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Monday, December 23, 2013

Being Thankful

It can be easy to feel resentful during a study semester, especially if you are on a limited budget; other students have more money, a better apartment, go out most nights, etc.  It’s often easy to want to forget the whole ‘frugal’ idea and just blow money and have fun.

Now that the semester is over and that you are surrounded by family more than classmates, take a few minutes to be thankful for the situation you are in.  Specifically, be thankful for:

- a country where if post-secondary education is not free, it is accessible to you

- a country where you live long enough to attend post-secondary education, and that it is available to both women and men, people of all races, and of all sexual orientations

- parents that support you emotionally and financially

- high school teachers that prepared you to succeed in college or university

- knowing that you will be in great financial shape when you finish your studies because of your hard work and knowledge

- new classmates and friends you have made last semester

- being one semester closer to finishing!

Life is good.  Enjoy the holidays.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reflecting during the holidays

Whether you are religious or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the winter break between December and January are a must for all college and university students.  Since you will most likely be free of assignments and studying during at least two weeks, this is a great time to reflect about your successes and your mistakes of the last semester.

Why do this? First, because it is a useful exercise to avoid making more mistakes this upcoming semester, and two, because with your mind free of school stress for a little bit of time, you will be able to calmly analyze your mistakes and your successes.
Spending mistakes: your first step is to write a list of your impulse buys that you later regretted, and their cost.  Add them up and look at the figure so that it sinks in.  Find at least three ways to avoid these impulse spending events so that the mistakes can be avoided more easily; here are some ideas:

      - Never buy anything that is more than $10 without thinking about it for 24 h
      - Use cash only when shopping to avoid going over budget
      - Put spending money in a ziplock bag, put the bag inside a plastic container, fill the container with water, close with lid and freeze.  Only this money can be used for ‘fun’ spending, so the thawing time will ensure you think twice about the purchase.

      - Limit yourself to an allowance for ‘fun’ – say $15 per week; you then have the choice to a burger on Friday night, or wait two weeks and buy a CD.
      - Write EVERY purchase down so that you keep track of the running total and be aware of how much you are spending each day, week, and month.

 Second, list all the ways you should have worked better (not more, but better) such as attending all classes and tutorials, working on assignments with a classmates, reading the textbook ahead of time, borrowing an alternate textbook from the library, etc.
Third, list all the ways you saved money last semester: the free pizza at an event you attended, how you split a family size box of cereal with a friend, and how you scored free theatre tickets by volunteering at the opening night.  Add up the amount of money you saved, and vow to do 50% better next semester.

Four, list at least five ways where you can save money this upcoming semester.  This could include:
      - Working on an energy plan with your housemates: decreasing the heat in your home, taking shorter showers, and studying at the library instead of at home (to save on electricity)
      - Buying second-hand textbooks instead of new ones (and selling the old ones),   
      - Using the municipal library to borrow books instead of buying them or downloading them on your e-reader (cheap, but not free)
      - Attending free movie night on campus instead of paying the big bucks to see new releases
      - Having a beer at home before going out to limit bar alcohol purchases
      - Inviting friends over for a BBQ instead of going out on Friday night
      - Attending campus events to reduce the cost of entertainment
      - Traveling by bus instead of taxiing to the local mall

 Five, list at least three personal goals that you want to achieve before the end of the next semester, such as:
      - A fitness goal like a distance to run, a gymnastic move to complete, or a number of push-ups to do in a row
      - A personal knowledge goal like joining the Spanish club to learn a few sentences in Spanish, learning ballroom dancing, or taking a philosophy class or another class outside your major
      - A personal mental health goal like starting to meditate, attending seminars to learn to manage stress better, or talking to a counsellor about your worries and personal conflicts
      - A personal social challenge such as overcoming your shyness at least three times to attend parties or functions you normally would not, or starting a conversation with that attractive classmate of yours.

