"[My parents] are there for support when I need it emotionally, but I'm on my own financially. I work an 8-to-5 job, five days a week," Palin, 19, who's raising 16-month-old Tripp, tells PEOPLE. "My parents help out, but they're not at my disposal. I think that's a huge misconception."
Bristol's mother, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate, has earned millions since leaving office last July. But not a lot of that money is apparently going to buy diapers for Tripp.
"I'm doing it by myself," Bristol says. "I live by myself, I'm working to provide for [my son]. It is difficult. Financially, it's very difficult. I'd say the majority of any paycheck I ever receive is going to Tripp. Child care is very expensive, formula is expensive, diapers are expensive – and you don't think about that as a kid, at all."
The young mother was in New York on Wednesday for a Candie's Foundation benefit – having recently filmed a PSA for teen-pregnancy prevention group. The organization is also introducing a "Crying Baby" iPhone app, which features a baby crying and cannot be turned off for 30 seconds to simulate what it would be like to have an actual infant.
What's a typical day like for her and Tripp? "When I wake up from the few hours of sleep I do get, I'm getting him ready for the babysitter's house, I'm off to work providing for him, working for him," she says. "[Then] I'm coming home from work exhausted, I'm bathing him, feeding him dinner, playing with him, trying to get him to bed. It's just repetitive work constantly."
Still, she's not giving up on her dream to continue her education. "I'm trying to chip away as much as I can on college, but this semester it was nearly impossible," she says. "I want to beat that statistic of teen moms not graduating from college."