Living on the margins of an income is a skill. And why go to college if not to learn new skills? Within the first few weeks of arriving on campus, the initial euphoria of being away from home will wear off when you spend your last $10 on a late-night pizza. A large percentage of college time is spent acquiring and consuming food, often as a method of avoiding things like homework. So knowing where to look is of the utmost importance.
The obvious answer is the college dining hall. Most schools require at least first-year students to enroll in one of their prohibitively expensive meal plans. These cover your standard two or three meals-a-day needs, but tend to neglect those in-between hunger pangs. You'll need something to munch during all-night cram sessions, if only to mange the stress. On a tight budget an Oreo box from the supermarket will break the bank.
If you've got transportation you can probably scrounge a meal from free samples at local stores, much like our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. Wegmans likes to set up sample stands, especially on the weekends and around dinnertime. Get a toothpick full and then loop around the store for course two on the way out. BJ's (400 Jay Scutti Blvd., Henrietta, 475-1180; also in Victor and Webster), Sam's Club (1600 Marketplace Dr., Henrietta, 427-8880; also in Greece), and similar wholesale establishments tend to have a good selection of free samples, but be warned: the stores require membership for purchases, so rampant free samplers may be carded. Also, famed national donut chain KrispyKreme (1150 Jefferson Rd., Henrietta, 424-7370) has a habit of lighting its neon free-sample sign to lure in the hungry and impressionable.
The Rochester Public Market (280 N. Union St.) is a tremendously thrifty way to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies while interacting with the people who grow your food. You can also pick up meat, pastries and more in the shops surrounding the open-air pavilions. The Market is open every Saturday 5 a.m.-3 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Also keep your eyes open for the Market's huge community garage sale on certain Sundays through October; check out City's events listings for those dates.
If you're looking for clothes the mall is the most alluring choice. It has an air-conditioned, sterile environment; varied and fashionable selections; and epic convenience. Then the pocketbook comes into the picture. Ultimately, it's better to wait for grandma to visit before picking up that new leather knee-high boots. In the meantime, thrift stores can offer a quick fix to the tired wardrobe blues. Area outlets include multiple Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Volunteers of America, and Vietnam Veterans' locations (see Directory on page XX). Garage sales offer good bargains on often interesting fashions; check the local classifieds for time and place.
For some, thrift shopping may double as entertainment. But for more standard fare there are bargain options a-plenty. Movies 10 (2609 W Henrietta Rd, 292-5840), a staple of Rochester bargain hunters, shows second-run films for a maximum of $2. Local coffee shops are an affordable place to cross the all important off-campus date threshold. Java's, Spot, Spin, Boulder and Starry Nites all come to mind as downtown options open until at least midnight (see Directory). One cup at any of these places can last for hours with some good conversation.
But all of these options are worthless without a set of wheels to get you there. You could walk, but in most cases it's just not feasible in Rochester. Bicycles are a good option if you're not going far. The University of Rochester's bicycle library, City Cycles, lets students rent bicycles for free, while providing maps and helpful links on its website (http://sa.rochester.edu/citycycles/). At press time the program was suspended due to thefts, however organizers expect it to return in the fall. Other schools provide bike racks, and some even allow storage within dormitories. Rochester's Critical Mass, a monthly bike ride through city streets, starts on the U of R campus and is a good way to meet up with like-minded cyclists (www.critical-mass.org).
Busing is a low-investment way to get around town. Rochester Genesee Regional Transport Authority runs several lines from U of R, RIT, MCC, SUNY Geneseo, and SUNY Brockport to Marketplace Mall, downtown, and elsewhere (www.rgrta.org). Trips cost $1.25 apiece, or you can get an all-day pass for $3. Geneseo students can also catch the Livingston Area Transportation bus to Wegmans and Wal-Mart during the week, and into Rochester during the weekend, for free.
Textbookscan put a major dent in the new student's wallet. Professors love to demand new editions with throw-away CD add-ons and marginally updated facts. Unless you spot some good deals, avoid the bookstore and buy used books online. They'll be cheaper but you might have to overlook some doodles. Most college bookstores take returns within a few weeks, so either buy the books and return them when your online order comes, or do without until then. Bigwords.com and similar sites compare various prices and can help you choose between the many online vendors.