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How to spend and save wisely as a student in Toronto

Personal finance tips for groceries, clothing, and more
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Moving to Toronto can be a big change, but it doesn't have to break the bank. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY
Moving to Toronto can be a big change, but it doesn't have to break the bank. CAROLINE BELLAMY/THE VARSITY

Whether it involves moving into a University of Toronto dorm room or just living near campus this year, moving out is a huge step for many students. Saving money and living in Toronto are two things that are not usually paired together. Learning how to live on your own can be a challenge — but with a few innovative money-saving tips and tricks, you can settle into the city with ease.

Saving on groceries and food delivery

Grocery shopping can be expensive, especially when it comes to getting quality produce. Regardless of whether you’re shopping by yourself or together with roommates, staying within a certain budget can be challenging. Fortunately, the Metro branches at Bloor and Spadina and Yonge and College offer students 10 per cent off their groceries on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. If you use the discounts in tandem with their weekly flyers, you could save some money on your next grocery shopping trip.

Perhaps you’re not in the mood to make dinner, but you cannot afford to spend money on takeout from apps like Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes. The Too Good To Go app is a new initiative to combat food waste by offering restaurants’ unsold food to customers, whether that be ‘end of the day’ bread or food they made in excess. Too Good To Go is a great way to save money while also helping the environment.

Finding clothing for a Canadian climate

There are other ways to manage your money while living in the city, especially when it comes to shopping for clothes. Whether you’re looking to shop designer or buy locally, thrift stores are both a smart and inexpensive way to shop in and around Toronto. Neighbourhoods such as Chinatown or Kensington Market offer a variety of vintage clothes and goods, all within a reasonable price.

I’ve found that stores such as Vintage Depot and Bungalow carry a range of quality clothes, from handmade jewelry to vintage denim Levi’s at competitive pricing. Canadian winters can get extremely cold, and many of the vintage stores in Kensington Market offer durable and high-quality coats and jackets, perfect for the fall and winter season.

Another neighborhood close to campus is the Annex. The Annex is a great area in Toronto that is often recognized for having a large U of T student community, and it’s home to many small shops that offer unique vintage clothes and accessories, such as Common Sort near Bloor and Bathurst. It also contains an array of clothing stores, bookstores, and coffee shops, including many that are budget-friendly.

Decorate your dorm without breaking the bank

Another way to save money while in school is by shopping for furniture on Facebook Marketplace. Shopping online has never been easier and more convenient, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re looking for small décor pieces for your dorm room or a new couch for your apartment, Facebook Marketplace is an affordable service that won’t cost you a pretty penny.

Not only do many people sell good quality secondhand furniture pieces on this platform, like used school desks or storage units, there’s also a variety of other shopping categories to choose from, including electronics, “Garden & Outdoor,” musical instruments, home goods, and apparel.

Campus resources

The University of Toronto also has financial resources for students in the forms of bursaries, scholarships, and programs that are structured to help students with their finances. The University of Toronto Students’ Union also offers bursaries through their student aid program, as well as tax clinics to provide students with tax filing assistance. The Hart House Finance Committee is a student group that hosts financial literacy workshops on important topics, such as debt and credit management and taxes.