The broke freshman: how to survive on a grand all school year

So you’re finally in university, with the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want. Hopefully you’ve saved up some dough over the summer, because with great freedom, comes great expenses. Here’s a guide with tips on how to spend your hard earned cash (or Osap), no matter what your budget!

First, we have to acknowledge the different avenues our money disappears to. For this guide they will be: entertainment (booze, parties, movies, etc.) food (groceries, dinners out, Tim’s, etc.) shopping (cause lets face it, you’ll want those cute new shoes), personal necessities,  and transportation.

Those of you with big budgets (pretty jealous) still need to be cognizant of how you’re spending your money. The following budget plan is for students who have around $1000 to spend. If you have more, just multiply the recommended spending (i.e. if you have $3000, you can spend $90/month on entertainment).

The Plan

     This is going to be tricky, because you probably did a whole bunch of spending over the summer. However, that could be a good thing if you bought everything you need for the year, thus lessening your expenses for the school year. If you only have a thousand bucks to spend over the school year, it means you have $125 to spend each month that you’re in school. Here’s how to make it work.

Entertainment: $30.

     On this budget, you probably shouldn’t spend the brunt of your money on entertainment, but let’s be serious, you need to have some fun. Allow yourself at least $30 per month for entertainment. This may seem difficult, but NV has free cover for students, a movie at Galaxy is only five bucks on Tuesday, and a bottle of wine costs about 7 dollars. With a $30 budget, you can buy 3 bottles of wine, go to the club, and even catch a movie all in a month. Plus, the Sputnik is always free, and always entertaining.

Food: $50

Hopefully your parents help out in the grocery department, but there’s a chance they don’t. If you have to buy your own food, this should be your biggest expense–at least $50 a month. The great thing about Laurier Brantford is that we have a food bank that is accessible to students! This will help out a lot, but you will still need to go to the grocery store to pick up your milk, eggs, bread, and produce. Don’t just go to the closest grocery store, go to the cheapest. If you take bus #6 toward West Brant, you will stumble upon a No Frills, where you will definitely snag some good deals on food. If you manage to be thrifty while buying your groceries, you can probably afford a coffee now and then, or a late night treat at Lonnie’s.

Personal necessities: $20.

My advice for toiletries and other personal necessities: Stock up! Things like tampons, toothpaste, and shampoo don’t spoil, and you know you are going to continue to need it. For this kind of stuff, Walmart is usually cheapest, but sometimes Shoppers has deals if you buy two or more. And you know that newspaper that gets delivered every couple days that never gets opened? It’s now your best friend. Open it up, take out the flyers, and look for deals and coupons! You should aim to spend about $20 dollars a month on this stuff, but if you spend $40 one month, you won’t have to spend anything the next month…and it might even save you from spending anything the month after that too!

Shopping: $20

Shopping isn’t really necessary, but even I have had days when I would gladly choose a new top over dinner. Let yourself buy one new item a month, it will leave you feeling satisfied, without the buyer’s remorse. Places like Ardene’s are also great, because they offer a ton of great accessories for REALLY cheap (3/$10 cheap), and accessories are a really great way to freshen up your wardrobe. You can also hold off on buying for a couple months to buy one expensive item.

Transportation: FREE!

Your One Card is your transit pass to everywhere around Brantford, and this is perfect if you’re on a tight budget. There is hardly ever any reason to take a cab, but if you do, pack it with friends and split the cost.


#1 Use sites like WagJag, Groupon, and Teambuy to get cheap stuff. Coupons are designed to save you money, so utilize them!

#2 When going out for lunch, look for the daily specials, those are also designed to save you money.

#3 The best thing you can do for yourself if you’re trying to budget, is writing down everything that you spend. Download the Visual Budget app for iPhone, or MoneyWise app for android to keep track, or if you don’t have a smartphone, pop over to Dollarama, grab a white board, and jot down what you’ve spent for every category each month. This will let you see what’s working, what’s not, and where you need to adjust your budget and spending. And I can guarantee, if you follow this budget (or your own customized one) your money will last until the end of the year and you won’t have to dumpster dive or panhandle for lunch.

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