How to Survive the End of the Semester on a Budget and Still Have Fun

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As the semester draws to a close and the holiday season approaches, many of us are finding the need to spend our money wisely. Being a broke college student has its challenges, especially at a time when our whole country is experiencing this financial crisis. Many of us are living away from home for the first time and it’s not as easy turning around and asking mom and dad to float us 20 bucks. We have to economize and make the most out of the money we have. College is all about survival. Here are a few steps I think will help us all get through the rest of the semester and get the most bang for our buck:

Food
If you have Flexi, try to use it only for meals. It’s tempting to go to Outtakes and $15 lotion or $20 worth of Ghiradelli chocolates, but only do that at the end of the semester when you have Flexi left over (they make great Christmas presents). If you’re trying to make your Flexi last, go for cheaper items in the Caf. Instead of getting a lunch crepe, get a bagel and cream cheese. Instead of getting to-go containers, use their dishes and eat in the Caf ($0.35 for to-go containers can really add up). Instead of getting expensive cappuccinos or Odwallas, bring your own bottle and fill it up with water at the soda dispenser for free!

Presents
The season of gift-giving is here. Your friends and family know that money is tight for everyone right now so they’ll understand if you don’t buy them designer clothes or the latest iPod. You could try something simple and thoughtful like burning a mixed CD of their favorite songs.

Entertainment
Movie tickets and a few snacks at the theater can cost about $20. That’s why a lot of college students just watch movies online or get Netflix. If you’re really itching to go out and see a movie, try going to the matinee showing. Tickets for most theaters are under $10. For example, the Red Vic on Haight St. sells tickets to the 2 p.m. show for only $7. You could use the money you saved to buy some used DVDs at Amoeba.

Exploring the City
Do the tourist experience. Hop on the cable car at Powell and Market and ride it all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Tickets are usually $5, but you can get on for free with your Muni pass. To avoid the long tourist lines, go later at night. It’s always fun to go with friends for a midnight gelato run to North Beach.

You could also take a break from studying and take a walk through Golden Gate Park. There’s an awesome cement slide that will make you feel like a kid again, and it’s free. Bring your own cardboard.

Jump on the Muni 5 line and have a bonfire picnic at Ocean Beach. Grab some food, friends and a warm blanket. Just make sure to get there early to claim a fire pit.

Shopping
I’ll admit, as soon as I moved to college and away from my parents’ wallets, my shopping trips have been few and far between. When I do go shopping, I look for sales and bargains. Hit Forever 21, H&M or Ross for good deals. Also, Goodwill on Haight has pretty interesting clothes for shoppers on a budget.

Books
As much as I love our bookstore, it’s easier on my budget to get my textbooks online or from a used bookstore, like Green Apple on Clement St.

The point is, bargains can be found almost anywhere if you know how to look for them.

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