New York City should be nicknamed the City of Unforeseen Expenses. Even breathing can cost you a pretty penny in this town.
My days of unpaid internships and taking odd jobs to get by are long gone. As a writer living in the city, however, I sometimes find myself eating, partying and getting to work with only one Andrew Jackson until payday.
That's a $20 bill, for all of you who are allergic to Google.
Lately, I've managed to stay on top of my finances. However, I haven't forgotten the days when open bars and plus-one dinner parties were less of a work obligation and more of a mandatory meal.
For a quick dose of humility or a challenge to gauge if my resourcefulness is still superb, I volunteered myself as tribute for this social experiment.
I would try my best to live on only $20 for a whole week. At least I'd squeeze a few funny experiences out of it and save some extra dollars in the process.
If Gwyneth can get by on $29 of weekly food stamps, I can sacrifice my two-a-day Starbucks tea.
Or, so I thought.
Day one: Why am I doing this?
Two days after getting paid is probably the worst time to commit to spending only $20 for a week.
But, seeing as how I killed it buying groceries at Whole Foods yesterday, this week should be a breeze.
Plus, my monthly MetroCard is fully loaded, so transportation is handled better than an Olivia Pope & Associates client.
I mean, Christmas is right around the corner, so this extreme budgeting for the sake of good journalism might be worth the hundreds of dollars I'm spending on gifts this year.
Anyway, I spend nearly $10 on a Hale & Hearty soup and sandwich for lunch. YOLO!
Day two: I can do this.
Normally, I never have time for breakfast before my commute to work. However, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and a cup of green tea make the cut today.
Honestly, I'm too busy anticipating Adele's sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall tonight to eat anything else.
During the concert, my friend graciously buys the first round of booze.
Seriously, what more do you need besides a hearty helping of "Hello" and good friends?
Day three: Almonds, anyone?
While I usually overload on the free carbs free bagels my office provides every Wednesday, this week I decide against it.
My fridge is jam-packed with Chobani and granola, so I take full advantage of that, instead.
Lunch comes and goes while I snack on the honey roasted almonds I'd brought from home, but my stomach is growling for a Chipotle bowl.
I'm pretty sure I'm starving myself unknowingly, but I've spent $13 dollars and have $7 to spare.
Homemade spaghetti for dinner it is.
Day four: Are we there yet?
Today is the day I leave this money-draining city and head to my hometown for Thanksgiving.
In the afternoon, I breeze through a work photoshoot with a glass of wine and one Snapea Crisp (yes, one).
I'm not sure whether it's the lack of food or knowing I'll be on a bus for five hours, but I'm two seconds away from being a hangry, raging b*tch.
Naturally, I opt for something quick, cheap and filling: street meat. Halal chicken over rice costs $5.
Unfortunately, my budget savvy high only lasts for a moment. The torrential downpour outside forces me into a $14 cab.
Day five: I quit.
Since I've spent well over $20 so far, my only goal now is to stay under $40.
Aunt Flo is arriving, however, and my ravenous cravings are uncontrollable. I could devour tubs of chocolate and fried foods with ease of a marijuana smoker.
Thanks to an inconveniently timed root canal, I can only chew on one side of my mouth. But, when my stomach starts to growl, my sister buys me food.
What else are sisters for?
Day six: I quit.
Let's rewind to my original thoughts: Why the hell am I doing this?
It's f*cking hard not to spend money when you know it's sitting peacefully in your checking account.
My annoyance justifies my purchase of a new purse and watch from Nordstrom. On the bright side, my mom pays for dinner and I buy a $16 bottle of Chardonnay.
Sorry, not sorry.
Day seven: I'm horrible at financial adulting.
Fact: Pretending to be broke when you're not is way harder than actually living on $20.
This was a life lesson about choices and responsibility, and I clearly failed.
Could that be guilt I feel for blowing my budget? Nope. It's just the fullness from my mother's baked ravioli.
The takeaway? Living life in the city with just $20 is virtually impossible.
I'm not sure how I ever did it.