Whether you’ve never lived away from home before or you’re a self-sufficient pro, managing your finances can be a constant battle. Treating yourself to a nice fancy coffee before an exam can be OK, but not if you’re doing it every day. And is it really in your budget at all? We’ve put together a list of steps to living a cheaper life so you can avoid the moment of panic when you realize you only have $4.80 in your bank account (definitely not speaking from experience).
1. Track your expenses for a month
That’s it. No cutting back, no give and take, just tracking. If you’re aware of what you’re spending your money on then it’ll be easy to determine what’s a necessity and what’s a luxury.
2. Use that list of expenses to set a budget
Now that you know what you’re spending your money on it’ll be easier to see the dead weight. I recommend drawing a line down a sheet of paper, and on one side writing all the things you must pay for (i.e. rent, hydro, car payments, phone bill, etc.), and on the other side writing down all the money you make in a month. You can include groceries here, but the grocery store is one of the easiest places to drastically cut your spending, so try and challenge yourself to make it as small as possible. Subtract your mandatory expenses from your income (or the portion of your school income) and you have your expendable income. That’s how much you get to spend on things like nights out and coffee.
Note: If you’re living off savings from the summer, decide how much your emergency fund will be, and then divide the remaining money by how many months of school you have left.
3. Cut the extra costs
Look at that initial list and figure out what’s unnecessary. When I did this I was shocked and appalled by the amount that I was spending on late-night Subway. What are you buying that isn’t really making you happier? The more you can cut your costs the more fun money you get. Read on to find some ways to cut those costs.
4. Brew your own
Coffee is such an integral part of the university experience, yet it’s so expensive. Invest in some nice beans from your favourite coffee shop or grocery store and a good travel mug. It’ll taste great and save you $$.
5. Shop smartly
If you can cut down on your grocery money you’ll have more “fun” money. Make an effort to shop on Tuesdays (10% discount for students) or pick up your produce from the DSU Market in the SUB. Meat and cheese are expensive, so buy them when they’re on sale. Or, if you can find substitutes you’ll save so much money. Try to shop the outside aisles of the grocery store and stay away from processed foods—they’re more expensive and less healthy.
6. Spend less when you’re out
Let’s face it, going out can be super expensive. We’re not saying you should never go out—you need to have fun—but either cut back on what you’re ordering or limit the number of times you go out. Along those same lines, treat yourself to take-out occasionally, but try to cook your own food as much as possible. We’ve posted a few articles with cheap recipes, but places like Tasty or Pinterest are also great resources if you haven’t mastered the whole cooking thing yet.
7. Brown-bag it
Are you always hungry on campus mid-day? Do you spend an obscene amount of money at Tim’s or Pete’s? Packing lunch can make a huge difference (leftovers make a great lunch). Not only does it make sure you aren’t eating processed junk, it’s also way less expensive. If you’re in a huge rush and forgot to pack lunch, the Loaded Ladle in the SUB is another great option. Alternatively, try to find meetings on campus offering free food. Society AGM season is amazing for this.
8. Be a buyer and seller
9. Search for bargains
Milk the student discounts. Ask literally everywhere because there are more places that offer them than you’d imagine. Even a few dollars add up.
10. Don’t rack up the interest
Pay off your credit card right away if you’re able. Paying interest if you don’t have to is literally throwing money out the window (or, to the bank).
We hope this list helped you find a new way to set budgets and save money! Have any amazing cost-cutting tips? Leave them in the comments below.
Dani’s new year resolution was to pack lunch more often.