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Gina Guaragna- #93 Survive 1 week in NY with only $20

August 10, 2010-August 16, 2010

This week, I have decided to embark on one of the most challenging items on my bucket list of 100 Things: #93 Survive a Week in NYC Spending Only $20.  I honestly don’t know if this will be possible.  My good friend, Ailie, has decided to take on this challenge for her bucket list as well, so at least I will have some company to make it a bit easier.  Because of my insane schedule, I have not had any FULL weeks in the city lately.  I have been traveling every single weekend, making it difficult to even attempt this challenge.  I originally wanted to start this challenge on a Sunday or Monday and go the full week, but a week is a week, and because of my traveling circumstances, I am starting on a Tuesday (Tuesday August 10) and will go for 7 full days, meaning my challenge will end after going to sleep on Monday night August 16th.

I have set some guidelines or rules for myself and this challenge which I will explain to you.

1.  I am not including rent or utilities.  Quite honestly, rent is way above $20 a week in NYC, and would just be impossible.  I also do not plan on sleeping in the street for 7 days…I have to pay rent regardless.  So this challenge will purely be about food, drink, transportation, entertainment, and life expenses OTHER than shelter.

2.  For hygiene materials, I can use what I already have.  (i.e. soap, deoderant, face wash, makeup, etc.)  If I already have it, I can use it–I do have to be presentable at work afterall.  However…I cannot purchase any more of that stuff unless I include it with my $20 budget.  Guess that sucks my eyeliner ran out over the weekend…

3.  For food, I cannot use what I already have if I have purchased it prior.  This is to ensure, that I did not go to the grocery store on Monday and stock up with $200 worth of groceries to last me the week.  I would feel as if that was cheating.  So I cannot eat what I already have in the fridge or cabinets.  Instead I must purchase all my food for the week using no more than the $20.

4.  I have one exception to rule #3, and that is:  I am able to eat or drink something if it was given to me as a gift or I got it for free and did not purchase it prior.  For example…that bottle of champagne that was given to me an an engagement present?  I can totally take advantage of that.  That chocolate bar I won last week a that bridal shower?  Come to Mama.  But that 6 pack of Miller Light in the fridge that I bought last week?  Sorry, that’s a no no.

5.  I can take charity from others.  HOWEVER, they cannot have any knowledge that I am doing this $20 challenge.  For example…if my boss decides the office is going out to lunch tomorrow and the tab is on him?  I can take advantage of that and get a lunch that does not apply toward my $20 since I’m not paying.  BUT…I cannot beg or plead to someone saying “I only have $20 this week, can you cover my dinner?”  That’s considered cheating in my book.

6.  Subway transportation and taxis are included in my $20 tab…so I must be very selective about my traveling choices this week.  I will be walking a lot or riding my bike more than usual to make up for this.

At the end of the day, I have a little bit more than $2.85 to spend per day.  With so little money, and difficult transportation, I’m thinking my meals will be few and my exercise will be high…so who knows, I may lose a little weight this week?  Although, this is certainly not the healthiest way to do so, and I don’t recommend!  Regardless, I’m going to try and find creative ways to keep my tummy full and my brain from going bonkers with boredom.

So I’m off to start the challenge!

Day 1:

Tuesday August 10, 2010

10:15 am: Got to sleep in today, and had to be at work by 11:00 instead of 9:00.  Sweet!  Walked 2 miles to work this morning.

11:30 am: Tea is free at my office, so I drank a cup of Green Tea.  Green tea is said to help curb some hunger, so it might be very helpful this week with my small budget!

3:30 pm: A busy day at work had me wait until now to get a slice of pizza for lunch.  There is a new place right near my office called 99 cent Fresh Slice, so this seemed perfect for today’s lunch.  All in all, the slice ends up being $1.00.  My first purchase this week.

5:00 pm: Already hungry for a snack, I snapped off a piece of that chocolate bar I won at a bridal shower 2 weeks ago.  It’s been in the freezer at work untouched, and since it was a prize I won for free, it’s fair game!  Milk chocolate with almonds.  I only took a small couple pieces, but hopefully the bit of protein will help me last until I can get to the grocery store/market later tonight.  Already I’m feeling this challenge is going to be rough!

7:30pm: Starving, I finally make it to the market.  Zack came along, and we went to the market on 82nd Street owned by our favorite Asian disco dude.  We put three items into the basket, and decided it was all too expensive.  Zack suggested a cheap market in the 90s, and we hurried to put everything back before leaving the store.

