Chained to the quad

Capital City Cheapo

With well over 50,000 students, faculty, and staff, the University of Texas at Austin is certainly a major reason for the continual influx of warm bodies into the city limits. Whether you’re a freshman with no mode of transportation, a super senior with no motivation, a research assistant with no money, or a tenured professor with no life, the big ol’ ball and chain of academics usually keeps the textbook-bound on a short leash.

Since breaking away can be difficult, expensive, and time consuming, it’s sometimes easier to find low-cost distractions closer to campus. Here are a few recent discoveries.

photo / 33mhz Ganesh watches over Ken’s Donuts 

Donuts aren’t ideal for curing a hangover, but they sure do taste good going down. Longtime Drag stronghold Ken’s Donuts (320-8484) will start your Saturday morn– err… afternoon off in a sugary haze. There’s a devout following of the sour cream cake donut, and by my count, the chocolate covered is also outstanding. The happiness you stand to gain from this bake shop is most definitely worth surrendering the two bucks in your jeans pocket.

Unfortunately, donuts will only sedate you momentarily, so pair a Ken’s outing with a stop at 7-Eleven (2600 Guadalupe) for nominally priced coffee. Yes, there are plenty of local joints to support in this town, but never forget that convenience and economy are your friends, too.

While we’re on the delightful subject of food binging, cheapskates who get the munchies will be happy to hear that That Popcorn Place is available for a midnight snack or midday distraction. The young business hasn’t paid Guadalupe rent long enough to become bitter and cynical, so the wait staff will happily scoop up a “snack size” (about three cups) of traditional popcorn for $1. Their gourmet line, which includes old faves like cheddar and more innovative samples like Texas Chili, is a measly $1.50.

When popcorn doesn’t fill the void, try the well-loved Tapioca House (482-9880). The Tap House (a term of endearment among bubble tea aficionados) blends a wide variety of excellent boba/bubble teas that can usually be paid for with the funds in your change purse. Enjoy those chewy little bits of tapioca goodness and save some cash by getting yourself a frequent flyer punch card.

I’m shoving all these budget food ideas in your face, so I suppose I should also make some sort of recommendation for exercise. When you’re indentured to the boundaries of UT and have no budget allotment for a gym membership, utilize Red River Street for your daily dose of cardio. Not only does Red River offer a free, uncrowded, and public (thus safe) running route, but the undulating road also provides equal parts challenging incline and downhill reprieve.

photo / bloomsberries Tap House 

Of course, if you don’t want to make this kind of commitment to your own body, you can always gawk as others push themselves to their physical limits. Most UT sporting events are incredibly affordable. Your bank account won’t support any Mack Brown sightings or autographs from Coach Barnes, but a number of lesser-respected (yet more respectable) Longhorn sports offer admission for dog cheap. Check out the UT Athletics website for more information. Many events (soccer, swimming, track) cost $1 or are free.

If I haven’t piqued your interest with food or exercise, maybe I can bend your ear with music? Staying true to Austin’s tuneful roots is 20-year-old Antone’s Record Shop, which can be found cozied up in a mini strip mall on the north end of the Drag. Dive into the dollar bins at this beloved vinyl store and thank your stars for Clifford Antone’s good taste.

We are quickly approaching the end of this column, but did you really think I would forget about your incessant need to check Facebook 162 times a day? Stay wireless without a $9.99 Internet day pass at any of the following: hassle-free Lava Java (495-9299) on Medical Arts, funky La Tazza Fresca (453-0403) on 37th Street, the contemplative JP’s Java on San Jacinto, or Fruth Street’s Spiderhouse, always guaranteed to be filled with beautiful people.

And last but certainly not least: the hunt for cheap beer. You never have to stray far from university life to be a glutton of stout and ale; however, I would highly recommend spending your Tuesday nights at Nasty’s. Two dollar pints and free pool all night. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Well my tightwad friends, here’s to intellectual stimulation. The quest for knowledge and the pursuit of higher education will probably leave you penniless and indebted to the government. Ironic, isn’t it?

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About Sarah Murray Sarah Murray is an Austin-based freelance writer and principal of Aerabela Brown Agency. Like everyone else in the world, she’s also working on a screenplay.


Anonymous's picture

That Popcorn Place is AWESOME. Get the candied chocolate!!!