Ailie Jenkins- Number 53- Live on $20 for 1 Week in NY

August 2010 - Number 53: Survive a week in New York spending no more than $20

This is something I thought up a few months ago, and given that I’ve recently been very naughty in my excessive spending habits I thought it was a perfect time to start my $20 week challenge. Can one survive a week in New York City without spending more than $20? Obviously rent is not included in the equation, but I believe it certainly is possible and I not only intend to prove so, but I intend to continue to have a lot of fun in the process! Summer is the perfect time to try because the weather is conducive to walking everywhere and as I’m finding out; there are plenty of wonderful ways to fill your days and evenings that don’t cost a cent. Maybe whoever came up with the old adage ‘the best things in life are free’ was much cleverer than we give them credit for.

*My good friend Gina is joining me in this challenge as part of her bucket list also, and her account of the week as well as a write up of all our rules is at the following link: http://greatfreakinadventuresofgina.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/93-survive-a-week-in-nyc-spending-only-20/

Day 1 – Monday August 9th

Today kicks off my $20 week challenge. I’m working from home this week so that makes things easier. I did a grocery shop which included Ramen noodles, a loaf of bread and half a dozen eggs. My total spend was $5.27. Luckily when I woke up I was still full from our BBQ the night before so I skipped breakfast and just ate some noodles and bread by early afternoon.

I happened to have 2 free tickets to see Train perform today in midtown for the filming of a show on CBS. I was so excited to get these tickets because my favourite song in the world is ‘Hey, Soul Sister’ and I couldn’t wait to see them perform it live. My sister Imogen came with me and since we were running late and didn’t have time to walk there, she smuggled me onto the subway (by sneaking me through the turnstile) so I could get there without paying for a ticket (and before you shake your head in disapproval let me guarantee that this mode of transportation will not become a habit, I’m not going to let this challenge turn me into a scheming criminal). The show was amazing, and I even got to chat to some of the band members after they performed. We walked home afterwards and I was on a high for the rest of the day after such a great experience. For dinner I was lucky enough to be invited to my friends George and Flem’s place for leftovers, since we had cooked up so much food the night before at the BBQ. This may be the only meat and veggies I eat all week, so thanks guys!!

Day 2 – Tuesday August 10th

Today I had toast and an egg for breakkie, Ramen noodles for lunch, and another egg and toast for dinner. I didn’t spend a cent today but I have to say I’m getting kind of sick of noodles and eggs already. I think tomorrow I will splash out on some fruit and a slice of pizza.

I realized today that I neglected to do my laundry over the weekend and I have quite a collection of dirty clothes. Since it costs $2.00 per wash cycle at the laundry in my building (and I’m intent on keeping every cent I have this week for food expenses) I’m going to have to wait until next week to do laundry so I guess I’m gonna be hand washing anything I need this week!

My other dilemma of the day is that I ran out of toothpaste. A search of the bathroom cupboard uncovered some cinnamon flavoured toothpaste I bought accidentally last year and vowed never to use again. Thanks to my hoarding ways I simply threw it in the back of the cupboard rather than in the rubbish. As vile as it tastes; desperate times call for desperate measures!

Day 3 – Wednesday August 11th

So today brought the third day in a row of toast and egg for breakkie and ramen noodles for lunch. I was quite busy with work today so I spent most of the day inside on my computer; however I did find time to trawl the streets in search of the best fruit deals in my neighbourhood. I settled on 3 peaches for $1.00. None of them are quite ripe enough to eat yet but I’m hoping they will be a nice treat for tomorrow.

I got a call from my friend Danny Bravo at about 5pm, saying his girlfriend and some of our other friends were meeting for happy hour at a local Mexican place and they would like me to join them. As I prepared myself to politely decline due to my strict budget, he offered to shout me a margarita in exchange for my company and I certainly couldn’t turn down such a kind offer so off I went. My friends had apparently mentioned my $20 challenge to the waitress who very kindly kept bringing out free chips and salsa to our table, what a sweetie!

I treated myself to a $2.00 slice of pizza for dinner, and continued drinking margaritas into the night and catching up with a few different friends. A big thanks to Danny, Zack, and Christian for sponsoring my tequila fix, I really appreciate it!!