Reflecting is difficult; it means admitting a lot of mistakes, and writing down goals that will make you more successful next semester, but that will also give you more work.  However the satisfaction that you will fee, not only in April, but also in January when you go back to school and you feel a sense of control over your student life is worth the work.  Enjoy the holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Making Money at Christmas Time

You are most likely looking forward to the winter holiday; planning on seeing friends, hanging out, and maybe spending a bit of time with your family.  Of course all this free time is very tempting, but it is also a great time to make money! 

First of all, many regular employees of stores and restaurants will be celebrating the holidays as well, which means that if you are or were a part-time employee of a retail establishment, the manager is most likely looking for students like you to fill the absence of regular employees; however, training a completely new employee for a few shifts is not worth it so it’s not a great time to apply for a new job.

If you know families with small children, the parents will most likely like to go out at least a few times during the winter break – and will be looking for a babysitter, i.e., you!  Letting a few family friends know that you are available to babysit during the holidays will most likely be your best marketing.  Keep in mind as well that if you make yourself available for New Year’s Eve, this is the most lucrative night of the year for sitters.  You could even organise a sleep-over of little kids at your house to maximize your earnings.  This means that you would miss out on the celebration yourself, but if your friends are in the same situation as you, surely a party on the 1st can make up for the missed celebration.

If your exams are finished a bit before Christmas, you can offer to clean houses for family friends – many of them will be trying to have their homes ready for the 25th and would like help; a good pair of arms is all that is required (good music will make the task less boring!).

And if working is not possible for you, another idea to save money is to cook a few meals, or to ask your parents to teach you to cook a few favorite recipes so you can do it later back at school.  And if mom is the one who cuts your hair for free, now is a great time to get a haircut!
Enjoy a relaxing, working winter break.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winter holidays on the cheap

Christmas is coming fast and although I do not enjoy seeing red and green in all the stores starting shortly after Halloween, the reality is that for all students, the winter holidays equal a break in studying and most likely a trip home (if you live away from home).

If you are living at home during your studies, lucky for you! You do not have to try to schedule traveling with your exam schedule.  Relax, study hard for those final exams, and be empathetic to your classmates who need to make (perhaps) expensive plans for traveling home.

If you are living away at college or university and will be going back home for the break, plan carefully about your trip.  Your first step is to look at your final exam schedule to see when you can leave campus. 

First of all, do NOT book a plane or train ticket until you know when your exams end – I had friends who purchased plane tickets for mid-December, assuming they would be done; the choice was then to fail a course or give up and expensive ticket once the exam schedule came out and … surprise! Their last exam was on the 19th.  Yes, plane tickets are cheaper when purchased in advance, but you cannot afford to miss a final exam (you can reschedule one for medical reasons – not travelling reasons).  You CAN book a ticket for after the last day of exam – this may be your cheapest option, if not a fun one if all your exams are finished by December 12th and your ticket is for the 20th. 

If you are not traveling far, bus and train tickets can be obtained for a reasonable price close to departure date, and you may be able to car pool with a friend or friend’s parents (remember to thank them profusely and to bring a small gift for the driver, as well as offering to pay for gas). 

If you are lucky enough to have your parents pick you up or you have your own car to drive, be generous and offer someone a drive; if you don’t know anyone going in the same direction as you, post a note on your campus (paper or virtual) so that you can offer a ride to someone – this will help your budget in a number of ways: - you can share the cost of gas; you will meet someone who can help you at a later date; you will share the problem if any occurs (you need a nap but want to drive non-stop); you can share other expenses (a large coffee split in two is cheaper than two small ones); you will have good company which will make the trip more fun (ok, not a financial saving unless you were going to buy a new CD for the drive).

Unless your parents are coming to pick you up with a large mini-van, or you are allowed unlimited baggage, limit your size and number of luggage; you often have to pay a surcharge ($25+ per bag) for bags, so the fewer the cheaper, and one large bag is better than two small ones.  Remember that if you will receive many presents, these may need to be taken back with you so plan accordingly (and light foldable bag inside another is a great idea).

