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The Daily Struggles of a Thrifty Student

Written by Phaedra Corrente

You’re in line at Starbucks. With a thirst that can only be satiated by monstrously-priced mounds of sugar, milk, and flavoured syrups, you order a venti vanilla bean frappuccino. At $4.75, only a dollar more than the tall, you figure that it’s the most economical option. Pleased with your own monetary prowess, you readily extend your five dollar bill towards the cashier.

She suddenly says, “That’ll be $5.60.”

Your heart sinks with a gut-wrenching thud, your disappointment immeasurable. The five dollar bill crumples in your now clammy hand. How could this happen?! You ask yourself. How could I forget the tax?! With reluctance, you assess your new choices:

a) Opt for a tall frappuccino.

b) Ask the person behind you for an extra sixty cents.

c) Wonder why you went to Starbucks in the first place.

d) Cry.

Somehow, you end up doing all four. You leave the Starbucks with tears welling in your eyes, a sad-looking tall frappuccino slumping in your hand. You curse the damned establishment for all eternity—and maybe the guy behind you who didn’t give you sixty cents.

This situation, my friends, is a mere dramatization of a very real issue: impoverished student living. Despite that glaring hyperbole, this concept is quite real and extremely troublesome for us students. As young people, we often strive for a pleasant social life and having nice things. We like video games. We like music. We like going to Wonderland. We like frappuccinos. The problem, of course, is that a teen’s idea of having fun usually costs money. Even South Park agrees:

“Don’t you know the first law of physics? Anything that’s fun costs at least eight dollars.” —Eric Cartman, South Park, S.9 Ep.12

Whether it’s going to the mall, attending a concert, playing laser tag, or watching a movie, our most cherished pastimes entail the spending of money. Not to mention that food and transportation are constant expenses that pile on top of our more frivolous spending. Before we realize how much we’ve spent, there’s a grand total of $12.65 left in our wallets and a measly $195 in our savings account (give or take). I’m here to tell you how you can avoid that panic-inducing circumstance and subsequently refrain from wanting to smash a lawn chair into your face. Without further ado, here are a few tips to give your student budget a much-needed breath of fresh air!

The Best Damn Student Budget Tips

  1. When you crave food on the go, think twice. Will you starve if you don’t grab a Junior Chicken? Is that Tim’s coffee really necessary? Bring food from home on your travels.
  2. On that note, bring a waterbottle with you. Dehydration is ugly.
  3. Know when to decline an event. You’re not obligated to go out with friends if it means spending money you can’t (or don’t want to) spend.
  4. When shopping for clothes, think Value Village. Seriously. I’ve found high quality, brand name sweaters, jeans, T-shirts, and dresses at Value Village for $4-8 apiece. It’s the most popular place to get thrifty clothes, but it’s not the only one; look around!
  5. Do not rely on online shopping. Not only is it unnecessary, but shipping costs are a major pain in the ass. You can probably find what you’re looking for locally, anyway.
  6. For the gamers out there, don’t buy games on launch. I know how tempting it is, but consider the fact that you’ll probably be able to borrow/steal the game from a friend within a week or two of the game’s launch. Disclaimer: don’t steal.
  7. If you own books, movies, games, or clothes that you don’t want anymore, never throw them out. If you can’t manage to sell certain items, put them in a donation box! Then you can feel good about yourself and stuff.
  8. Don’t drive everywhere. Where you can’t walk, you can bus. Where you can walk… well, walk.
  9. Know what you spend. Check your bank account online regularly and moderate your spending accordingly. You know, just to make sure you didn’t accidentally max out your credit card by a million dollars or something.
  10. Assess your expenses. Whether you pay for phone bills, bus tickets, or gas, set money away for your regular expenses. Imagine having no money left once your phone bill comes along! Then you can’t text your friends saying that you have no money to go to downtown.
  11. Keep a piggy bank. You think I jest, but I do not. It’s far more difficult to recklessly spend cash that’s been stuffed inside a toy animal’s stomach.
  12. If you have a credit card, use it wisely. Don’t fall victim to the crafty schemes of ye olde cards and end up paying 20% interest on an overdue statement—pay off your credit card right after you use it. It’s efficient and it feels good.
  13. Lastly, do your best to expand your income. Parents and part-time jobs are the main sources of student budgets, but if you’re able to offer a quality service, promote yourself! Some use sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, but I’d personally suggest Fiverr as the safest, most efficient way to promote yourself and make some extra cash. It won’t yield much money, but it’s a great place to start.

And there you have it. Sure, sure; it’s super easy to impulse buy, and it’s not entirely realistic to abide by this list 100% of the time. I get it, man.

But that can’t stop us from trying to be smarter spenders. Besides, being aware of just how broke we are can help us be not-broke in the future. Well, in theory.

Photo courtesy: UBC Learning Commons

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.