7:45 pm: This was the best suggestion Zack has ever made.  This Turkish market has some of the cheapest options I’ve seen in the city!  Score!  Here is what I was able to come away with:
$.50 2 bananas
$.99 box of mac and cheese
$.99 vegetable spread (aka fake butter)
$.99 bag of pasta
$1.00 bag of carrots
$1.00 carton of milk
$1.00 dozen medium eggs
$2.99 loaf of sourdough bread
$2.99 block of havarti cheese

Total with Tax Came to $12.53

9:30pm: Ate 1/2 box of mac and cheese with a side of carrots for dinner.

Total for Day 1:  $13.53
Remaining Budget:  $6.47

Not a lot of money left over for the week, but I’m thinking that this amount of food can get me through at least until the last couple days.  Definitely don’t think I’ll be taking the subway at all this week.  Hope it doesn’t rain.

Stay tuned.





Day 2:

Wednesday August 11, 2010

9:00 am:  Got to sleep in one hour longer today, then made the 2 mile trek down to the office.

10:30 am:  Made myself a cup of that green tea.

12:00 pm:  Enjoyed a banana from my purchase at the market yesterday.

3:00 pm:  Made a grilled cheese sandwich at work out of the bread, butter, and havarti cheese I bought yesterday.  Also munched on a handful of carrots.

5:00 pm:  Got out of work a little early today, and started the 2 mile trek back home.  Chatted on the phone to Mom and Dad to make it go by quicker.  Called Zack when I was halfway home, and he was only a few blocks away, so he met up with me and walked me the rest of the way home, which made it nicer.

7:00 pm:  Decided to stay in this evening so as to avoid temptation.  Did some core exercises while watching TV, painted my nails and toes, and read a book.  Also ate the other half of my mac and cheese from yesterday.

8:30 pm:  Cooked myself 2 eggs with 2 small pieces of toast.  Hey, maybe this challenge won’t be so bad afterall 

Total for Day 2: $0.00
Remaining Budget: $6.47

Day 3:

Thursday August 12, 2010

9:30 am:  This challenge sucks.  It’s raining outside, and I have to walk to work.  I made sure to dress comfortably for the rainy walk, and of course, carried an umbrella.  I’m praying that the rain does not continue for the rest of the day because I was planning on walking home from work and then biking to and from my soccer game tonight.  Go figure…it rains the day I have to be outside the most.

10:30 am:  Enjoying hot tea in my dry office.

12:30 pm:  Having a banana for a snack.

3:00 pm:  Enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich, since it was so yummy and filling yesterday.  Also some carrots, and another green tea.

6:00 pm:  Walked home from work.  Luckily it didn’t rain this time.

7:30 pm:  Made some yummy pasta noodles for din din, and saved half for lunch tomorrow.

8:45 pm:  Ok…my most feared moment of the day.  Riding my bike to my soccer game.  I live all the way on the Upper East Side on 80th and 2nd.  My game was at Pier 40, which is located on Houston Street all the way at the West Side Highway near the Hudson River.  Normally it takes me at least 45 minutes to subway there…so this was a LONG bike ride!  Thank God, Zack came with me, because I was terrified.  I hate driving through the traffic.  Once we got to the bike path on the West Side Hwy, it wasn’t so bad…until the rain hit.  It was pretty awful riding there in the rain…I couldn’t wait to just get there!

10:00 pm:  Played my soccer game also in the rain…seems to be the theme of the day.

11:00 pm:  Time to make the bike trek back to my apartment.  Still raining.

11:45 pm:  Finally home.  It stopped raining during the ride, and was actually quite nice to ride in the peace and quiet of the city at night time.  However, I am SO glad to finally be home.

Total for Day 3: $0.00
Remaining Budget: $6.47

Day 4:
Friday August 13, 2010

9:30 am:  Friday the 13th!  It’s actually a gorgeous day outside, so I’m headed off on my 2 mile trek once again.  I’m getting kinda used to this.

10:30 am:  Get to the office, and stop at the fruit stand outside to grab a banana for $.30.

1:30 pm:  Ate the banana and some leftover pasta noodles for lunch with some chocolate bar pieces.

2:30 pm:  Got out of work early today and walked home.

