When 23-year-old Carlos Vera isn’t running his startup, Pay Our Interns, he’s waiting tables at the D.C. restaurant Open City.
Ben Carter agrees. Carter is the founder of Manage Your Damn Money, a podcast and web series aimed at encouraging millennials to talk about money.
“I think one of the things that is always recurring on our podcast is the notion of figuring out what your side hustle could be,” he said. “I think we all kind of understand, these days, full-time jobs don’t necessarily get you all the way to where you need to be.”
To get a better idea of how millennials are using their money, we’re skipping the survey data and getting straight to the source. We’re challenging young people in the D.C. area to keep a spending log for just one weekend.
After working several unpaid internships on Capitol Hill, in the White House and for Megaphone Strategies, Carlos decided that something needed to be done to make it easier for young people to start their careers.
“I started [Pay Our Interns] because I saw a need,” he said. “And for me, it’s always about how can we make it easier for people behind us, in particular low-income people and people of color.”
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With just $3,000, Carlos started Pay Our Interns last year. The nonprofit is focused on creating more paid internship opportunities. For the past year, Pay Our Interns has survived off of small donations. Only now is Carlos bringing in enough to pay himself a salary. In February, he decided, “You know what, I’ll be a server.”
Carlos’ day begins at 5 a.m. every morning. He works for Pay Our Interns until about 4 p.m. and then changes into his server’s gear for 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift at Open City. He said he often works more than 90 hours each week between both jobs.
“The struggle is real,” said Carlos. “But that’s kind of how it is doing a startup.”
Carlos said running a startup for a year has taught him how to manage his money better.
“I do think that sometimes finances, in a lot of minority communities -- like people of color, low income communities -- they don’t really talk about it,” he said. “In terms of long-term planning, budgeting, saving … those are things that I’m really doing and in the past I was not.”
Carlos lives in a house with four other people in Dupont Circle. “I’m one of the lucky few,” Carlos said of his rent-controlled home.
We asked Carlos what he spent over the weekend.
“My favorite purchase is food, so I’d have to say Los Hermanos, because I love me some Dominican food. And my least favorite purchase was paying my rent.”
Here's what else he said he spent:
Rent - $966
I went to the UPS store … to pay my rent. I get a check because [to pay my rent], I have to send in a check [to my landlord].
Safeway – $24
I spent $24 on milk, bread, eggs, lemonade and beans and rice.
Monthly Netflix subscription - $9
Los Hermanos – $12
I had Los Hermanos because it is bomb. It’s a Dominican restaurant. I had pork, rice and plantains.
Santa Rosa Taqueria – $12
It’s near the Hill, but this was a business meeting. This meeting was to talk to someone about being a potential sponsor for Pay Our Interns. It was with a representative from a corporation.
Ted’s Bulletin – $12
I don’t really cook, if you haven’t noticed. But even though I do spend money, I don’t spend that much -- usually like $10-12.
Monthly credit card payment - $90
This one is funny, actually. My monthly payment for my credit card, Discover, is $45, and I usually [pay] manually. I went into my checking account and I sent a payment for Discover. But recently I started doing autopay. I totally forgot about it and made two payments for $45. So now $90, basically.
Uber Pool – $3
I took [an Uber] to church [from my apartment].
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.