Evan Benton, Staff Writer

My friends and I used to joke around when heading off, four or five guys to a car, on our weekly exodus to Chipotle.

We’d all get burritos and then, when asked how we were planning to pay, flash our green and gold student IDs and confidently state, “Freedom, please.”

In which case the cashier would look at us quizzically and we’d front some Jacksons. Or, in my case, nine or 10 Washingtons.

Great joke.

But now things are different; sort of. Now we can use Mason Money, George Mason University’s debit card system, at Chipotle as well as many other places — and not just restaurants, either.

To put the concept of Mason Money in a nutshell, one simply goes to the Mason Money office (or any of the five Card Management stations on campus) deposits any sum, and this money goes on the student’s account, immediately accessed by swiping those handy ID cards.

Now, if one wanted, they can take their cards and get a carnitas burrito.

And although I don’t know many people with a Mason Money account, the fact that Mason is making an off-campus meal as easy as one, two, swipe is a welcome effort.

Chipotle, especially the particular one on Lee Highway, has been one of the most popular off-campus dining destinations — to use some contemporary Kanye hyperbole — ever.

I’ve been there and seen more Mason students eating Mexican than enrolled in my COMM 451 class. I’ve seen friends bring back Chipotle gift cards and apparel that they got for Christmas.

I’ve even seen a Facebook group devoted to the adoration for a particular Lee Highway Chipotle employee known for the gigantic mole on her face.

So Mason, never an institution missing the opportunity to make a quick buck, has seen the chance again, encouraging students and patrons to use their Mason Money instead of a bank or credit card.

Hey, maybe we can stave off some of the damage taken from the budget cuts!

But if you’re not into burritos, burrito bowls or tacos, you’re not completely out of luck.

University Mall, the shopping center off Braddock Road, contains campus mainstays all around that now take Mason Money. Go get a Big Mac or two at McDonalds, or a Jim Larranaga burger at Brion’s Grille (It’s got banana peppers!)

Now, Mason Money can even buy a movie at the University Mall theaters. Now the crazies that frequent Rocky Horror may triple!

Using Mason’s debit system helps keep your finances together, while giving the school a little profit.

While the days of using meal plans and Freedom off-campus are still far in the future, a swipe of the Mason ID can finally purchase some real food.