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Doing New York On A Budget


New York is known for being expensive, and for a lot of people, it’s difficult to visit the city because of the price tag attached. However, it’s completely possible to see all of the incredible things New York has to offer without breaking the bank! After spending a semester in New York City on a college student’s budget (aka very small) I feel like I’ve gained a bit of an idea on how to live in the city on a budget, and here are my tips on how to do it.

plan ahead

One of the best things I learned about New York once I moved here is that this city is AMAZING with discounts. Most museums have free or discounted days, and all of the big ones have student discounts (SCORE!). If you can, try to schedule your trip around those days so you can take advantage of as many deals as possible! I’ve put together all of the “pay-what-you-wish” and free days at various popular New York museums, and I highly recommend you check them out. I’m still trying to get to all of them!


go to the park(s)

New York is chalk full of parks, and I adore spending an afternoon in a park. Plus, they’re FREE! Head to a grocery store and grab some bits for a picnic, pick up a cheap book from The Strand, and head to one of the many parks in the city. Or, if you’re in the mood for a nice long walk, walk through Central Park. It’s a beautiful walk, and I highly recommend going off the main roads. You’ll find hills, massive rocks, beautiful trees, and quiet peaceful areas that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere rather than in the middle of the city.

Check out the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation for a complete guide to fun activities happening in the parks around the city:

(Aneeqah and I got a slice of cake from Magnolia Bakery and spent the afternoon in Central Park and it was by far one of the highlights of my weekend with her.)


Eating in New York on a budget is no easy feat, let me tell you. My pro-tip: SHARE FOOD. Not only can you get a larger variety, but you also end up paying less! Also, don’t feel like you need to try every kind of food on the face of the earth. This is something I have to remind myself of on a daily basis. Also, food in touristy areas is always more expensive than food in less-popular areas of the city, so try to not get food right next-door to a museum or in the middle of Times Square.

I also recommend stalkingNew York foodie Instagram accounts prior to your trip and making a list of places you want to go. This way, you can look at menus and price out spots, and then you go into the trip with an idea of the restaurants you want to go to ahead of time! Planning your food can also help you figure out what other spots to hit up.


Don’t take a cab, my friends.

I repeat, do not take a cab. (Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

(Obviously, this is if you have the option not to.)

WALK. Seriously. Walk everywhere. Use your two legs and see the city as you walk around–it’s a great way to find places to eat, stop into, and to get a feel for the city. I adore walking around the city and do it when at all possible.

To get between areas, get a MetroCard and take the Subway! Not only will you see the people of the city, but it’s also such a New York experience. My personal rule is that I don’t take the Subway unless the distance I would be walking is farther than five subway stops. That’s somewhere around twenty blocks AKA nothing! Definitely doable. Using this rule also helps you save money!

For help getting around the city, I highly recommend the “NYC Subway” app, which shows you a map of the island and allows you to plan routes between stops to see the best way to get there. It’s free in the app store! (Also, don’t be afraid to ask New Yorkers for directions. I haven’t met a rude one yet.)

I recommend centralizing your activities around one thing. For example, if you want to go breakfast at a certain spot in the Flatiron district, spend as much time as you can down in the Flatiron district. Then, walk over to Chelsea for dinner, go to the High Line in the evening and then head to bed. Only TWO Subway rides total if you plan it right!

(Also, MetroCards work on NYC buses, which go crosstown. You can take a crosstown bus through Central Park! Make sure to pay for your ticket PRIOR to getting onto the bus.)


Hotels in New York are SO expensive. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one. I’ve been lucky enough to have family friends in the city who are willing to let my family and I stay with them, or I’ve stayed in Air-BNBs. I highly recommend one of these options if you can! Or, you can get a hotel in New Jersey and take the train into the city every day. (Trust me, it’s WAY cheaper to take the train in than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a hotel room in Manhattan.)

Let me know if you have other New York questions, or ideas for posts you’d like to see! I loved making this one and would love to make some more in the future.

Goodbye, 2016!

Hello everyone!

It’s been ages, I know. Like, two months kind of ages. Where did the time go?

I got it together enough to make my best of 2016 list though, which I’m super excited to share with you guys! I didn’t read as much this year as previous years, mainly due to college (I’ve read a total of four books from September until now) but I managed to squeeze in some great picks. If I reviewed the book, I’ve included a quote from my review along with a link, otherwise, I’ve shared my thoughts. So, without further adieu, here is my top 7 (for 2017)!