Day 4 – Thursday August 12th

I’ve reached day 4 and I have $11.73 remaining. I of course indulged in my standard toast and egg breakfast and ramen noodle lunch. I also ate two of my peaches, although I was seriously disappointed to find they were mushy and bland and I forced them down with minimal enjoyment.

In the evening I was invited over to Danny and Rachel’s place for dinner. Rachel had cooked up an amazing Southern feast of fried chicken, mashed potato, biscuits, sweet potato, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It was a delicious meal and I felt very spoilt. Big thanks to the generous hosts!!

Day 5 – Friday August 13th

Just to mix things up a bit today I switched and had ramen noodles for breakkie and toast and an egg for lunch instead of the other way around. Variety is the spice of life! Once again I got a slice of pizza for $2.00 for dinner. My friend Gina has also joined me in the $20 challenge, and in an effort to save our precious pennies we decided to have a game night with the crew at my place instead of heading downtown to do our usual extravagant partying. We had a really great time, some wine and vodka (thanks Nicole, Jess, Justin, and Michelle!) and eventually made our way out to a local bar where the bartender gave us a bunch of free drinks (at first I thought it might be because I looked so lame at the bar minus drink in hand, but then I found out he made a mistake making some drinks which resulted in freebies for us. However, that doesn’t explain the free shots he kept presenting to the group… I think he was secretly in love with Justin).

Another successful day/night! Although I did notice that by the end of the night I was starting to run quite low on toilet paper… this could present a challenge over the weekend.

Day 6 – Saturday August 14th

Devastation! When I eventually dragged my tired and hung-over body out of bed this morning I was really looking forward to my egg and toast. I eagerly opened my little egg carton to indulge in the last egg but my heart sank. The egg was cracked and had leaked all over the carton. Never have I ever been so disappointed by a broken egg.

My friends Nicole and Maria came over around lunch time and we went up to my roof to lie out in the sun. It was a beautiful sunny day and we lay around chatting, reading, drinking delicious frozen fruit cocktails (thanks Maria, they were amazing!), and just enjoying the day.

Later that evening all of our friends gathered on the rooftop for a pizza party to celebrate Maria’s birthday. Since I had managed to get to the weekend with $9.73 I was thrilled to be able to contribute money for the pizza. It was a fantastic night, and from my place we headed out to some local bars for an adventure. Thanks to the rooftop party I was in no need of more drinks, but I did notice that they kept finding their way into my hands at each bar. The only conclusion I can draw is that I have incredibly generous friends who insist on sharing the love.

Day 7 – Sunday August 15th

The last day!!! My goal of having enough money left on Sunday for a subway sandwich was a success. I fought the urge to order a ramen noodle and egg sub, instead going for roasted chicken and veggies.

Mum and Dad had arrived home from their latest trip so I walked over to their place in the evening and I was spoilt with a delicious home cooked meal. I made sure to leave their place before dark to avoid a walk through Central Park in pitch black but I got caught in some heavy rain and by the time I made it back to the east side I very closely resembled a drowned rat. But not even the torrential rain could dampen my spirits; I had made it through the week with 39 cents and some toilet paper to spare!

Biggest challenges:

- having to turn down fun activities because they were too far away and out of my walking zone.

- not being able to buy my friend Maria a birthday shot on Saturday night

- rationing toilet paper towards the end of the week and telling my guests on Saturday night that if they needed to do number 2’s they would have to go elsewhere

What I learnt:

- That it’s possible to get by largely thanks to the generosity of others which is incredibly heart warming; however there is an innate desire to reciprocate and I really struggled with not being able to do so. The only way I was able to show my appreciation was with a big smile and a “Thank you!!!!” and I really hope everyone who helped me out this week knows how much it meant to me.

- That it really doesn’t feel good to eat ramen noodles and eggs every day, and I hope to not have to eat instant noodles for quite some time

- That even though I was confined to within walking distance of my apartment, and limited with what I could buy I still had a fantastic week. Having good company and a positive attitude is worth more than anything

- That I have the most generous, supportive, and patient friends and family in the whole world. They are amazing, and they’re consistently surprising me with their support of my random (and at times ridiculous) challenges and adventures.

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