It’s no mystery (or joke) that many students carry a large debt on their shoulders as a result of pursuing post-secondary education. But we're still people and we have lives that we deserve to live. Unfortunately, most of the things we enjoy or do for ourselves costs money - that’s just the reality of it. Luckily, we don’t have to sacrifice the little luxuries in life in order to get by. This list of 7 things you can learn to do at home will not only save you money through investments in things like coffee machines or sewing machines, but they are also activities that, with practice and patience, will equip you with very useful and beneficial skills.
Now that it’s looking like we’ll have to start staying home again in effort to reduce the spread and risk of Covid-19, there’s no better time to start learning new things at home. If you find that you’ve already binged all your favourite shows on Netflix and you want to keep busy when you’re not working from home then keep reading.
- Making Coffee/Iced Coffee
You may not realize how much you actually spend on coffee when you’re out - what’s $5 here and there? Well, if you actually do the math, it does add up to something more that you may like to admit, especially if you have at least one cup a day. My solution for you is to make your coffee at home. Buy some K-cups or coffee beans and of course, a coffee machine which is definitely an investment but totally worth it in the long run. And chances are, if you live with your family or friends, they’ll probably use it too which means you could split the cost!
You could also try instant coffee which only needs to be mixed with hot water. Buy a reusable tumbler for your hot or iced coffee so you can take your beverage on the go. My tip for making iced coffee at home, which is something I drink every day, is to make a regular cup of your favourite brew, mix in the sugar (if you take any) while the coffee’s still hot and leave it in the fridge overnight (or at least 2 hours if you really can’t wait).
Then in the morning when you’re ready for your iced coffee, take out your chilled brew from the fridge and add your milk/cream. If you want your drink to be colder, I suggest making coffee cubes - freezing about a quarter of your brew in an ice cube tray overnight. This way, your iced coffee won’t be watered down by regular water ice cubes when they melt.
During quarantine in Toronto earlier this year, personal service settings such as massage parlours, hair salons and nail salons were closed. I don’t know about you but I definitely turned to DIY-ing my manicures and pedicures at this time. A skill like this, learning to do your own fingernails and toes takes a lot of practice especially if you wear acrylics or gel nails. But once you learn how to do your own nails, you’ll save a lot on getting your nails done at a salon.
What you’ll need for a salon-level shellac set at home: nail file, manicure set, UV light, gel polish, base & top coat. A couple of perks to doing your own nails is that you can change them as often as you’d like (whether you’re over a color you chose or want to match your nails with a cute outfit or suit an occasion), you can repair them whenever you need to (gone are the days where you’d walk around with a broken nail or two because all the appointments at the salon are booked) and you can do your nails while binge watching your favourite show on Netflix.
- Working Out
You don’t need a fancy gym membership or expensive equipment at home to get in a good workout. Utilize YouTube if you’re like me and find it too dull to read/look at photos demonstrating different workouts. The Chloe Ting Challenge generated a huge following earlier this year but other YouTubers like Cassey Ho of Blogilates and Whitney Simmons also create workout videos that are worth checking out. The majority of the workouts created by these YouTubers don’t require any equipment. But a good starter set would include resistance bands and an exercise mat. You can also find yoga tutorial videos on YouTube if that’s more up your alley.
- Altering Clothes
The chances are that you have a couple of clothing items in your closet that don’t exactly fit how you would like. Instead of buying new clothes, try learning how to alter your clothes. I learned to hem pants that were too long for me and mend minor tears in my sweaters by hand before I invested in a sewing machine.
Of course, when it comes to things like formal dresses or suits for example, you definitely want a professional eye and skilled hand to work on your piece. But I guarantee you will save a significant amount of money learning how to alter your own clothes and make minor repairs than if you were to take them to a professional seamstress or buy completely new clothes. Go for a beginner’s sewing kit and follow a couple of helpful YouTube tutorials to get you started.
I’ve heard that meal-prepping not only saves you time and allows you to control what you eat, but that it’s also cost-effective. You’ll save money cooking your own meals instead of ordering in or eating out.
Buzzfeed’s Tasty channel has a ton of yummy recipes you can follow and they even have a few videos on making fancy meals on a budget. Ingredients of course, aren’t free, but learning to cook at home will not only save you money, but it’s also a pretty good life skill to have under your belt.
- Decorating/Renovating your Room/Home
Try simple solutions like rearranging your furniture and DIY-ing old decor into something new - you don’t need to go to HomeSense or Ikea every time you want to makeover a space. If you have paint from a previous room/house project, you can reuse it to create a feature wall in your bedroom or another room in your house. Utilize what you already have to make your space feel new. Check out this YouTube playlist by TheSorryGirls featuring home decor you can DIY from dollar store supplies.
- Hanging Out With Friends/Going on Dates
This is particularly helpful during a global pandemic and especially now that Toronto has moved back into Stage 2 of combating Covid-19. Take your girls’ nights, dates and movie nights online. Get yourself excited for them by getting ready and dressed up as you would if you were leaving the house and going out.
Take the time to adapt to virtual social interactions but remember to also practice good hygiene - wear bluelight glasses, take breaks from screen time by phoning a friend instead of video chatting and refrain from using more than one screen at a time. You’ll save so much time and money carrying out your social interactions online instead of commuting to a restaurant downtown or buying movie tickets and snacks. Not to mention, you’re looking out for your health and that of your friends/dates by having a virtual get-together.
Of course, this list can be extended to include things like cutting or dyeing your own hair at home so you don’t need to drop bills and hours at the salon. But there are some things you’re allowed to splurge on in life and that’s okay. I like getting tattoos but I would never learn how to do them on myself at home.
All of the things I’ve listed above are stepping stones. Learning to do these things on your own at home will save you money but I don’t claim they’ll all be easy to pick up - through practice and patience, you can learn to get better at anything. My third grade teacher always said to me and my classmates that “practice makes permanent, not perfect.” You may never perfect a skill but through the process of learning how to do it, you gain valuable qualities and permanent practices that can help you do so much more.