Living, in New York

It doesn’t always have to be brunch, booze and butterfly gardens



Living in New York is expensive, and we as college students shouldn’t be expected to go out as often as possible when life is expensive.


Every other Sunday, my best friend and I take a stroll to the Upper West Side. We stop to pick up coffee and pastries on the way, which we eat when we reach the steps of the Museum of Natural History. Sometimes, she brings a produce bag and parses through the cilantro sold at the farmer’s market just behind the museum. Other times, we just sit, dog watch and catch each other up on our weeks. 

It’s quite romantic, really, and one of the only things that made us feel like we were living up to the hype of going to college in New York during the pre-vaccine pandemic times last year. It’s something that we’re trying to keep up now even as the city’s many establishments are more open and less scary. Though the $10 pastry and coffee pains me a little, it’s a relatively affordable outing for the city. Not to mention that Sunday morning is the perfect time for some peace because everyone is either sleeping, hungover or both. 

As much as I hold these walks close and dear to my heart, living in New York still puts me in a constant state of FOMO, of could’ve/would’ve/should’ve. I’ll admit that I do my fair share of fun things, like going to museums, trying restaurants and picnicking in Central Park (which is really just bringing chips and a blanket to any patch of grass that is not Sheep Meadow).  

Even so, there are days where my Instagram feed makes me wonder why I didn’t say yes to a party or whether I should drag my friends to try Ethiopian food in the East Village. 

New York Versus Your Wallet

It takes a special kind of financial privilege to afford living in New York. Fordham’s tuition, as we all know, is far from reasonable, and Fordham students tend to come from families that fall on the wealthier side. Personally, I’m incredibly fortunate that my family is supporting me through school, but not everyone has the same safety net.

The cost of living in this city is incredibly high, if not absurd when compared to national averages. According to an article by Apartment List published in July 2021, the average studio apartment in New York is $3,237. That is more than three times the price of the average studio in most other states in the U.S. 

If you live in the dorms, a double in McMahon costs about $2,406 a month, and that’s without a meal plan. But oh, gosh, dorming? How would the Mount Sinai ambulance sirens and gray bathroom tiles ever allow you to achieve the quiet-neighborhood-in-Brooklyn aesthetic? 

Despite its popularity, let’s keep in mind that brunch is a privilege and not a requirement for living in the city.

Food is also much more expensive in New York than anywhere else, whether it’s groceries or eating out. A meal at a full-service restaurant will cost you, on average, $46.14 in the city. That’s $10 more than the national average. A different report says that miscellaneous goods and services, which include a wide range of expenses like “clothing, entertainment, activities and personal care,” are 36% higher in Manhattan than the rest of the United States. 

With numbers like these, who can afford to try all the diverse meal options the city has to offer? Is it really realistic to study in cafés every week when a latte costs you $6? Despite its popularity, let’s keep in mind that brunch is a privilege and not a requirement for living in the city. 

Even “thrifting” in New York can burn a hole in your wallet, since places like L Train and Buffalo Exchange have prices that make them more consignment than anything else. In my personal experience, most tops at these stores are about $15, whereas in upstate New York, I got a stunning cocktail dress and a pair of pinstripe pants for $1 each. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your time as a New York college student if you’re not dodging lasers at a spy museum or seeing a drag show at the most historic gay bar in the country.

New York does offer plenty of free activities, however. Many museums are donation-based for students, and a walk along the High Line costs nothing if you hop the subway turnstile on your way there. The list also includes reading in the New York Public Library, camping out for SNL and taking a stroll in a park, along the Hudson or across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Most of these, though, are activities that scream tourist and/or require time and effort most college students just don’t have.

Students, Not Socialites

After all, we came to this city for college. Since the city promises the impossibility of boredom, boasting thousands of “once in a lifetime” experiences every weekend, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your time as a New York college student if you’re not dodging lasers at a spy museum or seeing a drag show at the most historic gay bar in the country. There is a key phrase here, though, and it’s “college student.”

With projects and midterms and little-to-no income, our late teens to early 20s are not supposed to look or feel like a TikTok vlog all the time. Having fun should always be on the list, and a break from your tasks is absolutely necessary for your health. But juggling school work, jobs and chores like grocery shopping, cooking and laundry is enough to fill up your days. If checking off activities every weekend is adding to an already high level of stress, it might not be worth it. At least, not all the time.

It may feel like the world is at your fingertips, but you really cannot have it all. Prioritizing sleep over going out should be guilt-free, no matter what anyone else says. 

Being able to do cool things and posting about it all the time is unrealistic.

Social Media and Self-Care

Being able to do cool things and post about them all the time is unrealistic. It’s a standard set by social media influencers whose job is to take photos, creating a social pressure that we shouldn’t hold ourselves to but can’t help but let affect us. It’s hard; I get it. Comparison kills, but there’s nothing like Instagram to make youforget about what’s good for you.

Keep in mind that just by following people from your college you see photo dumps of people having fun, drinking, eating out and dressing up nearly every day. Even if it’s not the same person posting, it feels like people are constantly “living it up.” But if “taking advantage” of the city means spending all your future savings on overpriced drinks at rooftop bars, then it feels more like the city is taking advantage of you. 

Self-care isn’t just face masks and treating yourself to a bellini at brunch.

Attempting to adhere to what you expect living in New York to look like is often prioritizing an aesthetic over your health. We’ve all seen those TikTok and YouTube vlogs about “a week in the life in NYC”: They string together a bunch of one-second clips, making it seem like every attraction in Manhattan is accessible when they each take time, effort and money. 

College is a time for learning to find a balance in your life and take care of yourself. Self-care isn’t just face masks and treating yourself to a bellini at brunch. More often than not, it’s doing the hard thing. It’s finishing that essay, vacuuming your apartment, saving up for a toaster oven or curling up on the couch because your feet simply cannot take another trip downtown. 

When it comes to living in New York, the living should always come before the city.