For a busy college student—or anyone else who has a busy schedule–it’s difficult to eat fast, healthy, and on a budget. But here are some ideas that may help.
If your budget is 15 cents and day, your only answer may be Ramen Noodles. Oatmeal is also fast, filling, and affordable.
If you live on campus and pay for a partial or whole meal plan, be sure you use it. Some programs don’t restrict you from taking food to go or eating as many meals as you wish.
Have a coffee fix? If you are one of millions of college students ducking into the corner coffee house every morning for your daily cup of Joe, consider how much you are spending. Read this article on saving money on coffee.
Don’t tip just because someone poured you a cup of coffee. Keep your own change. Everyone wants a tip. Even though “poor college students work here,” you’re poor, too. They have a job.
Skip the fast food forays and late night take-outs. Make sure you keep healthy, affordable options in your room or apartment. Yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, bagels, and peanut butter are all affordable, convenient, and much more healthy than a late night burger and fries.
Check for coupons and follow the weekly sales at the grocery store. Avoid high-end markets like Whole Foods. These are nice, but most products cost much more. Once you’re out of school and have a good job you can shop the upscale markets.
Kick the bottled-water habit. Support your local tap water and drink for free. Get a water filter if you want better-tasting water.
Avoid a sit-down restaurant with a large group. You’ll already be charged at least 15% gratuity, and if everyone decides to “split the bill,” you can get the short end of the deal if you tried to eat inexpensively and didn’t splurge on alcohol. Know in advance what the tone of the party will be and what will be expected so you’re not surprised when the bill arrives.
Don’t have anything to eat and the dining hall is closed? Go to a take-out joint if you must, or some other low-cost eatery where self-serve is available, and you are not obligated to tip.
If you’re on a date, prepare a simple, candlelit dinner and stay in. It’s not the food that counts, but the ambiance. Get your roommates to stay out for the evening and set your own ambiance.
Save your tip if the pizza guy gets lost, if your order is messed up, or if he is lacking in customer service and general niceness.
Some of the ideas in this article were adapted from “118 Ways to Save Money in College.”
Also see “Guide to Finances and Budgeting“