The term most financial advisors use for people like me is “impulse shopper”. The colloquial, more appropriate term is “broke-ass bitch”. I’ve come to accept that between the $1-$100 range I’m a see it, want it, buy it sorta lady. And for most of my life, that was acceptable. Having recently moved out of my parents’ home and acquiring a hefty line of credit to pay tuition, however, I have begun to recognize that perhaps opening a savings account is the responsible thing to do, and that buying out the Southgate Sephora every time I have to replace my mascara can be detrimental to my credit score. What’s a girl to do? I like pretty things, and I’ve always worked hard to be able to buy them for myself. But adulthood is calling, and I can only plug my ears and la-la-la the financial responsibility away for so long. So I’ve compiled for the masses a (debatably useful) list of ways and places that hopefully will help redirect your compulsive spending like it did mine, so that you can afford both those ridiculous heelless shoes you’ve been eyeing and the payment on your student loan.
Disclaimer: I am not actually versed in finances, but rather am a seasoned consumer with a sense of self-importance giving advice on a subject I probably know nothing about. Either I’m about to help you find some awesome, alternative deals or open your eyes to a whole new selection of places to flood with your cash. You’ve been warned.
Dollarama: If you haven’t been to a Dollarama, king of dollar stores, in the recent past, you should really rethink where you shop. I know the idea of shopping at a dollar store may bring back painful memories of your 7-year-old self wandering into A Buck or Two, picking out that awesome yo-yo, and proudly handing the woman working the till the lone loonie you found on the sidewalk only to be told it was going to be $2 plus tax, but fear not. You’re now working that retail job earning slightly beyond minimum wage and can afford that extra $1.10. And I promise, your nearest Dollarama with be worth that extra dough. They sell just about anything there, from non-perishable food to fly swatters to wrenches to those little magnetic fishing games that never work worth a damn. I bought most of my Halloween costume there for about $10, which was great because I wasn’t about to pay any more than that to get beer and face paint all over it at the event I was attending. Dollarama is the one place you can buy both household necessities and all the silly knick knacks you’d be getting elsewhere for 7 times the price Deodorant? Birthday cards? Novelty bachelorette party wine glasses? They have them, and I promise they don’t have a Dollarama logo on them so you’ll never look quite as cheap as you feel.
BONUS TIP: Dollarama only accepts cash or debit, so you can’t feel bad for throwing a thousand tea lights and a bedazzle kit on your credit card and letting it slowly accumulate interest.
H&W Produce: I’ve always sort of fancied myself the female, redheaded Jamie Oliver. The implication of this (much to the chagrin of my KD-obsessed boyfriend) is that I usually feel inclined to stock my fridge with bizarre strains of squash, and enticing but useless condiments like mint jelly and wildflower honey. This usually racks up a grocery bill faster than I like to admit, especially when you have to buy boring food for everyone else in the house like eggs and peanut butter. Ugh. However, I have recently discovered the magic of H&W Produce, a locally-owned chain of produce that sells fresh fruit and vegetables for next to nothing. How many times have you gone into Superstore looking for leeks and finding only spring onions? The small proportion of you who gave an answer other than “never” understand my dilemma. What sort of grocery store has its own credit card but no leeks? H&W has a huge selection of produce at every location, so you can get your leek fix and stock up on enough oranges to stave of scurvy for at least a month. And you’ll have enough left over to splurge on some organic prosciutto you’ll never quite figure out what to do with.
BONUS TIP: When all those bizarre vegetables you bought and don’t know how to cook with get to that slightly mushy, unappealing stage, chop them up and make a huge pot of soup. You can throw next to anything in it, it’ll last you for days, your veggies won’t be wasted and you’ll be eating healthy on top of it.
Goodwill: Do you shop at Value Village for your used cookbooks? Did you honestly buy that “vintage” bag at a Decadance? Eff that noise. For roughly one-squillionth of the price, you can find just about anything at the Goodwill on 51st Ave. If you have an unhealthy obsession with mugs like yours truly, you can always find one you’ll want for under $5 in their housewares section. I refuse to take credit when you can no longer close your mug cupboard, though. I’ve also found multiple glassware pieces and a bronze tray for my house that you’d never know were secondhand. They’ve got an awesome selection of clothing ($12 leather jacket originally from Le Chateau? Yes please.), books for next to nothing, and enough gently-used Ikea frames to satisfy anyone with a bare wall and ugly-ass Andy Warhol print they’ve been meaning to hang for 2+ years. While helping a friend purchase some craft pieces for an art class she was teaching, we found some vintage Canadian beer bottles at $2 a piece which I later saw from sale in an antique shop for $12 each. Your senile old aunt had no idea what she was giving up when she asked you to donate that box of breakables she’d stuck in the basement 30 years ago. So go ahead, channel Macklemore and pop some tags. I won’t even complain when your new shirt smells like cat urine and cabbage.
BONUS TIP: Wash everything you buy from Goodwill. Everything.
Kijiji: Downloading the Kijiji app for my phone simultaneously the best and worst thing I have done in a long time. You can find anything on Kijiji, but you’re probably going to spend half your lectures browsing it in search of something actually worth buying. I found my current job through Kijiji. My boyfriend advertises his very successful small business almost exclusively through it, and conversely bought a dirt cheap jet ski on it which he tinkered with all summer. I satisfied my new clothes addiction and helped out another U of A student at the beginning of the semester when I bought two pieces of clothing (originally from Anthropologie which most will understand to mean disdainfully expensive and gorgeous) for $30. The kitten who spent most of this morning chewing on my hair while I tried to enjoy the extra hour I had to sleep in was also a Kijiji find (that I question every time I clean the litter box). I’ve even begun looking at second-hand Christmas ornaments for when I decorate my first self-purchased tree this year. Alternatively, don’t forget you can sell just about anything on Kijiji for a few extra bucks. But I think the best part of Kijiji is that you can turn someone else’s impulse buys into your own at a heavily discounted price.
My former roommate and I both spent the summer as nannies and though we both agreed that dealing with children pre-coffee threatened our ability to remain employed, we both worked weird schedules and making coffee for the two of us in the morning was never possible when one of us left the house at 6 A.M. and the other at 11. So obviously the thing to do wasn’t to buy a ten dollar one-cup French press and grind our beans a little larger, but to purchase a Keurig so that we were now a three coffee machine household. If you’ve ever tried one, you know the allure. The convenience, the technology! Those cute little cups! Luckily, we found one at half price on Kijiji and made arrangements to pick it up from a (seemingly) nice couple located off of Whyte Ave who were looking to downsize their kitchen. Brimming with common sense, we bought coffees on our way to purchase the Keurig and were $15 bucks short on arriving at the couple’s home. They offered to accept a hot drink from The Remedy and some company as payment instead…which turned into an hour of listening to how we could make thousands from home every month by simply signing up for their online business. On the plus side, they bought their own drinks and said Keurig only ended up costing us $45 bucks and a bit of awkward excuse-making as to why we couldn’t attend their seminar. Moral of the story: pyramid schemes always pay off and if someone accepts alternative payment for used appliances off of Kijiji you must always say yes.
BONUS TIP: If you do buy yourself a nice cheap Keurig from pyramid schemers on Kijiji but realize too late that those stupid K-cups are about $12 a box and taste like hot dirt, Bed Bath & Beyond sells a reusable K-cup for about $18 that you can fill with your own beans. You’re welcome.
Julia is a third-year anthropology student who lives with her thrifty boyfriend and a bargain Bengal named Regina. She can often be found bemoaning either the ridiculous customs fees on her last internet purchase or justifying a soy latte at the campus Starbucks. She swears this time she’ll learn to budget.