3:30 pm:  Stopped at the library and got 2 movies for free.

7:00 pm:  Made 2 eggs with toast for dinner.

10:00 pm:  Hung out with the gang for a game night.  Some ladies brought wine to share, so I had a glass or 2.

12:00 am:  Headed out to the bar with the group.  The bartender made a mistake on making someone’s drink, so I got a freebie!  Score!

2:30 am:  Came home tipsy and made myself a late night snack (grilled cheese sandwich) before going to sleep.

Total for Day 4: $0.30
Remaining Budget: $6.17

Day 5

Saturday August 14, 2010

11:00 am:  Slept in and then woke up and watched a movie, Dear John.

2:00 pm:  Ate some carrots, 2 eggs, and toast.  My rations are still going strong.  Wondering where the hell my money goes during normal weeks when I’m not doing a $20 challenge.

3:00 pm:  Spent a lovely day in Central Park with my fiance–laying out, reading, playing cards.  Great day.

6:00 pm:  Was treated to a burger, fries, and shake at the new Shake Shack on the Upper East Side.  Felt amazing to eat something other than grilled cheese, eggs, or pasta.

10:00 pm:  Rooftop party for Maria’s birthday celebration!  I contributed that bottle of champagne I had been given as a gift at our engagement party.

12:00 am:  Bar hopped with the gang, and managed not to spend a penny.

3:30 am:  Late night grilled cheese sandwich before bedtime.

Total for Day 5: $0.00
Remaining Budget: $6.17

Day 6

Sunday August 15, 2010

2:00 pm:  Had a pretty late night, so managed to sleep a lot today!  The rain outside helped, since I didn’t feel as if I were missing too much outside.

3:00 pm:  Cooked 2 eggs and watched Mamma Mia in bed.  Also chatted on the phone to Teri (who was checking in about my challenge), and my friend Whitney (trying to coordinate transportation to her Labor Day Weekend wedding in Maine).  Unpacked all my clothes from last weekend and straightened up the apartment a bit.  Had a pretty lazy day today.

6:00 pm:  Made pasta for dinner and saved the 2nd half for lunch tomorrow.

10:30 pm:  Watched Entourage and read my magazine before bed.

1:00 am:  Bed time.

Today for Day 6: $0.00
Remaining Budget: $6.17

Day 7

Monday August 16, 2010

9:30 am:  Woke up.  Last day of the challenge!!  Thank God!  Left far too late to make the walk to work in time, so I ended up taking the subway which knocks off $2.25 from my remaining budget.  Kinda bummed because I wanted to use the last $6 to get something yummy.  Oh well.

11:00 am:  Drinking hot tea at the office.

2:00 pm:  Ate the last of my pasta and the last of my carrots!

5:00 pm:  Ate the last of that chocolate bar!  Impressed with myself that I was able to keep it going this long.

6:00 pm:  Started my trek home–it’s raining lightly.

6:15 pm:  Ok now it’s pouring!!!  There is no way I can walk 40 blocks in this.  Thank God, I saved some emergency money.  Bus ride = $2.25.

7:00 pm:  It’s gross outside.  Decided to spend the evening in tonight.  Read my book, watched TV, hung out with Zack.

8:30 pm:  Cooked the last of my eggs, cheese, and bread.  All my food is gone just in time!

12:00 am:  CHALLENGE COMPLETE!!!  Time for sleep 

Total for Day 7: $4.50
Total for Entire Week:  $18.33
Remaining Budget: $1.67

I’m completely astonished that I was able to make it through 7 days in New York City with only $20, and I still had money leftover!  It just goes to show you that maybe it isn’t always necessary to spend so much money.  Granted I have a stack of laundry that needs to be done, bus tickets to purchase for future travels, toilettries to replenish, etc that I have been waiting a week to be able to complete…but at the end of the day, maybe I should start walking a bit more or riding my bike.  It’s healthy, and it saves money.  I am definitely glad to add meat and vegetables to my diet this week, but I honestly didn’t starve at all this challenge besides the very first day before I made it to the market.  So it is doable to cut back and make things work even while living in this expensive city.  I’m pleased to say that my friend, Ailie, also completed this challenge successfully.  The best part is that we were both still able to have a great time, and we figured out ways to have fun with a very small budget.  I don’t think I will be anxious to do this challenge again, but I have definitely learned ways to save money in the city while still maintaining a fun life and my sanity!

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