Graduating early because of student loans and living financially independent from my parents, money has always been an issue for me at Wake Forest. Surrounded by peers who hardly understand the value of a dollar, spending their parents’ money recklessly, it can be frustrating to constantly compare yourself. Yet, as someone who enjoys going out to new restaurants once in a while and treating myself to new clothes, I’ve learned some helpful tips along the way for how to save money without being a stereotypical “poor college student.” Here are a few of them.
1) Get an on-campus job
Chances are you can find a job on campus. If you qualify for work-study, you should have no trouble being placed at one of the various work-study positions. If you don’t, however, Campus Recreation hires students for jobs in the fitness center, the pool, intramurals and club sports. I’ve worked at Campus Recreation for the past two years and have enjoyed my experience while also making some money. Although pay is minimum wage, working a few hours a week adds up to some extra spending money.
Tutoring is also a way to make a little more money, as all tutor jobs are paid above minimum wage. I have tutored student-athletes in the Miller Center since my freshman year in economics, politics and Spanish. Tutoring jobs are also available for non-student-athletes in certain divisions like the math center. If you’re exceeding in a specific class or subject, reach out to different tutor centers to see about jobs.
2) Make the most of your meal plan
If you actually take the time to look at everything included in your meal plan, you will begin to better understand why they are so expensive. A meal at the pit, depending on the time of day, is anywhere from $10 to $16 if paying without a Deacon One card. Similarly, there is a false equivalency among Old Gold swipes, meaning a $3 coffee from Starbucks is technically the same price as a full burrito and chips from Moe’s. With these numbers in mind, consider them when you’re leaving the semester with dozens of pit swipes and Old Golds — valuable meals that you already paid for going to waste because you wanted to eat a meal out.
While most options in the P.O.D. or 336 Market are overpriced because they’re on a college campus, spending all of your food dollars on overpriced juices or non-Old Gold options is an easy way to waste money. I’ve found myself desperate for P.O.D. candy during finals week and have resorted to spending my own money on something pointless just because I overspent earlier in the semester.
3) Treat yourself, but in a smart way
Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy food, especially good food from local restaurants. I personally don’t have a hard time justifying going out to an enjoyable meal with friends and treating myself once or twice a week. The money that I work hard for is mine to spend to my own discretion. However, I also make sure to spend this money thoughtfully, looking up restaurants with food or drink deals beforehand and making sure to order something reasonably-priced from the menu. Eating at restaurants can easily get expensive if it turns into a four-course meal, but enjoying an entree doesn’t have to be too burdensome.
This also applies to other expenses that may incur during the semester. Say, for example, you need a new pair of sneakers. Buying the most fashionable ones at full price doesn’t make sense if money is already an issue for you. But buying shoes that you like and are reasonably priced or on sale is warranted once in awhile.
Living on campus can get expensive very quickly. From keeping up with social burdens to needing an escape from the tight community every once in awhile, money can begin to be a barrier to happiness. However, by working hard at a paid job and saving money where it counts, you can still find time to treat yourself and prioritize happiness.