Eating on a Budget

Why It’s OK to Treat Yourself as a Broke College Student


Story by Caitlyn Kelley

There have been many instances where my mother has chastised me for eating out on nights when I should have gone to the dining hall instead. Though I don’t admit to being a hedonist—I can assure you that I, like many college students, enjoy a good night out with great food and even better conversation.


Sometimes, I happen to like it multiple nights a week.


There’s something so exciting about sitting down in a restaurant and sharing a meal with people whose company you enjoy. The food tastes better, the conversation flows, and suddenly, spending $25 on a bowl of pasta in the North End doesn’t sound like a bad idea.


Only, the next morning you’re incredibly aware of the massive chunk of change missing from your bank account, and you realize, to your utter horror, that you’ve blown your food budget for the month.

Before I ever enrolled or thought about enrolling in university, I was always the kind of person to turn up my nose at dorm food, despite not having the money-laden pockets to afford dinner seven days a week. The idea of nuking a cup of ramen noodles seemed wildly unsettling, and the thought of living off granola bars was equally unappealing.


My tune changed rather quickly once I actually entered college. Almost immediately, my meals consisted of Annie’s microwavable mac n’ cheese, Maruchan ramen, and dining hall food when I had the energy to walk there. I often felt like I couldn’t—and wasn’t allowed to—enjoy the things that once made me happy. I spent more time worrying about how much I was saving and whether or not purchases were necessary.


As college students, it’s hard to find a balance between excess and restriction. There are times when you want to go out and not have to think about penny-pinching in order to afford other necessities that you need—and it can be twice as hard when living in a city epitomized by luxury and affluence. Then there are times when you over-spend, and then you’re stuck with the guilt that maybe you should’ve just stayed home.


While I am never one to tout “You only live once,” we can all stand to learn from the credo that emphasizes having fun and making memories. College is supposed to be exciting, and while I recommend being responsible with your money, you should always try to set aside instances where you can be free to splurge. Too much restriction can often lead to FOMO, or make you feel like you’re not enjoying the things you should be.


In an increasingly global world, there are so many ways you can spend money without actually breaking the bank. Going out the second Saturday of every month, getting coffee on Mondays and Fridays, or even spending a little extra money on groceries are just a few ways that you can spend money meaningfully. After all, nothing is better than good food, friends, and memories that will last a lifetime.