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Articles / Admissions / The College "Ramen" Budget

May 21, 2020

The College "Ramen" Budget

Back in the day, when I first went to college (this would have been around the time that the Visigoths attacked Rome), I recall having a an old empty coffee can sitting on my dorm room's desk. Every time I came back to my room after an outing, I would toss whatever metal change I had in my pocket into the can. Over time, the nickels, dimes, and pennies (quarters and half-dollars were a rare addition) would add up and at some point, I would treat myself (and occasionally my roommate) to some kind of off-campus food outing. Generally, I (or we) would walk up the block and head for the Hilltop Sub Shop, where one could get the world's most succulent steak sandwich for $1.25 (that would have been in 410 A.D. dollars, of course). This little jaunt might happen once every month or so, certainly not weekly or even every other week.

Things are a bit different today. College students have credit cards, debit cards, and other means to support their collegiate lifestyles. Nevertheless, there is still a high number of budget conscious students (that's code for "economically depressed" students) and those souls are carefully calculating their next fiscal moves. No spring breaks in Cancun for them.

Which brings us to the term used in the title of this blog post: Ramen budget. For a better understanding of the significance of a Ramen budget versus, say, a parsimonious budget, we need look no further than the Urban Dictionary.

According to the wordsmiths at UD, a Ramen budget is a "euphemism for being poor. As Top Ramen can be obtained for a paltry US$0.10/pack, it is widely regarded as the single cheapest meal a human can consume." Looks like the Hilltop Sub Shop has nothing to fear.

My inspiration for this post came from an out-of-the-blue PR release from MSR Communications. I though I would share it with all of you who may be an economically downtrodden college student or, possibly, the parent of a college student and your family is wrestling with the unfortunate consequences of the current recession. So, without further ado, here are:

5 Online Essentials for College Students on a Top Ramen Budget

When every penny counts and your next meal can be found in a vending machine, living college life on a Top Ramen budget is a necessity.

For those students on a budget, below is a list of essential items that will not only help them succeed this year, but will also keep their wallets lined with a few extra dollars. Vending machine, anyone?

1. Always Wear Protection

* As our dependence on the internet grows, so do the viruses and malware that can attack computers. Students are especially at risk with their heavy internet use and can't afford the cost of replacing an infected computer. AVG free anti-virus download will protect you from viruses, spyware and other online threats found within social networks and sharing sites.

2. Sesquipedalian (definition: using big words) is the New Black

* When the largest and most trusted free online dictionary is in your back pocket, whenever you need help with references, you are covered. The Dictionary.com app is free and available on devices like the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android.

3. Rent-a-Book

* Beat the system of paying $500 for a textbook by renting them instead. Check out alternatives like Chegg.com or the new Barnes and Noble option.

4. Cut Coupons, Not Class

* Luckily, online coupon companies save you the embarrassment of actually having to cut and carry coupons. Groupon and the ever-resourceful Coupons.com allow you to find location-based deals on everything from toothpaste to upcoming community events.

5. Be There or Be a Square

* Make connections with sites like Foursquare, a mobile application which gives students a way to find other students or friends when they 'check in' to places like the library. Or there's the app, “Schools of Facebook" that allows colleges to form private communities where students can connect in a more personalized, secure way. The possibilities are endless.

This year, with all the free and affordable online resources for students, living on the college budget has never been so easy!


Finally, for those of you who are conducting your own coffee-can-change-collection campaign, here some bonus information for you: links to both the location of the Hilltop Sub Shop (which has been operating since at least the Fifth Century) and a typical testimonial (this one from a grammatically challenged patron):


All is good, indeed, and I sincerely hope that your budget falls well above the Ramen Red Line.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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