Monthly Money

Ding, Ding, Ding! It has come to my attention that I spent $370.23 during the majority of October. Recreational expenses only, excluding rent.

When my dear mother informed me of this lovely information (thanks, Mom), I took a look at my recent bank statements (thanks, Chase Online Banking). It seems I have been spending that general amount every month of this semester so far, albeit it’s only been three months so far. However, I also looked at my spending while I was in school last year and it practically mirrored what I spend now. Well, at least I’m a consistent spender! (And that doesn’t include cash spending! Yikes!)

I asked my friend, who goes to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, what she and her friends spend monthly on miscellaneous things (excluding integrated university costs like housing and meal plans). Most of her friends are on a meal plan, which, in my opinion, plays a big role in spending. Being on a meal plans means that their spending on off-campus food does not nearly amount to the spending of students in the city without a meal plan. (Then, everything is off-campus.) To prove my point, she said the approximate monthly expenses of she and her friends in Lancaster were $100-150.

Another friend who goes to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has a different situation. “I don’t have a meal plan that covers my meal costs so if you were to include meals on campus and other expenses such as social events and shopping it’s more like $400. Its kind of a necessity to splurge because I eat vegan most of the time, and that food tends to be more expensive,” explains friend número dos. Healthy items are not always the cheapest. A salad for lunch in New York will usually run you about the same amount my friend pays in St. Louis, $7-10. While some healthier choices may be more expensive, many students are willing to make that sacrifice to better their eating habits.

I have a feeling much of this blog will be about food, since that is where the majority of my money goes. Look forward to raves about chai tea lattes from Starbucks and the necessity of the “half-sandwich.”

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The MTA Wants Your Pay

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, more commonly known as the MTA, is a wonderful service that provides public transportation to millions of people, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Railroads, subways, buses…it’s all good! On the contrary, they also often perform actions that make their customers want to start protests called “Occupy MTA Offices.”

This past summer, I visited my friend via the MTA Metro-North railroad, traveling from Grand Central Station in Manhattan to the Cos Cob train station in Connecticut. Minor setback: I accidentally bought a ticket to the Croton Harmon station while rushing to catch my train. My fingers touched “Croton Harmon” instead of “Cos Cob.” I mean, seriously, with all the commotion of rushing and trying to meet my friend in the station, it wasn’t my fault, okay?! (At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.) That one little accident did not mean I couldn’t get a full refund for my mistaken ticket… Or so I thought.

I then bought a ticket to Cos Cob, my intentional destination, figuring I could return my useless Croton Harmon ticket. (“Useless” because who the hell do I know in Croton Harmon? No one! I don’t even know where that is.) It turned out I was right about returning it. All I had to do was fill out a form at Grand Central, show them my ticket, and they would send me a refund… in 6-8 weeks! Yippee! There was one more catch: I had to pay the MTA $10 to get the refund. That’s right, you heard me. I had to pay to get a refund.

(I didn’t even use the ticket at all, which you’d think would help my case, but apparently, the MTA likes to be “different.”)
Don’t ask me how this makes sense, because I have no clue. All I know is that it made me want to rip my hair out! Well, not literally. That would just be loco. Anyway, the point is that paying for a refund is just ridiculous. It cancels out the reason for requesting a refund in the first place! Furthermore, they do not even give a reason as to why they charge $10 per transaction. “Service charge.” What service? Servicing me with a fee for a refund? My $24 roundtrip ticket was now worth $14… a $10 loss for the simple mistake of choosing the wrong station. Thanks a lot, MTA. (I’m sticking to my word of denying I was at fault.)

On another note, and no, not a good one, the teller at the Metro-North desk at Grand Central told me it would take 6-8 weeks for the refund to be mailed to me. I mean, that’s cool, I guess. Make me pay to get my money back and then take 2 months to return my $14. Yes, I know, it must be a nuisance for them to look at a piece of paper, put $14 in an envelope, and send it. I’m pretty sure that can be done in less than 6-8 weeks. As it turns out, the form I filled out stated my refund would be delivered in 2-3 weeks.

That’s like, the same amount of time, right? Tsk, tsk, MTA.