Finally, use this trip to bring home what you are not using (may seem to be a counter-point to my previous advice to limit luggage) instead of waiting until the end of the school year.  If you are flying, a 2nd piece of luggage is cheaper than excess luggage (3rd + pieces) and you will have lots of stuff to bring back later.  However, if you have any textbooks that you will keep (instead of selling back), beware of taking them back home right now – they may be good reference for your 2nd semester courses.  When you go back in January, think of what you need for the 2nd term that you don’t want to buy in your college/university town and bring back with you, including the winter clothing or items you didn’t think you needed.

And most of all: after all this planning, enjoy being home!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Keeping warm when the cold hits

Living in Canada has lots of advantages; living in warmth is not one of them. So if you are having difficulties staying warm on a budget, read on.
If you do not live in residence or at home, you are most likely paying for your own heat, which means that you do not want to ‘crank up’ the heat and be hit by huge bills at the end of the month.  If you have housemates, it’s time to have a meeting so that everyone in the house is on the same page. 

First of all, turn down the heat whenever nobody is in the house: if you are all away for the holiday, keep the heat on low, so that the pipes do not freeze, but not warm enough to be walking in indoor clothing.  Assuming most of your classes are during the day, the heat should be turned down during the day while you are keeping warm in class.
Second, seal any place that would leak heat.  That means around old windows, under outside doors. and electrical outlets – if you feel a cold draft in these areas, there is air leak.  Search online for the best way to seal these areas and talk to your landlord for him/her to pay for the material if you do the work (this is a typical agreement between tenants and landlord since both have a gain). 

One place that houses lose heat is windows – the glass itself is only so insulating.  Blocking all windows is not a good option since you will lose both natural light (which saves you electric light costs) and heat from the sun.  However, once the sun is down, the only thing your windows do is leak heat – therefore, close the curtains and thick curtains, insulated curtains are best.  Quilts, duvet, extra comforters, or thick winter blankets can work.  Make sure you only use them once it’s dark outside.
Remember also that the temperature you keep your house or apartment at does not have to be quite as high as the home your parents live in.  Wearing an extra sweater and slippers (or indoor shoes) inside is not a great inconvenience and can save your money. Area rugs on (all or) most floors in your home will help your abode feel warmer (the temperature will be the same but the feeling will be warmer because a rug is more insulating than a floor): this is especially true of bedroom floors in the middle of the night!

At night, since you are under blankets and we typically sleep better breathing slightly cooler air, decrease the heat a little at night.  To keep your bed comfortable, wear thick sleepwear and use extra blankets.  Much body heat can be lost through the head, so wearing a cotton or warm hat or a hood is not a bad idea.  I find that having (clean) socks at night help me be comfortable in bed and I find flannel sheets to feel the warmest when I get into bed (fleece sheets are also available nowadays).  Warming up a rice bag in the microwave and putting it in your bed (close to your feet) will also keep your warm and help you fall asleep.
Keep the heat you produce: if you are using the oven to bake, after your turn it off, open the door wide open (you may want to make up a mechanism to keep the light of the oven off so you don’t waste electricity) so the remaining heat is used to warm up the inside of the house and not an outside wall.

If you are very strapped for cash and are living in a large house, close off some of the rooms and turn off the heat in these.  For example, you can share bedrooms from December to March to decrease the heat costs of the house you live in. The unused rooms can be used by all for storage of your summer stuff (bikes, rollerblades, etc.) so that the used bedrooms are more spacious.  Choose the least insulated room(s) to close for the cold season.
Finally, if one room is much colder than the others, do not increase the heat for the entire house because of that one room; either insulate better that room (find out why that room is colder – maybe it has 3 outside walls), or add a space heater (make sure it’s a very safe model) for that room alone.

Although these ideas will not cut your heating costs down to zero, they will make winter more comfortable – for you AND your wallet!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gift giving on a budget

Gift giving season is coming up, especially is you celebrate Christmas.  This can be a source of stress for every student: final exams are coming up, but you also feel the pressure of getting ready for the holidays, planning (perhaps) to travel home if you live away, gift buying, and parties.  That’s a lot to handle all at once, especially if you are a first year student and had exams in January in high school.  This is all new.

