In the upcoming year, Cal Poly freshmen will have to learn to budget their Plu$ Dollars a little differently than students have in prior years. Meal plans have been cut out of the system, and Cal Poly will now provide students living in the residence halls with $4,083 Plu$ Dollars for the year — automatically split into $1,361 Plu$ Dollars per quarter.
The new meal system was instated to give students a greater range of flexibility in when and where they eat, and has allowed Cal Poly to reduce entry into all-you-care-to-eat facilities from $10.25 down to $4.50.
Michael Swartz, a mechanical engineering senior and member of Orientation Team who will be working event staff during Week of Welcome (WOW), described positives to this year’s meal plan system.
“Compared to the previous meal plan system, I think this plan is closer to how the real world works,” Swartz said in an email to Mustang News.
However, that doesn’t mean student budgeting will be easier.
“Students will have to put a solid amount of effort into budgeting,” WOW leader and political science junior Lisa Haight said in an email to Mustang News. “Yet, I think that with added budgeting comes a vast amount of variety, independence and choice for all of the students that will benefit them.”
Coming up with a budget plan doesn’t have to be hard, but students will have to take the time to figure out what suits their habits.
“My best tip would be to calculate how many days are in the quarter and to see the maximum amount of Plu$ Dollars you can be spending each day,” communication studies junior Hayley Silva said in an email to Mustang News.
For example, for the upcoming fall quarter, if a student is on campus every day from the first day of class through the last day of finals, they will have to budget $1,361 Plu$ Dollars for 82 days, which breaks down to approximately $16.60 in Plu$ Dollars per day.
Students who know they will be away from campus during breaks or weekends can factor that into their budget plan for the quarter, giving them extra Plu$ Dollars for daily spending.
Failing to budget altogether can leave students low on funds at the end of the quarter.
“One bad habit a friend of mine had freshman year was using his Plu$ Dollars at Subway literally every day Spring quarter. (He) ran out (of Plu$ Dollars) before the quarter was over,” Swartz said.
Silva, a member of the Open House Committee who will be leading her second WOW group this year, added, “I think the entire quarter outlook is a surefire way to end up with no Plu$ Dollars during finals week, and let’s be real, finals week is the week you’re going to need the most food!”
But being too frugal can have its own consequences.
“I knew quite a few people who thought that saving as many Plu$ Dollars as possible would be a good idea,” Haight said. “Considering the money rolls over quarter-to-quarter, it seemed like a good idea at first. However, at the end of the year, they had an obscene amount (of Plu$ Dollars) … I knew way too many students who lost money by putting so much pressure on themselves to save.”
Budgeting Plu$ Dollars for the year will undoubtedly be a balancing act, but as long as students take the time to plan ahead, their bottom dollar will still go to good use.