By Brian Stieglitz Staff Writer
For college students, a huge issue looming overhead always seems to be finances. This is understandable as gaining responsibility doesn’t just mean doing your own laundry or buying your own textbooks. Finances prove to be a consistent problem for today’s youth regarding debts, finding a job, supporting oneself, etc. This isn’t seen exclusively in the universal categories, students face smaller scaled financial problems on campus every day. The most recognizable example of this is, simply enough, food. Buying food with your meal plan and being proactive with your purchases is a microcosmic example of what we will deal with once we graduate college and face the bigger, more overwhelming financial issues.
There are many easy and manageable ways to cut back on spending with your meal plan. The first step towards clearing and eliminating the distressing fog known as debt is to recognize what you’ve been spending most of your meal plan on and where. For me in particular, I have fallen into the temptation of Red Mango one too many times. Last semester, almost every day, I would stop in Bits and Bytes for a little while before classes in Memorial Hall and, almost every day, I would get Red Mango for lunch. It’s healthy, sweet and delicious, but it’s also incredibly expensive. A fellow student who had similar experiences with expenses is Jaime Colon, 18, Annapolis, Maryland.
“I probably spent the most on food at Bits and Bytes,” said Colon. “It’s where I went before afternoon classes.” Another temptation many are victim to is overspending at Dutch Treats. “I used to have a lot of 8 a.m.’s and would stop at Dutch treats. I’d get a protein shake and an apple and it would add up to eleven dollars in change,” said John Larson, 24, Bronx, New York. “I went through two, two thousand dollar meal plans.”
After the semester is over, acknowledging what is left on your meal plan makes for a spending record and a goal for the next semester. For me this was negative two hundred dollars, plus the money friends had loaned me. “It was minimal, like ten dollars,” said Jaime Colon. “I was left with negative, yeah nothing,” said Jenna Mcphail, 20, York, Pennsylvania. Despite that meal plans have limits on them already, ending the semester with a little spare money is never harmful and sometimes beneficial. If it’s your fall meal plan, the money carries over, and if it’s spring, then you could treat yourself to all that extra food you always wanted. You could buy a shake at Bits and Bytes, get a few frozen dinners at Dutch Treats, treat your friends to dinner or even go on a grocery shopping spree and donate all the food to charity! In order to get there, however, it is imperative to cut back and manage your spending.
Innovative ways I’m attempting to cut back on spending include not buying drinks. Because there are hydration stations around campus, it is environmentally wise and financially ideal to refill your bottle and never worry about getting drinks on campus again. Other than the water bottle idea, there are simple and powerful ways to go about saving money. “I’m trying not to buy as many side dishes,” said Jaime Colon, “no fries with my burger, water to drink, just getting the main meal.” This ensures that you satisfy your hunger, but quiet down the temptation to overspend on snacks. It isn’t necessarily a constant temptation, considering how fast meal plans can go, how illusively they can pull the wool over your eyes and have your budget dwindling just because of what you buy on a daily basis. “I wish I took the proper initiative,” said John Larson, “I’m not eating as frequently now, but having bigger meals that are more spaced out.” A change to your eating schedule or what you spend your money on doesn’t need to be too drastic, as long as it works for you.
“I’m generally keeping track of what I spend everyday,” said Jenna Mcphail. As the second semester continues, students’ plans for saving their meal plan are working out, even if they just save a few bucks. It may seem like you’re not spending a lot of money, but the real world can make an abundant supply go fairly quickly and our small-scale example on campus demonstrates how true this is.