Just when everyone seems to have gotten over the madness of Christmas and the piggy-bank busting disaster that is Valentine’s Day, spring rolls around the corner. With it, a host of new problems come to mind: “will I fit into my swimsuit from last year?” “How long can I put off working on my year-end essays?” Or, “Can I stand living off ramen noodles for a month?”

The problem is, many people have difficulty managing finances, savings, and most importantly, budgeting time so that they can still enjoy a bit of fun without freaking out over last-minute assignments. The best way to negotiate this as a student is to scrimp over the weekend and do more costly activities earlier in the week, allowing you to snag great deals and become a more efficient student.

Here’s where a bit of thoughtful planning comes in handy. Most people don’t realize that you can have fun without breaking the bank, and you can do it so that your homework doesn’t get overlooked. The idea of spending Monday nights out clubbing is usually the furthest thing from most people’s thoughts, but it is exactly this unusual way of conceptualizing your free time that can reap you the most benefits.

For example, imagine having your weekends off to sleep in, relax, and not be waking up hungover on a Saturday morning. Instead, getting together with some friends on a Monday night for some bowling not only maximizes on your wallet ($1.25 games at Splitsville Lanes), but allows you to spend more time socializing with friends (strengthening that all-important social solidarity that can get you through tough times. Ah, Sociology).

Secondly, planning your movie nights in advance can save you big bucks in your entertainment budget. The Galaxy Cinema off Rutherford Road offers cheap Tuesday night movies for about $8, and if you’re smart and snag a SCENE card, you get even more of a discount and can rack up points to see free movies. At the Avalon theatre they have a combo deal where your popcorn and drink are included in the cost of the ticket on Tuesdays, also making it a sweet deal.

Most people struggle to find time to fit in a workout over the week, and considering that the VIU campus is laid out like a concrete StairMaster, it’s probably not surprising to find yourself exhausted after hiking between your physical education and resource management classes. This is where planning to meet up with friends for a swim at the pool ($3 swim an hour before closing at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre), or attending a hot yoga karma class (by donation) later on in the evenings can reap you big benefits, both physically and mentally.

Sometimes, however, the best things are free: knowing where the best hikes can be found means you’ve got a great activity for a Saturday afternoon, and walking itself helps to energize the brain and stimulate the imagination, so you may just find yourself motivated enough to tackle that homework later on in the evening. While others are out blowing $50 at the clubs and pubs, you manage to get your work done over the weekend, have fun, and have new things to look forward to during the week.

Overall, doing a bit of research on what’s available in the community on a weekly and by-event basis can save you from the danger of boredom and save your wallet. Planning ahead not only forces you to keep better tabs on your assignments, but it also gives you a killer advantage when it comes to proposing great date ideas or parties. Check out Things Nanaimo <http://www.thingsnanaimo.com> to find out more about what’s happening around town and check out VIU campus events to learn more about what’s going on in your backyard.