As far as meal plans go, most of us resident undergraduates (99%) choose the defaulted Gold plan, which comes with 14 meals a week and $390.00 flex points a semester. If you don’t spend all your flex points in fall semester, then they carry over into spring semester. Spend them all by spring semester, though, because they don’t carry over into the following year! Flex points can be used at the Huddle as well as various cafes and restaurants on campus. For more information about what you can buy with flex points, visit dining.nd.edu.
My freshman fall semester, when I finally checked the balance on my flex points, I found myself with only $20 at the beginning of November – I still had about six weeks to go and a lot more snacks, coffee, and pizza to buy. I ended up paying out of pocket for my daily conveniences for the rest of the semester when I definitely didn't have to. Here are a few things I’ve learned since then that has saved me the unnecessary spending:
1. Keep track of your balance. You can easily do this buy logging onto inside.nd.edu and clicking the “Domer Dollars” icon under the Student Life tab. Since you have 16 weeks of classes, there’s roughly $24.37 for you to spend in Flex Points each week. It’s not hard to stick to that if you’re aware of it – I just didn’t have any concept of budgeting my freshman year and probably bought a Recker’s Smoothie (Jamaican Jammer) and a package of Andes Mints every day along with other items.
2. Buy coffee from the Huddle! It’s cheaper than Starbucks (around $1.60 depending on size) and there’s different flavors (such as French Vanilla!) or you can get regular coffee and have a choice of different flavored creamers. You can also get coffee to go from the dining halls, but the cups are small and I’ve never been a fan of the dining hall coffee. And there’s no peppermint mocha or hazelnut coffee creamer at NDH. :/
3. Go to Grab N’ Go and pick up food if you don’t use all your meals. It’s a little shop inside the dining halls where you can fill a lunch bag with a certain amount of food as a replacement for a meal. You can’t get Grab N’ Go at the same time that you use a meal in the dining hall, but if you don’t eat breakfast or you ate dinner somewhere else, you can always stop by North or South and grab some snacks for the week. I usually get milk cartons, cereal, or breakfast bars and it saves me from buying all of that at the Huddle. Remember, meals reset after Fridays and don’t accumulate!
4. Don’t live in Cavanaugh Hall. This is my last tip for saving flex points. I literally live right next to LaFortune and the Huddle; food is so close that it’s like walking to the fridge and back for me.
If you can accomplish these four things, then you should have enough flex points to get that delicious Recker’s pizza or your liquid cake Starbucks coffee every now and then, too – you really don’t have much to worry about. Finally, I would recommend saving more flex points for reading days and finals week so you have enough to get whatever you want while studying and taking tests. Personally, I work my best when I bribe and congratulate myself with food so it’s a good strategy for me!
Now when I read over this post, it seems the major themes are just to pay attention and to not waste money on something you can get for cheaper or even “free.” There’s no need to pull out an Excel spreadsheet and track your spending all year. This advice seems pretty obvious, yet I still messed this up my freshman year, so hopefully this can help at least a few other people! Happy spending :)