Financially Savvy: Dining and Credit Cards

“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.” Ecclesiastes 7:12

fam1With the excitement of starting college comes the not-so-exciting thought of…paying for it. Especially in this hard economic time, many families are wondering how they’re going to pay for college this year. Some are having to forego the private, Christian colleges for a more local, public school. Although I hope you are financially able to attend your first choice, whether public or private, there are still ways to watch your spending habits while at college. Here are some helpful financial tips that can used whether you’re living at home or moving away.

Dining Time

Many colleges offer a food plan. Often there are several from which to choose. You may opt for a certain number of meals a week allotment, or you may choose to place a certain amount of money on a cafeteria card from which you can purchase meals. If you’re living on campus, this is probably the most frugal way to eat. However, if you want to cook, and have a kitchen available for all meals, that can certainly be a much cheaper option. The main thing to remember is that if you––or your parents––purchase a meal plan, use it! These often expire at the end of a semester. Many times you’ll find yourself wanting to dine out with friends, thus not spending the money you already designated for meals, and spending money at a restaurant that could go toward other expenses. If you want to leave money for eating out with friends, make sure you don’t get the largest meal plan offered––it will only go to waste.

College is the time for hanging out with friends, and for me, this occasionally included coffee (go for the decaf!). However, all these little trips to the local coffee shop can really start to add up. So if you really want to spend time together, and it means coffee shops, do without the coffee every time and get water with lemon slices instead. You’ll still get to enjoy the company of friends, but without spending the money.

fam2I love coupons. And there are tons out there. Check out websites like for coupons to restaurants and other deals. If you find yourself eating out a lot with friends, a buy-one-get-one-free coupon at your most frequented restaurant can really help out. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the waiter or cashier if they have any current coupons available for use. Even fast-food places may have a stack under the register––even if it’s just for a free drink with your sandwich. Every little bit helps!

Credit cards

When I started college, my parents gave me a credit card to purchase my textbooks and supplies, and for emergencies. However, I quickly found that having the must-have jeans that everyone was wearing was an “emergency.” And so, they went on the card. As well as the boots that my friend said looked so great on me. And soon, I was encountering “emergencies” on a weekly basis. It was easy to get carried away when I didn’t have to pay for the stuff.

Although I don’t use credit cards now, I won’t make this into a time to tell you to cut up all credit cards and use cash only. I will say that if you have credit cards, you need to be responsible with them. I know this is what your parents are probably telling you, but it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement and newness of college and start thinking that everything is a must-have item. It may help to leave your credit card in a safe, hidden place in your room––it’ll be more difficult to have a sudden jeans emergency at the mall when your card isn’t in your purse.

We’ll continue later with more financially savvy tips, so check back soon!

By Lisa Grimenstein

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