Students Spill Their Biggest Money Mishaps

Living in New York City makes budgeting notoriously difficult — these students learned the hard way.

It can be difficult for students to manage their money, especially in a city like New York. (Staff Illustration by Min Ji Kim)

In a city where the streets are lined with outposts of every designer label imaginable, Michelin-starred restaurants and pop-up shops galore, it can be hard not to blow all of your — or your parents’ — hard-earned money every time you step outside. Given the exorbitant cost of attending NYU in the first place, many students struggle with enjoying the city’s attractions without landing in financial hot water. Some students in particular have had to learn money smarts the hard way.

As Steinhardt senior Keighton Li knows, the shift from living at home with family to living independently at college can require a lot of financial adjustment.

“I grew up in a city where everything is just as expensive, but I was living with my parents then and was spending their money,” Li said via Instagram direct message. “Now that I don’t rely on them financially as much, I do find myself spending more than I did.”

For Li, the most surprising change in his spending habits revolved around housing.

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“I knew [rent] was going to be expensive, but man, I did not know what I was getting myself into,” Li said.

While Li has learned to regulate his spending, he did run into a financial mishap with his first credit card.

“I spent way too much and didn’t have enough money to pay it back,” he said. “It took roughly [six] months for me to pay back how much I spent. Earn as much as you can. Spend what you have. Save what you have left.”

Speaking of splurges, one Tisch senior who preferred to stay anonymous spent $1,750 on a tattoo, which subsequently forced him to default on rent.

“It’s inspired by my Hebrew name and my heritage means a lot to me. Plus it looks cool,” the student said on Facebook messenger, whose beloved tattoo was evidently well worth the financial risk.

That said, he does not recommend that other students jeopardize themselves in the same way.

“Definitely save and budget,” he said.

Stern sophomore Michael-Scott Greco was also willing to sacrifice some money for an important — albeit much less expensive — purchase: his Mickey Mouse waffle maker. The decision was reportedly a no-brainer for Greco.

“My roommate floated the idea and I didn’t need much convincing,” Greco said in an email.

Outside of his waffle iron, Greco hasn’t run into a ton of unwelcome financial surprises.

“I only spend on food (and the occasional waffle iron),” he said. “There are great deals for students to get full food experiences at discounts.”

Learning to curb your enthusiasm when it comes to the city’s endless shopping and dining options is undeniably difficult, and forces students to learn the limits of their budgets through trial and error. Factoring in New York’s ruinous rent prices — and NYU’s tuition rate — only adds financial pressure. By learning self-control and budgeting around the occasional treat-yourself splurges,the aforementioned money blunders can be avoided. If not, at least it makes for a funny story.

A version of this article appears in the Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 print edition. Email Lauren Gruber at [email protected]

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