As the holiday season had come and gone, I couldn’t help but notice the same trend happening with my Christmas cash and the money I had saved up in my bank account. I blame a combination of exam stress and seasonal spending. Instead of making my meals, I was ordering pizza, sushi and late night takeout just so the hassle of grocery shopping, food preparation and cooking would not get in the way of precious study time. However… as exam time ended and the winter break came, I found myself getting used to those frivolous spending habits and embraced the cost of convenience. I never really noticed how much those nights out and dinners with friends could easily add up! Before I knew it, I hadn’t made a trip to the grocery store in weeks, bought new clothing in favour of doing laundry, and took advantage of several boxing week sales. (Speaking of which, it doesn’t help that stores have generously extended these offers to represent the likes of a boxing month of sales.)
Eventually, as school mode trickled in I came to realize that the vacation was over. If I was going to get used to student life once again, I would have to start spending (or more like saving) on a student budget. Thankfully, student status gets you several discounts that many people do not know about or take advantage of. I know my own personal spending problems and have made myself a plan of action by looking into a couple of offers and options that I could incorporate into my newly minted student saving status. Hopefully, if you can relate, you’ll find them just as helpful!
FOOD & HEALTH
When I was in first year, I was fortunate enough to live in residence, which came complete with a meal plan. With the swipe of a card I was able to get a hot meal, cold drink, or snack whenever I wanted. Living off-campus this year has forced me out of this cushy lifestyle and I have learned to make all of my own meals. Before the days I had a meal plan, I was used to home cooked meals and rarely had to cook for myself. To tell you the truth, I knew nothing about cooking and had lots to learn. I know people who make instant meals à la ramen and microwavables and that is the extent of their cooking (I’ve been there…). Although I’ve upgraded from this, I still find myself making repetitive meals and I wish I could add variety. On top of that, living downtown makes it so much easier to eat out since there are food places everywhere and hot dog vendors on nearly every corner! One of my particular vices is spending way too much on lattés.
Plan of Action:
- Hart House offers cooking classes that can teach you kitchen basics and offer you options
- A quick search showed me a variety of recipes that cater to students that need a quick and healthy fix.
- The AC and Hart House offer free classes as well as workout facilities and machines that every student should take advantage of as much as they can. Remember – your student fees have already paid for this!
- Brew your own coffee. If you need to get fancy, look up recipes to your favourite drinks and try making them at home. Here’s a recipe for one of my favourites: pumpkin spice lattes!
BEAUTY & ENTERTAINMENT
It is an undeniable fact that we live in a world where everyone feels the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and have the latest and greatest. Being downtown, it’s especially difficult not to get caught up in trends and spend money on them. We can blame a lot of it on marketing geniuses who can sell us things we absolutely must have even though we lived fine before having it. It’s not a bad thing to indulge sometimes, keep up with appearances and be in the know.
Plan of Action:
- Look out for free events hosted by the university. Most, if not all colleges offer free pancake breakfasts or $1 pizza events. Getting involved can not only score you free food, but you will be able to meet new people and gain experience from it.
- The UTSU offers discounted movie tickets as well as other entertainment discounts. On Tuesdays, movies are usually half off anyway and since my Tuesday schedule is relatively free I will definitely be taking advantage! The UTSU even offers a Studentsaver card that can get you discounts to several places in Toronto (it’s like an SPC card but comes FREE with the student planners and frosh kits they give you at the beginning of the year)
- Don’t underestimate the Toronto Public Library. It’s not only a place to study and do research. Public libraries often have a section for magazines, DVDs and other fun things that you can browse for free and even borrow after the circulation loan period becomes free.
- Need a haircut, colour and style? Many salons can easily charge upwards of $50-$100 on their services. However, Marvel beauty salon in Yorkville offers discounted services because they are a beauty school that needs people to come in and give their students experience. Many of these students already work at high end salons and will give you these services for as low as $10. I once got a cut, colour, and style for as little as $35!
- I fortunately get my taxes handled by my parents every year. However, U of T offers free services when it comes time for taxes and is definitely a great resource to check out.
- There is also a FREE upcoming session at Wilson Lounge at New College on Thursday, January 27 called Financial Survival for Student Families. Students have also been sending in savings tips that are being posted on the FCO blog.
- Cynthia previously wrote about the importance of having an emergency fund, which I am definitely thinking of starting as soon as possible! I am thinking of starting one with ING bank since the fact that they have very few branches plays in my favour; allowing me to actually save my money and think twice before transferring it over to my bank account and spending it instantly.
- Last but not least, I know many students do not really function on a budget or know how to do so. I recently started getting into a free online tool called Mint.com that allows you to connect with your bank, track your spending habits, create a budget and see your trends. It’s really great for beginners and visual learners. It even has its own iPhone app. You have to be comfortable giving your bank info, though they say they are completely secure. Take a look and see if it’s right for you.
So there you have it. These are only a few ways that you can save money and get in the habit of making informed decisions about money matters. Hopefully I will be able to put some of them into practice and even save up for a great summer getaway.