For Cal Poly students living in the residence halls, a big worry is how to spend your plus dollars. While eating an acai bowl for every meal may sound like the dream, at about $10 per bowl, that is not going to make your Plus Dollars last until the end of the year. As a freshman myself, I have noticed a few helpful strategies to help those of us spending too much and those of us spending too little get back on track.

How to Make the Most out of Your Plus Dollars

When it comes to normal money, it never hurts to have a little cushion for emergencies or when it’s simply time to treat yourself. The same applies to Plus Dollars. Ideally, you’ll have enough extra money for a few splurges, but you have to be smart and strategize how you’ll save this splurge money. If you’re already running low on Plus Dollars, it’s time to start eating Cal Poly’s more cost effective items.

You want to spend around $18 Plus Dollars a day on food. This will leave you about a dollar and some change everyday that you can save up to buy pricier meals or snacks.

Alex St. Jacques

The easiest way to start saving money is to buy breakfast for the week from the Campus Market or the Village Market. Consider getting milk and cereal as cheap, well-balanced options. A box of Cheerios costs $6.55 and can last you for up to about two weeks. A quart of 2% milk costs $2.19, and, when used only for cereal, will last through the school week.

If you prefer a warm meal in the morning, you can grab some Quaker instant oatmeal cups for $2.29 a cup. You can also buy a large container of plain oats for making oatmeal at the Campus Market for $3.95. 

With a cost of 50¢ to $2.29 a day, buying breakfast for the week is much cheaper than the breakfast dishes at the Campus Market or other venues on campus. It also leaves you with more money to spend at lunch and dinner.

#SpoonTip: Having pre-planned breakfasts ready to go in your dorm also means that the time you would have spent looking for and buying a meal in the morning can be spent sleeping in for a few more minutes.

wine, beer
Laura Bailey

As far as drinks go, get a reusable water bottle and drink water. It’s better for the environment, better for your wallet, and much better for you than soft drinks or juice. There are water bottle refill stations all over campus, so it’s very easy to find water to drink wherever you are. 

Alex St. Jacques

For lunch and dinner, Cal Poly does offer various budget-friendly options. You can grab salads from The Avenue (0.45₵ per ounce) and add toppings like edamame, chicken, artichoke, or cheese. A salad packed with your favorite toppings will cost around $5. From Campus Market or Bishop’s Burgers, you can get a cheeseburger for $4.65 or a vegetarian burger for $4.95.

805 Kitchen is buffet-style, cost effective dining venue that has a wide variety of options, including chicken wings, sandwiches, and yogurt. All of this is made even better by the $6.50 price tag for dinner

If you only purchase the foods on campus that are most cost effective, you could be looking at spending about $10 a day. This will really help you get back on track if you are running low on Plus Dollars. It also leaves those on track more money to buy Cal Poly's more costly dining options.

How to Spend Your Plus Dollars if You Have Too Much Money

If you’re swimming in Plus Dollars and have no clue how or where to spend them, consider yourself pretty fortunate because you have the opportunity to splurge on some of the pricier dishes on Cal Poly’s campus.

An easy way to spend some of your extra money is to get breakfast at venues on campus like the Campus Market or Einstein Bros Bagels. Campus Market offers a Build Your Own Breakfast Burrito with choices like salsa, potatoes, and bacon for $7.25. Einstein Bros Bagels in Poly Canyon Village has a wide assortment of bagels with flavors ranging from cinnamon sugar bagel to pretzel. You can get these bagels made into toasted sandwiches for just under $7.

You can also head over to Red Radish by the University Union to build your own salad or wrap for $7.15. You get a decent amount of food and the range of topping options is bigger than those at the salad bar in the Avenue.

Alex St. Jacques

You can also get an açaí bowl from Shakesmart for $6.50 or a smoothie for $5.50. Sambazon also has some delicious acai bowls with a great range of toppings for $5-$12. Both locations let you customize your order by adding, removing, or substituting different fruits and toppings.

Alex St. Jacques

A more exciting option for spending extra Plus Dollars is to load up on snacks like chips and candy from the Campus or Village Markets for a movie night with friends or buy supplies from the Village Market to make a home cooked meal for your friends. You can even be a true pal and invite people you know are running low on Plus Dollars to your dinner.

Final Thoughts

Managing money is a hard first step in adulting. While we all wish we had an unlimited supply of money to buy an unlimited supply of food, we don’t. As long as you buy cheaper food when you can and only splurge when you have the money for it, you shouldn't need to worry about how to spend your Plus Dollars.