A list of suggestions from least extreme to most extreme

expenses

It appears post-secondary students these days are struggling with the financial woes of an economic downturn – at least that’s what Mount Royal University student, Andrea Fulton says when asked about how her bank account is faring.

“I think it’s definitely a little tighter than it used to be,” says Fulton, who is studying journalism, “having to pay for books and finding a job, you really have to watch what you spend money on.”

With many young adults already struggling with the weight of financial affairs for various reasons, and with the strenuous perils of an economic downturn, many are wondering what the future looks like.

President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development Mary Moran, agrees that the year ahead will be challenging for millennials as youth unemployment has risen from 8.7 per cent a year ago to 10 per cent today.

However, “...we can’t underestimate this generation,” says Moran, also adding the more qualified and adaptable post-secondary students are, the greater the opportunity to obtain employment will be.

Until then, here are a few suggestions to keep post-secondary students’ heads above the water.

Track expenses

expensesPhoto illustration courtesy Birdie BrainIn order to better understand exactly how much money is going into and out of students’ pockets, keeping track of the numbers can be a good wake-up call. Using your phone or a spare notebook, write down all your expenses no matter how big or small. You bought a pack of mints? Great. Write it down. Also, creating a monthly budget for yourself will be useful in helping to understand your personal financial profile; it could build up your savings and help maintain financial stability.

TD Financial Planner Kenneth Vine suggests first sitting down and figuring out where your priorities lie in regards to your current stage in life. Then, break down your budget intro three separate categories:

  • Fixed expenses, as in costs that remain the same total amount month after month, such as: rent, insurance, subscriptions, etc.

  • Variable expenses, as in costs that vary depending on economic conditions or influences, such as: groceries, gas, toiletries, etc.

  • Discretionary expenses, as in costs that are not essential and more for pleasure, like entertainment, trips, purchasing food, etc.

“Everybody should be working on a budget of some kind and ensuring that they are aware of what money is going in and out of their bank accounts and prioritizing different spending habits,” says Vine.

He also recommends saving any amount possible.

“Any amount that you can start to save can be hugely important - $25 a week, $25 a month,” says Vine, “RSPs obviously are great from a tax deduction standpoint, but young people probably don’t have a ton of income to deduct against, so they may be better off putting their savings towards a tax free savings account and again looking at the goal of potentially buying a home and having the down payment down ready.”

Cooking

cookingPhoto illustration courtesy Oriane JusterIt’s easy in the morning when you’re in a rush to skip eating breakfast or packing a lunch, vying for purchasing food instead. But food quickly has the potential to eat away your finances until you’re left empty pocketed and ultimately, empty stomached.

Dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada Kate Comeau, suggests coming up with a plan to overcome these barriers. This will not only help save a few extra bucks but also help integrate a healthy lifestyle into your daily routine.

  • Meal prep: allocate at least half an hour at the end of a day to prepare for the next day or weeks meals. This will help plan a balanced diet and figure out where you can cut costs.

  • Couponing: clipping out coupons from flyers or downloading them from websites allows you to decrease the cost of food items substantially in order to be more effective with the funds in your bank account. These clippings can add up, but joining certain grocery store programs can also have benefits.

  • Groceries: grocery shopping allows you to take advantage of lower cost foods, like rice or beans, which are much more nourishing than vending machines or nearby fast food restaurants.

  • Easy recipes: cooking large batches of simple recipes like vegetarian chili or soup allows you to freeze portions for the week to come. Both efficient and cost effective.

According to Comeau, meals cooked at home usually contain less sodium, less added sugar and less unhealthy fat when compared to meals from restaurants. But she also recognizes the challenges that post-secondary students face in the temptation of eating out often.

“If you eat out often, start by swapping out one meal for an ‘at home’ meal,” says Comeau, “It can be challenging to break habits. Sharing meals with friends is another way to reduce costs and learn new recipes.”

Thrift shopping

ThriftPhoto illustration courtesy James FentonTake a note from Macklemore, and start shopping at local thrift stores in order to save money on some sick threads or furnishings. Not only do you have the potential to look more original, but this is also a fantastic way to thwart spending copious amount of money on a single item.

Urban Thrift owner Domenic Stante says thrifting is a great way to repurpose, reuse and save all kinds of items from going to the landfills, including:

  • clothing and shoes

  • accessories

  • kitchen supplies

  • furniture

  • home décor

  • exercise and outdoor gear

  • holiday and celebratory décor

  • entertainment items

“We’re supporting sustainability and the environment,” says Stante, “that’s sort of what we pursue is to recycle, re-gift and repurpose as much of the raw materials that we receive, so the benefit is that you get to save a lot of money.”

Stante says economic downturns make the thrifting world incredibly enticing for those conserving money, because it’s also something good to do from an environmental perspective.

Recycle

RecyclePhoto illustration courtesy Dara UlrichSure, students might moan and groan about having to take up several bags of sticky, stinky bottles, but through recycling, individuals have the potential to make up to $15-30 per bag. That’s extra money post-secondary students could be using for rent, textbooks, or even building up enough to pay off debts. Recycling is not only a great way to gain extra income; it’s also an environmentally friendly way to gain money.

President of the Beverage Container Management Board Jeff Linton says there’s value in utilizing the recycling resources as it offers people the benefit of getting their money back. He also says that if asked to pick a demographic that was the poorest performing group of recyclers, it would be people between the ages of 18 and 25.

“Our studies over the years have indicated that that’s the lowest performing or responsive demographic,” says Linton, offering factors that might be responsible for the low number, “Part of it I would say is the amount of space that they have available for storing them, some of it is convenient, some of it is more of a mobile.”

In order to help fix this problem, Linton says post-secondary students should:

  • Utilize programs set up by universities for recycling.

  • Allocate a small space for beverage containers in their living quarters.

  • Arrange time in their schedules to recycle.

Carpool

CarpoolPhoto illustration courtesy Laurent CanivetThere are several services in the city that offer carpooling programs where individuals can create an account and find someone else with a similar schedule and route. For students, the University of Calgary, SAIT and Mount Royal University offer programs where individuals have the opportunity to share a ride with someone. The City of Calgary suggests using Carpool.ca.

Manager of Carpool.ca Anne Marie Thornton says that over 3,000 people in Calgary are using the Carpool.ca program. She also says parking through the carpool system has the potential to save 50% of user’s costs.

Thornton says this could include, “Parking, gas, maintenance and wear and tear on your vehicle, everything you look at all of your costs for driving they are significant on a monthly basis.”

If you’re interested, Thornton suggests:

  • Registering for free online at various carpooling/car-share agencies.

  • Fill out your availability.

  • Search for individuals to contact.

  • Ask about the flexibility of users.

  • If there are no matches, remain registered and eventually someone may contact you.

  • Continually update your file as needed.

“It doesn’t have to be a full time commitment,” says Thornton, “you can have one or two different carpool partners that you’re carpooling with on different days.”

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The editor responisble for this story is Zoe Choy, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.