Living off a tight budget isn’t easy but luckily there are ways to cope with it. Here are a few creative ways to get the most out of your income without sacrificing too much of your social life.
Watch the season when you buy fruits and vegetables. Buy produce that are plentiful in the season such as squash from September through October. Some produce are at a good price regardless of the season. These include bananas, apples and carrots. As the winter sets in, your best bet for fresh vegetables is usually cabbage and roots such as carrots, potatoes and beets.
Choose locally harvested produce whenever possible rather than imported ones. They are fresher, less expensive and often contain less pesticides.
Look for the price/quality ratio. While melons and grapes contain little or no seeds, mangos and avocados have large pits that you can’t eat which may make them less interesting in terms of price. But even more expensive tropical fruit is a better buy than pricey pastries or candy.
Shop the flyers by taking advantage of weekly specials. But pick two or three stores to shop at so you don’t end up running all over the city and end up wasting time.
If you find a really good deal on peaches or cucumbers, buy in bulk and make your own jams, and pickles. If you see meat or poultry on special, you can buy more than you need and freeze it for later.
Shop at small markets. These often have better prices for produce than big grocery chains. Try merchant stands at Jean-Talon market and small ethnic shops along Sherbrooke or Ste. Catherine St.
Make your own coffee and bring it to school in a travel mug.
Pack lunches the night before and prepare a few snacks if you know you’ll have a busy schedule.
Shop in bulk and, if it’s too much to use for yourself, split your purchases with friends or roommates.
With a slow cooker, you can set aside some time on the weekend to cook stews, soups and other delicious meals that can be frozen for later. After a hard day at work, all you have to do is pop the meal in the microwave.
Make a priority list and stick to it. If you can’t afford everything at once, then get what you really need and take care of the rest later.
Buy your seasonal clothes one year in advance, at the end of the season. You can buy shorts and t-shirts when everything is on sale in August. Be careful, fitted clothes may not fit you the next year, so choose wisely. Do the same for winter boots and coats.
Fight the urge to go shopping for fun. Go when you need something specific.
Buy clothes that you can wear with what you already own.
Get multi-functional shirts and pants, so you can get the most out of your money.
Brand name clothing can be unnecessarily expensive. Check out some of the cheaper stores around, like thrift stores or a department store such as Winners that sells brand name clothes for less.
Figure out whether you really need a bus pass for certain months. While public transportation can save you money on parking and gas, it can be money wasted if you do not use it enough.
If you live on campus, take advantage of the shuttle.
If you own a car, think about carpooling with classmates. It’s better for your wallet and the environment.
If you can manage it, get a job near or on campus.
Split cabs with friends when you go out for drinks.
Take advantage of free museum days!
Have pot lucks or “house meals” where everyone contributes ingredients and you make a fantastic dinner all together.
Go to movie matinees or cheap night Tuesdays when tickets are $5.
Rent movies from your city library or the National Library on Berri. Or rent them for $1 at 24-hour movie booths.
Bike around the city. Check out old towns such as the Plateau, you might discover great caf