Exploring $pending Habits at $tuyvesant

A look into the multifaceted spending habits of Stuyvesant students varying in purchasing categories, sources of income, and feelings toward their individual finances. Art/Photo Request: Person surrounded by thought bubbles of things they can buy (food, clothes, drinks,etc.) while holding money and looking confused

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Joey Chen

One might expect most teenagers to spend freely, without thinking about how much money they’re actually spending. However, a survey conducted by The Spectator revealed that nearly 62 percent of students describe themselves as savers rather than spenders, an unsurprising statistic given the stereotype of responsibility attributed to Stuyvesant. But when students do decide to treat themselves through spending, where exactly is this money going?

We asked students about what they spend their money on, and the category of food was a resounding theme. The poll results revealed that 92.8 percent of students use their money for food, whether it be lunch or just snacks. The second most popular category was clothing, with 39.8 percent. Understandably, students prioritize their necessities, and that prioritization is reflected in their spending habits.

Beyond essentials, aspects of the Stuyvesant community shined through the spending habits of students. Funding personal hobbies is fundamental to students’ lives. “I want to buy stuff like computer parts. I’ll make [my cousin] a computer,” sophomore Gabriel Hyun said. Hyun’s interest in computer building requires savings that he has accumulated over time and has impacted his saving and spending habits. The poll results support this trend, as 27.7 percent of students said they frequently spend money on hobbies. Many students also revealed that they partake in events that require short-term savings like concerts or gifting presents to friends. Nearly 17 percent of students reported that they typically spend money on events. However, they still refrain from spending too much. The survey reported that just over 60 percent of students feel comfortable spending $10 to $30 at a time. This range can be attributed to the varied sources of their income.

When asked where students get their money, many admitted that their parents were supplying their spending. “The money I use is all from my parents: allowance and Chinese New Year red envelopes,” sophomore Yuri Wang explained. Overall, 79.5 percent of students revealed that they receive income from their parents, and only six percent of students stated that they work a job. Some students also expressed that they felt bad for asking their parents for money, so they tried to refrain from unnecessary spending. “I don’t want to ask my parents for money too often,” Wang continued. “I feel kind of bad whenever I’m using a lot of money, since it’s not my own.”

There were stark differences in students’ feelings about how their spending habits would change if the money they were using was their own. While some students expressed that they would spend more frivolously if using their own money, others thought they would save more. The students who felt that they would spend less attributed this shift to realizing how much easier it is to spend money compared to earn it. “Since it’s my money, that kind of gives me the right to spend it on what I want to, but I know I also have to manage my money spending,” anonymous junior A said. There didn’t seem to be a specific factor that determined how students felt about whether they would save or spend more should the origin of their money change—the responses were generally split.

Many students also expressed a desire to earn money and are looking to get jobs. The survey results indicated that nearly 58 percent of students are seeking job opportunities, while others are instead more preoccupied with other activities that they think will pay off in the future. “I want to get a summer job, but I’m more focused on community service hours and things like internship stuff that colleges actually want,” junior Jovana Simic said. “But I wouldn’t be opposed to a job.” For some students, becoming engaged in service activities and gaining outside experience separate from a regular job hold more significance than working to earn money. In the same vein, some prioritize activities that relate to their educational success rather than their financial well-being. There is also the belief that working a job will not do much to help students pay for college anyway, further contributing to students’ lack of interest in getting a job. “I don’t think the amount I earn will be sufficient for colleges, so I might just put it aside for myself,” an anonymous freshman said. The idea that working a job will interfere with time that is better spent in a multitude of other extracurriculars or internships is one that pervades Stuyvesant culture. For one thing, such a sentiment certainly influences the importance Stuyvesant students attach to the benefits of potential employment opportunities.

Nonetheless, financial prosperity remains a concern among students. Most Stuyvesant students express satisfaction with their current spending habits and even recognize the value of exercising care with one’s tendency to spend money. “I try to not spend too much because I feel like I only carry, like, 20 dollars at most, and I don’t have a job or anything,” anonymous junior B explained when addressing the frequency of their spending habits. Many students shared this sentiment and acknowledged that they feel a sense of responsibility in regards to the amount of money they are comfortable spending at one time. Students also exhibited a feeling of pride in the practicality of their spending. “I think [my spending habits are] pretty sustainable because I only really spend money when I’m going out specifically with friends, so as long as I don’t do that too much, then it’s not that bad,” senior Jessica Eng said.

As a whole, Stuyvesant students’ spending habits are best characterized as varied yet considerably careful, something that is made clear by the sources of their money and expenditures.