How to Cheer for Toronto Teams on a Budget

If there’s one thing the last year has shown us, it’s that Toronto teams are working hard to make their fans proud.

But team pride and coming together means a lot of bars and, you guessed it, high bar tabs. And when you have an entire city getting hammered with you in the name of team spirit, blowing money on drinks somehow seems justified.

But it really isn’t, and your bank does not offer city pride rebates. Being smart with your money while supporting Toronto teams doesn’t mean you have to sit at home with a meal of bread and water while you wait for updates on the radio. You can definitely feel the team spirit without forcing your wallet to feel it, too.

Read the Drink Specials and Spend Accordingly

Even if you are not a big sports fan, any bar when a Toronto team is in the playoffs is infectious. Some might say this is being a bandwagoner. I call it having a good time. But that doesn’t mean you have to order the most expensive items. Take a moment to read over the drink specials. Hell, you might find you like something different (and cheap!) And even if you insist on getting your usual, you can search for drink specials based on day and drink online. 

Sip Slowly – Your Drink Isn’t Going Anywhere

If you are somebody who feels anxious about the server coming over and asking you if you want another drink, sip slowly. They are busy, and they are about their tips. So long as your glass isn’t empty they have nothing to say to you aside from a routine quality check to “see how everything’s going”. Nurse your drink. That way you won’t feel tempted to order multiple rounds just to have something in front of you throughout the evening.

Order Appetizers and See If Anyone Else Just Wants Something To Nibble On

Do a quick survey of your friends to see if people are actually hungry. Most of the time people just want something to nibble on, but convince themselves they should order a full meal. If your appetite is not feeling up to a $15 burger, ask if anyone wants to split an appetizer. Apps are less expensive, and if you are splitting it with someone it will be even cheaper.

Pick a Few Evenings to Be a Teetotaler

You are a hard core “Toronto til the death of me” sports fan who needs to watch virtually every game in a bar surrounded by your people. It’s cool. So choose a few nights to be a temporary teetotaler. Pick a few games where you just don’t drink. Even if you grab some food, your bill will still be significantly lower than a bill that includes several rounds. Your liver thanks you.

Find That Friend With Cable and Parents Who Don’t Give a Damn

I don’t think anyone with their own apartment who is under the age of 25 has cable, but this is Toronto, people. That means a large number of your friends or classmates are from the city or the suburbs and are commuters. You know what this means: houses owned by old people (love you, parents!) with cable. Now, most of those people will have parents who do not want a bunch of rowdy sports fans tearing up their living room, but there is always one with parents cool about it – or at least a friend who is willing to risk a cussing from their parents.

Buy some stuff from the grocery store, make an LCBO run, and watch the game without paying restaurant premiums. Thank their mom on the way out. Don’t spill anything.

Order a Pitcher

Go out with people who like the same drinks as you, and then order a pitcher. If you’re gonna spend money drinking, might as well be in bulk.

AND REMEMBER: Don’t drive drunk. Better passed out on the TTC than dead or a murderer. Cheers xo

Why Students Should Eat The Same Lunch Every Day

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi

Everyone loves lunch. It’s a teasing taste of the freedom that’s gonna come at the end of our shift or after a long day of lectures. But there’s something to be said for deciding to eat the same thing for lunch…every day.

It Makes Packing Lunches and Eating Healthier Easier

Once you’ve created a meal – with all the food groups! – that you like and enjoy eating regularly, packing lunches and eating healthy becomes easier. You gain an increased awareness of the foods you’re consuming since you’re throwing the bare ingredients together yourself. By knowing exactly what to grab from the grocery store each week and developing a quick and easy method for preparing your food either the night before or the morning of, the process will become as automatic as brushing your teeth or hopping into the shower. (Assuming you do those things…hopefully.)

