Out of the Dorms But Not Out of Cash
Recently at the HUB I went to purchase some snacks to fuel a monotonous day of lectures. I picked out my granola bar, got to the counter of Barneys, and met my worst nightmare: “insufficient funds.”
Living on a college student’s salary — which in my case is exactly $0.00 aside from the occasional penny found in the hallways of various apartment buildings — is far from easy. With books to buy, club dues to pay, and a thirst for the weekend that is not at all gentle on our wallets, each day is a struggle.
The move off campus makes life that much harder. No longer are the friendly staff there to clean up our messes, make our food, and send us the greatest emails ever informing us a package is waiting at the commons desk.
Living off campus definitely has its benefits, but how can students be expected to survive with such pathetic financial statuses? Here are a few tricks and tips that can help keep the average student afloat as they struggle through the economic crisis that is college.
Pay for location. While being closer to campus is convenient, the further you stray the less you pay. In the end the walk isn’t all that bad and at least you’ll be burning those extra calories you consumed over the weekend.
Take advantage of having roommates. The more people living there, the smaller portion of rent you’ll have to pay. Sure it’s nice to have a room to yourself, but it’s nicer to be able to afford to eat. Plus at what other point in life will it be socially acceptable to live with a bunch of other people just as irresponsible as you?
McLanahan’s: A downtown landmark and the best place to get an overpriced version of some grocery that you probably didn’t even want. It is a good quick fix between trips to Walmart or Giant where the bulk of your food and household supplies shopping should be done. So figure out how to use the bus, drive your car (or make a friend who has a car) because you are not going to find decently priced grocery shopping on campus.
Be smart when buying food. Canned/frozen fruits and vegetables are going to be much cheaper than fresh produce and will last longer when you finally remember that you never actually liked broccoli. Don’t be afraid to cook! Pastas and soups are easy enough to make and in the long run will fill you more and be cheaper and tastier (depending on your culinary skills) than frozen meals. You might have to get over your ego and buy store brand, but at a school that is willing to settle for Natty Light, it’s doubtful that knockoff Cheerios will affect anyone’s reputation.
Stay on campus for the day. With awkward breaks between classes and no desire to make the dangerous trek across College and Beaver Ave multiple times, it just makes sense. Having said that, you will get hungry. Any meal from the HUB is going to cost you a fortune. Suck up your pride and pack a snack. Sure, you may look like a loser, but at least you won’t be that kid in class who apparently has a fully-grown lion living in their stomach. Just leave the Power Rangers lunch box at home and little attention will be drawn to you.
When it comes to cable, consider opting out of the premium channels. Sure it’s nice to be caught up with everyone on the hit shows, but those monthly bills will add up. Instead purchase an HDMI chord that you can use to hook up your laptop to the TV. That way you can take advantage of all those shady “free latest episode” websites, Hulu, and your parents’/friend’s HBO and Netflix accounts.
Use your freebie sheets. I don’t know who ever decided that printer ink is apparently liquid gold, but when the time comes around to refill the cartridge you could hear a pin drop when the question is proposed as to whose turn is it to buy ink. Don’t forget that our trusty university allows us 110 “free” sheets each semester that are probably built into our tuition at an exorbitant rate. Take advantage of it. Most students rarely use all of their allotment, and if they can help sustain a personal printer at home then a walk to the computer labs is a small price to pay.
Be Green. You are no longer on your parents’ water and electric bill. Remember that EGEE class you took as a gen ed? You’re going to wish you had paid attention. Turn off lights when not in use, shave some time off that 30-minute shower, don’t leave the TV on if no one is watching, and turn off air conditioning/heat while out for the day. It may only save you a few dollars each month, but your wallet will thank you. Plus it will help lower your carbon footprint and who doesn’t love helping out Earth?! Go hug a tree, you’ve done good.
Living off campus may not be the cheapest option, but strategic decisions and smart shopping can make it work. Besides, at the end of the day we’re paying for independence — and no one can put a price on that.