Advice, Lifestyle

Eating out on a college budget

If I were to define my perfect day, it would consist of multiple meals out, two or more stops at different coffee shops and, of course, dessert to top it off — which would bring me to an unthinkable total amount of money spent for a college student.

As someone who doesn’t particularly like to cook, it is a financial challenge to live in a city like Boston, which is filled with different types of restaurants to try. There is a constant urge to order out daily, making it hard to open my freezer and make that Trader Joe’s precooked meal that has been sitting there all month.

Although I do love some Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken, there are days when I just can’t fight the takeout urge. However, after seeing my bank account following a long month of trying different restaurants, I decided I need to make some changes. I don’t mean a full cut-off eating out, but rather finding ways to eat out a little cheaper.

Smaran Ramidi / DFP Staff

So, here are a few small tips to eat out on a college budget.

An appetizer to split with the table is great, but it is a luxury

The three bites that you end up getting might taste great at the moment, but the added $15 on your part of the check does not make it worth it. But again, we are in a slow process of fixing habits so I thought of a solution. If my friends and I are feeling in a snacking mood, then dinner becomes appetizers. Order a few appetizers for your friends to split and skip the entrées because I don’t like a world without fried calamari.

Sometimes soup and salad can go a long way

If you are like me, sometimes just being in a restaurant is worth the trip. It’s a time when you get to escape college life and just pretend to be an adult for a bit. But it is important to remember that we aren’t working adults just yet. The steak entrée is not in the budget, and some nights a regular entrée isn’t either. This is when the soup and salad combination comes in handy. It will fill you up and your bank account will not be yelling at you the next morning.

Water only for the table

Diet Coke or other sodas are going to be calling your name from the moment you sit down. Fight the urge and stick with water. The extra four or five dollars — and even more if there are no unlimited refills — will catch up to you by the end of the month. Skipping out on a drink with dinner will allow for an extra meal out at the end of the month — your reward for drinking water.

Check the menu before stepping in

The worst feeling is walking into a nice restaurant and opening the menu to see that nothing fits your college budget. If the caesar salad is no longer an option, you’ll have no choice other than to get up and leave. That’s never the way I want to end my night. Make sure to do your research before setting up a reservation. Look at the prices and look for any specials they might be offering. Do they have a discount for students on the weekdays? You never know unless you do your research first.

Do your calculations, and enjoy yourself

Going out to eat is a luxury, no matter what you are ordering. Being able to skip doing the dishes after your meal or to avoid eating your go-to meal from the dining hall is a treat. Bring a group of friends and just have fun together. These are the days that you will remember in your post-grad life.

Now it’s time to put this list to the test. I believe that everything can be done in moderation. I love eating out and trying new restaurants, but doing it in a smarter way will allow me to try even more places in the future. It’s time to take these baby steps when deciding to eat out. Who knows? Maybe the soup and salad will be my new favorite meal.

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