Soft-covers and so much more: Wahrenbrock's bookstore downtown can't help you cut corners on the cost of glossy hard-cover textbooks, but when it comes to classics-Thoreau, Plato, Dickens and such-it's the place to go. It's San Diego's oldest used bookstore and this city's closest thing to Shakespeare & Co. (look it up). On a recent visit, we found Walden by the aforementioned New England philosopher for between $3 and $4.75. Plato's Republic, $4. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (which we, in our grad-school days, bought for god knows how much): $8.50. Other fun titles often required for character-building liberal arts courses: Sartre's Being & Nothingness; Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Ann Douglas' Feminization of American Culture. And, for your bedside table: Everything You Need to Know to Succeed in College, only $4.50. 726 Broadway, Downtown, 619-232-0132.
Get a membership at Costco: $45 per year (go in with five friends at $9 each). Buy bulk and split it up-everything from Top Ramen to tampons. If you shop there on weekends, it's a smorgasbord of free food samples-enough for lunch and then some. 2345 Fenton Pkwy, Mission Valley, 619-358-4000; 4605 Morena Blvd., Clairemont, 619-270-7601.
Make the re-sale rounds in Hillcrest: Collect your old clothes, shoes and handbags and trade them in for store credit or cash at Rags, Flashbacks and Buffalo Exchange. Don't abuse the system, though-trendy, vintage items appeal most to these stores' buyers. Your Creed T-shirt with the stained pits-uh, no. Rags, 534 University Ave., 619-297-6988; Flashbacks, 3847 Fifth Ave., 619-291-4200; Buffalo Exchange, 3862 Fifth Ave., 619-298-4411 (also in Pacific Beach, 1007 Garnet Ave., 858-273-6227).
You didn't hear this from us, but Embassy Suites hotels offer a free breakfast buffet and free happy-hour snackies. You're supposed to show your room key, but smile big, tip bigger and cross your fingers. Oh, and look respectable, too. And then to ward off the bad karma, when Mom and Dad come to town, suggest they stay there. (If you're that desperate for free food, you can find the locations yourself.)
House of Blues 2 for Tuesdays: Sign up at www.hob.com and on Tuesdays you'll get a list of upcoming shows (usually those for which tickets aren't flying) with a buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer. Sign up to receive Landmark Theatre's weekly e-mail and get info on advance screenings and other deals: www.landmarktheatres.com
Ride the Coaster to Oceanside: It's a cheap-date, get-out-of-town thing. For $5.25, take the Amtrak Coaster from downtown's Santa Fe depot, along the coast and clear to the northern tip of the county. 'Tis a whole other world up there. www.gonctd.com
Legoland for less: Looking to do something touristy with the friends and family? Go to www.sandiego.org (San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau), scroll down a wee bit and you'll find links for coupons to attractions, restaurants and shopping.
Volunteer at the Old Globe Theatre as an usher. Sure, you'll spend most of your time helping senior citizens find their seats, but once the lights go down, it's a free show. If the Old Globe isn't your thing, check around with some of the more avant-garde theaters in town to see if they need volunteers.
Affordable meals with a side of enlightenment: The Hare Krishna temple in Pacific Beach serves international fare Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m. in their temple room. $5. Open house and vegetarian feast on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. (donation encouraged).
Cheap(er) or free concert tickets: If you're willing to miss the first couple songs, wait outside that big sold-out show and look needy. Tell the scalper that $75 for the pit ticket is too steep for a starving college student and then offer him $20. It works; we've tried it. If it's an open-air venue, sit outside and take in the tunes. Most bands aren't much to look at, anyhow. And you never know when Jethro Tull's drummer's wife will walk up to you and hand over a couple of free tickets because two of her friends couldn't make it.
I'll bring the wood, you bring the marshmallows: Fuel bonfire beach parties on Fiesta Island with wood pallets left in the alleys behind retail shops. Disclaimer: CityBeat advocates safe and legal bonfires and won't be held responsible for anything otherwise.
