By Briana Williams–

At this point in the semester, stress levels are rising while flex points are dropping. No one has a problem with declining meal swipes, but keeping flex throughout the semester is every student’s greatest challenge. With three months left, stretching every flex dollar is crucial. If you play your cards right and save a lot this semester, you’ll have more flex in the spring and won’t have to worry about saving. Here are five ways to make your flex last through a grueling three months:

1. Use meal swipes

While the restaurants that accept meal swipes are limited, the options in them aren’t. The Ville Grill offers new choices every day, while still keeping the usual favorites. Going to the same restaurants over and over can be monotonous, but you’ll be glad you did at the end of the semester. Since swipes don’t roll over to the next semester, you may as well use as many as you can before the semester ends.

2. Avoid the SAC

Obviously you can’t avoid eating at the SAC all the time, but you can stop yourself from getting food there every day. Chicken nuggets multiple times a week sounds amazing, but your body and your wallet will hate you for it later. With all of the new additions coming to the SAC later this year, it’ll be difficult to avoid going there. But try eating from the SAC only once or twice a week and you should still have plenty of flex by the end of the semester.

3. Pack your lunch

It’s an old-school option, but packing a lunch is a great way to save money. Choosing what’s in your lunchbox gives you free reign over what you eat, how it’s made and portion size. This will help with keeping off the extra pounds and keeping extra flex. Not only that, but maybe you can convince your mom to buy you gushers for your lunchbox – like the good old days.

4. Skip Starbucks

As much as everyone loves the new Starbucks, spending four dollars on a single drink all the time is a terrible way to use flex. Instead, go for the cheaper alternative with Einsteins Brothers in Bingham Humanities building. Resisting the Starbucks temptation won’t be easy, but at least you’ll still have money by the end of the year.

5. Do the math

There are 16 weeks in every semester so, depending on your meal plan, you can only spend a certain amount of flex every week. For example, if you have about $600 for the semester, you can only use 26 flex every week. That sounds like a lot, but if you’re constantly going to the SAC, that $26 goes away quickly.

6. Look for deals

A number of restaurants on campus offer value menus or promotional deals. Wendy’s currently has the “4 for $4” deal which comes with a cheeseburger, four chicken nuggets and a small drink and fry. Subway always promotes its $5 footlong special on select sandwiches. Boss Hog’s BBQ, the popular food truck outside of Threlkeld Hall, also offers a two for $3 taco special. Plus, all restaurants that accept flex give a small discount whenever you use them. It’s not much, but every saving helps.

Keeping up with flex and swipes is a nuisance, but with some planning (and resisting the urge to eat all the time), it can be done. By following these tips, at least you won’t end up only eating at the Ville Grill for all of December.