ways to change our habits for the better. Whether better = spending less on ‘frivolous things’ or spending more on making yourself happy, that’s not for us to judge, as you rightly say. But I guess what I’m trying to say is a little more analysis in these posts could make them even better!

        • I agree! It definitely could open a door to a bigger discussion. Maybe it would be nice as a summary/discussion like the round table. I admit that that isn’t quite my expectation of MR, but as of late because of the more in depth discussions the site has been having – whether it is about race, gender, mental health, etc. – it begins to set the expectation that everything will come with a deeper analysis. I think this is a side-effect of the readers, such as myself, having a harder time differentiating what the MR team had in mind with a piece.

          Something I’d also like to point out is that Harling’s total wasn’t the most expensive one. So I wonder why it has received more scrutiny. I think the things she spent it on are what become bothersome to many. Things like matcha lattes and oatmeal are considered “extravagances”, whereas Amelia’s spends (her total was $200+ more) were centered around transportation for the most part (aside from the eyelash appt). Sorry for the ramble haha

          • Natasha

            Haha no worries rambling is always welcome here! and I don’t think Harling’s money diary is ‘bad’ in any way! I think it’s probably more that we’ve seen quite a few of these now and some people are starting to wonder, beyond the novelty of it, what else we are learning from these articles. But you are right, deeper analysis isn’t per se needed for everything. Sometimes presenting something, sharing a story, is enough.

            I think it would be a GREAT idea to have an MR Round Table about these money diaries at some point though!

          • That would be! Especially since Man Repeller is also largely around fashion and how we use it to represent ourselves, it would be really interesting (and perhaps a welcomed challenge by the team) to create equally unique outfits on a smaller budget. Maybe it could be a great way of telling people that another part of the ethos of being a man repeller is that you can do it in any budget, too.

          • Senka

            I agree completely. I know that to some people it sounds too much, and too waistful, but, what they keep forgeting us that it’s not a show off piece of writing. Girl spends money on food and beverage, healthy ones at it. Those things are expensive (I know, because I treid and failed many times to eat, clean, raw, vegan, but could never persist, *I’m Balkan) but they may be the best was to invest in yourself other than actual physical workout. I don’t manage to do either, but have respect for people who manage to stick to it. By keeping your health through nutrition, you save money you’d spend on healthcare in a way.
            I don’t live in the US, let alone New york, and don’t make as much money, but my spending isn’t much less if I compare prices and income. I spend around 150 euros. Which in country with average 400-600 euros income isn’t a little. I spend it on bills, food and transportation, and occasional impulse purchase. I spend too much, but I work for that money, and it’s mine to spend anyway I want/can. So see. I’m by no means privileged, rich, or american, but understand where and how that money goes.

    • Well then 🙂 Here we go: I’m a privileged white girl who’s always had to worry about money. Aren’t my wasteful spending habits cute? I bought 2 pants, 1 pair of shorts and 2 tops at H & M this week only. Last week, it was a pair of Docs.
      I work damn hard and I’ll buy if I want to. 🙂

  • Holly A. Phillips

    I really like reading these! As weird as it sounds, I’m a very frugal spender, so I enjoy seeing when other people can treat themselves to food, even if it is just oatmeal. Plus, I feel like I get a tiny glimpse into New York life 🙂

  • EvaAlt

    This is disturbingly similar to me. HI HARLING

    • Harling Ross

      EVA!!!!!!!

      It’s those very necessary matcha lattes…

  • Svenja

    You guys all spend a baffling amount of money on coffee beverages and lunch snacks but if your lists are true nobody ever spends anything on fashion (I am not going to count a pair of socks). How can this be?

    • Haley Nahman

      I can answer for myself: I don’t shop that much! Can’t afford to. I think all of us shop less than people might think!

      • Lorena C

        Hence your clever articles about how to buy the rainbow mules which I’m totally applying because they are brilliant! Thank you!

    • Same ! I’m always skeptical when I read the money diaries here and I really thought that spending money on fashion was a prerequisites when working at Man Repeller ! I mean, so much money on oatmeal and coffee and 5$ on socks? mmh…

    • Harling Ross

      I *do* spend money on clothes, but it’s definitely not a weekly occurrence. Money Diaries only accounts for one week of spending, so it’s kind of a random sampling. This was a very food-focused week for me 🙂

  • Natalie

    Me and my two office mates have been trying to keep each other accountable to budgeting/wiser spending since January. Good months and bad a-plenty! But we’ve found that the moment we stop talking about it, we stop thinking about where our money goes and that’s when the 2 coffees-a-day, and eating out will really sneak up on you.
    I think being a single person in a city gives me so much opportunity to tell myself, “Well…might as well eat pizza for dinner, or grab a drink with a friend. I don’t save THAT much money by eating at home.” But in reality, I could be saving hundreds of dollars a month just by consciously cutting back on that second drink, or making do with an egg and toast for dinner once in a while.