Working Over Lunch Becomes Much More Efficient

If you have a go go go mentality and like to get readings done during your lunch, you will appreciate this reason. First of all, keeping yourself fed and energized is an important part of being productive, so skipping lunch to squeeze in an extra hour of studying is not a sustainable strategy. The most productive students know this and respect their body’s needs. That being said, you can still make your lunch hour as streamlined as possible by cutting down on the amount of time you spend thinking about what you’re going to eat.

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, told Lifehacker that she eats the same thing for lunch every single day (and breakfast too for that matter!)

I try to automate all tasks that truly do not require energy. For instance, I basically eat the same breakfast and lunch every day (dinner is my fun meal). Why waste time on figuring out what I want to pick up for lunch? I know what I like, and I stick to it.

The 32 year old multimillionaire is a Harvard grad, entrepreneur, CEO, and New York Times Bestselling Author – you’d better believe she knows something about using your time wisely.

You Can Spend Less Time Thinking About What To Eat and Enjoy Your Lunch Break Instead

Remember when someone took that intense scene from The Notebook (where Noah repeatedly asks Allie, “What do you want?”) and captioned it, “Every time I ask my girl what she wants to eat…“? Whoever made that video was speaking the truth – for both girls and boys. Figuring out what you want to eat can take forever, especially when you are presented with a lot of options. And by the time you’re done making your selection (likely one of two meals you always get) and have made your way through the long line you’re only left with a little time to scarf down your food before getting back to your classes feeling like you only had a ten minute break. Spend less time staring at lunch specials and more time doing what you want with your break.

You Will Save A Lot of Money Eating The Same Thing Every Day

If you care nothing about productivity or even healthy eating, perhaps a plea from your wallet will have you seeing things differently. Instead of running to the cafeteria or going out for lunch in between classes, you can satisfy your hunger with the easy meal you put together. We spend A LOT of money eating out. A 2012 study by Visa found that Canadians who buy their lunch three times a week at an average cost of $8.80 per meal spend $1,500 a year.

That’s tuition for two classes, a round trip ticket to Europe, or at least a bad ass wardrobe. Pack a lunch.

Your Cooking Skills Will Improve

It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? If you’re making the exact same thing for lunch every single day, shouldn’t your cooking skills get worse or plateau? On the contrary, witnessing the positive results of eating the same meal every day – on your finances, on your health, and on your productivity – will make you more curious about how you can make additions or alterations to your meal. The success you’ve already experienced provides more incentive to try.

Eating the same thing for lunch every day sounds like a bland way to live, but you’d be surprised at how much time we waste deciding to eat the same three things we always do. Your life is way more exciting than what you eat at 12 o’clock and the benefits of grabbing the same salad and chicken each day may leave you wondering why you didn’t try this sooner.

Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash

5 Strategies for Spending Less at Restaurants

The weekend is here, and of course your undomesticated self will probably be going out to eat. Unless you are an Instagram foodie with a bunch of exclusive free dinners, chances are your wallet is taking a hard hit from all those entrees. You won’t completely cut restaurants out of your social life, so let’s try a few strategies for saving money while you eat out, instead.

Pre-Eat

This is simple AF. I know you know what pre-drinking is. Now it’s time to pre-eat, my child. Everybody knows that the main allure of restaurants is:

1) convenience

2) the opportunity to Instagram something other than your face so your page looks like you go places

There’s no need to prepare anything fancy. In the same way you down cheap booze in an effort to spend as little as possible when you party, stuff yourself with something simple before you head out. When you get to the restaurant, you will order just enough to avoid being kicked out of the joint.

Order Appetizers

Appetizers are the best part of the menu and they are usually the yummiest. The best part? They’re the cheapest, and a lot of the time the serving sizes are more than enough to keep you happy. Take it one step further and commit to eating solely apps as a group. If you and your friends order several appetizers and commit to splitting the bill evenly, you will wind up with more variety for a fraction of the price. Bon appetit.

Do Some Chicken Math

I have a friend who worked with a girl who was relatively loaded. Anytime they went out her bill was the lowest in the group. If they were moving from one location to another, it could have been 11pm and this girl would walk rather than take a cab a few blocks, drunk as she may be. But perhaps my favourite anecdote about this co-worker was her astonishment at my friend’s purchase of a plate of chicken bites.

