With a wide variety of University-provided services and a meal plan, the cliché of the poor, starving college student may not be completely accurate at Wesleyan. However, it is always nice to have a few extra dollars in your pocket. Textbook costs add up and points disappear quickly, so keep these money-saving tips in mind as the semester begins.
Stores that are close to or on campus are useful for those confined to travel by foot or bicycle, but convenience often comes at a price. Lisa Sy ’13 suggested finding alternative forms of travel in order to take advantage of less expensive options that aren’t within walking distance.
“Make friends with people with cars so you can get access to places where it’s cheaper to buy things,” Sy said. The Argus suggests heading to Walgreens or CVS instead of the Rite Aid on Main Street and buying your alcohol at CT Beverage Mart or Forest City instead of Metro Liquors (if you’re of age).
Just as dorm essentials and other supplies may be less expensive at off-campus stores, shopping around online is a good way to find textbooks at a significant discount compared to Broad Street Books’ prices. Rather than buying books at full price, consider renting, buying books online, or taking advantage of Wesleyan’s student book exchange, Wesbooks.
Even after bargain hunting, textbooks can get pricey. Aaron Colbert ’12 offered another solution.
“Find out if a friend is taking the same class as you and think about splitting the cost of your books and arranging a time to do homework together,” Colbert said.
Many professors avoid book lists entirely and offer readings in PDF form through Moodle or e-reserve. This can save you a significant chunk of change, especially if you adjust to reading online to avoid printing charges. Online articles or handouts also help you avoid spending hundreds of dollars on moderately-useful textbooks that you crack open maybe once throughout the entire semester.
Aside from big purchases at the beginning of the year and some minor household items, the meal plan poses the biggest budgeting challenge for most students. For the determined, free food is easy to find on campus and can save the meal-strapped freshman from end-of-the-semester desperation.
Information sessions and student group events are the most common source of free meals and are heaven for pizza-lovers. Star & Crescent meals, which usually cost 9 points for lunch and 11.25 points for dinner, are free for the first three freshmen to arrive—a serious steal for multiple courses and definitely worth showing up 15 minutes early to get in line.
Other less-publicized options, such as the Shabbat dinner hosted by the Bayit each week, are also delicious and free.
“Shabbat dinner is a delicious free meal cooked by students at the Bayit every Friday,” said Em Trambert ’14. “It’s always kosher, and there is always a vegetarian option. It’s a great way to save meals, and you don’t have to be Jewish to come.”
Strategic use of to-go containers can also help you make the most of dining hall meals.
“I fill up my to-go box at Usdan,” said Gena Yoo ’14. “You can put a lot of food in there, and you have to get creative with the soup cup.”
If you plan to take Usdan or Summerfields meals to go regularly, take advantage of the “Eco-to-go” program, which costs five points at the outset but spares you the 50 cent take-out fee for the rest of your time at Wesleyan. Unfortunately, Usdan only allows Eco-to-go at lunchtime. A similar discount program, the Mug Club, has been introduced at Red & Black and WesWings; 35 points gets you a large travel mug and free refills of soda or iced coffee for the rest of the school year.
Making a habit of grabbing a coffee, smoothie, or bottled drink between classes will burn through points very quickly. If those discount plans don’t seem right for you, or if you don’t want to dish out the points, find another way to cut down on between-meal purchases.
“A coffee machine is so useful if you’re a big coffee drinker,” Yoo said. “I love my coffee maker.”
Carrying a reusable mug or water bottle is cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and will help you cope with the bottled water ban instituted by Bon Appetit last spring, as well as WesWing’s 25-cent plastic cup charge.
Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to load up on snacks and caffeine from Weshop before holing up in Olin for the evening, but midnight munching can put a serious dent in your wallet. If you’re trying to tighten your budget, you should avoid making food carts and Late Night a regular stop—or ignore that tip and cut spending elsewhere, because honestly, what’s the point of life if you can’t have mozzarella sticks at 1 a.m.?