If you have limited funds and are concerned about your money lasting throughout your education, cutting costs and saving every cent you can has to be a priority. Setting a budget and making a plan is crucial but making sure you hit your targets takes work and self-discipline. The whole process is way easier if you can do the things you like to do (no one likes to feel like they’re in jail) but you’ll have to be creative about doing them on the cheap.

The following tips will try and show you how you can stay on track, still do what you find necessary, and save money doing both. Which of these ideas work for YOU?

Entertainment

  • Share cable/satellite expenses with roommates and opt for inexpensive options like Netflix
  • Have a drink before you go to the bar. Nurse one drink throughout the night and enjoy non-alcoholic beverages. It’s cheaper and ensures you arrive home safely.
  • Go to clubs that don’t require a cover charge. Drinks often cost less at campus bars.
  • Look for free on-campus activities and events. Visit the MSU events page.
  • Enjoy the free services at the David Braley Athletic Centre. If you want access to the gym, The Pulse offers very affordable prices
  • Discover free or inexpensive community events and activities. Visit Tourism Hamilton to find out more.

Banking

  • Most banks offer free banking to students – check and make sure you have the student rate!
  • If you use your debit card, make sure the merchant isn’t charge you a fee.
  • Request cash back while making a purchase to avoid making that expensive transaction at the ATM.
  • Use ATM machines at your branch to avoid charges. If you take out money at a different bank or branch, you may be charged by both institutions adding up to $3-$4 per transaction.
  • When looking to open a savings account, make sure to settle on one that has a high interest rate while having little to no fees.
  • If you do not have enough money to cover your bills, there will be a Non-Sufficient Fund (NSF) charge. Both the creditor and your bank will charge you fees that can be substantial. An $80 fee is not unusual per returned cheque.
  • Utilizing online pre-authorized payments will mean you never miss a payment, you won’t incur late penalties and you will maintain a good credit report.

Cellphones

  • Shop around for the cheapest plan for your needs. Some providers often have student deals or family bundles that can save you a lot of money.
  • Consider if you really need that data plan or whether you can get by with your computer.
  • If you consistently make long distance calls, think about adding it to your plan as it is the cheapest way to go.
  • Take advantage of free apps that allows you to text, call or video chat with family and friends.
  • Make sure you always check your bills for extra charges that you did not agree to or weren’t included in your plan. Errors can happen!

Dining

  • Buy one larger meal or simply order appetizers and share.
  • Find out if your favourite restaurant offers daily specials.
  • If you live off-campus, consider getting a Mac Express Meal Plan.
    • Freedom Plan: You’ll get a 5% discount on some food purchases on and off campus
    • Term plan: You’ll get 13% (tax free!) discount on some food purchase on campus
    • Check out all the details here!
  • Utilize your Freedom Plan at these participating off campus restaurants
  • Look for meals that have a fixed price and include additional beverages or sides. The “extras” can really add up.
  • Restaurants often charge exorbitant prices on beverages so water is a good alternative. If you do get a drink, check and see if it’s refillable.
  • Some restaurants allow you to bring your own bottle of wine. Check out this site for a list of participating restaurants
  • Mac Bread Bin has made great strides in providing food assistance.

Groceries

  • Eating out can be tough on the wallet so remember it is always cheaper to buy food and make it yourself!
  • Make use of loyalty programs and points that can help save you money.
  • Visit discounted supermarkets such as No Frills, Fresh Co or Food Basics.
  • Buy what is on sale and make your meals around that week’s sale items.
  • Make enough food for leftovers and use that for lunch the next day.
  • Be wary of stocking up on sale items. If you have your entire food budget sitting on a shelf or in a freezer, you may not have enough for your perishables as the week goes on.
  • Remember, sale items can be discounted quite often. This won’t be the last time your favourite cereal is on sale! Go for the more cost-effective products.

Clothing

  • Wait for sales and coupons! The best times are just before and after the holidays and at the end of seasons.
  • Ask for gift cards among family and friends, especially those that are for the mall. You will be free to use mall gift cards for any store for any type of item.
  • Use shops that are known to carry second hand clothing as well as new items. Talize and Value Village are a couple of examples.
  • Looking to make a couple of bucks from your used accessories and furniture? Check out these consignment stores in Hamilton.
  • Watch out for clothes that need to be dry-cleaned. It’s a costly expense.
  • Create a designer look with pieces that resemble name-brand items but cost less.
  • Repurpose clothes that you no longer wear!