How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents

Affording Your Social Life Podcast Episodes

Eating Your Way into Debt

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Pete and Alex are joined by Sydney again as talk about all of the delicious and tasty foods that are available to students, and how they can cause you to eat your way into debt.

Read the Show Notes

One of the great things about being college is that, suddenly, you are completely in charge of what you eat. This also means, though, that you need to be thinking about your eating habits and how they contribute to your spending, or future spending. In order to get you thinking about this, we’re going to break it down by your situation on campus.

Good Eating Habits While Living on Campus

There is a reason why the “Freshman 15” exists. You have a meal plan (which probably gives you access to more food than you ever really needed) and you’ve never been fully in charge of your eating, meaning you’ll be tempted by all the delicious and oftentimes unhealthy things you have at your disposal.

Much like any other situation, your eating habits during your first year of college will establish a baseline of what you expect for the rest of your collegiate career. Eat too much and load up on “crap,” then that is what you’ll expect/crave down the road.

If you avoid utilizing your meal plan and turn to any of the phenomenal local eats that you have access to, then when you start living on your own you will spend too much.

Like establishing a budget, you should do your best to stick to a routine in eating, balancing healthy eating with not-so-healthy eating and making sure you eat the right amount so that you don’t compromise your health or your wallet down the road.

Managing Food and Money When Living Off Campus

Living off campus is a huge challenge when it comes to spending money on food. The least expensive option is also the most time-consuming: cooking for yourself.

Cooking for yourself involves grocery shopping, prep time, cooking time, and, if you’re good about saving money, research time to figure out where the deals are. And as a college student, the time you spend on these things is time that could be used for studying (although extra-curricular activities should probably be said here, too).

The alternative, of course, is to simply eat out most of the time. The downside to this option is that while it is time-efficient, the amount of money it costs compared to cooking for yourself is ridiculous (Note: The IU MoneySmarts Team does a great presentation on the difference in costs). Eating out all the time will cause you to go into deep debt. So what do you do?

Obviously, the goal here should be to spend as little money as possible, but still keep your satisfaction level high.

Make Friends and Food

When it comes to cooking/grocery shopping, if you have roommates, make eating a communal thing. Set aside a day each week to grocery shop with your roommates, and set aside a day or two each week where you can cook food for multiple days, thereby preventing you from using excess time and saving you money.

If you don’t have roommate(s) you can still do the exact same thing…and you could still invite friends over to help out.

Save a Buck. Pack a Lunch.

If you don’t already, you should make your lunch as many days as possible. Even if it’s just a standard PB&J, chips, and fruit, water, that’s a considerable savings over buying your lunch somewhere.

As a quick reference point, a homemade PB&J costs about $.45…the next time you’re out, compare a restaurant’s price of that same sandwich and you’ll see how much you can save. The bottom line is that while bringing your lunch isn’t glamorous, it will save you tons of money over the course of your college life.

Now…while we advocate cooking and packing your lunch as often as possible, we also want you to enjoy your dining options across town. We also want you to reward yourself for doing a good job in school or at home with your cooking.

We think that eating out twice a week is enough to keep you happy when it comes to being able to eat out and at the same time not dig you in a deep debt hole. This is also a great habit to continue even after college.

And if you have any further questions about eating your way into debt, listen to the latest episode of “How Not to Move back in With Your Parents” or e-mail us at