    • Natalie

      That was a long comment to essentially say: I REALLY relate to these money diaries and love seeing I’m not the only person who’s being taken to town by my love of an afternoon cappucino.

      • Harling Ross

        Thanks so much for your comment, Natalie. I definitely look forward to going out of the office to get my mid-morning latte every day. It’s like a mental high five. And that’s worth a little extra money to me.

  • Abby

    I’m a nosy person and I LOVE money diaries, food diaries, etc. Money diaries are my absolutely favorite though because I am a homeowner married to a graduate student so I never spend money on anything but bills and a girl needs to be able to live vicariously. Seriously, I would kill to be able to eat out as often as MR employees.

  • I think talking about money will make anyone uncomfortable. And we can all talk privilege and “unnecessary” spending, but not all articles have to address these problems. I consider the money diaries lighthearted and fun insights into the spending habits of the MR team.

    Also, I don’t judge the oats, Harling…because I basically spend the same amount on greek yogurt muesli from Pret (cause I’m weak!!!). It’s SO GOOD!

  • RattlesnakeKate

    I think these diaries are really interesting (partly because I’m super nosy and partly because I’m in a totally different place in my life). It would be really neat if you published some readers’ money diaries, too – perspectives from different cities/countries/lifestyles.

    • That would be interesting! I do wonder what people that work in more suburban settings do!

    • libs

      I’m SO nosy and read the entire archive of r29’s money diaries. Seems like you might enjoy them too? They’re a bit more varied because they come from readers rather than NYC based staff, and they have more background details about each person’s finances. They’re not as fun to read as these MR ones and are somewhat lacking on the emoji front, but I’m still really into reading them!

  • Love this series. I really should try to do it for my own finances but i’m too scared haha

  • Hannah Cole

    thank everything on this planet for rewards systems

    • Harling Ross

      They are life-giving

  • Hannah

    I love this series and am now utilizing this method in my notes complete with fun emojis because what’s a soul-sucking spending diary without the fun emojis that delineate what you blow your cash on?

  • Harling I love your taste in restaurants, your money diaries got me lookin’ forward to moving back to NYC next month.

  • Alyssa

    I feel like if I made a MR Money Diary – mine would look basically the same as yours Harling. Spending money on Oatmeal and Coffee – with no regrets may I add! I love the money diaries keep them up!!!

    • ESW

      Mine would look the same only not nearly as healthy.

  • i think this is an interesting post. and i love the voyeuristic nature of looking at how someone else spends money! i can’t believe there are hardly any product purchases in there tho- no wholenfoods stops for toilet bowl cleaner, dark chocolate etc. and no clothes!?

    i’m starting to track my own spending and actually feel better now about the amount i spend on iced tea (alimentari) and juice (pressed or butcher’s daughter) on a daily basis. Thank you, Harling. i, too, avoid cabs and walk or subway it whenever possible to make up for it 😉

    that said, when i was first living in NYC (in 2003), my weekly budget for food (I ate lunch at work), transportation and entertainment was…$40 a week!

    insane. NYC is a town of eating outside your home (not counting fabulous dinner parties). i think it comes with the territory! enjoy the sweet green and the oatmeal and i’ll see you at the BD sometime!

  • OatMeals is life.

  • helena

    Loved this … I look forward to my morning $7 latte the way you look forward to your oatmeal. Supreme day-starter.
    Also ‘Witchcraft’ made me laugh my a$$ off!

  • Kelly

    This reminded me that I need to start bringing lunch to work. But it just tastes so much better when someone else makes it.

  • Whatwould Slashdo

    No one buys ingredients and cooks in New York?

  • Allie

    Doing this myself will be terrifying and revealing…yay can’t wait…….

    Nerdy thought: It’d be neat if you guys wrote an article about how you budget your time to contrast against finances. Unless there is an article about this I’ve somehow missed?!

    Loving this series though and praising the gods above for my lack of caffeine addiction (fist pumps)

  • Brianna Hawkins

    Me and my “Hot Date” at Oatmeals after Harling recommends Oatmeals…

    • Harling Ross

      I JUST STARTED GETTING DATES

  • Rachael Elizabe McKeon

    I absolutely love these money diaries, I am a 27 year old single working gal living in london with a lot of friends who love to eat as much as I do. I completely related to Harling’s expenditure choices as mine are essentially the same. A lot of coffee which I could have at home (but I don’t want to), meals and snacks out which I could also have at home (but I don’t want to). With a busy job and social life, cleaning up a small kitchen with no dishwasher can feel like climbing Everest. Lastly what would we do without Uber, in London it is ESSENTIAL. However probably much like Harling the combines spending on all the non essentials detailed above leaves me broke and with no savings….but happy!

  • does plus tip mean you’ve included the tip in the price or not? Visiting the states for the 1st time later this year so this post has been really great to figure out that I will spend too much money on food.

  • So is Jack’s wife Freda the butcher’s daughter, or is Jack the butcher?
    O_O