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When in Athens, What What Should I Do?: Broke college students find joy in anything for a dollar


The second thing on my list of 10 signs that told me I was in a whole new world in Athens might not seem so unfamiliar to a small-towner. So this time, focus more on going to the extreme. Yes, we’re talking about the slightly pathetic-yet-amusing art of being a broke college student.

Unless you’re one of the lucky students who has been graced with money from your parents (as 3OH!3 would say, “in a trust fund back East”), you know exactly what I’m talking about — so much so that you might be nodding your head furiously and pointing at the screen while reading this.

Don’t fret, fellow broke college student: We’re all in this together.

With the cost of college, it’s no surprise how much I have observed, especially in myself, just how well college students know how to pinch those pennies.

Because leisure activity is really up to an individual’s discretion and I don’t have all day (not to be rude), let’s stick to a few of the essentials: everyday school supplies, textbooks and food.

You might be shocked by the crazy couponers on air, but TV won’t show you a college student in a desperate attempt to print out some homework, use a piece of paper that has a Political Science 101 syllabus on one side, and say, “Hmmm, you don’t think they’ll mind, do you?”

On the other hand, maybe that person could just use that quarter they found stuck in the coin slot in the vending machine.

Does anyone know a place that sells single sheets of printer paper? No? Well, it was worth a try.

Then there are textbooks. They can be incredibly expensive, and that pain in your bank account will feel even worse when you realize you never actually used it. Textbooks could drain your savings into the territory of going to the plasma donation center for some quick cash. So you’re afraid of needles — being broke is so much more frightening.

Now that my parents made the compromise of paying the good old Winter Quarter tuition check if I pay for all my books, I’ve thought of some pretty good broke-college-student methods myself.

Why buy the book for $42.41 when I could simply use Google Books, using the library copies to fill in the missing pages they rob you of online? Just kidding — well, sort of.

And of course, there’s food. If you’re like a lot of college kids and have the appetite of an NFL linebacker, don’t worry. Ohio University graces those of us who purchase meal plans with all-you-can-eat dining halls.

Thriftiness drives the common student to stuff their Grab N Go containers with grocery items. No need to run to the store for butter, I filled an insulated coffee cup with it the other day. Wait, what?

Unfortunately, the heart-stopping comforts of mac and cheese and fried shrimp aren’t always there. In other words, dining halls are not open at 1 a.m. when a lot of us college students get hungry.

So when college kids need to battle grumbling tummies after hours, we flock to places that offer our favorite two-word special —value menu. Nothing tastes more delicious than fries that only cost 99 cents.

Walk down Court Street at night, and you’ll see hoards of people clawing down the doors to load up on burritos and pizza. Hey, you never know, this stuff could become a form of currency someday.

If there is any chance someone is reading this and they are not yet a college student, don’t be scared away. Everyone can learn to budget and still enjoy college to its fullest; you just have to be smart about it. Don’t think you’ve got the broke-college-student mentality? Try going to an “Everything’s a dollar” store and not drooling, and then maybe we can talk.

Jackie Runion is a sophomore studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. If you want to go bargain hunting with her, email her at

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