The first year of college for most freshmen can usually be considered somewhat of an adjustment period, regardless of the person’s educational background or experience. One of the biggest adjustments most students experience in college is usually that of financial freedom – the ability to spend money out of one’s own bank account. I remember when I was a freshmen (at Emerson College), I made the mistake of shopping for food, drinks, and other grocery items from outside stores instead of using the meal swipes and “BoardBucks” (or your school’s equivalent) I was already provided on my ID card through Room & Board. Because I didn’t utilize a large portion of the swipes and points my parents had already paid for my first semester, I ended up spending a lot more money on things I could have easily bought from my school’s cafeterias and attached convenience stores.
My tip for any incoming freshmen is to first look over exactly what has already been paid for. Then, budget out meals and snack items from the dining hall or the school stores rather than waste all of your money on outside store items. The reason for doing this is not just to be cheap, but to also save money for more exciting off-campus activities. For example, if your friends are going out for dinner one night, by remembering this tip and keeping track of your food spending, you will have more “real cash” in your pocket to spend on “real food” off campus without feeling guilty that you spent it already, not knowing the amount of money on your card that you can use with your school’s catering provider. Dining hall food is really not that bad (I SWEAR!) and you’ll save tons of money while all of your friends dine elsewhere. Check out your school’s convenience stores (if they have them) – sometimes they allow you to use your swipes or points on the items they carry. Also, check your campus bookstore! Many of them have convenience sections that offer discounts and deals from time to time.
The college years go by quickly! It’s important to enjoy every opportunity, while making smart decisions with your money. Spend it wisely when it comes to meals, using money already spent on Room & Board to your advantage. You’ll have extra money in your pocket without compromising your dining experiences.
Written by Dan H., of Emerson College