13 Life Hacks For Living In Calgary When You're Broke AF
For when your bank account is on life support.
Living in Calgary on a tight budget can be quite the struggle. From buying food and daily necessities to trying to have a little fun - your options are pretty limited when money's tight in YYC. However, there are a few things you could do to make living in YYC a little easier on your bank account.
Unfortunately, solely saving money by using your best friend's Netflix account isn't gonna cut it. (However, do this for as long as they'll let you.) Whether you're trying to make ends meet or you're just trying to save a little extra cash, here are a few ways to live a little more comfortably when you're broke AF in Calgary.
Start your grocery shopping at the dollar store.
Sounds weird, I know, but trust me on this. Before you go to the grocery store, stop by Dollarama or another local dollar store and see what you can find there that's on your list. Dollarama is great for things salt, sugar, minor baking ingredients, juice, snacks, etc and you'll never spend more than $4 on an individual item. It'll save you lots of $$$. If you're willing to go the extra mile, pick up some $3 cutlery while you're at it.
Driving downtown during busy hours? Park at the train station and ride downtown.
One of the priciest parts of living in Calgary is the parking rates downtown. New York is the only city in North America that tops Calgary over parking rates. Insanity. During busy times of the day when all the street parking is taken, you're often subjected to having to pay some extreme parking rates. However, parking is free in the train station lots - so it'll save some money and gas to park your car and take a train into the city. (This could save time, give or take - depending on how long you spend looking for a parking spot - but I'd recommend getting to the train station early) But hey, you no longer have to consider selling an organ to park your car downtown.
Get a Monthly Transit Pass.
If you ride the C-Train/use Calgary Transit often, it'd be way easier on your bank account to either get a monthly transit pass rather than paying the $3.15 fare or getting a $9.50/day pass every day. Monthly transit passes are $99/month for adults and $65/month for youth. However, Calgary has many different options such as UPass for University Students and Low-Income Passes.
Buy gas at gas stations with rewards that actually benefit you.
Many gas stations offer some sort of rewards for buying gas. For example, air miles or petro-points. However, how much do you need those air miles right now? Try buying gas at gas stations that are attached to grocery stores to get some rewards that'll help you save on your grocery expenses. All Loblaws gas stations offer PC Points (1000 PC Points = $1) / buy your gas at the Superstore or No Frills gas station and load up your PC Plus Card for major grocery savings. Costco's gas prices are also usually a few cents cheaper than most gas stations. And if you're insanely frugal like me, you will waste even more gas driving around looking for a Costco because that 3 cents definitely makes a difference!
Need winter clothes? Dollar store.
Once again, Dollarama saves the day. Get mittens, toques, socks, and scarves for less than $4 each at the dollar store. You can get mittens, a toque, and a pack of Twizzlers at Dollarama and still spend less than you would on a pair of Lululemon mittens. So, who's the real winner here?
Clothes & accessories on a budget? Liquidation and outlet stores.
Some people have different opinions on Liquidation stores, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Calgary has a few liquidation stores like Bianca Amor's Liquidation Supercentre & Wayman's that'll definitely help you save some dough. Many outlet stores also sell clothing at a lower price than you would find at the original store in the mall. Flaunt that ring that turns your finger green, girl.
Join swap/ buy & sell groups on Facebook.
Calgary has an abundance of buy and sell/swap pages for things like clothes, shoes, and even textbooks! Can someone explain to me why are textbooks so expensive though?
Get an SPC Card (and take advantage of places that offer student discounts).
If you're a student 16 or over, you are eligible to apply for an SPC card and get up to 15% off at some of your favorite stores and restaurants. You are also eligible for a no-fee SPC card if you bank at BMO. Just a little side note, Pizza Hut accepts SPC, if that changes things... *wink-wink, nudge-nudge*.
Go to nightclubs that offer guest list.
If you're looking to have a good time without spending a bunch of money, try eliminating the cover fee by going to nightclubs that offer guest list. Paying anywhere between $10 & $25 to get into a club can really put a hole in your pocket. But many nightclubs like Jimmy's and Standard, offer a guest list service. Call or e-mail and let them know how many people are in your party and get in free of charge before a certain time of the night. This is a life saver. ...Unless you're always late like I am and end up having to pay cover anyway.
See movies at Canyon Meadows Cinemas.
Movie tickets can be really expensive. A night at the theater often ends up being over $25 a person with admission fees and snacks. However, Canyon Meadows offers $5 movies (which is more than half the price of what you'd regularly pay at the theatre) so you can save a little money. Or spend even more money seeing 6 movies in a row, you know, whatever tickles your fancy.
Only eat out during deal days & happy hour.
If you're really craving going out for a meal, always go either during Happy Hour or on deal days. Feeling wings? Hit up Juliet's Castle for all day 25 cent wings on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Want some pasta? Visit Chianti's for $8.99 Pasta from Sunday-Tuesday. Craving Calamari? Head on over to Double Zero on weekdays from 3-6 p.m. Live by this, we are too frugal to pay full price.
Get a gym membership at your school or a local recreation center.
Staying fit can be a little difficult since gym memberships can be super expensive, however, many schools and recreation centers offer fitness memberships at discounted prices for students and people who live in the area. At recreation centers, you'll often get access to some of the other facilities as well. More for your money! There's always the option of losing the freshman 15 by being too broke to buy actual groceries. Ramen noodles every day.
Choose a bank that's right for you.
Choosing the wrong banking plan or banking at a bank that doesn't offer the right services for you can really drain your account. If you're a student, look into low-interest credit cards and no-transaction fee/student bank accounts. President's Choice Financial offers no-fee chequing and saving accounts and you can do your machine banking at CIBC.