With a limited student income being stretched to last eight months (September to April), saving becomes essential, so below are my seven tried and tested (and maybe even obvious) tips on saving money during the school year on a day-to-day basis:
1. Pack a lunch. – Not only do you save money but it also (hopefully) guarantees that you’ll be eating clean. If you’re currently a post secondary student you can attest with me when I say that the freshman 15 is not a myth made up to scare us, but the cold, hard reality if you’re living away from your parents while attending post-secondary. Eating out, whether for convenience or social purposes, drains your bank account. Avoid convenience eating by taking the time to meal prep at your house before heading to campus. Yes it takes more effort, planning and time but in the long run it’s worth it, and if you’re not one who habitually packs lunches or dinners, what better time then to start.
2. Skip Starbucks. – And I mean it. I want to inform you that your favourite grande, sugar free, non-fat, no foam, extra caramel, with whip, caramel macchiato is in fact sucking money out of your bank account faster than you can drink your beverage. The average price of a latte is just below $5.00. Your student budget can’t actually (or maybe shouldn’t be able to) handle your tri-weekly, every week Starbucks consumption patterns, regardless of how good it tastes. Even if you make the room in your budget for your Starbucks order, your limited spending money could be allocated to a lower-calorie, lower-price tag commodity. Ideally, making a tea or coffee in a to-go travel mug before leaving your house is the most economically friendly option. However, sometimes this isn’t always realistic, so if you insist on grabbing coffee while on campus, make it a tea or a plain, straight up coffee, to avoid the temptation of drinking away your day’s spending cash before lunchtime even rolls around. And just think, not only will your wallet be thanking you, but your waistline as well; it’s a win-win all around.
3. Learn how to have a financially responsible good time. – I live with six other students while I’m away at school which means that there is a lot going on, a lot of the time. Most of the time (because we’re not that exciting) it means binge watching whatever Netflix series we have on the go at that moment, but other times it means going out; whether to the movies, a bar, or a restaurant. As much as you want to be included in the fun, sometimes your budget just can’t handle it. Know and be aware of when you can and cannot say yes to going out. Also, don’t be afraid to be the one to suggest a different type of going out and a group activity that doesn’t involve spending. Have you ever heard of playing at the park? Seriously, try it. Dust off your ten-year-old self, and trek off to the park with a football, a few baseball gloves or a frisbee – we do it all the time at my house, and it’s great.
4. Pre-drink or skip the drinks altogether. – Your wallet, your liver, and your head will be thanking you when you wake up the next morning sans-hangover with zero regrets, an intact memory and a wallet full of cash. Learn how to have a good time sober – it’s not as hard as it sounds, I promise. I’m not saying throw in the towel altogether on drinking, but limit when and how much you consume, and when you do drink, pre-drink before going out and avoid buying drinks at the bar or club whenever possible.
5. Take public transit. – Depending on where you live and the how great the public transit system is, take advantage of it while it’s at your disposal. After post-secondary, you might have to have a car for your job and public transit just won’t be an option. But in the meantime, it eliminates paying for crazy expensive parking on campus. Plus as a student, with all the other expenses you’re paying for, insurance, gas and parking should not be one of them when there are other, cheaper alternatives.
6. Grocery shop with a purpose. – Going into a grocery store without a list screams overspending; it’s always good to know what you plan on buying before you leave the house. While you may enter the grocery store with good intentions, more likely than not, you’ll pay for your groceries with a heap of regrets as the grand total far exceeds your allotted grocery budget for the week.
7. Utilize point cards. – Unleash your inner savvy saver and sign up for point cards. It’s usually free, easy and they’ll be mailed straight to your house. Now with mobile smart phone apps such as Stocard you don’t even have to carry all your point cards with you, which lightens up your wallet and keeps them organized in one place. Some cards collect points, some save you money, and some provide special access to deals. Whatever the perks, saving money feels great. I’m a huge fan of PC Plus which earns points when you shop at Loblaws or any affiliated grocery store and SCENE which earns you points that are redeemable at Cineplex.
The moral of the story is that in order to be smart with your money you have to know what’s smart for you. Don’t jump on board the money spending train unless it’s something you truly want to do, something that is truly justified or something that your budget will allow for. The money you choose to spend each and every day are small decisions, which may seem insignificant in the moment, but are the ones that lay down your habitual spending patterns and, in it’s totality, combine together to result in significant savings or lack there of.