Top 7 Books of 2016:

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

I’m in love with Kids of Appetite. It’s a phenomenal story of growing up, friendship, and being unique,three of the most important things teens need to read about, in my opinion. So, thunderous applause for Kids of Appetite, and I’m already desperately awaiting David Arnold’s next book.

Review: Kids of Appetite


 The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Not only is Jeff Zentner one of my favorite people, he is also one heck of a writer. The Serpent King is touching, honest, and an incredible story about growing up and moving on. I read it shortly before leaving for college, and it hit home. The questions of: how do I leave home without leaving the people behind? what happens if I change? how am I going to pay for this? These are all addressed in the book and in such a wonderful way. I can’t recommend this one enough!

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of healing. Cassie’s story of growing up and confronting her past is one that readers will fall as in love with as I did. Kletter’s writing is haunting and lyrical and will pull you in from the first line: “My mother wore the sun like a hat.”

Review: The First Time She Drowned


Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.

Review + extended thoughts: Girl in Pieces

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

I made a bullet-pointed list of the things I loved about AGOS and A Darker Shade of Magic that does a great job of explaining my feelings, so I’m going to link everyone to that.

But, the basic gist of the list is:


Review featuring all the feels possible: ADSOM + AGOS

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I wrote a love letter to this book, and here’s the ending (but I highly recommend reading the whole thing):

This book is a wonder. It’s utterly beautiful and made me feel every emotion I’ve ever known and I don’t know what to do with myself now. So I’m just rereading it because I don’t know how I will ever get over it. Thank you for writing this book and for writing these characters and for continuing this series…because if you left me with that ending I would smash YOUR arm into pieces just like Rhys.

A Court of Mist and Fury, you will be joining Jellicoe Road in my suitcase to college in the fall. You are that treasured.

All my love,


The rest of the love-letter: A Court of Mist and Fury

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

…it wins for best quote from a book so far this year:

“Quinn, your life story is starting to turn into a documentary that people would walk out of because it’s both too sad and too slow.” -Geoff, being the realest friend ever.

Basically, Tim Federle, you win with this book. You. Win.

Review (a mini one): The Great American Whatever

My favorite posts of 2016:

“Why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made”


“I turned 18!” (i like this post mainly for the gif not going to lie)

“On growing up, fear, and the future”

Highlights of 2016:

1. Getting into & GOING TO Barnard (!!!)

I can’t believe I’m at Barnard. Every day it feels like I’m living in a dream, but it’s reality.

I love my school, you guys.

2. Spending TWO weekends with Aneeqah

I spent a weekend at Aneeqah’s school and she came to Barnard for a weekend, which is a record-breaking amount of time for us to spend together IRL. It was absolutely AMAZING and gosh I love Aneeqah. A lot.

3. Leigh Bardugo’s launch party

I went to Leigh’s launch in New York City and it was fantastic! I made friends, saw Leigh again (I LOVE THAT WOMAN) and had a great conversation with some publishing people. And, obviously, I got my copy of Crooked Kingdom signed.

4. Met Melina Marchetta

i don’t even have words guys how did this happen is life real ?????

5. Eating the most amazing food of my life

shoutout to all of the places I’ve eaten in New York because WOW have I had some good food. (Especially that donut Aneeqah and I had from Dough. No words for that donut.)

Goals for 2016:

I’m not one for resolutions (because I relate that word to doing something NEW and a lot of my resolutions are the same as they have been for years) so I do resolutions. Here’s what I’ve got for 2017!

1.  Blog AT LEAST once a month

But really I’d love to do three times a month. But, you know, trying to keep this manageable.

2. Do more NYC-related posts

I would love to do some food guides and recommendations on things to do in the city! Let me know if you’d be into that.

3. Read at least one YA book a month

Considering in October I didn’t read one, I think this is a pretty good goal. We’ll see how it goes.

4. Get an internship!

I’m hoping to get an internship at a publishing house this summer, so cross your fingers for me!

5. Finish my WIP

I’ve been wanting to write this book for eight months, and I’ve managed to put it off for a long, long time. So, IT’S TIME TO DO IT.

What are your favorite reads of 2016? What are some of your goals? I’d love to read them, so please share in comments!


Why moving to NYC is the best decision I’ve made

As most of you know, I moved to New York City a month ago for school. I’ve been living in the city since the end of August, and now I feel like I can do some early reflections on my time here.

