You probably know this, but I’m planning to move to London in June on the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, which lets Canadians, Aussies and Kiwis (and I think people from Monaco and Japan) live and work anywhere in the UK for two years. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the UK is having a harder time with the recession than Canada and there are very few jobs… especially in London. So I’ve been trying to save up as much as I can now. Here are my tips for saving for the big trip:
1) Hold a (digital) Garage Sale
I’ve lived in the same apartment for 2 1/2 years, and I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. Plus, I only wear about half of my clothes. So I’m planning to have a digital garage sale. Right now, I’m collecting all the stuff I never use and I’m going to sell it on Facebook Marketplace, Kajiji and Craigslist as soon as exams are over. (Anyone looking for furniture, clothes, dishes? I’m very reasonable on prices.)
2) Buy groceries
This might sound obvious, but since I live in downtown Toronto, I find it more convenient to grab take-out, than make food at home. Last year, I honestly bought every single meal and spent about $15 a day on food. That’s $105 a week! While I admit that I still buy my morning Tim Horton’s (about $20 per week), I’ve cut back to eating out once a week and I have so much more money.
3) Make a list
If you go to the closest mega supermarket and buy whatever, you’re not going to save money. At the 24-hour Metro across the street from me, I could easily drop $50 on 10 items, if I wasn’t careful. Instead, I decide my meals for the week, make a list and then look to see which stores have sales on the items I want. (I hate buying store brands, because they load up on salt, so I end up spending a little more).
4) Use coupons
There are so many coupon websites on the web that let you print off coupons free like canadianfreestuff.com or smartcanucks.ca. Once you know what you plan to buy that week, see if you can find any coupons to save even more.
5) Cut-out fees
I used to accumulate about $15 a month on bank fees, just because I didn’t have cash on me and wasn’t using my bank machine. If I’m going to pay that much, I better at least get some beers out of the deal. It takes a little planning ahead to always use your own bank machine, but I think it’s worth it.
6) Stop shopping
This year, my resolution was not to buy any clothes all year. I’m proud to say I haven’t since Jan. 3 (I made my resolutions a little late). I’ve actually been having a lot of fun putting clothes I already have together in new outfits. I’ve also told myself that I would either wear everything in my closet or get rid of it (hence the garage sale). I think I’m actually dressing better now.
7) Buy used
If you absolutely need something, like textbooks, check out used bookstores, Facebook Market place, Craigslist or Kijiji.
8) Visit the library
I almost never buy novels, but this semester I tried to go without buying textbooks too. It worked out fine. My Uni’s library has all the books on reserve, so I just have to go and do my readings there. There’s also this great thing called a Reference library. I highly recommend it for quite studying.
9) Use students and trainees
I get my hair cut at the student training salon. It only costs $18 (and not the $50 I was paying) and the teacher hovers so much that it’s the same cut. Bonus… they give you free coffee and water, (I guess to try to relax you before the student cut) and a make-up touch up and the end.
You’re probably going to do it a lot on your trip anyway, you might as well get used to it now. I try my best not to take transit for anywhere I could walk to in 20 minutes or less.
11) Get a better deal on utilities
Even if you are leaving soon. it is totally worth the hassle. When I got back from London in December, I was pissed that I had paid £17 (about $27) in London for the same service I paid $68 for in Toronto. (In case you don’t know, Canada has the highest cell phone costs in the world). So I called Rogers and yelled at them for about half an hour and they brought my bill down to $50. While still expensive by international standards, it’s very good for an all-inclusive plan here.
12) Pay cash (well ok, debit)
I used to use my credit cards to buy everything. At the end of the month, I’d get my bill and ask, “How the hell did I manage to spend $400?” Then I’d remember that I bought $90 worth of groceries, $40 worth of fast food, $50 for transit tokens… and eventually I’d work it all out, but it was too late to do anything about it. Now I’m paying debit for everything and I can realize mid way through the month if I’m spending too much.
13) Set-up a direct-deposit
Ok, so this one doesn’t actually save you money, but it’s easier to save if the money disappears from your chequing account into a travel savings account as soon as you get paid. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to spend $500 in two weeks if it’s just sitting there.