By Angela Fogeron
Do bank machines always beep every time you try to withdraw? Do your friends carry around stacks of IOU’s? Are your parents answering your calls with “How much do you need now?” Maybe you don’t really need more money. Maybe you need to know how to spend it better.
Don’t worry, here’s help.
Budget, and do it realistically. If you know you’re bad at handling money check out a free financial counselling service offered by the Financial Aid and Awards Office.
Aid officer Karen Takenaka recommend writing down every cent you spend for a few months to see exactly where those precious student dollars going. Add’em up and break down the figures into categories such as food, rent, books, transportation, utilities, entertainment and miscellaneous. Compare your expenses with your(anticipated) income for the school year and draw up a budget.
Find a cheap place to live. Forget about living independently unless you’re independently wealthy.
Toronto has the second highest rent in the country. If you’re female, you’re in luck. You can apply to live in the women’s residence at Church and Granby. For less than $100 a month(including cable, heat and water) you can have your own room and share a bathroom and kitchen with no more than four other females.
Free furniture? Ask your building super where you should put large stuff meant for the dumpster, and check back every few days for anything reusable. Tune into ads around school. People move, graduate or need cash fast to pay tuition and rent.
Ask for free posters from movie stores or try wallpapering your room with x-rays from a local hospital.
Stay away from expensive downtown apartment stores for household items. A TTC trip to Zellers or Wal-Mart is well worth it. Kitchen Stuff Plus, South of bloor on Yonge has the best prices for contemporary kitchen and bathroom accessories.
For cheap books, the Used Book Room and bulletin boards around campus are the places to shop. Most people are willing to sell a microeconomics or history text well below cost just to get rid of the bad memories of the class. For English lit’ novels and other related texts look at libraries first or try used book stores that sell at half off. Try MVB (next to the World’s Biggest Bookstore) or sit down and peruse a book at Chapters where reading before buying is encouraged. For free books, CD’s and movie passes, volunteer at the campus paper or radio station as a reviewer.
Never pay full price for musicals. Most major shows in the city have student prices or last minute cheap seats.
A concert is never really sold out, but if you’re stuck looking for concert tickets the morning of, be prepared pay the scalpers salary.
Risk waiting until 10 minutes before the concert begins and you can usually get tix for less than half the printed price.
Better yet, wait until the concert has begun. Scalpers are usually desperate to get rid of tickets but you have to bargain and beware of fake tickets!
Drink at home before you go out and save enough to repeat the party the next night. Save even more by making your own beer and wine. When you do go out, buy draught not bottles.
For penny pinching prices on canned and packaged food, shop No Frills at Parliament and Carleton. The cheapest places for fruit and veggies are Kensington Market and Chinatown (one block west of Spadina and Dundas). It’s dirty — for cheap fun, play name-that-smell on a hot summer day — but it’s definitely a place to get a deal.
Forego the morning trip to Starbucks. Buy a coffee maker and an insulated thermos instead. Buying one regular cup of coffee every morning on the way to class means you are dishing out $160 a year on beans.
The same goes with lunches. Don’t buy. Brown bag it. Plan a potluck. Invite friends and organize the event so you don’t have 10 pasta salads. If you’ve cut back in all areas of your budget and still can’t fill the fridge, get free food at the RyeSAC food bank in room A63.
Never pay full price for clothes. Take advantage of a store’s cash-back policy. If something goes on sale two weeks after you paid full price, go back with your receipt and they’ll refund the difference. Shop at the end of the season or find factory outlets for your favorite brands. Get cheap trendy clothes and basics like socks and tees at Army-Navy surplus stores or pay a bit more to get new-to-you clothing at Kensington shops. Silverstein’s on Spadina at Dundas has great deals on Calvin Klein underwear for men and women. If you don’t mind sifting through color coordinated racks you can always find really cheap clothes are Goodwill and the Salvation Army.
Get as many free cosmetic samples as you can. From MAC make-up samples to Klein perfume vials, they’re all free. Some beauty counters even offer free make-up applications. If you can’t give up your weekly facial you don’t mind being a guinea pig, try a beauty school (have no fear the instructor is just around the corner). You can get cheapie manicures, haircuts, massages and facials (check in the yellow pages).
Pets can be expensive. Take advantage of walking a Metro Toronto Humane Society dog (or two) and return it at the end of the day. If you absolutely fall in love with the four-legged friend you can take him home $100 (including all shots and microchip identification). Cats are $75.
Finally, slow down. Take careful thought with every purchase to decide if it’s worth the price.