My biggest reflection?

I’m so happy I came here.

Not only to Barnard, which is everything I could’ve dreamed of and more but to New York City as a whole. There’s something about living here that is so remarkably different from visiting and I don’t really know how to describe it.

I think it has something to do with the fact that when you visit a place, you’re in a rush to see everything, eat everything, do everything, and it’s impossible. But when you live in a place like New York City, there’s no rush. There’s always another weekend to go to a Broadway show, another evening to go out to dinner with friends, another afternoon to spend thrift-shopping in the Village. There’s enough time to do everything. And that takes the rush of MUST! DO! IT! ALL! off. For example, I’ve been here a month, and I haven’t even been to Central Park yet. Or a Broadway show. Or eaten at all the amazing places I want to go. Or spent any time on the East side.

But that doesn’t bother me. Instead, I think about it the way I did when I lived in Austin: oh, I have time to do that. There’s no rush. And that is such a refreshing feeling, especially when you’re in a city as wonderful as New York. It takes out the pressure of being in the city all day (exhausting) and lets you enjoy it at your own pace.

Which brings me back to why moving to New York is the best decision I’ve ever made.

There is no other time in my life I will be able to live on the Upper West Side for what I’m paying in Room & Board right now. There is no other time in my life I won’t have to cook OR go out for dinner (cafeterias y’all – they’re better than you think). There is no other time in my life when I am constantly surrounded by my friends and new people to talk to who WANT to talk. Living in New York City while you’re in college is such a valuable opportunity because you experience the city in a different way.

For me, I have a campus – a formal, gated campus. (If you go to NYU and most other schools in the city this isn’t the case.) This means that, usually, I spend about six out of the seven days of my week on campus. I stay in my little bubble of Morningside Heights and Columbia/Barnard. It’s quiet, there are students everywhere, and I spend zero money. But, on the days when I have less homework to do and feel like going downtown and getting lunch, or trying out a new bakery, or going to a coffee shop to study, I just hope on the subway and it takes me 15-30 minutes. And then I come home to my dorm room.

That is so unique. Having a respite in this busy, bustling city, and also not being bombarded with the city 24/7. Instead, you feel like you’re in your little college ecosystem, but you can venture into other ecosystems if you want, when you want, and on your own terms. And I love that part.

The other main reason I’m so happy to be here are the opportunities. I’ve already met amazing people (I met Adam Silvera at an event and died a bit) who can help me in my future career, and I can go to events I wouldn’t be able to go to if I was in Austin. (Ex: SIX OF CROWS LAUNCH PARTY ON MONDAY O M G.) Being connected to the book world is such an important part of my happiness, and so being here is just a dream come true.

So, in conclusion, I just want to reiterate how freaking happy I am to be here.


So happy.

And now I’m off to study some more because that’s all I do with my life. (And why I’ve read nothing since I’ve been here oooooops.)

Moving to NYC, making friends, and finding salsa

A week ago, I was standing on the sidewalk outside of Barnard, sitting on a suitcase while I waited for my move-in time to arrive. My parents were with me, standing on the pavement of our chalk-drawn box that indicated my space in line. There were boxes outlined in chalk wrapping around Barnard, other incoming students and their parents and all of their things waiting to be moved in, just like me.

Moving into college, for me, was similar to my birthday. You await the day filled with excitement, wondering if you’ll feel different or look different or be different, but when you wake up, you’re exactly the same. It’s just another day, despite the exciting thing that’s happening. College felt the same way. I’d been looking forward to move-in day since I was in middle school, desperately awaiting the day when I would have a dorm room! a dining hall! new friends! be away from home! And on move-in day, I was struck by the fact that it felt stunningly…normal.

And the first week of college has felt just as normal.

Sure, moving to New York is a shock to the system, just as my parents leaving me at the front gates left me in tears, but it also feels normal by now. Or rather, it feels like I’m at camp. My new friends and I are all feeling this way – that new student orientation week (yes – a week) has simply felt like you’re at camp, with activities and new friends and no school work to do. Although, the idea that I’m at camp may be my way of coping with my new reality, that I’m in college and far away from home and in a completely new place.

So, basically, I’ve adjusted far better than I expected. I haven’t been especially homesick, but I think one of the main reasons I’ve been able to avoid it is that I’ve been so busy. That’s a huge tip of mine for new college students: stay busy. Do all the activities, talk to new people, just milk the fact that you have no classes yet and enjoy yourself. That will help ease the homesickness and also exhaust you so much that you can sleep soundly in your new surroundings.

