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The “money diary” of a New York-based marketing intern is sending the internet into a tizzy over the assertion she gets by on $25 an hour.
The kicker? She doesn’t.
The article, published by Refinery29 as part of its “money diaries” series, details the marketing intern’s monthly earnings and expenses, all the while following the intern for a week. In the “diary,” the intern shares what she does throughout each of the seven days and tallies her purchases to show what she spends on things like food and drink and transportation.
But Twitter is calling this article out for misrepresenting the privileged means in which the writer, who is anonymous, lives in the city, particularly with the help of her parents and grandparents. The original headline simply read “A Week in New York City on $25/Hour” and neglected to mention the $1,100 allowance she gets from her family and that most of her bills are paid for. (As of this morning, the headline now reads “A Week In New York City On $25/Hour And $1k Monthly Allowance.”)
The post gained traction after writer Tessa Bahoosh made the observation that “YOU,” the byline given to the unnamed diarist, “SHOULD NOT BE WRITING ABOUT MONEY.”
YOU SHOULD NOT BE WRITING ABOUT MONEY pic.twitter.com/kt8Rjsn6oM— tessa b (@tessabahoosh) July 17, 2018
Bahoosh specifically pointed out the following points: that while the anonymous intern is only paid $25 an hour, she doesn’t have student loans and she doesn’t pay for health insurance, her phone bill, her $2,100 rent, nor her Netflix, Spotify, nor Amazon accounts (her parents foot those bills). And to supplement her lacking hourly pay (but minimal expenses), her parents give her $800 and her grandfather $300 each month.
my $1100 monthly allowance 🙂 still their little girl!!!!— tessa b (@tessabahoosh) July 17, 2018
Indeed, “You” might want to reconsider writing about how to make “$25 an hour” stretch, considering that she’s none too stretched herself.
Several other Twitter users slammed the piece following Bahoosh’s tweet, questioning if it was satire, or if someone was really this privileged to attempt to represent themselves as living in New York on $25 an hour.
is this not satire or— s club olive (@suncaverns) July 17, 2018
i literally read this ENTIRE thing on the T just because i was waiting for it to hit the point where it obviously became satire and it uhhhhhhhhh never did— the wizard of loneliness (@samcIay) July 17, 2018
I was hoping this was satirical...— llewyn (@aIexgarland) July 17, 2018
Hi. I would like to inquire about the Free rent, health care, phone/data, Netflix and $1100 plan?— Travis Bedard (@travisbedard) July 17, 2018
How to live in NYC on $25/hr - Have someone subsidize your life style.— Dustin Land (@DustinHLand) July 17, 2018
Some just couldn’t bring themselves to read the entire thing.
i stopped reading at my parents give me a $800/month allowance https://t.co/kSBT8Io8Kb— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) July 17, 2018
I couldn’t get through this article, ffs i hope a subway rat jumps on this girl on the F line https://t.co/2xLHz4T2PM— cesar again (@CESARIANSECTION) July 17, 2018
Others, too, could not understand how this article could be real.
IS THIS SATIRE??!?! https://t.co/JW0CMhWPGv— Meghan Rienks (@MeghanRienks) July 17, 2018
Oh my fucking god, why is this real? https://t.co/O6K6ZfLbEI— Rubber Bandits (@Rubberbandits) July 17, 2018
And some bashed the entire “money diaries” series.
People just learning about Money Diaries today ... welcome to the resistance https://t.co/pxxyXEBAph— Caroline Moss (@socarolinesays) July 17, 2018
I’d like to take a moment to thank Refinery29’s Money Diaries for the wildly entertaining hate-reads, including that one installment by a woman my age with a nearly identical position making $20k more than me, which I hated enough to finally ask for a raise— Hayley MacMillen (@hlmacmillen) July 18, 2018
I love when money diaries are like, "I buy $400 worth of cold brew a month at the health food store. It's cheaper than Starbucks!!!!!!!!" Are there people who don't know you can purchase coffee beans and turn them...into coffee— Maura Brannigan (@maura_brannigan) July 17, 2018
Despite the barrage of anger this specific article garnered, however, supporters of the series, in its second year of publishing, argued that it helps women openly discuss financials and know what it’s like to live or vacation in different parts of the world on a salary they might expect to make in two years, or even on the salary they currently have.
A quick scroll of the series, too, shows that reader submissions are taken from more than just privileged young women, but women struggling to make ends meet and women living uncomfortably. And while this diarist’s generational wealth feels misleading in the context of living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., there are several other accounts of other diarists living in New York to read and learn from.
Elite Daily senior news editor Alexandra Svokos pointed out that not including stories of privilege in the series was a disservice to readers, and ignored that privilege like the diarist’s exists in the first place.
“It is an *ongoing* series, so this one entry is one of dozens, all of which represent different tax brackets, privileges, barriers, locales, industries, etc. To not have someone privileged talk about how they spend would be to ignore that privilege exists,” Svokos tweeted. “Complain about the $1100 allowance all you want, but that privilege exists is not Refinery’s fault—in fact, their work draws attention to the fact that privilege makes life extremely different for people for no apparent reason.”
Money Diaries, which has existed for literally years, is not an advice column or a piece of objective reporting, nor does it pretend to be. As stated at the start of each entry, it's one woman's account of her spending— Alexandra Svokos (@asvokos) July 17, 2018
That "one woman's account of her spending" part is important: The women themselves are accounting for their actions, so they're the ones who say what their income is - which is, in itself, fascinating linguistically/psychologically (to the original tweet's complaint)— Alexandra Svokos (@asvokos) July 17, 2018
Lindsey Stanberry, the director of Refinery29’s Work & Money section, went on BuzzFeed News’ morning show AM to DM, stating the staff was surprised by the attention. She said that diaries are published daily, and called the initial headline a “mistake on our part” for not including the diarists’ monthly allowance.
“It was a lot of men tweeted negative things about it, and it kind of felt like they hadn’t dug deeper in our catalogs,” Stanberry said of the criticism.
Correction: A previous version misidentified Alexandra Svokos’ position at Elite Daily. She is a senior news editor. We regret the error.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.