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With the new semester upon us, it’s time to talk about money. My wallet is drained after paying my first installment of tuition and I’m crying at the prospect of the second. Here are some ways to save money throughout the school year, but don’t worry, it won’t be enough to land you a gig on Extreme Cheapskates.

1. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

When it comes to buying groceries in London, there are many ways to save money. Instead of shopping on weekends, go on Tuesdays; stores like Metro, Food Basics, Superstore, Loblaws, and Valu-Mart all offer a 10% discount if you show your Western ID. If you’re on the hunt for vintage clothes or chic furniture for your house or dorm room, Talize (one of the biggest and best thrift stores in London) offers a 10% student discount every day of the week. Oftentimes, these stores do not heavily advertise their discounts, so a lot of students miss out on these opportunities.

Recently, I’ve started to upload my receipts to cashback apps like Caddle (https://portal-ca.getcaddle.com/login/register ) and Checkout 51 (https://www.checkout51.com/account/signup). For example, Caddle offers $0.10 cash back for receipts from numerous chain stores such as Dollarama, Superstore, Walmart, Metro, and $0.50 for receipts from Costco. Although it may not sound like much, it’ll add up fairly quickly when you’re grocery shopping once or twice a week. They also offer daily surveys that take around 5 seconds to do and they’re worth about $0.05 to $0.10 each. Once you hit $20, you’re free to cash out!

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2. Avoid Buying New Textbooks 

Try to hold off buying textbooks until you’re certain that you’ll need it for that class. Unless it’s a new edition that year, definitely try to look for ways to buy it used. Whether it’s through Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, or the UWO Used Textbooks group on Facebook, there are always upper year students looking to sell their used books. When you are buying from someone, don’t be afraid to negotiate (within reason) as sometimes graduating students, in particular, might be more flexible on prices. If you’re in 1st year, don’t be afraid to ask your Sophs or Res Dons to see if they have access to any 1st year Google Drive folders that contain course textbooks, lecture notes/recordings, and study guides. Lastly, if you’re someone who wouldn’t mind not having a hardcover textbook, the Western Bookstore offers alternatives such as digital and loose leaf copies at a much more reasonable price. I think there are so many benefits when it comes to buying these alternatives. They’re cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and they won’t break your back.       

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3. Sign Up for Samples

This is a fantastic way to try new products or eat new foods that you might not have known about. My favourite company to get samples from is called SampleSource; to be eligible, all you need is either a Canadian or American address. Samples are up for grabs twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall. SampleSource will personalize your samples based on your questionnaire. They offer a large variety such as home, health, beauty, and even dog/cat treats! In some cases, you will receive a free voucher for a full-sized product to pick-up in-store, instead of receiving a miniature version in the mail. I’ve gotten as many as 14 samples (8 full-sized), which I ended up re-purchasing in the future.

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4. Apply for a Cash Back Credit Card

Now, this one is a win-win situation. Not only do credit cards help you build a high credit score, but they’re also helpful for applying to future loans. For instance, you’ll qualify for a lower interest when applying for future loans while receiving cash back for shopping. For example, BMO offers 5% cash back for the first three months of opening the card, then you will receive 3% cashback on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments, and 0.5% on any preceding purchases.

There are only a few requirements that you’ll need to get approved, which makes it an extremely inclusive MasterCard. The requirements are: to be between ages 18 to 24, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident (if you’re an international student you just can’t apply online), and earn an annual income. It isn’t required to earn a crazy amount of income as they understand we’re students, so almost everyone gets approved. If you don’t want to bank with BMO, there are other great options with the Big Five Banks. However, try to avoid grocery store credit cards because they tend to have extremely high interest rates, which can hurt your credit score if you forget to pay on time.     

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5. Meal Prep

Meal prepping is a great way to eat healthy, save money, and reduce cooking time. With midterm season upon us and exam season quickly approaching, it’s often easier to just order UberEats or take a to-go meal after a long day of listening to Zoom lectures and studying. By meal prepping, all you have to do is pop it in the microwave or oven, so it’s extremely convenient and will definitely save you the struggle of deciding what to cook. As an avid smoothie lover, I love pre-packing my smoothies so that when I wake up in the morning, all I have to do is pour the ingredients from the bag into the blender. Since I don’t have to wash and cut up fruit at 7 am, that means I get to sleep in longer! If you decide to give meal prep a try, make sure to prepare a plan with a couple of different meals in mind for the week and the ingredients that you may need for your next grocery trip.

[bf_image id="wgmk7ppnschx6vn2w49cvhc"] I hope some of these tips will help you debunk the stereotype of being a broke university student. If you have any other tips, feel free to share them with us on social media. Happy saving!

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Helen Zhang

Western '23

Helen is a fourth year actuarial student at Western University. In her free time, she likes to watch Netflix (Suits, Greys, and Scandal are some of her favourite shows!), nap, and attempt to paint.
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