By Daisha Overstreet

ATTENTION! MEAL PLANS ARE NOT UNLIMITED! Piling on so much new knowledge in a short amount of time, we tend to ignore the an important component to living on campus: food. Your meal plan on your FLASHcard is your key to living. At the beginning of the semester, it appears to be a great amount of money, but we fail to realize that this has to last ALL semester. With this in mind, we can often buy meals for others or even splurge on ourselves. In order to ensure your account is on track when you overspend, let me introduce you to your new best friend: the Dining Plan Spending Matrix. The matrix is a list of the amount of money that should be on your account at certain points in the semester depending on which meal plan you have. It can be found in dining areas such as Eastway Market and Deli and Rosie’s. Using the KSUMobile app to keep record of your own account, you can compare the balance and the matrix to ensure you are on track. Seems easy, right? This is where things get complicated.

More than 75 percent of students commute to Kent State. In some cases, these students do not have the Blue Dining Option, which is $700 per semester. This then trickles down to you. Being at the bottom of the totem pole, freshmen can occasionally be persuaded into paying for someone’s meal. If acquainted with commuter students, you are often asked for a “swipe,” or a meal. Personally, I’m selfish and almost always say “no” when asked for swipes. I do this simply because this can easily become a habit, and I’m too stubborn to be taken advantage of. At the beginning of the semester, it seems to not be an issue and you continue to swipe for them, generally late night at Rosie’s after parties. However, after an entire semester of saying “sure,” you may notice a significant difference between your account and what the matrix states. My personal favorite line to hear while walking through the Hub is “you got me on the swipe?” For a girl who does this, she is known as a “swifey.” Although, my friend is the only generous guy swiper I’ve heard of, we will just label him as a “swubby”. Being a swifey or swubby is not necessarily a bad label, but this can often bother swipers.

I remember my best friend wanted to be a big spender because he had the Premium Plus Plan, and bought other people food. He even bought food for those who had a meal plan. Why? I will never know. Anyway, he would be a gentleman and even pick up the tab at Quaker Steak and Lube. He gained a lot of friends during the process who were both genuine and not. Overall, he was known around campus to give up a free meal. By mid-November, he was left with about $10, and his “friends” started to disappear along with his overall popularity instantly. People can spot an overly generous person from a mile away and will take advantage if they want.

Even without buying others, it’s easy to spend frivolously, especially on themed nights at Eastway. The high-priced food items appear to be a nuisance because your own money is not directly being used. I will admit, I plead guilty for doing so all too often. We are unaware of what we spend until we notice $10 on our account with one-fourth of the semester remaining, but there is a solution. The importance of ramen noodles, cereal and TV dinners became evident to me when I had $100 left after Thanksgiving break. I stockpiled various foods which, allowed me to salvage my account because I ate in my room. Often, swapping a swipe with a bowl of cereal cuts down your spending in a day by one-third (if you eat the typical three meals a day). Therefore, it is possible to eat inexpensively. To add, there were days where I didn’t use my meal plan in order to conserve my budget. Although a majority spend too much, you will notice the small percentage of those who do not spend as much.

Those who have an exceedingly amount left as the semester comes to an end, watch out! Campus turns into hunting grounds for the “less fortunate.” Dining locations turn into a safari show on Animal Planet. In most cases, guys usually spend more ruthlessly than girls, making them the ideal prey. For some, in order to raise social status quickly, mention to everyone that you have a lot left on your meal plan. That is a recipe for instant “friends” that won’t last. If everyone knows of your abundance, it is guaranteed you will be asked daily (frequently several times a day) for a meal. However, if you want to keep the wealth to yourself, I have the most vital advice to give: Just say “No.”