The Affordable College Life: Meal Plans & Textbooks

In addition to the gigantic tuition, there are a couple important financial decisions you will have to make to attend college. Two big ones involve meal plans and textbooks.

Question: How do I choose the best and most affordable meal plan for me?

Answer: Be realistic about your eating habits and compare all available options.

The whole meal plan process will be simplified as soon as you take a look at your established eating habits. Do you need three hearty meals every day? Are you a breakfast fanatic who requires sausage and pancakes to start your morning? Get a feel for your ideal meal situation and then take a look at what your school offers. Tip: A cheap and easy breakfast option is keeping cereal or granola bars in your dorm room!

Find out specifics of each meal plan your college provides. Some schools allot students an exact amount of meals for a fixed price. For example, fourteen meals per week that you can use at any time and are akin to all you can eat buffets. Others charge per item or may only be valid at certain dining halls. If you know you’ll want three hearty meals a day, paying per item may not be the best idea.

Things to Consider

Where are the dining halls located? If for some reason they are located far from your dorm, consider a plan that doesn’t require you to use those meals often.

What restaurants are located on or near your campus? If there are affordable and healthy options located around campus, keep that in mind as you may end up eating lunch between classes at these places instead of the dining hall.

What flexibility is offered? Check to see if your school will let you switch meal plans mid-year if your initial choice isn’t working out.

Question: How do I find the cheapest textbooks?

Answer: Used textbooks! Ask your school’s bookstore if they have a sale or used section. If not, check both Ebay and Amazon for used versions of your required reading. Tip: Make sure you’re buying the correct edition!

As you go through school, reselling books to other students you know is a great way to make some money back. Borrowing books works just as well and both ways – loan out your books to friends and ask to borrow books from other students you know in your major or department.


Looking for ways to make college more affordable? Check out Cappex to learn more about scholarships and financial aid.

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