A Grad Student's Spending—and Saving—Habits

Five days' outlays, from double-stuffed Oreos at the supermarket to peanuts at Yankee Stadium.

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After I asked readers to share their own spending diaries, Veronica, a 24-year-old graduate student in Brooklyn, N.Y. (her last name is omitted to protect her privacy), offered to keep track of her expenditures. I was curious to learn about people's different saving strategies, and her diary did not disappoint. As you can see below, Veronica used a combination of comparison shopping, packing her lunches, and close relationships (you can't split a hot dog with a stranger, after all) to keep her spending in check. Veronica's diary:

Sunday

  • 2 p.m.: $8 Pathmark (two Lean Cuisine pizzas, one double-stuffed Oreos, and bananas)
  • 2:30 p.m.: $12 Key Foods (four boxes of pasta, four cans of tuna, and four boxes of frozen vegetables)
  • 3 p.m.: $5.54 Associated Supermarket (half-gallon fruit punch, half-gallon lemonade, and half-gallon 2-percent milk)
  • I went to three different grocery stores in one day because they all had sale items I was interested in. While it took longer, I probably saved money because I wasn't buying nonsale items in any store, with the exception of the bananas and the milk. This probably isn't a viable strategy unless, like me, you have three grocery stores on the same street within 10 blocks of one another.

    Monday

    • 8:20 a.m.: $7 Union Street Station, MTA MetroCard
    • 1 p.m.: $81 Kew Gardens Union Turnpike Station, monthly unlimited MTA MetroCard
    • 2 p.m.: $3.99 Whole Foods (ham-and-swiss wrap)
    • Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.: $12 Lincoln Park (one rum and Coke, two Budweisers, plus tip)
    • Just to explain the MTA charges, the machine at my station wasn't accepting credit cards that morning, so I felt the best bet was to buy the $7 MetroCard that actually has $8.05 in value.

      Tuesday

      • 1 p.m.: $3.59 Au Bon Pain (medium soup)
      • Even though I did bring my own lunch to work, I was still hungry after eating it.

        Wednesday

        • $900: My portion of the rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Park Slope.
        • Surprisingly, I spent nothing else. I managed to pack enough food for my lunch that I did not buy anything to snack on during my night class, even after spending eight hours at work.

          Thursday

          • Free: Two tickets from uncle to Tigers vs. Yankees at Yankee Stadium ($27 value each)
          • Between 7:05 p.m. and 10 p.m.: $40.50 Yankee Stadium concessions split between boyfriend and me (including one hot dog, one sausage, a bag of peanuts, a beer, a soda, cotton candy, and a pretzel)
          • I'm not exactly sure who paid what for which concession items, and I'm fairly certain I'm still owed some money, but he'll cover something in the future and it will even out.

            Total: $1,073.62. (This is a higher-than-normal spending total for five days, because I bought my monthly MetroCard and paid my rent.)