Imagine yourself walking down the street, looking at the various cafes and food shops that offer quick, to-go meals for your busy school day. You say to yourself, “Not this time. Maybe tomorrow.” You keep walking. In a few seconds, your eyes closed after smelling that wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee coming right from a shop just a few feet away from you. You say to yourself, “Let it go! Finally.” And you get a coffee for four dollars. Over a month, you realize you spent over $150 on coffee alone. Wow! Want to stop yourself from making these purchases and save some bucks? Let me share with you some tips and tricks to control your expenses this new year.
Understand your spending habits.
One of the most important but overlooked aspects of spending is our spending habits or buying patterns if you want to say it that way. Often, convenience is one of the main reasons for making some quick purchases. You walk into a cafe, and you have a long day ahead of you; You might say to yourself, “I better get some coffee. It’ll keep me going.” The next time you experience such a thought, wait and ask yourself. “Do I do it every day or maybe on days I have back-to-back classes? Is there a way I can prepare ahead of time and maybe pack snacks so I don’t need money?” Bulls-eye! Get to grips with your spending habits and understand why, when and where you spend your dollars. With Canadian inflation standing at 3.1% and rising grocery prices, every dollar counts. Try to save your disposable income wherever you can. Understand your buying patterns and break them. I promise you will save a lot in the next few months.
Track your expenses.
According to Drive Research, “on average, people spend $148 on fast food every month.” While this is only the average, the actual spending for some may be higher than this, while for others, it may be lower than $148. The best way for you to budget is to track your expenses. I understand that it can be a little daunting to see your credit bills and nitpick every single purchase you made last month. However, this is the surest way to know if you are spending more than you make and where all the money is going. Apps like Mint, Goodbudget, You Need a Budget (YNAB) and others help ease the process (CNBC). You can also use traditional tools like tracking your income and expenses in an Excel spreadsheet; at least, that’s what I did. Find what works best for you, and then keep track of your expenses. This will help you plan your future purchases and improve your spending habits.
Save the coffee!
I love coffee! I also like my savings, but I usually give when the discussion turns to a delicious mocha with soy milk. It’s perfect! According to Made in CA, “coffee is more popular than tap water with over 71% of Canadians regularly drinking coffee compared to 63%” who regularly drink tap water. coffee drinkers. “On average, Canadians drink 2.7 cups of coffee per day” (Created by CA). Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say a medium cup of coffee costs $3. Taking the average, you spend (2.7 x $3) $8.10 on coffee per day (assuming no tax), $243 per month and over $2,916 per year! Wow! That’s the equivalent of two Apple MacBook Airs. You get the point. If you are someone who likes coffee, maybe investing in a good espresso machine makes more sense. Don’t make the mistake I made in my first two years on campus. I spent over $2,000 on coffee in just two years! Try to treat drinking coffee like a good meal. Only do this on weekends or when scheduling a coffee chat with someone. Otherwise, use that espresso machine and save a few thousand dollars.
Make a deal at a restaurant!
Now, this trick is very helpful for international students or students away from home. If you find yourself grabbing food from McDonald’s or your favorite Indian restaurant every day, this tip is for you. For you to stay at home and enjoy the freshness of home-cooked meals, keep this tip in your back pocket when you travel or move cities next time. The idea is to make a deal with one of your favorite restaurants or food stores where you go often. I once had a deal with a restaurant that served bowls. I told them that I am a student and do not know how to cook. I sincerely asked them, “Will you give me 50% off if I get a Veggie Poke Bowl from your store every night for dinner.” And that was it! They happily accept repeat customers, and I save over $300 a month. If you are someone who usually orders take-out food, try this technique. I am confident that you will be able to negotiate a deal that will save you several hundred dollars. Another good option is to check out the meal plans offered by Peter Lougheed Hall and the Lister Center. For those staying at East Campus, this is a great option and will save you a lot of time and money.
Take notes and keep books.
Last but not least is saving money on books. As someone who is now entering his last year as an undergraduate student, I can assure you that I have spent a lot of money on books. Try and help your seniors and maybe students who took the same class last year/semester. Ask them if they can share their notes with you. More often than not, you don’t need a textbook for a class until and unless you have specific assignments on the same platform, such as McGraw Hill or Cengage. If that is the case, you will need to purchase access to the platform, which can range from $70 to over $100. However, try to gather some notes from previous years and wait until the first two weeks of classes before buying a new book. Also, try finding second hand books from sites like Facebook Marketplace, UAlberta app, Abe Books and others. Better yet, try checking to see if the U of A Library has your book. You can rent it for a few hours a day and study without paying a penny. The key is to gain knowledge and do well in your respective classes. If you do that from a sold book or handmade notes, it should be the quality of the content that leads you to the right purchase and not the aesthetic.
And there you are! Understand your spending habits, track your expenses, save on coffee, make a deal at your favorite restaurant and save on books. Try these techniques, and I’m sure you’ll have a bigger savings balance in your bank account by the end of the year.