Bird’s-eye View

An Opinions Q&A Column Exploring Curiosities

Graphic by Mary Kroeck

Graphic by Mary Kroeck

Mary Kroeck

Q: I’m a student trying to be thriftier this year so I’ll have more money to pay my student loans when I graduate. Do you have any tips?


An Almost Graduate

Dear Almost Graduate,

This is a great question and one that I’ve investigated often for myself. My motto has become “No savings is too small!” If I find a penny on the street, it goes in the piggy bank.

Here are some other tips:

1)   Do your best to not get sucked into trends. Those $50 cowgirl boots might look super cute today, but looking like you just walked off the set of “Nashville” might not appeal to you in a month. Before you buy anything ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Can I live without it?” If you don’t really need it, be proud of yourself for walking away.

2)   Shop at stores that reward you for shopping. Many retailers offer rewards for shopping at their stores and what you save can really add up. Stores like CVS, Walgreens, K-Mart and Best Buy offer rewards for purchases either in the form of points you can redeem for purchases or in savings coupons. There’s also an app I really like called Shopkick. It’s free and you earn points just by walking into stores, scanning certain products and giving feedback or making purchases. You can redeem these points for e-gift cards to retailers like Target, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble. I’ve been using it for a while and though most certificates I’ve redeemed have been in the $5 – $10 range, every little bit helps. In that vein, don’t be embarrassed to use coupons, search for coupon codes and look for discount items which are generally found on the end caps of retail stores.  

3)   Take advantage of free services on campus! Instead of spending $12 on the latest movie release, check out a movie on campus. Many organizations hold movie nights and NEIU is home to the Northwest Film Society, which shows classic films every week. Admission is $2 with a valid NEIU ID. If you’re in the mood for a theater outing or concert, check the upcoming events. NEIU students can get free tickets to Stage Center Theatre performances. If you can, use the recreation center instead of paying for a gym membership. You can even get free food including, fruits and vegetables, from the campus food pantry! NEIU has tons of great stuff to help you save some dollars and still have fun.

Happy Saving!

Q: Valentine’s Day is around the corner and I love chocolate. However, I recently read that many chocolate companies use child labor or slaves to harvest cocoa crops. Are there any ethical chocolate companies that don’t use child laborers or slaves?


Ms. Sweettooth

Dear Ms. Sweettooth,

Yes, it is true candy companies like Hershey’s, Mars, Nestlé and even Godiva, have all come under fire for unacceptable labor practices in regards to how they grow and harvest cacao beans (cocoa) for their chocolate. I was outraged when I heard about this and thankfully, there are several companies that are much more ethical. However, the chocolate tends to be more expensive and harder to find. Labeling can be super confusing since “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “child labor or slave free.”

From what I’ve been able to find, companies that tout the “Fair Trade” and “Rainforest Alliance Certified” labels on their labels bars should be okay. From what I’ve researched, it seems that having both of these labels means that the company knows where their cocoa is coming from, know how the farmers are being treated and pledge to give them a livable wage for their work. They also care for the environment in which the cocoa is harvested. Some brands that have been approved by more than one slave free chocolate list such as Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List updated Jan. 21, 2016 include Divine, available at Whole Foods Market and Newman’s Own, available at Mariano’s. Vosges, which has retail stores in Chicago, also confirmed to The Independent via e-mail that they, and their sister brand, Wild Ophelia, are ethical chocolate companies. Of course, labels can also be misleading, and companies continually change their policies, so it’s up to the consumer to really do their homework and make sure the labels are right, which is a daunting task.

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*Please note: If you are in crisis or have an immediate health issue, please seek help from a health care professional. The Independent may not respond to every question in print or via e-mail. Please utilize resources on campus, such as counseling services and student health, or see your healthcare provider for issues regarding mental and physical wellness.