Food, Coffee, More Coffee: Inside the Spending Habits of a Working Student

I don’t think my spending habits are too bad, but I do have my slip-ups. This year, I’ve been pretty good at keeping my spending in check, but we’ll see how that progresses/devolves as the holidays draw closer. I do know that, day to day, most of my money goes to food and coffee. Although I often eat at home — I love making breakfast and try to have either lunch or dinner at home every day too — it still has a way of adding up.

Also, I guess I should mention that I work at Man Repeller AND am finishing up my BFA at the School of Visual Arts, which means I require a good amount of coffee just to keep me alive and kickin’. It also means I’m trying to balance a budget that accommodates both work and school. On most Thursdays and Fridays, I’m home finishing up assignments, cleaning and generally relaxing (which helps me save), but this week was different, and my budget took a hit as a result. You’ll see what I mean. With that, here’s what I spent my money on this week.

Today, my friend Maria and I are taking a day trip to Storm King Art Center, wahoo! Before I leave, I run downstairs and redeem my free, medium-sized beverage from Think Coffee thanks to my loyalty points. (Funny story: My loyalty account is for some reason linked to my cousin’s phone number, so she gets all my receipts. Hi Jaime! She likes knowing how my week is going. Large coffees = rough week.)

There’s only one food option at Storm King so I get an above-average vegetarian chili and a decent chocolate chip cookie. After our shenanigans upstate, we part ways and I come home and make pasta for dinner because wowee, I am so hungry. At 9:45 p.m. I run (okay, fine, walk) to CVS and buy Tide Pods because I already committed to doing my laundry and, surprise!, had no detergent left.

I usually walk to work, but this morning I wake up late and can’t figure out what to wear (UGH) so I have to take the subway. I put $20 on my Metrocard for this trip plus future use. I study photography and primarily use film for my personal work, so I drop off a roll of film that I took yesterday at Storm King. Thankfully, I save a couple of dollars by just getting it processed and scanning it myself at school. My buddies at Two Hands bless my wallet and give me a discount on my coffee and don’t charge me for my 3 p.m. orange juice. I get home from work pretty late so I spend the rest of my night watching YouTube videos and eating leftover pasta. SO fun.

Another exciting day at work! Pretty sure I was still tired from my day trip to Storm King and finishing up all the props for the MR GIFT GUIDE (!!!!) so I had two coffees today. This is why I am good friends with the people at Two Hands: a minimum of two visits a day builds a strong relationship. Then, Madi tricks me into getting lunch with her at Sweetgreen, but then bails to By Chloe, so I am stuck eating yet another Harvest Bowl alone (add avocado, no cheese, swap almonds for pecans, tysm). After work, I have one too many alcoholic beverages and plenty of mini snacks at the MR Ralph Lauren event. I mistakenly think that means I’m set on dinner but, 30 minutes after, when I start scanning film at school, I feel hungry again.

When I finally get home, I whip up a gourmet meal (toast and butter) for dinner and then realize that I left MY ONLY USB CABLE in the office and so, while my phone is slowly dying , I decide to get one on Amazon. (Another funny story: I thought, “Hey, maybe I should buy an extra USB cable” while walking past the Apple store that evening on the way back from the event but didn’t buy it!)

Today the water is out on Mott St. (where the MR office is located) and so my beloved Two Hands is closed (honestly they just need to #sponsor me at this point), so I get a coffee from Cafe Grumpy instead. Good thing I have a loyalty card going there too! I also get more film processed, woohoo! I decide to go to Maman for lunch today because I just really need a sandwich. Then, Emily and I stay pretty late at work finishing up the gift guide but I still manage to make yet another bowl of pasta for dinner when I get home (I’m having a phase).

TWO HANDS IS STILL CLOSED BECAUSE THE WATER IS STILL OUT! Cafe Grumpy it is. I usually don’t work on Thursdays but we had to finish wrapping up the final gift guide shoot. I make it back home in time for some lunch before class so I whip myself up some eggs on toast and then head to school. I spend three hours talking about photographs with my thesis class and then have a nice dinner with my friends at Goemon Curry! (PSA: they have cutlery that looks like little rakes and shovels.) I head back to work for a little bit after that to finish up random bits and bobs and then come home and sleep like a baby for the next couple of hours….

