‘Monopoly money’ myth affects students’ on-campus spending habits
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 00:03
Miami University meal plans may cause students to spend more than they would with cash. According to students, simply tapping or swiping their IDs to pay for food, makes them feel as though they are not spending real money, which impacts their spending habits.
Some referred to meal plans as “Monopoly money.” With this fake money spending mentality, students said they spend more than they would with tangible money, and many said they would spend little to no money on campus if they had to pay with cash rather than their ID.
With the Diplomat meal plan, students receive discounts on food items in the dining halls and the markets on campus. Diplomat meal plans save students 60 percent at buffet-style dining halls, 40 percent at to-go windows and 30 percent at a la carte locations.
The discount entices students to buy more, said first-year Warren Barker.
“Because you’re getting the discount, you feel like you’re getting a great deal,” Barker said. “Even though in reality it’s probably more expensive than some places uptown.”
Prices are higher without the Diplomat discount, which deters people without meal plans from buying food on campus. For example, certain fine dining locations on campus such as La Mia, Panache and One Eight 09 cost more than the typical dining halls. Without the discount, Sunday brunch at One Eight 09 costs around $15.
“If I had to pull out $15 every time I went to One Eight 09, I would come here a lot less,” said first-year Michael Jackson.
The discount enables students to buy food at locations on campus that they could not afford otherwise, according Jackson.
Senior LaNay Riley, an employee at the register at Ovations, said she rarely sees customers pay with cash or credit cards. If they do, they mostly consist of older adults and graduate students.
“Credit cards are used for a small amount of spending such as a smoothie or a pretzel,” Riley said. “But if I had to spend money here, I would never spend five bucks on a pretzel.”
Typically, more underclassmen have meal plans because they live on campus. Although buying food from a la carte locations costs more than eating at buffet-style dining halls, many students with meal plans said they do not care about price.
First-year Amanda Cheng said she never checks how much money she has left in her account.
“It doesn’t feel like real money, so I feel like it’s never going to run out,” Cheng said.
Sophomore Nomsa Mzozoyana, register worker at Market Street, noticed this trend.
“One girl came in and spent almost $150 on food,” Mzozoyana said. “People buy steak and things that you wouldn’t buy with cash but you would with a meal plan. They have all this money on their card, so they’ll spend it on food at the market or buy things for their friends without meal plans.”
Junior Morgan Feeney confirmed this observation; she said she buys food for her friends at Market Street with her Miami Express meal plan, a smaller meal plan for students who live off campus.
“During [sorority] recruitment, I was paying for everyone at the market with my meal plan,” Feeney said. “I’d rather spend Monopoly money at the market with my meal plan than spend real money at the grocery store.”
Although Feeney lives off campus, she has a small amount on her card because of the convenience.
“Just in case you’re ever on campus all day and you don’t have enough time to go back to your house in between classes, it’s more convenient to have a small meal plan,” Feeney said. “Because of the fake money aspect, it’s so nice. I can grab a Starbucks before class and not have to pay cash for it.”
According to Cheng, she does not think that her meal plan spending habits will carry over after college.
“My parents are the one paying for my meal plan,” Cheng said. “When I use my own money, I’m much more cautious with what I spend. I don’t think my spending habits would be the same because I’d actually be paying for my own credit card bill.”
First-year Jill Runser said she pays for her meal plan with her own money. She does not consider the meal plan to be like Monopoly money. She is very cautious of spending and the amounts in her debit card and meal plan accounts.
“With all the money we spend, I always try to choose the lowest amount possible on meal plans and MUULA because I realize it’s real money,” Runser said. “However, during the school year, it’s sometimes difficult to remind myself of that and I don’t worry about my balance until I get low. Then I watch every dollar.”