Living in New York City and working one’s way through college is not easy. It costs me nearly double to live here than it does in a non-metropolitan area city, and I’ve given up having a consistent paying job to intern (which I love!) and thus hopefully ensuring that upon graduation I will not be homeless/penniless/forced to move to Hoboken. Woe is me, perhaps. Except I know many other interns with similar problems–simply put, to intern is to be poor.
This is more problematic for those of us working in fashion. Not only must we rise early and labor late (exaggerations), but we damn well better look good doing it. Having a good sense of style is all well and good, but how are those of us with meager funds supposed to keep our wardrobes up-to-date while still being able to pay the rent? I know your plight, and am here to impart a few budget-savvy tricks and words of wisdom I’ve garnered through my time working and interning in the city.
This week’s tip is a fundamental: If you are to succeed in fashion, you must be well-versed in the latest magazines. Problem: these magazines cost money. Some cost what I could spend on several meals. This is not okay. Nor can the internet be a total substitute, because many of the best spreads just don’t look the same. Never fret, ye of little dollars. There are several solutions. First, sign up for a newsletter by any CondeNast and/or Hearst publication. You’ll get their weekly emails, but every once in awhile you’ll also get unsolicited promotions for subscription deals. Sometimes it’s a 2-for-1 deal, sometimes it’s a steep discount off the cover price: I got a year’s worth of Elle for $9. If you’re really lucky, they’ll be giving out a “free bag with subscription.” That bag will be ugly, but you can definitely take it to a thrift store that buys back used/unworn clothes and sell it for a few dollars. If you’re already a subscriber, start to pay attention near the last issue. Those little “YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE” inserts may be annoying, but they are actually a better price than the usual rate.
But what about those pricier periodicals, you ask? Behold, the Barnes & Noble magazine section. They have insane amounts of little known and international publications that you can read for free. Spend a couple bucks on coffee (or bring your own Red Bull, as I used to do), and you can totally park yourself in any of the large cafes on the giant bookstore’s top floor for hours on end and read until your eyes glaze over. Most Sunday afternoons of my freshman year were spent in the Upper West Side location, thumbing through every international Vogue and jotting down notes. You don’t get to take them home, but you also save about $20. Also free: reading the fashion and art books. You might not have the time to read a novel, but if you find a quiet store corner it’s possible to sit on the floor and look through an entire coffee-table sized book on street style or photography.
Other solutions: Ask your boss for any old issues of anything she/he may have lying around. It’s a safe bet they will have a few copies of something that has already been read, and is therefore either collecting dust or headed to the trash. It also pays to be nice to the newsstand people. Around the end of the month, they will start discounting the issues that are about to be replaced. When that month’s shipment is coming but last month’s is still sitting around, those cover prices get slashed to around $2. But don’t buy them in a busy area of town. It’s like the hot dog people, who charge more on a bustling street but pretend you’re crazy when you say “Don’t lie to me man, I know a bottle of water is a universal $1.” Nope, get them from one of the subway stands instead. You can even harass the magazine shop people. Technically, they’re supposed to send back old issues, or rip the covers off and throw the rest out; however, this is New York. People tend to ignore the technicalities. Be really nice to your local guy. Give him a sob story if you think he’s a softy. I’ve definitely gotten a cover-less Love magazine for like $5. Boo ya.
It is hard, but not impossible to get by. In the future, I’ll address how to style yourself on a budget, as well as the cheapest ways to eat, to get around, and where to shop. And please – questions are always welcome!