….Before I wake up late for a shoot happening this morning, ACK! I didn’t have time for breakfast so I run to Irving Farm to redeem my free coffee and get a croissant. I didn’t have time for lunch before going to class so I grab a brownie and another coffee during break so my stomach stops making weird noises in class. Usually I don’t do anything on Fridays because I prefer to chill at home and eat MORE pasta but tonight is different because it’s my friend Margo’s birthday and we celebrate with beers! A friend and I have a pre-celebration dinner at Big Daddy’s which includes a very delicious veggie burger and sweet potato tots. 10/10 would recommend.

HAPPY SATURDAY! I spend the first half of the day at home cleaning my apartment and having lunch before going to Chillhouse for a manicure. Before heading in I wander around Soho and am, of course, hankering for a snack and so I, of course, go to Two Hands, because I gotta stay loyal. This is actually the first manicure I’ve ever gotten in New York since moving here 3.5 years ago. It was a very long and stressful week so I decided to treat myself to some pretty nails since I don’t think I will have to paint anything in awhile (fingers crossed) (don’t look at me Emily).

While in the area, I pop over to Top Hat and buy some presents for friends and myself because Christmas is near! And you know who likes gifts? Me. Also my friends! But mostly me. On my way home I make more exciting purchases at the supermarket. Grocery haul you say? NO PROBLEMO! I got bananas, sparkling water, pasta sauce, pasta and a bottle of blood orange juice and kombucha.

BAM! DONE! Money spent! Honestly this week has just been a documentation of how many times I go to Two Hands in a week and also how much coffee I consume, which isn’t usually this much, I promise. I actually don’t feel that bad about the money I spent because I had a great week and I did a couple of special things like go to Storm King and get a manicure, but I do want to keep working on my spending habits.

For now I’m just gonna sit back, relax, and wait for my mother to make a comment about how much caffeine I drink.

Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

  • Halina

    I’m truly impressed by the number of loyalty cards redeemed in one week, well done.

  • Anna Kalmbach

    What does oat milk taste like? Lol

    • Lina

      Hi, personally I think it’s the closest to real milk but I know people who disagree.
      It’s my favorite non-milk milk though, especially because it doesn’t make my coffee taste weird.
      (If that was an ironic question, sorry about the useless answer lol)

      • Anna Kalmbach

        Not useless! That makes me want to try it

        • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

          it’s so good! to me it tastes super creamy and almost savoury. sometimes almond/soy milk is too sweet for me.

      • Cinamaron

        Hey! Just wanted to chime in as I have some barista oatmilk experience- Oatly Oatmilk is by far the closest to dairy non-dairy milk I’ve found. It does have an oat flavor but has a similar thickness and foaming texture when compared to whole milk. Pacific Oatmilk is thicker and I don’t like the flavor as much, but that’s just my preference.

        • Claire

          Can you buy Oatly Oatmilk in the US? I’ve seen tons of Brits post about it but I can’t find it here in the US!

          • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

            Oatly is a good brand! I think they sell it at whole foods.

        • Claire

          Can you buy Oatly Oatmilk in the US? I’ve seen tons of Brits post about it but I can’t find it here in the US!

    • Charlsey

      Way creamier than whole milk but the closest to regular milk? It doesn’t make your coffee watery like almond milk and doesn’t have a distinct taste like soy milk. It’s amazing.

    • Eva Skewes

      It definitely has an oatish flavor to it and is creamy without feeling too heavy, if that makes sense.

      I also think it’s a really good milk substitute for baking and cooking. I’ve used it on multiple occasions and cannot really taste the difference.

  • Cristina

    I mean.. so smart to bank those loyalty cards. I wish the loyalty cards I had (hi, sephora) worked like that lol. Instead, I’ve got a million mini things I don’t use. Also, I wish they had this type of loyalty card for pizza.

    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi


    • Kattigans

      “I’ve got a million mini things I don’t use.” So feel this. I just stopped cashing in my beauty reward points and instead have over 1k of them and just never ever use them unless I shop online and the 500 point stuff looks legit

    • Dymond Moore

      If you like papa johns or dominos i know they have loyalty programs for online orders

  • Robin

    You seem so cool what is your insta so i can start nurturing our one-sided relationship?

    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

      it’s @anameizing!

