5 tips to survive under $50 a week at SMU

By Damini Roy, SMU School of Economics

Let’s face it—studying and eating around the downtown city area can burn quite a hole in a student’s pocket. Having been an unsuspecting victim of high prices and small food portions myself, I’ve decided to put together a quick guide on how to survive (and possibly, thrive) a week of college at SMU. Freshmen, pay close attention.

1. Kopitiam and Koufu are not the only answer

When you read this blog title, I’m sure most of you thought to yourself—this is probably a list of the best stalls at the Kopitiam near school. Or at Koufu in the SMU concourse. Great news is, there’s more to the SMU food scene.

First up, there are many accessible cafes. Being a ‘downtown campus’, SMU is in the heart of all activity —the Cathay building is less than five minutes away, and houses favorites like The Assembly and Eighteen chefs. On the other side, the City Hall mall and basement food shops are an attractive option for the late-night muggers studying around the School of Business. For those who still prefer authentic hawker centre fare, there is a less-explored hawker centre down Waterloo Street. One stall at the far-right corner even serves steaks, sausages and fried Western snacks.

 2. Explore your ‘Univantage’

As you slowly venture beyond SMU boundaries, to your pleasant surprise—you will find that many nearby businesses offer student discount rates to SMU patrons; this is most often made possible through SMU Bizcom‘s liaison with vendors through the Bizcom Univantage programme.

Lesser-known discounts include those on beverages and snacks at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet opposite the Bras Basah MRT exit, and discounts on a-la-carte items at Popeyes, located in The Cathay basement. (Updated June 2015: The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has since closed. Visit Bizcom’s website for details of the latest discounts and promotions!)

 3. Takeaway boxes are lifesavers

Not all of us have ravenous appetites, so when you cannot finish the entire meal—just takeaway! I know of friends who are self-conscious about asking the staff if they can help them takeaway the meal, but I’ve realised two things. Firstly, being situated near the campus, the café and its staff expect students to come and make requests for takeaways so they are prepared for the request. Secondly, small meal portions make a great snack during a short lecture break.

 4. Carry small change

Remember the time when you stood in the queue, didn’t have enough change and were passed over for another customer instead? So out of frustration you just bought something else that you didn’t really want?

Avoid such situations getting the better of you by carrying small change. You will be less likely to spend more at a mid-priced store and even less likely to be passed over in a stall queue.

 5. Vegetarians—fret not!

Being a vegetarian myself, I know how hard it is to find leafy greens sometimes. While there is no good salad place nearby (to my knowledge), Subway is always an SOS option. There is also a great sushi place called Maki San at The Cathay basement, which allows you to customise your order from scratch. They also cater to takeaway requests, so this is a great place to go when you’re looking for a lunch place near the School of Economics.

Most importantly, the spirit of adventure often rewards the seeker with great food and new friends. So explore the campus, and I hope I’ve been able to make your transition to college life (and a new semester) more enjoyable. Cheers!

3 thoughts on “5 tips to survive under $50 a week at SMU

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