9 money-saving hacks

Student experience
Student life
Three students sit around a table using calculators.
Ah, the invigorating taste of freedom that comes with adulting! But wait, freedom has a price tag, right? With the holidays approaching, and the bite of inflation and expenses, managing finances practically requires an intensive course on its own. But fret not — here’s a quick rundown of nine clever budget hacks.

1. Get free stuff

Whenever you need something, your first stop should be the University of Ottawa’s Free Store. Who can say no to free stuff? This is your go-to place for free clothes, office supplies, kitchenware and many other items.

Pro tip: Pick up a quirky birthday gift for a loved one. It’s the thought that counts, right? 

2. Exercise — get what you’ve paid for

Not only do you have access to our two fitness centres, but did you know that drop-in classes are included in your fees, without you needing to register? Meet new people and try something new. Join a group fitness session or play squash, volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton or pickleball. 

3. Get creative on dates

Instead of shelling out for a movie or a dinner, get creative by taking your special someone to a free event in between classes. For example, check out an amazing visual arts student showcase in Simard Hall, attend a lecture at the library or go to events and activities on campus. Learn how to recycle old clothes at Project (Sustainable) Runway or check out some startup ideas at the Entrepreneurial Idea Competition. You won’t look like a cheapskate — you’ll spark a great conversation. The best things in life are free!

4. Show your student card to get discounts

A lot of places in Ottawa and further afield offer discounts to students, including museums, the National Arts Centre (look for Under30 tickets) and some stores. Always ask and have your card ready for proof!

Pro tip: Admission to the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature is free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

5. Use those Flex dollars every month

Every month, you could win one of two $25 prizes in the Monthly Flex Dollar contest. Just use your uOttawa card to make a purchase at selected retailers and you’ll be entered to win 25 Flex dollars. That’s free money! Monthly participating retailers are posted on the uOttawa Card website and your uoZone message board. 

6. Track your spending with a budget

Make a monthly budget of what you need for rent, food, school supplies and entertainment. Take note of what you spend on extras and try to think twice next time. 

7. Shop smart

Time to lose that old cliché of surviving on instant Ramen noodles. Here are a few resources: 

  • Price matching: Use the Flipp app to compare prices and find the best deals at Superstore, No Frills, Giant Tiger and Freshco. A little research can save you a big chunk on your weekly grocery haul. 
  • PC Optimum: Accumulate PC Optimum points on your purchases, which can be redeemed for free products. It’s like getting paid to go grocery shopping. 
  • Scene+ points: Love movies? Accumulate Scene+ points on purchases for free movie tickets. 
  • FlashFood app: Snag products nearing their expiry date at a discount of 50% to 75%. A real boon for savvy students. 
  • Too Good To Go: Join the anti-waste movement with the Too Good To Go app, offering surprise baskets from retailers at small prices. 
  • Circulaires.com and RedFlagDeals: Don’t underestimate the power of flyers. They’re available online and can help you plan your shopping around promotions. 

Pro tip: Never shop when you’re hungry!

8. Use public transportation and your U-Pass for getting around.

Resist the temptation to call that Uber or borrow the car, and save money on gas and parking.

9. Ride a bicycle

Admittedly, this isn’t for the faint of heart this time of year but, depending on the weather, you might squeeze in a few more days of cycling. Rolling up on your bicycle is not just practical — it’s a life-changing decision. Cycling is one of the best ways to commute to and from the University of Ottawa, and with nifty bike parking spots sprinkled all around, you can be sure you’ll never miss that sunrise lecture. For your convenience, here’s a handy map of where you can lock up your bike to help you plan your journey (even if it is next spring).

There you have it! With these tricks up your sleeve, you’re ready to face the adulting world with a well-managed wallet. After all, every penny saved is a step closer to that coveted financial freedom. And remember, the key is to be ingenious and stay on the lookout for good deals!