Temptation is a hard one to dodge when you have to walk by the five hundred restaurants in University Centre every day before and after classes. Especially for me when it comes in the form of sweet, sweet chocolate.

It’s easy to indulge when you’ve got a $20 in your pocket (courtesy of OSAP), easily losing sight of how much you’ve budgeted for the whole academic year. Which then leads to skimping on meals for the rest of the year, because you spent waaay too much on Starbucks.

Don’t let the money vanish from your wallet by stuffing your mouth with cinnamon buns (like I am right now), learn from my mistakes folks.

This, Not That

You don’t have to completely cut off your favorite meals or sweets, that’s a good way to end up caving in one day and splurging all the money you ended up saving. Instead of cutting try replacing the food you love to eat outside by switching to a cheaper alternative.

I’m sure everyone’s told you by now to make coffee at home instead of buying a cup every day. And for good reason too:

Comparing the cost of coffee

Starbucks outdoor sign and awning

Coffee at Starbucks

$2.15 (incl. taxes) for a small black coffee.

$15.03 / 7 days.

$64.41 / 30 days.

$783.66 / year.


coffee cup on kitchen counter

Coffee at home

Based on a $6.77 (incl. taxes) 925g can of Maxwell House.

Can make around 77 cups of coffee.

Each cup of coffee costs about 0.09 cents to brew
(not including milk, sugar, water).

If you have one cup of coffee a day, total spendings amount to:

61 cents / 7 days.

$2.63 / 30 days.

$32 / year.
(Just for a black coffee)

Here’s how to apply this method to other items:

  • Instead of ordering pizza, buy a frozen pizza for $4 from Independent. It tastes just as good, seriously.
  • Love muffins? Make your own. Flour, salt, baking soda, eggs, butter/oil, sugar, frozen fruit (cheaper than fresh), and muffin tins from the dollar store. Other than the fruit, you probably have these laying around in your kitchen cabinets. Baking does not get easier than muffins, so find a recipe and get measuring.
  • Prefer the sweetness of a frosted cake over muffins? Opt for the cakes with the 50% off stickers in the grocery store, they are still perfectly edible even if they aren’t fresh. If you want to go the extra mile use a cake mix kit to bake your own or make one from scratch.

This method doesn’t have to apply to just food. Something as simple as buying clothes from Value Village instead of a retail store could save you loads of money. Want to buy electronics? Head on down to a Factory Direct (or order from their website). Looking for books? Forget Chapters. Order from Book Outlet which sells books for as low as $1.50. I’ve bought from them countless times and have never received a book that’s ripped up or dog-eared. Most of their books are of excellent quality, and all their books have descriptions of how much wear and tear they have. Just make sure to do a large purchase at once to qualify for free shipping.

Three Ingredient Meals

Although cooking is a much better alternative to buying out. There are a lot of recipes where a lot of ingredients are required or the ingredients end up being very expensive. Many recipes can be easily altered without affecting the quality of the taste.

Instead of regular pancakes, how about 3 ingredient banana pancakes by the Youtuber/blogger Mind Over Munch. A lot more flavour, for a lot less money.

Her blog and her youtube channel have a ton of great three and two ingredient recipes that are incredibly satisfying.

Other YouTubers and bloggers who have never let me down with their cheap yet delicious recipes:

The Domestic Geek – Similar to Mind Over Munch, she has many meals that require only 3 ingredients or less.

Leanne Brown – Lots of great recipes on her site, she also has a free eBook called Good and Cheap which has recipes that can feed a person on less than $4 a day.

Brothers Green Eats – This YouTuber makes delicious meals on a shoestring budget for students.


No, I do not mean reducing waste (but you should do that too). I mean gradually reducing your spending in increments. The one mistake that people do when reducing their spendings is to chop off a big portion of their budget. But when it comes down to actually reducing spendings, students end up confused on what they can cut back on. When cutting spendings be specific and aim small.

First, try to reduce spendings on a day-to-day basis instead of planning ahead. Gasp! that’s right, this is the one time when trying to plan ahead might backfire. Especially if you have low impulse control.

Imgine waking up from your cozy bed and getting dressed for school, you drive or bus through the early morning rush and finally reach University Centre. Walking in the cold winter morning from the parking lot to UC, you decide to stop in line for a coffee to warm up your frozen soul. Finally, you’ve reached the cash and order your long-awaited coffee. The cashier asks, “Is that all?” This is the moment of hesitation, a chance to order a nice hot breakfast sandwich and a donut along with that $2 coffee. It’s also the perfect time to reply with, “Yes, that’s everything.”

This is what I mean by reducing, a $2 order could easily turn into a $10 order. Now imagine spending $10 for 5 days a week, turning into a massive $50 in total for nothing but a sandwich, coffee and a donut every day. The point of reducing is to cut back one item at a time when you make purchases. If you got the full combo today, only get the drink and the donut tomorrow, and then only get the drink on the third day. I know, the Tims withdrawal is real.

Practice this habit everywhere you go, ask yourself, “Do I really need this right now? Would I really want this if I didn’t happen to see it?”

Living Within Your Means

Practice these strategies and little by little you will see more money left in your pocket at the end of every month. Don’t let the temptation wring your pockets empty. While I focused mostly on food in this blog post, it’s only because food tends to be the biggest expense. You can easily apply these strategies to clothes, electronics, furniture and anything else. All it takes is a little googling with the keyword “cheap”.