Money Diary of an NYU Student

A WSN weighs in on her spending habits — and how $50 a week can disappear surprisingly quickly.

As Jerry Maguire once said, or rather screamed, “show me the money!”

There’s no question that NYU and New York City are expensive places. In fact, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research, Manhattan has more than double the national average standard-of-living cost — a striking almost $5,000 compared to the average $2,371. 

Having a meal plan and on-campus housing meant that I knew where part of my money was going, but keeping track of all my other disappearing dollars was harder — they definitely weren’t going into my savings account.

About Me

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I am a 19-year-old Tisch student studying Film Studies and Journalism. I live on campus, in Goddard Hall. I have a meal plan that provides two meals a day and 300 Dining Dollars for the semester. I also earn $13/hour as an America Reads tutor, which adds up to about $50 a week.

Monday, April 24

9:30 a.m.: I got a chai latte and butter croissant from Argo Tea. $7.08

12:30 p.m.: I grab lunch from Sidestein Market before class: turkey and smoked gouda sandwich, chips and water.

6 p.m.: Early dinner before my evening class: cheesy grits, BBQ chicken and waffle with maple syrup from Weinstein.

TOTAL: $7.08

Tuesday, April 25

8 a.m.: I get charged my monthly Spotify fee (bless student discounts). $4.99

12 p.m.: I grab brunch from NYU’s Peet’s Coffee as a meal swipe: egg, cheese and sausage breakfast sandwich with a mocha.

4 p.m.: Weekly therapy appointment because mental health matters. Also, not a plug, but NYU insurance has pretty great coverage. $20.85

5:30 p.m.: I pick up dinner from Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine because I miss home-cooked meals. Rice and beans, plantains, roast pork and avocado? Yes, please. $32.84

6 p.m.: I buy my plane ticket back home! It was United so hopefully I’ll actually get back to my family. $69.20

TOTAL: $127.88

Wednesday, April 26

7 a.m.: I grab a hot chocolate and cheese danish from Starbucks before work. $5.96

7:30 a.m.: Subway fare. $2.75

1:45 p.m.: I grab lunch from Sidestein before class: herb-crusted fish, rice pilaf and garlic ciabatta bread.

6 p.m.: I pass by Boba Guys and the curiosity gets the better of me. Does it live up to the hype? Small milk tea, hot (I like Kung Fu Tea better — they give you tapioca balls even with the hot teas). $4.90

6:15 p.m.: I swing by the Kosher Deli in Weinstein to grab dinner: one salami and sauerkraut tortilla wrap with honey mustard and roasted potatoes.

TOTAL: $13.61

GRAND TOTAL: $148.57

This was an illuminating experiment that showed me where my money went. Mostly coffee and breakfast food, which didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was how quickly it all added up. Even without the plane ticket, I still spent about $80 in three days despite making about $50 a week.

We all have our money-eating temptations that solve the cooking dilemma after a long day of classes. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t treat ourselves every now and then, but the splurges should be sporadic.

The first step to financial success is awareness — seeing where the money goes. After that, we can come up with alternative and cheaper options. If we make a commitment to these changes, it won’t be long before our deficits become our surpluses.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 1 print edition. 

Email Laura Rubio at [email protected]

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