Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Senior Editor

Bear Necessities on May 8, 2022.

February 6, 2023

How to Safely Spend Your BRB’s 

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I really thought that Cornell students would have greater control over the way they spend their BRB’s. BRB’s, formally known as “Big Red Bucks” are the currency that lets Cornell students purchase food and drinks from cafes like Libe Cafe, Cafe Jennie, Mac’s Cafe etc., around campus. Spending your BRB’s differs from using a meal swipe, and each meal plan at Cornell differs in the amount of swipes and BRB’s a student is able to use. Time and time again, Cornell students either hoard their bucks or spend them all halfway through the semester. But what is the correct (and best) way to spend your BRB’s?

I personally suggest you spend your BRB’s whichever way you want — do what you enjoy and what makes you happy. But if you are held hostage by your bank account and are unable to add BRB’s when the balance inevitably hits zero, then this article is for you.

First of all, you have to use your bucks sparingly. If you find yourself purchasing a meal using BRB’s everyday, you have to know that it won’t be sustainable. Meals at Cornell from Mac’s Cafe/Terrace cost around 10-12 dollars, a killer to your BRB savings. Instead, opt for a small and cheaper snack (that you can easily purchase from Libe Cafe or Cafe Jennie) to hold you off until you make it to a dining hall for lunch or dinner. Buy a muffin, a latte, a pack of chips or some fruit! Anything under five dollars should keep your BRB account steady.

Secondly, avoid high-cost cafes like Terrace and Mac’s unless you are CRAVING something specific, or you are STARVED out of your mind after a prelim or long lecture. If you want to buy something from Mac’s or Terrace (I don’t blame you, the food is good), stick to just ordering an entrée like a sandwich or pasta, for example. When you arrive at Terrace, expect long lines. Cornell students have no issues with their endurance and can wait in line for over 20 minutes to order their burrito bowl. Also, Mac’s has a soda machine and water, so just bring your reusable bottle and you can get your drink for free.

Next, in order to conserve your BRB’s, avoid purchasing items easily found at the dining halls. Some people rave about Mac’s pasta or pizza and Terrace’s salads, but all these items can be found at almost any dining hall, everyday! Why would you spend your precious BRB’s items included with your meal plan? If you must, opt for the gyro station at Terrace or the sandwich station at Mac’s. If you’re spending BRB’s, at least spend them on something usually unavailable to you.

The Achilles heel of many Cornell students is their caffeine addiction. It seems like coffee is what depletes students’ BRB accounts the most.


Listen up: I know that college has normalized your caffeine addiction. Take this message (as well as your diminishing BRB balance) to understand that in order to have BRB’s left by the end of the semester, you cannot purchase an eight dollar coffee every day. Three days a week? Sure. But all seven? No way. For the sake of your BRB’s, please find another drink to hyper-fixate on…preferably water.

After talking to some friends, they explained to me that they like spending their BRB’s on “special occasions.” I sat there wondering — what special occasion would justify me spending 15 BRB’s on a sandwich and cookie from Mac’s Cafe? Instead, celebrate at a dining hall. Get yourself all the tiramisu and pizza you want from Morrison, all the chocolate chip cookies from Appel and all those delicious cherry chocolate cupcakes from Risley. I’m saving money just thinking about it!

Reva Rao is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].