As for my college experience thus far, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’ve made new friends, two of which are my next-door neighbors, the others I met through my orientation group, and then more that I’ve met in the dining hall, at school activities, and through other people. I’ve met people from all over the world with unique insights and opinions, and I’m in love with that diversity.

I’m in love with walking through Columbia’s campus at eleven at night with my friends, chattering under the night sky with other students all around us. I’m in love with sitting in the stands at a Mets game two hours before the game starts and having discussions about the complexities of feminism. I’m in love with Meeting another girl from Texas who lives a half hour from Austin and spending an hour searching for salsa, and then having a salsa feast in my dorm room eating the salsa straight from the jar because I don’t have bowls. Going to open mic night and being shocked by my classmate’s talents and insight, snapping along to spoken word poems that discuss the realities of being a person of color in this country. Taking the subway downtown with friends and going thrift shopping and standing in line for cereal milk ice cream at Momofuku because it was around the corner and we didn’t have anywhere to be. Going to the One World Observatory and being in awe of the beauty of this city, and then finding a tiny pizza place and proclaiming yourselves the official fan club of it’s that good. Sitting in parks a block from campus and reading a book you borrowed from a girl with the same name as you while your friends sketch trees and lampposts and work on their resumes.

I’m in love with college.

On Tuesday, I start my classes, and there’s this festering of fear in my stomach. I don’t know if it’s irrational or real, but either way, I’m anxious to start. I want to learn a new language, take my first college history class, broaden my knowledge through intelligent discussions with my peers. I even want to know what the college workload will be like, even though I know it’s going to kill me.

I came into college with a lot of hopes and dreams, and honestly, most of them have come true. I’ve made friends, I love my roommate, New York City is everything I could’ve wanted, and my college continues to make me fall in love with it more.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we spend a large part of our childhoods now thinking about our futures. I’ve been dreaming of college for long and now that I’m living that future, it feels utterly perfect.

Applying to College – Part Six: Making a decision


This is part five of my “Applying to College” series! I hope that these help some of you in your college search and process. If you missed part one of this series, check it out here: my experience applying to college, finding the right school, pre-application prep, applying, and results.

Note: I’m not an expert in any way, shape or form. My advice may not get you into your dream college – it’s just what worked for me!

visiting campus

If you are invited to fly up to campus, try to make it happen. I did one fly-up for a school I got into and it completely changed my tune about the school. It went from being purely a safety to one of my “I’d TOTALLY go there” choices. One recommendation is that if the school doesn’t offer to pay for your flight, ask them if they can. Call up the admissions office and see what they say – let them know you’re incredibly interested in the school, but visiting the school would be the piece that would allow you to say yes.

make a pros and cons list

If you’re struggling over which school to pick, I highly recommend making a pros and cons list. Think back to the reasons you applied to each school and the things you love about each one, along with the things you aren’t so sure about. Compare and consider your end thoughts.

talk to a current student

I know a junior at Barnard, so I called her up and spent two hours on the phone asking her a billion questions and hearing all about her experience at the school. That conversation cemented my decision to go to Barnard! If you don’t know someone at a school you’re highly considering, call their admissions office and ask if you can speak with a student. Pretty much every office has students working there and they’d probably be happy to chat with you about the school and answer any questions you may have.

think, think, think.

I spent a lot of time mulling over my choices while doing laps in a pool, one of the few places where I can mull things over in my head. I highly suggest going to whatever place allows you to do that and just thinking about your options. Which one feels the most right? What’s holding you back from making that choice, if there’s anything holding you back?

make the best choice for you

I cannot stress this enough. Make your college choice based on what YOU want, because you’ll be the one living there for the next four years. If it’s something that your family can financially swing and you love it with your entire heart and soul, take the plunge. Your college decision should be something that you feel confident in, and even if it wasn’t your first choice, it should still be a decision you’re comfortable with.

submit your decision

This was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Accepting my admission at Barnard made me almost cry with happiness, and hitting decline for the rest of my acceptances was incredibly freeing. Revel in what you’ve succeeded in doing, and then go out and celebrate because guess what? YOU’RE GOING TO COLLEGE!

I hope you enjoyed this series, and feel free to email me or shoot me a tweet if you have any questions! Email:, and Twitter is @WillasRamblings.

Best of luck on your college adventures!