Last week I sat in my dorm room, nibbling on Wheat Thins and staring at my computer debating which account I should check first: the balance left on my meal plan or the balance left in my bank account. In the end, I chose ignorance. I closed my laptop, ate the rest of my Wheat Thins and called it lunch.
I feel like there is a point like this for every student in the semester. A point where it pains you to see how low that seemingly infinite meal plan has gotten, or how quickly you blew through that last paycheck. A point where plowing through a box of CVS Wheat Thins is more affordable than going out to eat.
In hopes of avoiding chips for lunch for the rest of the semester, I began thinking of ways to change up my budgeting and improve my spending habits. While there are a number of things you can try out to save money while living on campus, here are eight tricks that you can try out:
Cut the coffee: It pains me to say it, but cut down on the Starbucks. Not all Starbucks drinks are unbearable on the wallet; for example, a grande black coffee is only $2.10. But when you start splurging on those $4.45 grande frappucinos daily, something has to change.
Set up a carpool: If you’re a commuter, try setting up a carpool with nearby friends to campus. If you live on campus, find friends with cars that could drive you to get groceries, clothes and other commodities off campus for a lower price. If you have a car on campus, set up a system with friends so each person takes turns driving others around. It saves money on gas, and who doesn’t love a sing-a-long buddy in the car?
Budgets baby: It’s college, and emergency wine nights are going to happen. Which is completely okay, as long as you plan for it. Set aside a certain amount of “treat yo ’self” moola for each week and work around that number. Some weeks you might be under budget, and you can roll it over into future weeks. Or maybe an unexpectedly bad midterm leads to a spontaneous trip down port, and now you’re a little behind. It’s okay, as long as you’re watching your payments and keeping track of your spending.
Make a change jar: It’s a small gesture, but keep throwing your pocket pennies and found change from the dryer in there and you’ll have a free Bagel Express meal in no time.
Meal prep in your room: No worries, you don’t need to live in a cooking building to do some meal prepping. Take an hour or two out of your Sunday and prep some sandwiches or easy pasta for lunch a few times a week. It may not seem like much, but removing one meal a week from your meal plan will save a lot of money.
Make use of the free events: You don’t need to go off campus to have a fun date night or night out with friends. Stony Brook has a lot of fun and free events on campus each month that you can try. Go see a show by the Stony Brook symphony orchestra, attend a movie night at Staller or go to one of the ever popular paint nights. If you’re a gym bug, grab a friend and try one of the Rec Center’s gym classes, or de-stress with one of the Rec’s yoga sessions.
Nature is free, bruh: Just a mile walk away, accessible via a path behind West Apartments, is Avalon Park. It’s a nature preserve, with gorgeous scenery, intriguing stone labyrinths and pathways to stroll through. It’s a great place for a date, or just a day off from studying.
Keep trying new things: In the end, the best way to save money is to try new things and see what system works for you. Just be smart about your savings, don’t splurge on Starbucks eight times a day like I do, and you’ll be just fine.