    • Leandra Medine

      i can confirm that she IS so cool

  • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

    what was the cookie made out of that made the cost NINE WHOLE DOLLAZ? must’ve been magical

    • Amy Brumbpo Tungus

      oh ok that included your chili lol nevermind

      • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

        omg i would never pay $9 for a cookie

  • Jaime Gelpi

    hi MR!! i can confirm that i am the cousin that gets her coffee receipts—it’s very comforting knowing she is properly caffeinated.

    • Rosemary

      this is so cute

  • Ana Tellez


    • Amy L Campbell

      HI LOU

      • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

        HI MY LOVES

        • Margaret Stolte


          • Amelia Diamond

            omg my heart just threw up this chain was so cute!!!!!!!!

  • Charlsey

    I love finding other people who drink Oat Milk in their coffee!! Hello

  • Aleda Johnson

    Reading this makes me so happy I pack my lunch every day and don’t drink coffee. No wonder I’m not struggling as much as some people who move to NYC.

  • Rachel Narowski

    110% relate to needing snacks so my stomach doesn’t make weird noises in class

  • Audrey

    Great money diary! How do you balance going to school full-time and working? I will definitely be working if I go back to school full-time, and I’m wondering how you manage to balance it all. Also, hope it’s not too personal, but how do you budget paying for supplies needed for school (if you need them at all). Thanks!

    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

      i go to work three days a week and then have only one class on thursday and another on friday. the time before/after class is when i work on school stuff, and weekends are for hanging out with friends/relaxing! that’s usually my weekly schedule. the only supplies i need to buy for school is film and paper for printing my photos. i’m in my final year now and i’m sure of what i like and want to photograph so i can control and budget myself in that sense.

  • Madi Elder


    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

      me n my salad don’t think so

  • Kelly

    I’m so jealous of all the free beverages! I swear I spend half my paycheque on staying caffeinated.

  • eva

    get a franch press and a thermos save $100/week 😉

    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

      i like the act of getting coffee! it lets me have some time to myself and talk to people i like 🙂

  • Kattigans

    @louisianameigelpi:disqus The struggle to stay on budget gets even harder as you age. Trust me. I also feel you on the coffee thing. I worked a job I hated for a year and would go multiple times a day to this place near the office just so I could get away from my boss. They had a loyalty program too & really good brownies

  • Amy L Campbell

    Louis can you please write a guide on how to get the best out of your loyalty cards/NYC’s best loyalty cards/something about loyalty cards because you clearly have this loyalty card thing DOWN PAT

    • Louisiana Mei Gelpi

      YES AMY

  • Margaret Stolte

    I want a money diary for when we go to Paris and our checking accounts turn into a fragrant bushwick dumpster fire

    • Margaret Stolte

      Also thank u for coming on Friday. I love u.

  • Allegra

    is this not completely insane to anyone else?!?! just to clarify- my rent is $350 per MONTH (i live with roommates but still). jesus fucking christ.

    • Jolie

      in new york this is completely normal!! i led a similar existence when i was in school here (working, going to school, paying rent) and found that all the coffee, food, etc. adds up. everything is expensive here. where do you live that you only have to pay $350 rent?!

      • Allegra

        northern michigan lol. and don’t get me wrong i grew up in sf and have lived in nyc, i guess i’ve always just been very poor and absolutely unwilling/unable to get coffee and eat out everyday. even in san francisco i spent maybe 400 per month on fun/non essentials.

  • Food and coffee can add up so quickly in New York! We live outside the city and find it’s sooo easy to spend $$$ a month on lattes. At the same time, I feel like it’s my only vice, so I don’t feel bad about it.

    “And you know who likes gifts? Me. Also my friends! But mostly me.” Also this!! Haha!!

  • Ann Selvage

    I cut out the middle man and just work at a coffee shop. Get paid to do what you love ☕️✨💸

  • Elle Shoel

    I relate to this on both a financial level and an emotional one – and by that I mean I also ate pasta every night last week apart from when I ate out heheh

  • Grace Deitzler

    I remember being in college and working and getting coffee like two or three times a day! It was a necessity really. But once I graduated last year and had to start paying back my loans I could no longer justify spending ~75 per month on lattes (more during the months of finals!) :'( now I stick to cheap stuff that I make at home which comes out to be around $15 per month. Still splurge on the occasional hard-earned mocha though.