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Making the Most Out of Your Meal Plan

A student's guide to making your money work for you

By Astrid Guevara
On December 4, 2015

The semester is almost over and many of us are just now realizing that there are still $400 in our Crooker meal plan left. For some, it may be even more. Guinan Hall Residents of the University of St. Thomas had to, prior to the start of the semester, select a meal plan. Commuters and residents of Young Hall had the option of getting the meal plan or not. However, all those that obtained a meal plan find that it is difficult to use all of the money on their account, even after letting others borrow our card. This is money that students have already paid for, either out of their own (or their parents’!) pocket or out of outside scholarship money.

The truth is that many aren’t using the meal plan to their full potential. My roommate and I, earlier in the semester, often got our groceries at the local HEB. This process involved having to wait until both of us were free and taking time out of our busy schedules to make the drive and shop. I was spending sometimes up to $40 on groceries in a week, while the scholarship money I had worked so hard to obtain in high school was just sitting in my meal plan. Once I realized it was already November and I still had over $1000 in my account, I decided to explore the Crooker store a little more. I was surprised by how much you can buy. I can get milk, fruits, water, napkins, silverware, cleaning supplies, and cooking ingredients, all things I used to spend money on at the store. There is also has lesser-known item, such as small notebooks and writing supplies.

If you think Crooker doesn’t have the groceries you need, there are other ways to make the most out of your meal plan, such as using the money to give to those in need. After all, the holidays are a time for giving and charity! One freshman student, Priscilla Phong, used her meal plan to help the homeless by donating $400 worth of Subway sandwiches to Ronald McDonald House Charity. There are many other ways to give to others this season, and they don’t necessarily have to be strangers. For example, I started buying snacks for the CCE students at my local church and sent notebooks and supplies to family in El Salvador. If you can’t think of anything to do with your money, don’t be shy to help your family out with groceries, if you frequently go home for the weekend. The money on your meal plan is money you have already spent, so it is best to make the most out of it.

If, at the end of the semester, you still have money in your account, there is no need for worry! The school uses leftover money to donate goods to Covenant House of Texas and the Houston Food Bank through the Cafeteria Dollar Drive, as we were told in the campus announcements of September 1st. Although I encourage you to use your meal plan to the most it can help you, it is good to know that, either way, you are doing a charitable deed!

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