Pinching pennies before the holidays

Features Editor Bethany Bowles offers some advice on how to avoid overspending this holiday season

SliderNear the end of first semester, all students are virtually in the same boat. OSAP is running out, we cut back hours at our part-time jobs because of the unmanageable amount of school work and as a result, our wallets become a barren desert.

With the holidays fast approaching, it would be wise to pinch a few pennies. Being away from home and far from the support of your parents or guardians can make this seem nearly impossible, but there are several quick fixes and do it yourself projects that can keep those dollar bills safe in your wallet.

Beware of the drunk munchies

We’ve all had those nights where we go to a bar and spend way more money than we intended. My friends and I generally end up at McDonald’s or Gino’s Pizza after a night at Phil’s. Next time you go out, plan ahead and grab some pizza pockets for the freezer. Instead of spending $5 or $10 on pizza or burgers after the bar, you have a tasty snack already at home.

Repurpose old candle jars

If you’re a candle junkie, save the jars and repurpose them after your candle has burnt out. The best way to do this is to pop the burnt out candle jar in the freezer to let any remnants of wax freeze. Freezing the wax makes it much easier to chip out with a knife or a spoon. Once the wax has been chipped out, you can simply wash the jar and use it for whatever you want. I’ve used the empty jars for q-tips, makeup and hair accessories. You can even use them in the kitchen to hold and organize tea, spices or baking ingredients.

Make your own bulky infInity scarf

Bulky wool scarves are not only stylish, but they’re also very practical for those cold winter mornings when you’re walking to school. Last year I found a YouTube tutorial on how to knit your own infinity scarf using your arms as the knitting needles. It was crazy easy and made a beautiful scarf for much cheaper than if I were to buy a new one. All you need to buy is the yarn. These scarves also make great cheap holiday gifts.

Make your own candles

We all have those people that are impossible to buy gifts for at this time of the year. I like buying people candles as they tend to be a crowd pleaser, but candles are so expensive these days. If you buy your own soy wax on, making a bulk amount of candles is actually fairly inexpensive. All you need is soy wax, wicks and scented oils for the perfect candle recipe. You can repurpose old jam jars, beer bottles or cheap dollar store wine glasses to set the wax in.

Make your own bath bombs

During exam season, bubble baths, whether you want to admit it or not, are a must. Many people are familiar with the store Lush and their amazing bath bombs, but not everyone can afford such a luxury. Turns out they’re fairly easy to make on your own. These make great gifts, too. All you need is:


1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup Epsom salts
1 tsp. water
2 tsp. essential oil
3 tsp. olive oil
Food colouring

Make use of old liquor bottles

Most of us just toss them when they’re empty, but there are tons of things you can do with old liquor bottles. I always see expensive novelty items using liquor bottles in stores. Considering this is something most of us throw away without a second thought, a neat idea for an empty Jack Daniels bottle is to turn it into a soap dispenser. The pump off of an empty soap dispenser fits nicely on top of the empty JD bottle. This could make a cool holiday gift for that liquor enthusiast we all know and love.

Make your own beard balm

Beard oils have been all the rage lately, but with high-end oils and balms being well over $30, having a luscious beard seems unattainable. Below is a simple and cheap recipe for a smooth beard.

Melt coconut oil and essential oils. Essential oils can include tea tree oil, bergamot and frankincense. Once they have melted together, put them in a jar and wait for it to solidify. Then you’re left with a solid beard balm that will make your beard baby soft.

Mimic processed snacks

I love bringing prepackaged snacks like granola bars with me to school. They’re easy to bring and easy to eat on the go. If you think about it though, a package of granola bars generally costs between $3-4, for approximately six bars. There are tons of granola bar recipes out there that make way more than six bars, for a fraction of the cost. Also when you make your own, you’re more aware of how much sugar you’re adding, giving you the ability to make them healthier.

Stop buying coffee

I love my Starbucks, but no one can afford a luxury coffee that often. Let me put this into perspective for you: at Walmart, you can invest in the most basic Keurig for $88. That’s roughly the same price of 15 grande Starbucks lattes. If you really love flavoured coffee, there are so many different kinds of K-Cups these days that I’m sure you can find something for your sweet tooth. Try your hardest to bring a travel mug instead and it’s guaranteed to save you money.

Leave your credit card at home

When your credit card is sitting in your wallet, you’re much more likely to spend money on things you think you need. I like to try my hardest to only use cash. Cash is something physical you can hold in your hand, making it easier to keep track of your spending.

Get all the points cards

I love points cards. Around the holidays, when you’re shopping more than you should, sign up for points cards. I’ve saved money countless times with my Plum Rewards card at Chapters, my Optimum card at Shoppers, my Pure card at HMV and my Smiles card at Menchies. If a store has a card that requires a minimal to no membership fee, sign up!

Stop paying people for services you can do yourself

Paint your own nails, pluck your own eyebrows, trim your own bangs or buy your own electric buzzer. Any competent person can do these things if they’re desperate enough.

Go to closer bars

As much as going to the same bar every weekend can be boring, when you travel to downtown Kitchener or even uptown Waterloo, most people end up forking out money for a taxi or an Uber after the bar. If you stay closer to your house, you can use the cheapest mode of transportation: your own two feet.

Look for products online

Sometimes online shopping can be cheaper than mall shopping. There are brands that aren’t easily found in stores, like the cosmetic company NYX, that are significantly cheaper than in-store products. I also like checking for a product before I buy it from a store. Shipping, however, can sometimes make this more expensive, so be wary.

Shop second hand

Value Village has always been given a bad reputation, but if you have the time to dig, you can find some really good stuff. Vintage is making a comeback and shopping at Value Village or Goodwill can be dramatically cheaper and more ecofriendly than buying new clothes. If you wash them before you wear them, there’s almost no way to tell that someone else wore the item before you. Also consider looking into places like Plato’s Closet that will buy your used clothes so you can get some extra cash.

Leave a Reply