My Weekend Money Diary #4: The Monopoly Chance Card Edition

NYC Money Diary

What happens when someone who’s “good at money” tracks their spending the old school way? With a pen and paper and not using an automated system like Mint?

Inspired by the Man Repeller and Refinery29 money diaries, I thought it’d be fun to see what happens when I track my spending for a weekend. Although I’m conscious about my overall spending, I’m at a point where I don’t feel the need to review purchases line by line. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for surprises.


I’ve never played Monopoly before, but my husband says this past weekend’s spending was kind of like drawing a bad “Chance” card and having to pay some bogus fees. Because this weekend we happened to draw TWO bad Chance cards. Today’s money diary theme: When Unexpected Expenses Trip You Up.

I normally don’t include my husband’s spending in these, but then I thought, well, that’s silly. When he spends money it’s my money, too, regardless of where the money actually lives (in his account or mine).


MOMA "Is Fashion Modern?" Exhibit
I’ve wanted to see the latest fashion exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and like total newbs, my husband and I decide to go on the busiest night. Friday is the only night the museum is open past 5:30pm. Admission normally costs $25 per person, but it’s free on Friday nights, so of course there were five times the usual amount of people there. However, we bypassed the free line because one of my husband’s work perks is free admission to most museums. $0

Reader Tip: If you’re in NYC you can get the NYC ID for free admission to over 35 museums, plus lots of other perks. See all the benefits here.

Note: I’d say in many cases it’s worth paying the money so you can look at things in peace and quiet. Especially when you want to see a famous painting like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” which is constantly mobbed.

Hermes Birkin bag from MOMA's fashion exhibit
The original Hermes Birkin bag!

We take the subway home and are back in our neighborhood by 8pm, hungry and with no specific plan for dinner. That’s a lethal combination when it comes to making good money decisions. Case in point: we walk by this Chinese restaurant that we’ve never eaten at in the two years we’ve lived around the block from it. But add in hunger plus no food plan and all of a sudden the food smells are intoxicating and irresistible. Should we? we look at each other. Next thing you know, we’ve spent $23.95 on mediocre Chinese food.

Friday total: $23.95


For the past few weeks, my husband has been masquerading as a valet driver, but one who doesn’t get paid. We don’t have a car, but we always take advantage when his coworker goes away and needs us to “car sit.” This means we can use the car however we want, but we also have to keep moving it to new parking spot, because of street cleaning.

We had planned to use the car to drive upstate for apple picking, but we got decision paralysis on choosing an actual orchard and I’m also not a fan of paying dozens of dollars to pick my own apples. I know it’s about the experience, but it’s not one I happen to value much.

My husband uses the car to bring one of the cats to his vet appointment. The cat has kidney disease and he needs regular checkups so he can continue getting prescription food.

Today’s my errand day. I don’t even bother to eat breakfast because I have a lot I want to do today. First up, I head to Mood to buy fabrics for the dress I’m supposed to be making. I spend, like, two hours sitting on the floor looking at every single bolt of fabric, trying to find the best mix of patterns. I go with classic blue stripes and plaids in Italian cotton. The striped one was not my first choice for the main part of the dress, but I noticed it was a LOT more wrinkle-resistant than the other fabrics. Sometimes you need to compromise your vision a little for practicality. $61

Mood Fabrics bolts

Italian cotton fabrics from Mood

Then I stop in Soho so I can check out some jeans at Blue in Green. I’ve been looking for a pair of black, slim jeans for a few years now, ever since my old standbys (Acne Hex) were discontinued. Online the jeans are on sale for $55. In person they’re still full price at $155. They look pretty good, but I need to try a few other options before deciding. The jeans are a relatively unknown brand, and the size I need isn’t very popular, so I’m not worried about missing out on a deal. $0

Blue in Green denim store

Blue in Green black slim fit jeans

Last stop is Trader Joe’s for this week’s lunches and pantry staples. I grab the usual salad kits for lunches, plus some frozen dinner options. Having some pre-made meals probably would have prevented us from impulse-buying that Chinese food from Friday night. $31.03

When I get home, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the cat’s vet visit was a success. His levels are all normal and look good.

The bad news is that this visit cost $371. THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-ONE DOLLARS?!!! I almost passed out.

I thought it was just a checkup. Did they in fact give him a new kidney?

Apparently, since blood and urine work were involved, that means lab work, and lab work = $$$. But I’ve never had pets before so I have no idea what’s “normal” for costs besides what we pay for food and cat litter. Our pet budget for the year is $840 for both cats, and now that’s totally blown. Last year we had to pay $700 for teeth extraction, and now the $371 for the checkup, so yeah, we’ll need to revisit the budget for next year. For now, we have money in savings so the cost isn’t a total disaster.

Reader: Are these costs normal??? Can we even get pet insurance with a pre-existing disease?

That’s Monopoly Chance Card #1.

For dinner, my husband makes chicken curry with green beans and rice.

Saturday total: $463.03


Sunday my husband goes to return the car to his coworker by parking it close to her apartment. The next day he got a frantic call from her saying that the car wouldn’t start. Apparently, he had accidentally left the interior lights on, which ran down the battery. A new battery will cost $340, and my husband offers to pay almost half the cost out of guilt. $150

Note to selves: Borrowing someone’s car is a total pain and we’re not doing it ever again!

That’s Monopoly Chance Card #2.

For breakfast I found some old takeout rice in the fridge, so I decided to make ginger fried rice with a fried egg on top. It’s a Jean-Georges recipe I found from the NY Times. It always makes me feel good when I can find a way to use up food instead of throwing it out.
Ginger fried rice with fried egg

I spent most of Sunday working on the blog, doing photo shoots and things, and when you work on stuff, it’s pretty easy to not spend money.

For dinner my husband makes chicken thighs and green beans. He also makes a loaf of banana bread so he’ll have breakfast for the week. He needs three square meals a day and his spending on breakfast out was starting to add up.

Sunday night I also sold an Acne sweatshirt on eBay for more than I paid for it! I bought it for $80-something and sold it for $117. And remember the last money diary when I went over my annual shopping budget? Well, problem is currently solved, because I got $120 back using my Amex Return Protection benefit, plus I can now add in the $117 to the bucket now, too. I’ll do a full post on all my re-selling escapades in a few weeks. Earned: $117

Sunday Total: $150


Frugal Fails

  • Having pre-made meals in the fridge is a must to avoid impulse buying mediocre takeout.
  • Borrowing somebody’s car is way too much responsibility with massive potential pitfalls. It’s better to just rent a car next time.

Frugal Wins

  • Using my husband’s work benefit saved us $50 on entertainment.
  • Selling secondhand designer clothes can actually be lucrative if you buy the right stuff.

Readers with pets, do you have pet insurance? If so, has it been worth it? When has savings come in handy for you?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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