“You’re buying those chicken bites? They are $12. You are getting 6. Do you realize you are paying $2 for each chicken bite? This little thing? No.”

To this day, I refer to breaking down the cost of anything as chicken math. Forget unequal distribution of wealth. Chicken math is how the rich stay rich, people.

Fill Out Those Damn Receipt Surveys

You’ve finished your meal, the server hands you your debit receipt (grinning or glaring depending on the tip you left), and she tells you to visit the website on the bottom to fill out a survey for 15 percent off your next appetizer. What do you do? You smile, tell her you’ll totally do it, and then THROW THAT PIECE OF PAPER IN THE GARBAGE?

Quoi?! Listen, chances are you will probably be at that restaurant again. Tuck that receipt in your wallet and commit to completing that survey. The next time you go out and cringe at your grand total, you’ll be thankful for that 15 percent discount.

Stay Home and Cook

Lol. K.

A Q&A on money management with financial educator Aly Hirji

We’re more than halfway through January, and that means many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside. But a few impulse purchases are no reason to forget about your goals. In fact, they should be even more reason to get up and get back on track.

Aly Hirji - Headshot - PL
Photo credit: Aly Hirji

Aly Hirji is a Toronto educator who focuses on Financial Literacy and Digital Technologies. Hirji is a proactive and motivated collaborator, teacher, and mentor who has implemented numerous initiatives to foster students’ academic success. He is actively involved in financial literacy workshops, career counselling, guidance on post-secondary pathways for youth and their parents, and much more. He kindly took the time to share his knowledge and advice for readers looking for ways to get serious about saving, set financial goals, and effectively manage their money.

A lot of financial advice is geared towards serious investors or families. Rarely do you see helpful articles about students and money that go beyond “buy your textbooks used”. It appears as though there isn’t a lot students can do to get serious about saving and investing aside from spending wisely. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?

I can pretty much agree that many articles – and much exposure and attention – are focused on youth, young professionals, and adults (middle age and elderly). Post-secondary students tend to be overlooked due to many factors from not fully partaking in the work force to not being a target market for financial institutions and certain products and services.

What are the biggest financial mistakes you’ve noticed that students make?

Many students do not take advantage of various funding mechanisms such as scholarships, bursaries, and grants that are easily accessible to fund post-secondary education. There is also the mismanagement of OSAP monies that students have access to after paying their tuition and fees, and feeling as if they’ve received a small lottery to enjoy and spend. I can speak from experience. I needed to ask my parents for assistance after my first few years of university. I learned that I needed to manage my money effectively and ensure that it would last for the school year. Any monies that I didn’t have to manage my loans, fees, costs of food, transportation, and clothing, came from taking on a part-time job and taking on a lighter course load of four instead of five credits per semester. This allowed me to balance my grades and effectively manage my money and that in turn enabled me to save some for the following year for any future increases in the cost of tuition, transportation, food, and school-related expenditures.

For many students or new graduates with loans – OSAP or otherwise – saving is something they believe they can only start doing after they’ve paid off their loans completely. On the other hand, tackling such a large amount of debt can leave one feeling overwhelmed or simply passive about actively paying off their balance. Do you think it is smarter to work on multiple financial goals concurrently when you are young and if so, how does one go about achieving this?

It is always good for students to manage multiple financial goals concurrently along with their other expenditures while in school. To start, a student should adjust their lifestyle and their budgeting. Start by looking at how you spend your cash and income for the month. Record all of your expenditures such as coffees, drinks, eating out, apps for your phone, etc. Then begin to determine which of these are your Needs and which are your Wants. You’ll quickly notice that many of those Wants (such as coffees, eating out) can be removed from your life. These habits will become a part of a student’s lifestyle and allow them to make more informed decisions when they make other important financial decisions regarding mortgages, car payments, managing credit card debt, and more.

