Living on a student budget? Learn to do it your own competent self

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It’s a month and a half into the semester: you’ve settled into your classes [sort of], though those 8am time slots are still a little painful, and the realities of a living on a student budget have reared their heads. 

Making it work is a balancing act. The inclination is to buy the cheapest form of everything, but that isn’t always the best idea— there will be times where investing in quality will save you from having to invest in quantity later. Here are four places you can save, and one to splurge on, plus some DIY fun to make your saves look like splurges. 

SPLURGE ON:
A Winter Coat: if you’re reading this from California or Arizona please feel free to disregard and do whatever your heart desires with this one. But for those of us living North of the Canada-U.S. border, a good winter coat is a necessity. It gets cold here folks and waiting for public transit while you can’t feel your behind isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time. Do yourself a favour, invest in a good winter coat. Think in terms of longevity when you make a selection. Pick a classic style (be it parka or wool)— something that won’t go out of style. Check what it’s made of— go for something with higher quality materials, they’ll last longer. Check where it’s made: if you can support a company that believes in manufacturing in North America, or Europe, it feels pretty great, and the wares are likely to have better construction standards. Pro Tip: If you’re spending the money, make sure it lasts. Bite the bullet and have your winter coat cleaned at the end of the season before putting it away— getting the salt out will make it last longer.

SAVE ON:
Bed Sheets: Thread count doesn’t always equal comfort. There are plenty of great sheets available for less than $20. Do yourself a favour and buy two sets to swap out between laundry days.
DIYOCS HACK: while the sun is still shining get your roommate to help you tie-dye a solid white sheet set. 

Let your Basics be Basics: t’s, tanks, cardigans, and sweaters can all come from the basics department (specifically at H&M if you’re looking for my recommendation). They won’t have fancy graphics or branding, but that means they’ll go with anything, and you’ll be able to wear them anywhere. There’s nowhere a clean-cut white t-shirt can’t go: pair it with jeans or leggings for those early-morning classes, or tuck it into a high waisted pencil skirt, under a jacket for the interview for your placement.
Check out:
H&M: at <hm.com> and select "Basics" under the dropdown menu.
Uniqlo: if you live in Toronto. They unfortunately don't do online ordering within Canada, but if you're in the city they're well worth checking out (locations at The Eaton Centre and Yorkdale)
Forever21: those tanks for under $5 will last you a few seasons, and allow you to change up the colours of your wardrobe with seasonal trends.

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DIYOCS HACK: want to make your basics a touch less basic? Think details! Trade the plastic buttons on a cardigan to vintage-inspired metal ones; add some extra fun to a hoodie by swapping out the lace for a wide-width satin ribbon. 

Books: textbooks are expensive— it’s an almost unavoidable truth. Get to know online book sources for both new and used books, as well as any discount bookstores associated with your particular university/college. Students can save serious dough by snapping up a book that’s looking for a new home. Pro Tip: always make sure the edition you’re picking up is still current.  

Stationary, specifically pens: don't let the pretty pens you see on the shelves of Indigo lead you astray and don't even bother with the glass-front cases at Staples. The best pens have always been ballpoint sticks. They always work, they're cheap as heck, and you can buy them everywhere. Splurge a bit and get the name brand (PaperMate, Bic, you know the ones), but buy in bulk to make up some of the cost.
Get 12 Papermate ballpoints for less than $5 here: <https://www.amazon.ca/Paper-Write-Ballpoint-Point-0-8mm/dp/B00006IE5Q/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1512431452&sr=8-11&keywords=papermate>
Or and 8 pack from BIC for under $2 here: <https://www.amazon.ca/BIC-Round-Stick-Medium-8-Pack/dp/B000XA11FU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512431468&sr=8-2&keywords=BIC>

Finding the balance between splurging,saving, and DIYing will mean you can enjoy the higher end options you've been able to budget for, without dealing with the clutter of the ones you don't need. Because, after all, we all like pretty things. 


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Growing up, Lynette told everybody who would ask that one day she was going to be either a Rock Star or a Writer. She writes a little bit of everything from song lyrics to creative nonfiction, and can usually be found with a guitar or pen in her hand. She’s still working on the Rock Star thing, but at least becoming a writer has actual job postings. 

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Lynette Wilson

Growing up, Lynette told everybody who would ask that one day she was going to be either a Rock Star or a Writer. She writes a little bit of everything from song lyrics to creative nonfiction, and can usually be found with a guitar or pen in her hand. She’s still working on the Rock Star thing, but at least becoming a writer has actual job postings.