Strategies for Living Affordably

Living well on a budget

Living on a budget doesn't mean you have to give up the things you enjoy!

Here are some more suggestions for affordable, yet comfortable living:

Food shopping and meal planning

Developing an interest in food and cooking can actually keep your grocery budget down and greatly improve the quality of what you eat. Preparing food from scratch is much cheaper than buying processed foods from the frozen section or in boxes.
  • Plan your meals and use your plan to develop your shopping list.
  • Invest in reusable containers for freezing and packing lunches.
  • Pack a lunch and snacks instead of buying your food on-campus.
  • Buy no-name instead of name brands.
  • Don't shop on an empty stomach.
  • Get inspired by recipes. Find them on the internet or buy recipe books from used book stores. Share and exchange recipes with friends.
  • Variety is important. A boring meal plan makes it too easy to end up splurging.
  • Avoid convenience stores. You pay a premium for convenience.
  • Cleaning products aren't always necessary. Use vinegar and hot water instead of window cleaner. Baking soda has a number of household uses such as scrubbing pans, clearing drains or deodorizing.
  • Do you really need paper towels? Use ripped clothing or rags for cleaning.
  • Try recipe webistes like Recipes for or for menu inspiration. 

Buying in bulk

  • Cereals, rice, and granola. Try to avoid highly priced boxed cereal.
  • Buy meat in family packs and then freeze in meal-size portions.
  • Buy in bulk and then share with a friend.
  • Buy a bag of popping corn instead of the pricier microwave variety. Use an air popper (you might find one at a yard sale) or pop it on the stove. Make extra and take in a bag for a snack.
  • Nuts or other bulk items make great snacks.
  • Spices are very expensive when bought in smaller containers.
  • Price out the unit price (per gram, per pound, etc) - what you visually think is the most economical item isn't always the case.
  • Be mindful of your heat, electricity and hot water and cut back or turn things off when not in use. 

Smart choices at home

Small choices can equal big savings:
  • Television and phone. Do you really need cable and a land line? Many service providers have less expensive options than a full bundle of products.
  • Cell phones can be expensive. Watch your data (use wi-fi on Dal campus) and talk time, and increase your plan limits if needed.
  • Buy used. Get to know the used marketplace, like Value Village, Frenchy's, Kijiji, and local garage sales.
  • Call long distance during the discount times, get a calling card, or have them call you. If you don't know when the cheap times are, you may be paying more than you have to.
  • Be mindful of your heat, electricity, and hot water usage. Cut back where you can and turn things off when not in use.

Social Activities

  • You don't have to sit at home. Find creative ways to be sociable for little or no money.
  • Get physical. Go for walks, hikes, tobagganing, biking, and camping.
  • Try free events in town or on campus, such as lectures, movies, and musical performances.
  • Renting or streaming a movie with a bunch of friends is a lot cheaper than actually going to the movies.
  • Dinner parties. Have a potluck or invite a group of friends over to make sushi or tacos.
  • Brew your own beer - it's fun, challenging and cheap.
  • Order too much at a restaurant? Take it home in a doggy bag for tomorrow's lunch.


  • Buy used! Try websites like TextbookRental, and Amazon. Also check out the Dalhousie Bookstore as they may have used books available. Make sure that you check with your professor first to ensure that you're buying the correct book and edition for your class.
  • Share with a friend
  • Borrow from the Dalhousie Libraries
  • Sell your books back for cash at the end of the year.