In this edition of MR Money Diaries, Monifa, a 23-year-old in New York who works at Spotify, DJs from time to time, and put on events with their collective SISTASPIN, documents their spending for a week.
Six years ago, while on a month-long service trip to Peru, I witnessed many aspects of the country’s rich history and culture. I ate the freshest ceviche, cooked in the ground, learned how to basket weave, camped on Alpaca farms…but the memory I most vividly remember was my visit to a paqo, a Quechua shaman. While there, I participated in an ancient ritual during which the shaman shared something that the earth was trying to tell each person in our group. As he went around the circle imparting this wisdom — which, for most, entailed details like whether they’d have a lot of kids or were kind-spirited — I anxiously awaiting my turn. When he finally got to me, he gasped, and only offered me a single question: “You like giving away money, huh?”
At the time I was young, broke and in high school, so I laughed it off. But now that I’m older and working, have no semblance of a budget nor a savings/investment plan, it strikes me that his reading might hit a little too close to home. Was the shaman right?! I figured there was no better way to find out than by recording my spending for a week. Wish me luck. 🤑
For anyone who doesn’t know, there are certain parts of Brooklyn and Queens that require you to drive or take a bus just to get to the train. I live in one of said areas, and while I occasionally take the bus, most of the time I take “dollar cabs” — which is slightly misleading title in that they actually cost $2. They’re cheaper per ride than the bus, and actually much faster.
I didn’t buy a monthly unlimited metrocard this month because 1. they’re expensive and 2. some weeks I don’t use the train as much. But I did buy a weekly unlimited card in an attempt to get my money’s worth because I knew I’d be using it a lot this weekend. Although I took a dollar cab this morning because I was running late, the metrocard came in handy when I took the train from work to the Apollo to see a panel featuring Black female DJs later. While I didn’t take the train to dinner (take my money, Uber!), I did eat for free — one of my friends treated me. It pays to have good friends, y’all.
Woke up late because I NEED sun to function and these New York mornings are so cold and gray now! Going to school in California really spoiled me. 😭I needed to take a cab again because I wouldn’t have made it to work on time if I took the bus. Luckily, lunch was free (shoutout to the perks of working at a tech company). It’s so lucky we get free food, because lunch is so expensive in the city.
I made $75.30 returning some clothes from an online purchase (the items were a mess and HAD to go back). Then I spent $43.98 of that when I was in the store making the return because I saw some other things I “needed.” I try to thrift as much as possible for environmental reasons and for unique pieces, but today I got sucked in by a sale the store was having. Good thing I have friends that love food as much as I do… and will feed me! Dinner tonight was free.
Took another dollar cab today, which got me wondering: Will I ever wake up on time!? Jury’s still out. Then purchased a $16 ticket to a friend’s Halloween party. Still, today was a fairly cheap day overall, but could’ve been cheaper if I didn’t have that Poke craving combined with lack of self control. The toppings are what made this one so pricey, but it was delicious so I don’t regret it. Having free food at work means I can occasionally treat myself to a lunch out. 🙃Lastly, I got another free (and delicious!) dinner, this time courtesy of my dad. Salmon, rice, and veggies.
I did NOT have to take a dollar cab today; go me.
I rarely get my lashes done or indulge in other expensive beauty treatments for that matter, but I have a show coming up on Monday with my DJ collective (@sistaspincrew!). We’re a NY-based collective of black and brown women, femmes and LGTBQ+ DJ’s and producers. We aim to prioritize and uplift the voices of folks in our community, in music and creative fields specifically, and provide safe platforms for people to get their craft out there. I spin for the collective, but also help with creative direction, event planning and community outreach. We’re playing on Monday for Lord Narf, Ness Nite, Opal and nuBlack music group, so should be a fun time! But back to the lashes: My coworkers just got theirs done and they look so good that I was inspired to treat myself. Everything else today was free.
This was my second day in a row of waking up early enough to take the bus. Went back to free lunch at work. Took the train (free) to a friend’s place when I got off, which is where things got costly: I spent $30.27 on delivery dinner to share with my best friend/soulmate (we met abroad and have been hanging ever since) .
Good thing I was able to use a cheaper ridesharing app after splurging on food. If you haven’t used Via yet, I highly recommend it. It’s usually way cheaper than the other apps (ahem, Lyft, ahem, Uber) but it is always a carpool, so don’t take one if you’re in a rush to get somewhere. Thankfully my friend and I weren’t pressed to get to the Halloween party, so we took advantage of the cheaper ride.
Even more thankfully, we got there and realized my friends knew the bartender, so got free drinks all night — a wonderful balance to the $30 I spent on dinner.
I stayed over at my friend’s house who lives in Bushwick so, for breakfast, I had an egg and cheese sandwich that should have only been $2 but was instead $3.27. The price of gentrification!
I took the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from his place to mine since the station is pretty close to my house in Queens. I usually take it on the weekends if I need to get into the city or to Brooklyn quickly, because it’s only $4.25 (versus $10 during the week). I would usually walk to it from his place, but today was pretty rainy and cold, so I Uber’d. Later that night, there was another party (which required a $13 ride) and drinks at the bar. They weren’t free this time, but overall I had a cheap night out.
This day began with my taking the LIRR into the city — I needed to finish up some work at the office. Unfortunately it was Sunday, meaning no free lunch, so I grabbed a quick bite at Penn Station — nothing too extravagant because I knew I was getting my nails done later and wanted to monitor my spending. I’ve been going through a nail art phase for the past few years (is it still a “phase” if it’s lasted this long?). Regardless, I go to an artist name Leanne (@she.nails.it), who’s hella cool. I got chrome slime nail art (which is probably extremely hard to visualize, but there’s a pic of my nails on her insta!). I always love my nails when she’s done with them, and they last forever — highly recommend. If I’m going to have one beauty expense, this is it.
Keeping this money diary helped me realize that, basically, the shaman was right (lol). I definitely need to be better at monitoring my spending throughout the day. Looking over my habits for the past week, it seems like I rationalize a lot of my buying — I feel better dropping some cash if I haven’t made any other large purchases on the same day. Writing everything down, though, and totaling it all up, makes it so clear that even all of the little spends really do add up (Mom was also right, lol).
I know that this was a particularly expensive week, with it being Halloweekend and getting my nails and lashes done, but it taught me that I ultimately do want to be better about keeping track of my spending. The weekly total definitely surprised me, so much so that I might even continue doing these money diaries for myself. I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn’t done it! It’s really helpful to see exactly where your money’s going.
Photo by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.