Using a long-expired college ID for museum discounts
Not so bad, until a volunteer asked a series of friendly questions that made me feel like she was on to me: “Oh, you go to such-and-such college? Are you visiting for the day? How did you get down to the city? Oh, that’s very interesting.”
KIND OF PROUD OF THIS, ACTUALLY
Being a hair model/guinea pig
I got a free haircut from a stylist from Montana who had come to the big city to learn from the hair gods. I felt very in-the-know and they treated me wonderfully. I walked out with my freshly cut hair right into the Meatpacking District and felt like a million bucks.
I’M NOT CHEAP, I PAID FOR THIS PRIVILEGE
Returning moldy blackberries to Whole Foods
Thankfully, purchases at Whole Foods come with a free helping of entitlement. I took my receipt to customer service and said that my $5 half pint of blackberries grew white fluffy mold before I could eat them. If we’re paying a premium for the best produce, it’s reasonable to expect it shouldn’t go bad immediately. Channeling a crotchety (but polite) old lady is encouraged.
STILL WRINGING MY FINGERS A BIT
The Yoga Passbook offers free passes to tons of yoga studios for $80 a year. It’s wonderful, except: I’m always terrified of being turned away or having my pass shamefully rejected, so I panic and over-research before visiting a new studio, obsessively going over the schedule, calling in advance to make sure there is room in the class, and reading Yelp reviews to make sure I don’t do something embarrassing. I also try to plan my outfits and not to dress rich (ha, like I own any Lululemon anyway!) so I look like a poor, thankful student who is happy to practice yoga. Also, I don’t feel ashamed when I go to some giant studio that lets celebrities go for free. My most awful experience involved being in a two-person class taught by the owner at a studio that was clearly going out of business and begrudgingly accepted my pass.
NOW I KNOW BETTER
Asking a friend to recalculate the restaurant split
Is it really so bad to ask your friend to throw in an extra few dollars to cover that extra cappuccino or diet Coke? I didn’t realize this was embarrassing until a friend told me I had no shame. I have mainly discontinued this practice in favor of parallel ordering, (going with the flow and ordering an appetizer if everyone else is!), which is much easier than feeling cheated after subsidizing someone’s steak when I just had spaghetti marinara.
WASTE OF TIME, ENERGY
Returning a spaghetti squash that cost $5 to Western Beef
This seemed like a lot of money at the time. I carried the receipt in my bag for a few days before going back and half-heartedly presenting them the receipt and explaining that when I cut it open it was moldy inside. They just kind of shrugged and didn’t do anything. Whole Foods it is not.
TAKE A DAMN CAB
Foregoing a cab in obvious cab-necessary situations
Like going to a job interview in the rain (got the job, despite rain boots in hand). Or a job interview directly after emerging from a subway’s 100-degree heat (didn’t get the job, blame copious sweat). Or multiple evenings spent waiting on subway platforms at 3 a.m.
$25 for wine, dessert, and tapas for two at a wine bar
We walked in, and were the only people in the place. A man who I think was the owner was on his laptop by the bar, probably brooding over his failing business. Everything was a hassle. The server didn’t know how to redeem the deal. There were random restrictions and up-charges. I found a hair in my food. The place went out of business a few months later. I don’t buy restaurant deals anymore.
ONLY THING IT COST WAS MY PRIDE
Participating in a summer reading program, for kids
While picking up books on hold at my local library last year, I saw a sign for a summer reading program geared towards kids: “Read away your fines.” When I got to the front of the line, I jokingly asked, “There’s no way an adult could do that, right?” To my surprise, the librarian created an account for me and set me with a reading goal. My fines are gone.
Sarah Sluis lives on the Lower East Side and writes, often about movies. She is excellent at saving pennies.