Culture for Less
Thursday night is the thing: The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art has two locations-one on the pricier side of town (La Jolla) and another downtown. The downtown location is always free (small donation is appreciated by the museum and encouraged by us), so be sure to stop in and check out their eclectic display of visual stimulation. Every first Thursday the museum hosts a special event called the Thursday Night Thing, which draws hipsters like flypaper draws flies and includes a cash bar and live performances by local dancers, musicians and artists. The La Jolla location overlooks the ocean, and exhibits are free on the third Tuesday of the month. (www.mcasd.org)
Free Tuesdays in Balboa Park: Not only an amazing place to spend a Sunday afternoon, Balboa Park is also home to numerous art and history museums. The Spanish architecture makes visitors feel like tourists in their own city. Explore ancient remains and mummies at the Museum of Man or watch small model trains get into accidents with even smaller model people at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Check out the IMAX Theatre at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center while taking the opportunity to learn about new technological creations. Many of the museums have student discounts, and every Tuesday several are free. Check for the free museum listings in CityBeat's calendar or visit www.balboapark.org.
Cruise Ray Street: On the second Saturday of the month, different artists' work is featured in over 20 participating galleries and shops. Meet and greet the artists and enjoy (free!) light refreshments on North Park's Ray Street (south off University Avenue).
Museum month: Every February, arts institutions and museums open their doors for half price to celebrate Museum Month. These museums include the Birch Aquarium (La Jolla) and the flowery wonders of Quail Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).
Free film screenings and other low-cost cultural events: Voz Alta performance and art space: www.vozalta.com; San Diego Public Library (free films screen Mondays at 6:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.); Sip This! Coffeehouse (films shown outdoors) www.sipthis.net; Media Arts Center San Diego (open screening nights for independent short films) www.mediaartscenter.org
-Kelly "I Pick Up Pennies" Davis and Rachel "Free Buffets Rock!" Jones
Get off your assIn a city where the temperature drops from a skin-sizzling 90 degrees to the drafty mid-60s, there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn't venture outside the smoke-filled haze of your cleverly decorated dorm room (especially if those decorations include a gaggle of giggling freshman girls). But if you tire of beer pong and Elimidate reruns and are looking for a more natural way to darken your skin's pasty hue than a pricey tanning bed, here are some suggestions:
Hiking: San Diego's coastline offers spectacular views from vantage points other than the obvious option of a sandy deck chair saddled with a Corona bottle. Torrey Pines State Reserve features 2,000 acres of cliffs, canyons, mesas, beaches and wetlands (not to mention a rare species of pine tree indigenous to the area) that can be explored along trails ranging from a 15-minute walk to a two-and-a-half-hour hike (www.torreypine.org; 858-755-2063). If you're looking for some fresh-water action, venture inland to Lake Hodges. Keep an eye out for Hodgee, the local version of the Loch Ness monster, as you stroll along this reservoir populated with boaters, fishermen and more than 200 species of birds. (www.sannet.gov/water/ recreation/hodges.shtml).
Biking: For those eternally grateful for the invention of the wheel, San Diego's trails can be explored more quickly (though treacherously) on a bike. Stay in the city and explore Mission Trails Regional Park, which has a paved road running along San Diego River as well as some more challenging trail riding options (www.mtrp.org; 619-668-3281). Or, get out of the city and check out Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. An East Loop and a West Loop of 12.5 to 17 miles are perfect for riders of varying abilities and offer views of Lake Cuyamaca, meadows and some of San Diego's largest trees. Many of the trails have now reopened following last year's Cedar Fire (www.cuyamaca.statepark.org; 760-765-3020). For those with bulging calves and a reckless spirit, Noble Canyon boasts 19 miles of scenery, rocky ledges and oak-shaded canyons. (www.mountainbikebill.com/NobleCanyon.htm)
Surfing: After working up a sweat, grab your board and jump in the ocean, dude. Take off Cali-style on some sick waves at Black's Beach in La Jolla or Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach. Beginners can avoid pissing off the locals by choosing more mellow locations like Termaline in Pacific Beach or Swamis in Encinitas. If you're craving a good ass-whooping, however, you can always get one by bodysurfing the beach-pounding breaks at Windansea in La Jolla-just be prepared to munch on sand kernels for the next few days.
Got the gear?: If you can afford the necessary gear, snowboarders can get some decent rides at Big Bear or Snow Summit, both resorts at Big Bear Mountain, a three-hour drive northeast. Kayaking, sport fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving and wakeboarding are some other more pricey options. Just put it on Grandpa's tab.
For the lazy: If your exercise consists of raising a beer mug to your lips, try to at least make it down to the beach for a game of horseshoes or beach volleyball. Volleyball courts are at Mission Beach and Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are perfect for horseshoes. Chances are the pretty, giggly group of freshmen will follow right behind you. And you won't even have to put down that beer.
-Rachel "Just Do It" Jones