I spent this summer living in the NYU dorms. My living accommodations, while severely lacking in air conditioning, came with a meal plan that was at times luxurious (taco day) and at other times disheartening (every day without tacos). One additional aspect of this meal plan was the allocation of $15 “dining dollars” a week.
The cost of these “dining dollars” was included in the price of my summer housing, meaning that I essentially paid NYU real money in advance and then let them pay me back weekly in $15 increments of fake money which could only be used at three locations: the NYU Starbucks, the NYU Dunkin Donuts, and the Weinstein dining hall which carried a limited variety of chips, ice cream, and soft drinks comparable to the selection available at a Sunoco station built in the 80’s.
I decided that I would not use many of these “dining dollars” early on. My goal was to save up all summer and use my bankroll on a Starbucks gift card at the end of my term.
I rolled into the NYU Starbucks last Wednesday, two days before moving out of the dorm. I was met by this sign:
The fact that the “any” was underlined gave me confidence that my transaction would go as planned. I was excited for my gift card.
While in line, a barista informed the person in front of me that we would be unable to purchase a gift card with our “dining dollars.” I was pissed.
I had accumulated $282, which I was very excited to turn into Starbucks currency and give to my Mom to begin paying her back for everything she’s done for me: paying for my housing, paying for concerts I go to, carrying me for nine months, etc.
Instead, I had $282 in fake money which I had already paid NYU in real money for. I wasn’t about to just give that money to NYU. They didn’t accept me as a transfer student. I was going to take vengeance on this institution somehow.
I decided that I would do my best to spend every dollar allocated to me. Starting with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s that I consumed in its entirety that night while watching Digimon on Netflix in hopes of deciphering what about the show captivated me as a child.
The next day was my last chance to spend my remaining $276 “dining dollars.” I got back from work and made the glorious mistake of taking a nap that lasted until 7pm. Every place where my “dining dollars” could be spent closed at 8pm. Zero hour was approaching. I had to act fast.
Run #1: Weinstein, $92
- 3 bags of chips for a picnic my summer class was having the next day
- One 4-pack of Red Bull
- 3 bottles/capsules of Grape 5-Hour Energy (they didn’t have Berry)
- 4 packs of Orbit Wintermint
- 4 Gatorades of assorted flavor, one of which was consumed immediately
- 13 bottles of Suave Shampoo to be donated to some place that accepts Shampoo as a donation
I was pleased with myself after this run. I had gotten things that I actually needed (chips for the picnic) and also done some good in the world. BUT I STILL HAD SO MUCH MONEY TO SPEND.
I am not good at spending money; it makes me think about how valuable I am as a person, and oftentimes that’s pretty low. If I was kidnapped and held for a $5,000 ransom, I would tell my family that there are probably better things that they could use that money for.
But if there is one thing that I hate more than spending money it’s letting things go to waste, so I forged on.
Run #2: Starbucks, $71
- 3 lbs of Pike Place, one of which was Decaf because I wasn’t paying attention
- 6 bottles of ethos water
- 1 bottle of Clementine Izze
- 1 can of “Strawberry Starbucks Refresher” out of mild curiosity
- 1 Ham and Swiss Panini (not pictured due to immediate consumption)
I was holding out hope that the NYU Starbucks location would carry their Starbucks-specific Keurig machines, but alas I was disappointed again.
Run #3: Weinstein, $81
- 24 bottles of LemonLime Gatorade
- 8 more bottles of assorted Shampoos to be donated
I was running out of ideas, but Gatorade is always a plus.
Run #4: Starbucks, $32
- 9 more bottles of ethos water
- 3 packs of Starbucks After Coffee Peppermints
- 1 Ham & New York Cheddar sandwich
These last two runs happened simultaneously, meaning that I walked into Starbucks carrying a full case of Gatorade, having already spend almost $100 at this Starbucks just 20 minutes earlier. To anyone who did not have intimate knowledge of my situation/the state of my psyche, I was a crazy person. To myself, I was just a guy trying to get his money’s worth.
When I started to pay, I was aware that I had somewhere close to $10 remaining. I grabbed two more bottles of water and ordered a Grande Mocha Frappacino and decided that my work was done.
The barista ran my card for the last time, and reviewing my receipt I noticed that he had forgotten to charge me for the Frappacino. We proceeded to have the following exchange:
“Excuse me, but I think you forgot to charge me for that Frappacino.”
“Oh did I?” *reviews receipt* “Eh, don’t worry about it man.”
“You sure? I’m fine to pay for it.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. Enjoy your Starbucks.”
And thus, in the greatest of ironies, I got the first (and probably only) free Starbucks of my life while I was trying to spend as much money as possible. I loaded my Gatorade onto my shoulder, grabbed my bags of water and shampoo, hoisted my Frappacino to my lips and walked out the door two minutes before closing.
Half a block later, I came to the realization that I could not carry all of this at once, and proceeded to chug my free Frappacino in order to free up another hand. It was more painful than pleasurable, but as I covered earlier, I have a problem with letting things go to waste. Over-caffeinated but filled with something close to pride, I trudged back to my dorm room for the last time.
I no longer have residence in New York City. I like to think that I got the most out of my time and money in those NYU dorms, although I’m fairly certain that’s not entirely true. I hope that someday I will live in New York in a place with air conditioning and lacking a top bunk that I have to sleep on.
Until then, I have a week left of my internship and am relying on the couches of friends as a temporary home.
I will be paying them in LemonLime Gatorade and shampoo.