How three college students manage their money in NYC

New York: the place college students love to hate and hate to love.

As a student here myself, I can’t overstate how great the benefits of living here are. But with those benefits come a lot of extra expenses, and it often begs the question of if the cost is worth it.

I spoke with three students from New York University, Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology to see how they’ve adjusted to college life in the City, and how they save—and spend—their hard earned coin.

Lily, 20, New York University

“Still Saltea,” that I had to stick blueberries up my nose for game night 🍇💦

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Where do you go to school?

I go to NYU for Communications and Digital Design, where tuition is 26K a semester before fees! Rather than dorming, I commute and also often crash at my best friend’s apartment (shoutout to Alyssa). I’m from Queens originally but also spent a good amount of time growing up in Syracuse.

What does your average day look like?

I get out of bed at 9, leaving just enough time to speed walk into my internship as the clock strikes 10 (sadly, breakfast is a no go)! I wrap up in the office around 4 and take the train uptown to go to class. My day officially ends at 6 and I usually pick up groceries or food on the walk home. Depending on the day, I will take a power nap and then work on assignments into the night. The end!

What are the things you spend the most money on per week?

Most definitely food. I usually overestimate how starved I am and will whip out the big bucks! Also, on a bitter note, Metrocards (which keep getting more and more expensive) are another expense college students here deal with.

How often do you eat out, if ever? 

I’ve been eating out more than I would like to admit. I’m a creature of habit and usually fixate on a spot for most of the semester. Once upon a time, Korilla was my go to. But once they stopped serving honey squash, things have changed. I’ve transitioned to the $10 Mighty Bowl- I gravitate towards Asian comfort food! I also love Mighty Quinn’s mac & cheese when I want to treat myself and disregard my lactose intolerance.

I hear that! Do you ever grocery shop? 

Since I usually go home on the weekends, I buy groceries in teeny batches about once a week. Some nights I crave oranges and will pop out of bed in my pj’s to go fruit shopping. We live a block away from Trader Joe’s and usually buy groceries there. But if Trader Joe’s is too swamped, we’ll shop at Westside Market despite some higher prices- time is money!

Do you feel you’ve adopted a sustainable lifestyle here in NY? 

My routines definitely need a lil’ tweaking! I hope to adjust my eating habits and find more mindful ways of balancing my resources.

As a student, I always feel strapped for cash but it gets spooky imagining my budget after rent and other bills are incorporated into my daily costs. When beginning the apartment hunt, it can be difficult to reconcile how certain neighborhoods have been exploited to rent to demographics like my own. I want to manage my expenses responsibly so when the day comes, I’ll resist the urge to move swiftly and cheaply while still being able to maintain some form of balance.

What made you choose New York for college? Are you glad you did?

Staying here for college definitely helps with money moves! I’ve been able to keep my tutoring jobs in Long Island and can often cover shifts at my family’s restaurant at a moment’s notice!  But it’s also nice to be home.

It’s comforting knowing my grandparents are a train ride away or that if I’m anxious about school or work or that I can call my mom for lunch in Chinatown. The diversity here also makes me feel confident and comfortable in my own skin- I hadn’t appreciated it enough until after studying abroad in Prague.

READ ALSO: The Vegan YouTube community almost ruined my life

Mia, 21, Fashion Institute of Technology

Where do you go to school?

I go to FIT and study Fashion Business Management with a focus in Product Development. Though FIT is a state school, tuition is a little over $20,000 since I’m considered an out of state student. I commute to FIT from Brooklyn and have two roommates.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Maryland; the DMV.

What does your average day look like?

My average day is either work, school or creating content. I work part-time in luxury retail and am also a full-time student— so sometimes it gets a little crazy. However, on my off days I’m almost always creating new content for my YouTube, Instagram or website.

What do you spend the most money on each week?

The things I spend the most money on are food and clothing. I love food so it’s very easy for me to get out of hand with buying food. Also, I love vintage and thrift shopping. I’m always seeing cool new pieces in stores or on Depop and most of the time I can’t resist.

Do you eat out often?

As much as I want to say no, the answer is yes. I eat out a lot but, I do try to cook a lot too: it just takes more effort. My favorite places to eat in the Manhattan are Spice, Prince Street Pizza and The Little Cupcake Bakeshop. In Brooklyn my local pizza and wings spot is bomb; Sweet Chick is amazing, too.

Do you ever grocery shop? 

I do, I normally just go to my local Key Food. Every now and then I’ll stop in Whole Foods if I’m near one and need something. I normally grocery shop every week and a half to two weeks.

What made you want to go to college in NY? Are you glad you did?

When I was little I was a ballerina so my initial goal was to move to New York to go to school for ballet. However, as I got older I realized that fashion was something I was very passionate about. I decided I wanted to go to school here when I found FIT. Now that I’ve been here for almost 3 years I’m 100% happy that I made that decision.

Do you feel you’ve adopted a sustainable lifestyle here in NY? 

One of the biggest changes I’ve made since moving here has been vintage/thrift shopping almost all of my clothing. Fashion is a very big part of my life, so finding a way to still have it and make it sustainable has brought a lot balance.

READ ALSO: This full time student is also launching a full time music career

Mahzabin, 2o, Columbia University

Where do you go to school?

I study computer science at Columbia University.

How much is tuition at your school?

Tuition is around $57,000 but total cost of attendance is like $74,000.

Where are you from?

The Bronx babyyyyyyyy.

Do you dorm or commute?

I dorm! I commuted in high school, so dorming is a privilege. The MTA has hurt me one too many times.

What are the things you spend the most money on per week?

Iced coffee.

Do you eat out a lot? 

I love to order out, lol. Thai food is my go-to. I either order from Thai Market or Opai Thai. If I want something quick and easy, I’ll go to Dig Inn or Sweetgreen.

Do you ever grocery shop?

My parents buy my groceries when I ask them to. Grocery shopping in Morningside Heights is espen$ive.

What made you want to go to college in NY? Are you glad that you did?

Columbia offered me the most financial aid of all the schools I was accepted to, so the choice was more financial than it was geographical. I’m glad I did decide to stay, though, because I get to experience NYC in a different way than I did when I grew up. I have autonomy since I dorm, but also have the help of my parents when I need it.

Do you feel you’ve adopted a sustainable lifestyle here in NY? 

I feel like I learned how to budget and manage my money a lot better after dorming. I transitioned into more sustainable practices like cooking my own meals and brewing my own coffee. Plus, if anything, I have the dining halls.

READ ALSO: How this Arkansas girl got the boujie-est NYC social media job ever

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