I was going over my finances for the previous semester, wondering where all my hard-earned cash had disappeared to. Did someone hack into my bank account and drain me of my life source? Maybe I dropped my debit card somewhere and some lucky person has been tapping away around Toronto. Nope. My lack of funds was due to some questionable spending habits.
Being a student, running around campus between classes, office hours, and extracurricular commitments, sometimes I’m stressed and buy things to fulfill my immediate needs. I buy food when I’m hungry. Even though I know eating out is substantially more expensive than cooking at home, when I’m hungry I’ve got to eat. How do I resolve this? How can I stop being a slave to my senses, and take my finances into my own hands? To solve this, I turned to the internet for guidance.
While some advice on the world wide web is too troublesome to implement in my day to day life, there are resources that provide tips for smart financial planning. I probably will not be pursuing a 100% waste-free, minimalist lifestyle, but I do know my way around an Excel spreadsheet.
Some things I learned
I spend an unnecessary amount of money on food. There were weeks last semester where I ate out almost everyday. Ouch. This usually happened when I was tired and hungry, but had no food readily available at home. My spending issue ended up being a planning issue.
This semester I’ve decided to implement a meal-prepping system. I’ve started with a simple penne pasta dish, overnight oatmeal, and salmon with quinoa for dinner. Here’s my cost-breakdown for one meal of penne pasta, rounded up for simplicity:
- Bag of penne pasta: $4.00. 900g (dry) – I eat about 120g/serving. That’s $0.53/ serving
- Sauce: on sale for $2.00. I love sauces so I typically use 1/4 (rounded up) of the container. That’s another $0.50/ serving
- Seasoning: One bag of oregano cost me $3.00. I use a couple of pinches of that per serving.
- Salt: I bought a box of salt a in first year and am still using it. I’ve heard salt is bad for your health so I try to cut it out of my diet
- Vegetable: While I can make a passable meal, I’m no chef. I don’t know how to incorporate the vegetables in the pasta dish, so I usually just chop some up and eat them as a side. A box of spinach costs me $4.00, and I use a handful of the leafy greens per serving.
I’ve had a tough time sticking to some plans. Sometimes, planning is too optimistic. Other times, I’m a slave to my senses and just order some take out. I think the key to ensure my plan is followed is being realistic and finding balance. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just look at my credit card statements again.
As evident in my rough cost breakdown for the wonderful (albeit plain) meal of penne pasta with a side of vegetables, the cost per serving ends up being less than $5.00, given my rounding up of figures. Sure beats going broke by eating out.