Consuming Media in a Consumer Culture Student-Style

How to Preserve Your Pop Culture Dignity on a Student Budget

Cassandra Zwart/Illustration

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You know the feeling: It's that time of the week (or month) when you've resorted to eating stale Cheez-Its and drinking whatever bottle of cranberry juice is shoved in the back of the refrigerator, and you finally decide to suck it up and head to the grocery store. After filling your cart with the essentials (mixed greens for some, ramen noodles for others), you unload your precious cargo and swipe your card, only to be humiliated when it "doesn't go through." It worked last time, so why not now? Don't I have enough money in my account? Have I reached my limit?

The bill comes later: $40 concert ticket, $20 two-disc compilation, $9 movie ticket, $400 guitar, $12 IMAX ticket, $4 DVD rental and $50 iTunes card. And everything was totally worth it. So, what now? You can't sacrifice pop culture passions for Trader Joe's.

But maybe a compromise wouldn't be so bad. As far as movies are concerned, attending a matinee rather than an evening showing is often less expensive. If you're not worried about when you see a movie, check out SUPERB's Friday Night Film Series; you get the big-screen feel at a cost-effective price. The only catch is that you have to wait a couple months after the movie has premiered. Cheaper still is the Media Resources Center in Moffitt Library, which is especially convenient for watching older movies. The library has access to hundreds of DVDs and tapes, and you're already paying for it in your tuition anyway, so why not? You have to watch your selection on the premises and use headphones, but it's a small price to pay for no price to pay.

What about music? You might be surprised to learn that iTunes occasionally discounts many albums (and movies, for that matter), much like big retail stores do when they want to get rid of old electronic merchandise. Plus, Telegraph Avenue is home to two of the most obvious used CD meccas, Rasputin and Amoeba, so it's pretty difficult to go wrong with such an extensive selection right under your nose. Both of those stores also sell vinyl, which isn't as popular anymore and generally very inexpensive. B-Side Records, on Dwight Way, also has some rather eclectic records to bolster your budding collection. So go ask a family member for their old record player and start spinning or scratching or whatever the kids are doing these days.

If you want to invest in an instrument but are short on the dough, check out The Starving Musician on Shattuck. This place is packed with used instruments (including percussion!), strings, picks, sheet music, and probably a lot of other things that aren't even visible when you walk in. And the Berkeley Musical Instrument Exchange on Adeline offers a smaller selection of classical instruments.

Finally, don't forget to flash that student ID! It never hurts to let venues, stores, and even concession stands know that you're a student. Chances are good that the person helping you with your purchase was once in your same situation and will be more than willing to at least try to save you a few bucks. Pretty soon, with that nice Berkeley degree under your belt, you'll be able to splurge again on shows at Shoreline and iPods at the Apple store. There really is a light at the end of the Berkeley tunnel. Until then, though, you've definitely got to work with what you have and save a little room for the occasional Safeway run.

Splurge on a new drum set with Stefanie at [email protected]

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