Students need to understand that making good financial choices along with being disciplined about their expenditures is not only a short-term goal, but a long-term goal as well and one with impactful consequences. It’s very common for many young professionals (after undergrad and post-grad) to complain about making rent or saving for a home or car, while making poor everyday financial choices that add up.

There’s this perception that financial responsibility comes at the expense of an enjoyable life. What are some concrete strategies students and young adults can employ to strike a healthy balance between planning for the future and living in the moment?

Financial responsibility comes with making good choices and decisions. Buying a brand new car, without knowing that it will depreciate after it’s driven off the lot to purchasing a new cell phone plan with a new phone without understanding that the plan and cost of the phone is built into the cellphone plan. The same goes for doing research and shopping around for furniture or a rental unit to live in. Look at all the details and be knowledgeable through research. Access the various group benefits you have as a student through associations, parent alumni groups, and work-connected group discounts. You can enjoy life in many ways by going for walks, taking the local transit, partaking in programs offered by various community groups, and networking with alumni and various industry associations. Reading books, participating in art clubs and groups, as well as giving back to the community by volunteering are also good options. Many of these activities are free or have minimal to no costs. Start by seeing what truly makes you happy internally, and what gives you a sense of peace and balance.

I’ve come across a lot of writers online who are critical of the lack of compulsory financial education in schools. A few times a year you see posts on Facebook like, “I can tell you that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but no one ever taught me how to do taxes”. Do you believe it is necessary to incorporate lessons about budgeting and accounting into the elementary or secondary school curriculum, and what are a couple simple concepts people out of school can google or read about to start their own financial education?

Yes, it is very necessary for Financial Literacy to be mandatory in curriculum. Financial Literacy is already in Ontario Curriculum through the Ministry of Education’s Scope and Sequence that has been added to Secondary School Curriculum, but it’s all based on the educator’s comfort level, understanding, and competence to deliver the material to their classes. There are resources available through the Canadian Bankers Association’s Your Money program, The City by the FCAC (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada), Junior Achievement’s Dollars with Sense program, Investor’s Education resources, and much more. There are plenty of resources to access to complement and help deliver Financial Literacy across curriculum. In addition, reading articles by Ellen Roseman and books like The Wealthy Barber and The Intelligent Investor can help start the dialogue between teachers and their students. 

In one or two sentences each what quick advice would you give to:

A student in their last year of high school living at home with a part-time job and planning to attend a post secondary institution the following year.

I would research and apply to as many External Scholarships (prior to acceptance) and Internal Scholarships (after acceptance) to help offset the cost of post-secondary education. Your part-time job may count against your OSAP eligibility so be aware of that. Also, in regards to working a part time job, you may want to take a lighter course load or do night school so that you can better manage the part-time job and the course load and have a smoother transition.

Someone in their second year of university, living in residence, who is on OSAP and working part-time.

Consider Internal and External scholarships to offset the costs of residence and tuition. Since you’re on campus, look for work-study and part-time work on campus to help lessen the travel time between school and work. Any extra monies from the part-time job would be good to use for savings for a rainy day in the future such as paying a good chunk of OSAP upon graduation. Build your experiences related and unrelated to your field so that you can network, develop more skills, and connect with people for future jobs and advancement. Networking is very important at this stage. Also, look into post-graduate studies, but do look at the career and industry trends in the job market.

A new grad working an entry level job.

Network after work through alumni and industry events, build your group of mentors and manage your income so that you’re paying off your high interest debt first and low interest debt last. Also, any extra income from overtime, part-time jobs and so forth should be put towards any debt so that you can be debt free quickly and can save for your future and long term goals. When it comes to your mentors, job shadow, ask for advice, guidance, and any wisdom to help in your journey of life.

What resources or websites would you recommend to our readers who are eager to learn more about handling their money?

Some helpful resources are:

http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home-accueil.aspx

http://www.practicalmoneyskills.ca/

https://proliteracy.ca

https://twitter.com/FinanLiteracy

Thank you for your time!