We all know college is extremely expensive, so try not to add to the cost! If you are that person who needs Starbucks every day, frequents Jimmy Johns, or Pot Belly’s – you must stop immediately! Let’s say you get a $4 Starbuck’s coffee twice a week for the year; that’s over $400 a year! That same money could go straight to your book tab in college. You need to start getting thrifty and clever with how you spend your money on food and drinks!
Freshmen year you will have a meal plan. Get the cheapest meal plan because you can always add money to it. Every school is a little different, so find out immediately if you will get the money back if you do not spend it. Even though you will have a meal plan, you are still spending money every time you swipe your meal card. If you are able to take food back to your dorm room, take fruits or muffins back for the next morning. Don’t be self-conscious, everyone’s doing it!
Give yourself a budget for the week so you don’t over spend, and make a list before heading to the grocery store. Stick to the list so you’re not buying what you don’t need. Find the cheapest grocery store on campus and make friends with someone with a car. Buy generic brands; it all tastes the same. Name brands will be much more expensive – especially in the long-run; it adds up quickly. Learn how to cook; most dorms have a kitchen area. Pasta, oatmeal, Ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly, black coffee, water, and macaroni and cheese will be your go-to cheap meals in college. If you’re not getting the appropriate nutrients since you will not be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, buy vitamins to replenish and exercise!
If your parents or friends are coming to visit you for the weekend, ask them to bring food with them. Whenever I visited my sister at Madison-Wisconsin, my parents always went to Costco, and I brought what she needed. Going to Sam’s Club or Costco and buying in bulk will cut down on costs. Furthermore, you can split the cost with your roommate and cut costs even more.
Never go out to restaurants if you can help it! This facet of the cost-conscious student may be the x-factor. If you do, always drink water, never get an appetizer, and – for your main meal – get a big enough entrée for two meals so you can have it for lunch the next day. Eating out at restaurants becomes expensive and you should avoid it. If you go with a bigger group, ask that your meal be put on a separate bill so you are just paying for yourself. Your friends may not need to worry about costs and they might want to split everything evenly. If you are on a budget, this is not practical for you.
Free food! All campuses have hundreds of clubs that offer free food when they are throwing a party or an event. Keep your eyes open on campus for flyers promoting such events! Go with a friend and get a free meal. You may find out you might want to join the club yourself. It is a great way to make new friends if you do not know many people there in the beginning.
You cannot afford to spend frivolously while you are in college. If you do not want to live under your parents’ roof, abiding by your parents’ rules until you are 30 years old, think before you spend!