How To Make Your Dining Dollars Last

If you’re like me and you're a big spender when it comes to Starbucks caramel iced coffees and choosing to buy a giant salad from Blue Wall mostly just for the avocado, then you know how fast your dining dollars can wither away. Starting off with the semester's worth of $250 — or however many your plan includes, this applies to YCMP too! — and then having less than a dining dollar almost two months later was frustrating. I thought, what am I doing wrong? All my other friends still had their dining dollars saved. So I decided to ask some college students who did still have their dining dollars to give some tips on how to save ‘em rather than spend 'em. 

Calculate your dining dollars

This may seem obvious, but it’s a tip I've received from a few of my friends and it’s quite simple. At the beginning of each semester, calculate how many dining dollars you can spend each week and create a budget so that they last you through the end of the semester, rather than spending them in less than a month’s time. You'll be way more mindful of what you can spend. Rather than buying a coffee every morning, you could buy one two to three times a week, and the rest of the week, drink the dining hall coffee instead.

If you need it, then buy it, but if it’s more of a want, then try holding back from spending right away. That way, you'll consider a smoothie from the gym, an iced coffee, or lunch at Blue Wall as more of a way to treat yo'self ... and you won’t have to use any of your actual money. 

Be mindful about going to Blue Wall

It’s easy to want to eat lunch right in the same area as the rest of your classes, especially when you’re on a time crunch, but before you know it the money for lunch will start adding up. (On average, a meal at Blue Wall costs about $10. That's already a considerable portion of your entire semester's worth of dining dollars.) If there's even an hour between classes, choose to go to a nearby dining hall instead so you can start saving up on dining dollars rather than spending them all at once. 

Don’t buy coffee everyday

This one seems quite simple, but as hard as the temptation of Starbucks can be when you’re gloomy and need caffeine in between classes, the $3-6 adds up. Last semester, I learned that the hard way when I realized I had used almost all my dining dollars on Peet's Coffee from the ILC and on hot coffee from People’s Market (don’t get me wrong, it’s usually worth it). Rather than buying coffee, you could take an extra minute and simply go into a nearby dining hall to grab hot or an iced coffee. If you’re into flavored coffee, Frank and Berk both offer flavor shots.

Life hack: If you’re at Hamp more often, add a squirt of caramel sauce from the soft serve station to your coffee, or chocolate sauce for a mocha flavor.

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