Given the name of this column, it’s fair to say I’m a budgeter. But despite my devotion and attention to detail, I, too, get caught up in a wave of indulgence.
Leading into spring break, I was fortunate enough to visit San Francisco with a friend to attend a journalism conference (thank you, Student Opportunity Fund). Since returning, though, I feel resounding guilt for the money I spent.
Didn’t I just mention my trip was generously paid for by Lehigh’s Opportunity Fund and journalism department?
Well, that funding did not include a food stipend.
Turns out, eating out in San Francisco isn’t for the cheap-of-heart, but I wasn’t about to deprive myself of a robust west coast dining experience. And I certainly wasn’t about to starve.
We were reasonable with our endeavors — only eating out once or twice a day. But even that’s a lot for me.
At Lehigh, where I pay for all my own groceries and meals, I’m conscientious of the value of everything I consume, trying to make the most out of what I can.
With friends, I’ll consider what items would make good leftovers and approximate the new cost of each derived meal, or I’ll plan the number of outings I’m allowed in a given week to balance the number of planned dinners. This holds me accountable for finishing whatever goods I buy at the grocery store.
However, I made an effort to turn this part of my brain off while on my trip. Doing so felt necessary to enjoy the moment fully. Isn’t that what the college experience is all about?
Well, my friend and I never discussed how much money we were willing to dish out, so a fair amount of conversation was spent reciting “I don’t have a preference” or “I’m good with anything.”
On our last night, my friend pointed out a good seafood place nearby and how we could get oysters.
I love oysters.
Between the two of us, we planned to order a dozen oysters, a side of fries and one drink. The oysters were delectable.
We could order six more for an additional $11 per person. I recall her hesitation. We really didn’t need to, as we had already carried out our plan for a reasonably luxurious last dinner.
But these oysters were so, so good.
I insisted they were worth it. And for more than $10, we each savored three more oysters.
When the bill came, I didn’t even blink. I knew exactly what the total was. Triumphantly, I slipped my credit card alongside hers.
It occurred to me the next day, following our oyster voyage, that the price of one meal would affect my outlook as I browsed a variety of overpriced airport options. And as I said earlier, I respect myself enough that starving isn’t an option. A girl has got to eat.
I called my dad, hoping he would validate the expenditure with some wisdom about the beauty of food. All he said was, “WOW! OKAY!” and “GOOD FOR YOU!”.
I’ve thought about writing on the plight of collegiate financial peer pressure, along with ways to overcome it.
Lehigh students aren’t strangers to affluent peers. But all of a sudden, I realized that it was me who was pressuring my friend in the restaurant. How could this happen? Wouldn’t you think someone so particular about their spending would be considerate enough not to put other people in that situation?
It’s fair to say I was the pressurer in this situation. Had it been me on the receiving end, I would’ve caved.
And while I was unaware of the potential impact of my persuasion, I felt I had done something regrettable.
Whether it be opening oneself to transparency or being realistic about what’s feasible to spend, every day there is something to be learned — especially from mistakes, and definitely down to the dollar.