Living on a beer budget

Let’s face it: student lifestyles are heavily influenced by the negative income we earn. Our net worthlessness makes beer, Kraft Dinner, wing nights, Thursdays at Ale, Fridays at Alfie’s and all-you-can-eat sushi Tuesdays a part of our culture. We are a group of cheap, hungry, boisterous consumers.

I don’t think you’ve really fully matured until you’ve paid exact change for your coffee so you don’t have to break a $20 bill, or returned empties instead of going to the ATM. There’s something about frugality that is inextricably linked to the student experience and, in turn, to growing up.

I’ve learned a lot from having to be cheap. I’ve located all the places on campus where people dump their copies of the Globe and Mail so I don’t have to pay for one. I’ve found awesome books at the Campus Bookstore for three dollars or less. I can mentally calculate the unit price of something in a few seconds.

In all my thrifty exuberance, though, there’s one thing I have never skimped on: food. I’m not some high-rolling food connaisseuse who eats at Chez Piggy every night, but I generally like to buy good stuff. KD is not my cup of tea.

One time I was unloading groceries and giddily showed off my parmigiano reggiano cheese to my housemate. She replied with, “Wow, I guess you did well this summer,” implying that I had money to burn on fine cheese. I didn’t actually make any more money than the average student.

My purchase might seem ridiculous given my circumstances, but have you ever smelled parmigiano reggiano cheese? It is to your nose what a heated seat is to your tush in the winter. Nutty, bold, savoury–there’s hardly anything more delectable.

Here’s how I look at it. I could spend $2.50 on the crappy Parmesan cheese that’s been sitting in the grocery store since the Stone Age, or I could spend a few extra bucks and get something awesome.

I spend quite a bit on groceries, but I also eat really well. When you spend a decent amount of time and money on food, the meals you eat taste better and are generally healthier for you.

And you don’t need to spend a lot. Produce is so incredibly inexpensive. For the cost of a frozen dinner, you can buy a week’s worth of vegetables or fresh meat. For the price of a coffee, you can get enough garlic to use for several dinners.

There’s a difference between extravagance and good quality. Extravagance takes far more time and money than the vast majority of students, including me, can afford. Good quality is something everyone can do, but it takes a little bit more effort.

Maybe I just spend an obscene amount of time watching the Food Network, but I think a good meal is worth the money. And if you don’t, that’s okay. I’ll be eating delicious cheese.

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