In my fourth year living on-campus as a Notre Dame undergraduate student I have gradually learned the value of smart student spending. This means maintaining both a student-friendly budget and developing a crafty habit of getting the most out of our on-campus privileges.
But, $50,000+ tuition and we still have less than $400 worth of flex points each semester? Yes, it’s upsetting to many students (as evidenced in The Humor Artist’s wonderful video sketch), but there are ways to maximize your flex point and your actual US currency budgets.
However, just because our tuition is pricey, it doesn’t mean we still have to spend a great deal of money in our daily lives at school. While I haven’t perfected my own personal budget as a student, in my eighth semester on campus I’m pretty confident I’ve found ways to save money on campus without missing out on events, activities, or even indulgent Starbucks runs. Again, I’m not a financial expert, but by adopting the following practices I’m sure you’ll find yourself able to save more money than you have in the past.
1. Don’t waste your weekly dining hall swipes.
Did you choose sleep over Saturday brunch? Swipe for breakfast Grab N’ Go and stock up on some essentials. Sure the 7-point system is pretty stingy, but if you’re just going to get milk for the week or even popcorn it’s worth it. (Never stock up on fruit at Grab N’ Go – It’s worth one point and isn’t usually the best of the bunch. Instead stock up on your bananas and apples during your dining hall meals.) The smartest way to swipe for Grab N’ Go is to swipe for “breakfast” at 10:55am before you head to lunch at 11 am, which will save the extra trip to the dining hall. Moreover, this technique allows you to get both Grab N’ Go and two normal dining hall meals in one day –without having to wake up early for breakfast.
2. Invest in a hot beverage tumbler and never buy full-priced coffee again.
Use your flex points for this! For as little as 2.99 at Au Bon Pain you can invest in a reliable Coffee/Tea tumbler. However, I’m a fan of the Starbucks version. I put down about $13 for a quality Starbucks Tumbler sophomore year and I’ve used it almost every day since then. For the sake of both the environment and your flex points total, ditch the paper cups! Here’s how you can save:
- Starbucks: Save 25 cents off your drink – So a Grande Coffee costs you just $1.70
- Au Bon Pain: Any size Refill is $1.19 – This is the cheapest option with your tumbler; Can also do this with a Cold Tumbler and their Iced Tea/Lemonade/Fountain Drinks ($1.29)
- Waddicks/Café de Grásta/any campus Green Mountain coffee provider: Refill = $1.25 for any size tumbler.
If you fill up on coffee at least 2 times a day like I do you’ll find your savings adding up. It’s easier to warrant a $5 weekly Starbucks latte/frappuccino when I’ve saved $5+ throughout the week!
3. See if your dorm will subsidize group tickets to a show or performance.
I’ve been able to see famous dance companies at DPAC thanks to the generosity of my dorm. My Rector is a huge advocate of students supporting other students’ performances. If your rector does that already, take advantage of some free tickets with the knowledge that you’ll have some hallmates to go to the show with you! If this isn’t a feature of your dorm, reach out to your Rector to make dorm-bonding events attending shows. Or take it upon yourself to get a group together so you can purchase tickets at a lower, group rate.
4. Utilize the Library.
Reading a lot of novels for class? Only going to spend two classes on a novel? Check the library! Chances are they’ll have a few copies of the book you need. Even better, when you only need a book for a few weeks, reading a library copy will reduce the height of book stacks in your tiny dorm room. While you can’t annotate inside the book since it’s not your own, you can still use post-it notes instead or write down important quotes in your notebook.
5. Stop buying new clothes.
There’s no room in your dorm closet. You don’t need five pairs of jeans, nor do you need seven sweatshirts. Speaking from experience, you can survive without online shopping for periods of time in college. This is the first semester in my collegiate existence in which I have not made a clothing purchase. Now, I understand this will probably change as commencement activities approach and I want a special outfit, but I must say this hiatus has been empowering. I’ve saved money to treat myself over Spring Break and have even discovered some clothing items I stuffed in my drawers months ago to be quite useful in outfit planning.
However, if you love online shopping for the browsing entertainment, try switching to Pinterest. By browsing through photos that you can pin and save for later you avoid the dangerous “trigger pull” when that dress you don’t really need but still think is pretty rad is on sale for 40% off with free shipping and calling your name. I’ve made a group of “Style” Pinboards to remind me just how many ways I can style my current clothing items. This helps me recall that I don’t have to shop all the time to remain creative in my outfit choices.
(Note: It will also help to justify your $45 Dorm Spirit Jersey purchase when you haven’t bought that extra pair of black jeans or another special occasion dress.)
6. Get a job on-campus.
Yes, you’re a Notre Dame student and yes, you’re probably quite busy already, but a job is a great addition to your schedule. Even working just 6 hours a week can really add up financially. Schedule your shifts in-between classes when you might not be getting schoolwork done, because, let’s face it, the majority of us are probably only productive after dinnertime.
A campus job will not only add weight to your wallet, but also structure to your day. Are you only taking 12 credits? Do you not have class on Fridays? Then you definitely have time to pick up an on-campus job. Whether it’s swiping cards at the Huddlemart, working at the dining hall, helping a professor with research, or even working as an assistant in your major’s department, your 6-hour workweek will be better spent adding a notch to your resume and digits to your bank account than burning through your Netflix queue.