University is an exciting time of your life. You will meet new friends, you are starting a new educational chapter in your life and you are finally (for many students) living away from home for the first time. This is the point in your life when you need to start being a little more conscious of things like; delegating time, money management and of course grades.

One of the best things about first year life and campus facilities are the many cafeterias located around Brock campus. Some popular cafeterias are Decew Caff, Lowenberger Caff and the Market Place located underneath the library. As a first year student living on residence you will most likely have a student meal plan which you will be able to use at any of the on-campus residences. There are a variety of different meal plans available to students. The ‘Regular’ meal plan is $4,500 which is divided into $4,200 for meal dollars and $300 for flex dollars. Meal dollars and flex dollars are two different types of money for first year students, but I will touch on that later. Now $4,500 seems like a lot of money, but remember, that money is supposed to last you 8 months of meals. Between Breakfast, Lunch, dinner and the occasional snacks, that money will start to disappear pretty quickly!

I was first year once and trust me, I had an appetite. As a result, I burned through my whole meal plan in one semester and had to reload my card not once, but twice. After a semester of ignoring my card balance I began to develop some tricks and tips in order to make that meal plan balance last as long as possible!

Tip #1:

  • Get a mini fridge. A mini fridge may seem like a waste space and money when you can just go to the caff for food instead, but trust me, a mini fridge will save you money in the long run. All though the meal plan food is very delicious and will fill your stomach for a bit, you will want to snack at times and want somewhere to store leftovers.

Tip #2:

  • Go Grocery shopping. If you are a Village or Quarry View resident you will most likely end up grocery shopping anyways, but for the rest of the students on-campus, going to the grocery store is actually a great way to save your money. On Tuesdays, The Zehrs located at the Pen Centre give students 10% off groceries, so don’t forget your student card! Also, purchasing your snacks and drinks for the week at a grocery store rather than your on campus caff will make your end of year costs a little lower. And this is where the fridge comes in handy. Storing those snacks such as fruits, veggies and sandwich makings is great.

Tip #3:

  • Use the microwaves and kettles! In many residences on-campus, students are provided with communal microwaves and kettles. These will be your lifesavers- whether it’s making a quick bowl of oatmeal before class, or warming up some late night left-overs, you will be thankful for the money and time you could save with these items. Also, a big tip for coffee drinkers on campus is to purchase a french press or cups to make your own coffee. Even though coffee is cheap, saving that $1.50 every day eventually adds up and will save you that 5 minutes in the Thistle coffee line every morning.

Tip #4:

  • Bring dishes and utensils. Not all residences have kitchens with appliances to cook or have sinks for you to do a lot of dishes. For the students that do not have these utilities, having a small collection of dishes and utensils will give you the ability to make simple meals like cereal in your rooms. Trust me, by the end of the year, this will be a blessing! Also, bringing your own coffee mugs or cups is key for those late night study sessions or early morning brews to get you up and keep you up.

Tip #5:

  • Visit home occasionally! It seems like a no-brainer, but going home on weekends can drastically save your meal plan money by taking out close to 6 meals a week. That being said, not all students have the means or opportunity to go home every weekend. If you are lucky enough to live close to home it will be a bonus to save those dollars for another day, and who doesn’t love home cooked meals right?


Now on to flex dollars, unlike meal plan dollars, your flex dollars can be used to pay for things outside of the cafeteria. For example, you can pay for your laundry, your items at General Brock campus store, Union station meals and much more. Flex dollars are great to have too, but much like meal plan dollars, be careful! Your flex dollars are meant to last you the whole year and you would benefit from delegating your money to necessities before fun activities.


Sharing Laundry loads:

During your year on Brock residence, you will get really close with your roommates and friends on res. If  you are comfortable enough with your roommates there are a few tricks you could use to help save both of your flex dollars on campus. One really great way to save money is by splitting laundry loads. Let’s face it, laundry is expensive on campus, while $1.50 a load doesn’t seem like much but when you’re doing up to 2 or 3 loads a week it adds up. However, by splitting loads with roommates like t-shirts, jeans and sweaters you can both take turns saving money on loads and cut your laundry fees in half. This is also a great way to get a laundry buddy to hang out with while you’re waiting.


Another tip for saving your flex dollars is eating at Union station on campus. Lots of first year students forget that your flex dollars are accepted at some Union Station businesses (not including Burrito Boyz). Eating at Union Station is a great alternative to places such as the Guernsey Market or the Hungry Badger because the franchises allow you to get more bang for your buck. Don’t get me wrong, the Market has really good and well made food, but  instead of always getting a $12 wrap from Market, try Subway, Harveys, etc. where you can get a whole meal for the same price. Union Station is also one of the largest employers of students on campus AND it’s operated by your very own Students’ Union which means when you eat there many of the proceeds are reinvested into your own student experience.

Now that you have some tips, you’re ready to tackle first year! That being said, your meal plan is there for you to use, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself too!


Good luck with your year Badgers!

Nate Chick