Finals Week: Pinching Pennies

 Stretching your dollar

In my first year attending college I gained 10 pounds, half of which I’m sure was stored in my neck and face, the other half in my gut. When I returned home for summer break, even my dad commented on my weight. I’m not a big guy, probably 150 pounds soaking wet, but it was embarrassing to say the least. Looking back, I realized that my daily food pyramid consisted of roughly 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein and 20 percent sugars. Not the healthiest diet in the world, but an unfortunate reality of being a broke college student. The point is, college students typically forgo the daily recommended intake of nutrients due to skyrocketing food prices. It’s tough enough buying a bunch of bananas and a few cups of non-fat yogurt without spending $20, let alone shopping organically. Sometimes, we need a hand to make our dollar go further after our measly paychecks finish covering rent, utilities and that sweet new keg-o-rater you needed to put the final touches on the feng shui for your dorm room.

Shopping Tip #1: Buy in bulk

Costco, Smart & Final, Wal-Mart, Target– to name a few. Although the drawback of first-year residential dormitories is random roommates, there’s a positive side to a newly acquired strength in numbers. Collectively, a household’s purchasing power has the potential to increase exponentially with every roommate. I say potential because there needs to be a common accord among all housemates concerning how the bill is divvied-up. Some of the most economical items to buy in bulk include cleaning supplies, toiletries, beverages, such as soda or sport drinks, storage containers and frozen foods, like chicken breast and ice cream. With the exceptions of frozen foods, avoid splitting perishables and food items that cannot be divided equally among the group, or that one or more group members is likely to consume more of than the other(s). For example, if a group of four collectively purchases a box of bagels and there are six bagels in a package, which two roommates get to eat the extra bagels? Small instances such as this can turn a rather inconsequential dilemma into a full-blown debate. It is also important to shop at places that stock the correct items. You don’t need to buy fresh produce at Wal-Mart when the Ralphs a few blocks away have the same food for less. If necessary, coordinate a plan of attack and assign each member to a store, and pool your receipts at the end.

Good bulk buys:

Toilet paper, paper towels and napkins

Trash bags, sandwich bags and storage containers

Laundry detergent, dryer sheets and dish soap

Cleaning tools, such as mops, sponges and brooms

Cleaning chemicals, such as bleach, toilet bowl cleaner and insect repellent

Cases of soft drinks and water

Frozen packages of chicken and microwavable meals