Spending and Saving in New York City: Part Four

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Editor’s Note: This is part four of Noel’s ongoing series about her adventures navigating the NYC sample sale world, adjusting to life without total financial support from her parents, and learning where to spend and save to support her love of fashion while staying within budget! In case you missed them, see Spending and Saving in New York City: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

San Francisco

Photo Credit: 1

Okay, okay -- I "cheated": I went Black Friday shopping at home in California. Granted, quite a few of my friends stayed in New York City for Thanksgiving break, since we were only given two days off from school, so they were able to enjoy the wonderful array of Black Friday sales that can only be found one of the fashion capitals of the world.

However, my three days in California were about more than just shopping: they have allowed me to reflect upon my life in college and my life at home. The contrasts are especially apparent: from sharing a minimally-furnished bathroom with three other girls in my dorm suite (NYC) to finding out from my mother that the toilets in our house can now clean your derrière with warm water for you (CA). I'm still a big fan of Charmin toilet paper.

Ahem. Quoting one of my good friends, who also bedecked her dorm room with fashion photography, "I was broke, am broke and will always be broke from unplanned shopping." After "cheating" on my spending plan with Black Friday, this phrase rings truer than ever.

I wonder - should we just accept our fate as perpetually broke college students? And if we accept this fate, does this mean we can shop as much as we want, without feeling guilty from looking at our dwindling bank accounts? Is the college the time to feel broke, be broke, and eat ramen noodles while wearing Christian Louboutin over-the-knee boots?

I really needed to have these questions answered.

In the meantime, while I have only been going to college in New York City for three months, here are a few more somewhat-practical-but-mostly-sappy lessons I've learned so far from being a perpetually broke but fashion-obsessed college student:

  • Tupperware is one of the best investments you can make for yourself. One time at lunch in the dining hall, I got a huge plate of spinach salad -- in addition to an egg-white omelet and some pasta. I didn't even touch my salad because I was so full, but I didn't want to waste it either. I asked the lady working at the front counter if I could use one of the "take-out" containers to rescue my salad. I was told that I had to dump it in the trash, because food can't be taken out of the dining hall. I made sure to (stealthily) bring my Tupperware container the next time I ate in the dining hall. And to stop overestimating how much I can eat.
  • One of the perks of having stylish friends is being able to borrow their clothes and get inspiration from their daily outfits. Some of my close friends are involved in Hoot magazine, Columbia University's premier fashion, lifestyle, culture, and arts publication, which I co-founded with my fellow perpetually broke friend. I am constantly in awe of their intellectual curiosity, brilliant creativity, and fantastic style. Sometimes, college appears to be a constant costume party -- and thank goodness there are friends to borrow from.
  • Professors are inspiring too. My writing instructor has an earthy sense of style -- and aside from the fact that all of the guys in the class find her attractive, I am always most captivated by her polished yet slightly bohemian look, always consisting of simple silk dresses or cotton shirts paired with urban leather boots (or classy heels), a giant pair of headphones, and a black backpack (ah yes, she rocks the backpack). In other words, have style -- don't blindly follow trends.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. Whether it's academics or handbag collections, comparing yourself to your peers is not productive or healthy. One of my friends once said to me, "I feel so average here! Everyone is so fabulous. I have nothing to my name." College is about mixing with students from completely different backgrounds and finding common ground in spite of these initial differences. For example, my friend from Seattle, Washington found out that his roommate from Ghana shared his love for Lupe Fiasco.

I am about to fly back to New York City, but I'm desperately yearning for the next three weeks (including final exams) to be over, so that I can fly back home and well, pretend to not be a broke college student. In fact, I just realized that my suitcase is packed with more Ramen and cereal than clothes.

Did you go Black Friday shopping? What did you buy? And truth be told, did you stay within budget?