How-to · University · Wellness

Finances! Or, How to Be Frugal and Fun at University

So you’re a new university student. It’s fun, exciting. It’s your first time living away from home, but with that comes a whole lot of responsibilities. It’s probably the first time you’re dealing with major expenses, and for once every dime you work for is important to keeping you off the streets.

The first steps:
Before I begin, let’s do some math. How much is your yearly income after taxes? This doesn’t have an easy answer, so it might be easier to figure it out by month. How much is your monthly income? Included things like student loans, work money, and any contributions from mom or dad. Next, figure out what you mandatory expenses are. Are you paying for:

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Tuition
  • Dental/medical
  • Insurance

These are only a few examples of fixed costs you might have, and depending on your situation these might not all apply to you.

What’s left over? Spending money! Depending on your situation, you might have 500$ left a month, you might have 1000$ left a month, or maybe you only have 100$. No matter, there IS a way to enjoy yourself in university with whatever budget you have.

How? Minimize costs, maximize every dollar.

Minimizing costs is am important part of being frugal. A lot of our expenses are not entirely necessary, but we manage to convince ourselves we really do need them. Here are some easy useful ways to minimize your expenses and get the most out of every dollar:

Do you really need that 5$ frappé from Starbucks or Second Cup? If you spend 5$ on coffee or a coffee beverage Monday to Friday, that’s easily 100$ a month. For me, Bubble Tea from Chatime was a big problem. Each large bubble tea was 6$, and as someone with a 300$ budget, I was easily spending one-sixth of my budget on bubble tea. If you’re a Tim’s fan, it’s less bad, but these things still add up. Invest instead in a coffee machine – even something simple like a french press works – and some ground coffee from the store.

Alcohol can make up a major percentage of your spending budget if you don’t drink wisely. Places like clubs, and even many bars, are designed to strip you of any free cash that you have. When going to a bar, try to choose a less-expensive one, and see if there are any specials that night. When it comes to clubs, pre-drink like a monster. Buying drinks at your local booze store is way cheaper, especially if you buy hard alcohol and some sort of mixer, like orange juice or a soda. If you’re going in a large group, it would be a good idea to buy bottle service, specially if they prices are relatively low. Check the prices of alcohol that you can purchase and evaluate the cost per person to make a decision of whether or not it’s worth it to spend that money.

It’s easy to get swept up in fashion and other trends. Things get popular, and you just need to have them. I remember the year Canada Goose got popular, and all of a sudden everyone needed one of these thousand-dollar parkas. While this is an extreme example, is does translate to other less-obvious trends. When getting a new phone, do you really need that thousand-dollar iPhone? And if you do really want one, go for an older model.

As someone who lives on top of a mall, it’s easy to convince myself that I really need a lot of things I really don’t. I’m a person who loves candles, and almost every time I pass by a store that sells candles, I find myself walking out with one. I have candles of all scents: blueberry, hot chocolate, pine, pumpkin spice. Though I use the pine on 99% of the time. This applies to a lot of other things, like almost any product from Bath and Body Works, as well as anything from Zone. But Angela! I NEED a clock that makes a different bird noise every hour. I NEED a mason that doubles as a pencil case. I NEED glow in the dark ping pong balls! First of all: you don’t. Second of all: mason jars are always unnecessary. It’s really easy to convince yourself that you need something, but that’s almost never the case.

One of the things that has helped me the most is writing down the things I want. Anything that isn’t absolutely necessary can usually be foregone for at least a few months. If you think you need black leggings, then write that down. If, in a month from now you still think you need black leggings, then go and get some! This can help prevent you from impulse buying, and will also protect you from trendy purchases that might not stand the test of time. If you want to take this even further, leave your credit and debit cards at home when going somewhere you don’t intend to spend money. It might be useful to bring an emergency 20 dollar bill, but that’s really all you need.

This is going to be my final point. You work hard to make money for a reason, and that reason is so that you can enjoy your life. So when there’s something you really want to do, go for it! If you really want to see that band live, or go rent a cottage with your friends, don’t get hung up on money. While you should of course be sure to keep within your means, there’s no need to cripple your experience at university because you’re afraid of finances.

Do you have any other tips for keeping things budget friendly in college?

Best of Luck,


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