Avoiding a dent in the wallet

Being new to a university campus, whether as a freshman or a transfer student, calls for a compromise of lifestyle — students use every opportunity to trim financial corners and score as much free stuff as possible. An important step in social integration, acquiring freebies has become somewhat of a revered necessity. Here to help is The Oracle’s list of bargains, deals and ideas.

Cheap news

A semester hasn’t officially started until the Marshall Center courtyard becomes filled with solicitors. Students rushing to and from the bookstore get stopped by anyone from insurance to cell phone salesmen, but most obnoxious, with their cartoon umbrellas and green beer cozies, are the sales reps for the St. Petersburg Times, the area’s more liberal daily, offering students discounted subscriptions.

Meanwhile, tucked away by shuttle stops near the Rec center (located just north of the Sun Dome) and courtesy of the Athletic department, stands with free copies of the St. Petersburg Times are accessible to anyone.

Cheap classes

The most cost and time effective way to skip a class is not to take it at all, and CLEP tests offer that possibility. The College Level Examination Program cover most of the general education requirements, usually completed within the first two years of college. Most test cover one-semester courses, with a few exceptions covering one- or two-year courses. The tests cover topics within the areas of Language and Composition, math, science, foreign languages and business and each exam is only $55 (free to military service members) plus an administration fees of $20. The CLEP office is on the second floor of the SVC building.

Cheap entertainment

Throughout the semester, the USF campus is crawling with free ways to spend a night. There is always a new show at one of the three on-campus galleries: Contemporary Art Museum, Centre Gallery and Graphicstudio. As Florida’s only student-run exhibition space, the gallery tries to cater to students’ needs by featuring artists from the area — mostly USF students. It also offers “Free Box Cinema,” a weekly cinematic event showcasing independent and foreign movies free to USF students and faculty. CAM features a more renowned group of international artists and also hosts an important annual tradition — the Juried USF Student Art Exhibition.

Giving students an opportunity to catch up on recent blockbusters, the Campus Activities Board designated Wednesday as the Movies on the Lawn day. Students are offered free popcorn and, on the grassy knoll of Crescent Hill, have been known to enjoy anything from The Incredibles to Kill Bill.

Cheap parking

Let’s face it, no matter who you are and where you come from, you too have, or soon will, complain about USF parking. With parking permits coming in at more than $100 and spaces scarce, it’s hard not to. But a cheap, although more time costly, way to avoid most of the campus parking troubles is to choose the Park-n-Ride permit, clocking in at only $35 a year. Sure, the permit comes with the inevitable shuttle rides, but given enough of a time buffer, the shuttle is sometimes faster than trying to find a spot.

Cheap food

A staple of college lifestyle — free food — remains the greatest advertising gimmick for any company, meeting or student organization. And trust me, it’s used very, very often. Each week, students can stumble upon something free. At the beginning of each semester, companies such as Panera Bread, the Pita Pit and others distribute flyers for free bagels and discounted pitas, respectively. Patio Tuesday, organized by CAB, usually offers some free snacks — pizza, hot dogs, barbecued chicken. For all in-between-class snackers, the greatest joy comes nicely packaged with student organization bake sales — home made brownies, cookies and other pastries go for as low as one dollar.

Some of the best deals on food come from campus-oriented pizzerias: Westshore (located on Fletcher Ave) offers a student discount (with a student ID, a large pick-up pizza is only $5, seven days a week) and Five Star (located on 56th St.) offers a $5.88 Wednesday delivery special.

Cheap thrills

Whether beer or liquor, students who find their poison among alcoholic beverages will appreciate the amount and variety of liquor stores around campus. Located on 56th St., Beverage Castle provides alcohol-enthusiasts with the added convenience of a drive-thru. Liquor Depot, another local store located on Bearss Ave., gives USF students discounts on certain purchases. And most local liquor stores, including Bay Area’s most prominent ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, offer a frequent customer card, providing discounts or some sort of customer appreciation benefits. Yes, sometimes that means free beer.

Cheap Country

Over the past few years USF has attempted to ditch the dreaded “commuter school” tag in favor of a more personable “Bulls Country,” a marketing ploy meant to bring together the USF community in support of the school. For USF officials that means another reason to pat themselves on the back, for USF students that means unexpected discounts at various retailers, such as Kinko’s, Gladstone Chicken, Jersey Mike’s, Jason’s Deli, CiCi’s Pizza, even local cable provider Brighthouse.

There is no steady rule as to who and how far away from the campus gives discounts, but a good guide is any sign claiming an establishment to be part of the aforementioned Bulls Country. At places proudly displaying those banners it never hurts to ask.

Cheap textbooks

Before you rush to the USF Bookstore and pile up with expensive textbooks, consider the following alternatives:

Check out the USF library or your local one. Many books, especially novels required for literature classes, can be loaned.

Spend 30 minutes on Amazon’s Web site looking for used books. The difference in price can be significant.

It is also worth checking out some of the other local textbook stores such as Gray’s and Books and More.

If the above sounds like too much effort, wait until you see the paltry amounts you receive when you sell your textbooks back.