GREENWICH VILLAGE — For Chloe Fogel, an NYU junior from San Francisco, finding a balance between wanting to go out and experience the city with not being able to afford things has been tricky.
She subsists on $5 chicken and rice from a local teriyaki joint or cheat eats from Halal street vendors and shares a two-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town with four people, trying to keep costs down to $830 a month.
"My bank account is never over $200 or $300," said 20-year-oldFogel, who got a student job after her parents helped her out her freshman year when she had unpaid internship.
"My parents still offer to help, but I feel more guilty about it," she said. "Maybe I won't go to a Broadway play. If I go out, it's to the movies."
In a wildly expensive city like New York, saving money may not be easy for college students, especially when faced with an array of tempting — and pricey — restaurants and events.
But as many venture out for the first time managing their own finances, it's never too early to start being prudent about money matters, experts advise.
Michael Ryan, a sophomore at NYU studying urban planning, is more worried about the prospect of having to pay back his loans after college than his daily expenses.
"This doesn't feel like a city for college students," said the 20-year-old from Georgia, who lives with his boyfriend in Astoria, Queens, where they split a monthly rent of $1,100.
"I could never accumulate a savings here. I'd have to leave for a few years," he said. "[But I'd] come back, and I'd spend it all in four months."
Some students though are still throwing caution to the wind.
"We're all in our 20s. Now's the time to be reckless," said Chelsea Chan, 19, an NYU sophomore in liberal studies who spends money regularly and said she'll worry about the bills later.
That said, Chan pays everything in cash so she doesn’t have to worry about credit cards, works two student jobs and lives in College Park, Queens, with her family.
"I bring lunch to save so I have money to splurge when I go out," she said.
To help navigate the benefits and pitfalls of students’ newfound fiscal freedom, DNAinfo.com New York spoke with Kevin Fudge, education and financial aid adviser at American Student Assistance, a non-profit that helps students with financial concerns. Here are his top five tips:
- Savings Account: Most banks offer their own student-friendly bank accounts, but Fudge advises students to look for ones that don’t require a minimum bank balance. He also recommends using banks that don’t charge a fee for ATM cash withdrawals.
- Budgeting: Maintaining a budget is a skill that should be developed early “to be able to discern what is essential and what is not essential,” Fudge said. Expense headings like ‘entertainment’ and ‘travel’ are usually the most important for students. He recommends evaluating budgets on a monthly basis.
- Save up: While you keep track of your spending, remember to save a bit of money on a day-to-day basis. “There are little ways you can nibble on the edges,” said Fudge. He advises students to eat meals at home and avoid the daily $5 cup of coffee.
- Spring break bank break: If you’re looking to save a larger chunk of cash, rethink those weeklong spring break plans in Puerto Rico, Fudge said. Instead, look for other options, like study-abroad programs or volunteer trips for charitable organizations. You can still get your well-deserved vacation but without emptying your wallet.
- Credit card woes: The biggest mistake many students make is going down the path of credit card debt, said Fudge. He recommends using cash or a debit card whenever possible and reserving credit cards for emergency use only.