By Briana Williams–

Though it’s still early in the semester, students are already experiencing going over budget with their meal plan. And with U of L’s newest restaurants, budgeting those precious flex points isn’t easy. With three months left, stretching every flex dollar is crucial for some. 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 so money doesn’t go to waste.

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 thank you for it if you skip Chik-fil-A. Try eating from the SAC only for only three or four meals for the whole week and you should avoid going over budget.

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 is a terrible way to use flex. Instead, go for the cheaper alternative with Einsteins Brothers. Resisting the Starbucks temptation won’t be easy, but at least you won’t spend most of your flex on fancy drinks.

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 $900 for the semester, you can only use 56 flex every week. That sounds like a lot, but if you’re constantly going to the SAC for every meal or snack, that $56 goes away quickly.

6. Look for deals

Several 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. The Marketplace food court restaurants also offer great deals for combo meals. Plus, all restaurants that accept flex give a small discount whenever you use them. It’s not much, but any discount can help.