What are the three rules the author sets for herself at the beginning of Nickel and Dimed? Does she ever break them? If so, when and why, in your view, does she do so?
Ehrenreich sets the following three rules for herself as she sets out to live on the wages of an unskilled worker: first, she will not "fall back" on her education or skills she acquired on prior jobs in order to get work. Second, she will accept the highest-paying job offered to her and do it to the best of her ability: she will not, as she puts it, engage in "Marxist rants" or reading novels in the restroom. Third, she will find the cheapest living space possible that offers privacy and safety.
Ehrenreich says herself that she breaks or bends her rules during her project. She notes, for example, that in Key West, she falls back briefly on her education, saying as she interviews for a waitressing job that she could greet customers with Bonjour or Guten Tag. However, I would not tend to count this, as people with little education might well know these very common words in French or German. She also mentions that in Minneapolis she doesn't take the highest-paying job offered. This is a $10-an-hour job at Menards that she turns down after she has already started at Wal-Mart at $7 an hour because Wal-Mart "has already sunk its talons into me." She thinks about doing a second shift at Menards, but decides it would be too exhausting. In this case, she really is breaking her rule: to be true to it she should have quit at Wal-Mart and gone to Menards. I think she stays at Wal-Mart because the whole situation of getting oriented to a new job is exhausting and she doesn't want to go through it again. In addition, Menards wants her to work 11-hour shifts.
Finally, she says she rants, but only outside of the hearing of management. I would mention as well that she rants directly at her manager, Ted, when she works at The Maids, telling him he should send her coworker, Holly, home for hurting her knee. "I blow. ... I tell him he can't keep putting money above his employee's health and ...this girl [Holly] is in really bad shape." In this case, she is annoyed at Holly's willingness to take abuse, knows Holly's health isn't good to begin with and that she might be pregnant, and she is fed up enough to want to take a stand. All through the book, we can feel how Ehrenreich is worn down by the jobs she holds and the grueling nature of trying to live on very low wages.