I can’t really help you with exams – chances are you are taking English or History, and I took Math and Physics about hmmm… 20+ years ago!  But I can help you diminish the financial stress of gift giving.

A first rule of gift giving as a student: it IS the thought that count.  And family and relative are grateful that you are studying at a post-secondary institution, and that you will see them during the holidays (especially if living away from home).  Everything else is a bonus.

However, if you ARE planning some presents for family and friends, here are a few tips for keeping it under budget (and remember that if your parents are contributing financially to your education, you are, at least in part, spending their money on presents!).  Here are some ideas for gift and gift giving (in general – these apply for birthdays, holidays, events, etc.)

1.    Small is adorable: small gifts often mean more than an expensive but tasteless gift.  Think of a cute computer memory key, delicate barrettes, a mug matching the recipient’s taste.

2.    College loot is trendy: your family is proud of your education and career choice.  A ‘University of Winnipeg’ mug will remind them of you every day at breakfast.  A ‘St-Lawrence College’ t-shirt is perfect for mom’s gardening hours in the summer.  These gifts also show your family that you appreciate your education.

3.    Kids like to DO stuff: a gift to look at is ok, but a gift that children can use is better.  Think of a new box of markers, some play dough and cookie cutters, a puzzle or a book.  All of these can be used for months if not years, and are engaging gifts.  They are also very reasonably priced. 

4.    A newborn does not need much, and probably has a hundred new sleepers by now.  For a baby, I try to find a book in which the main character shares his/her first name with the baby.  To make my search easier, I search for that name on Amazon.  Even my niece Livia received a book with her name in it.  For more uncommon names this can be difficult though.  

5.    When I was a poor grad student, I made (on my computer) and printed (on my own printer) a calendar with photographs of my grandmother at different ages.  My grandmother received the first copy, and then all my aunts and uncles (on that side of the family) received one as well.  This was a HUGE hit and it only cost me the price of paper, ink, and having the pages bound with spirals.  I put the photos and calendar table on pieces of 8 ½ x 14 inch (legal) size paper, one page per month.

6.    If you bake, a huge batch of cookies divided in small packs of 6 cookies are easy to transport (as opposed to cupcakes) and cheap.  Ditto for mini banana bread loaves.  If you are home early, you can even bake at home instead of in residence or at your rental apartment/house.

7.    Food is always popular.  Fill empty jars of spaghetti sauce (start collecting now) or peanut butter jars (make sure the recipient has no allergies) with candies or trail mix from the bulk store and label them.  These will be sure to be a hit because you can tailor the content to what the recipient likes: caramels, nuts and chocolate for dad; spicy and savory snacks for sister, gummy bears for little brother.

8.    If you need and have the time (this is very time-consuming), knitting scarves is simple and can be done with one skein (ball) of yarn purchased on sale.  If you have a long commute home and are not studying, this may work (I did that on the subway in Montreal – it was too hard to study but knitting worked)

9.    If you are giving gifts to fellow college students: a food ‘kit’ is fun, funny, and inexpensive: a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jam; microwave popcorn and 2 liters of soda; trail mix or dried fruit mix (see no. 7); corn chips and salsa; favorite chocolates; a mug and hot chocolate mix (you can add a bag of mini-marshmallow) .  Remember to avoid perishable, especially before a holiday when people are more likely to go home and not eat the food right away.

10.  An insulated mug is a great gift for most people: people on the go, students (even in high school), housewives, retired people.  A water bottle with a drinking spout is a good alternative for kids.

11.  If you are shopping specifically for Christmas, an ornament is a great and not-too-expensive gift.  Most can be found for less than $10 a piece, and several for less than $5 a piece.

12.  For a birthday, I like to put together a list of ‘what happened on ….. (date)’ sheet, and print it.  Simple but thoughtful.

There are obviously many more ideas like these – please share them on my blog!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Food: buy on sale, buy for cheap

I don’t clip coupons.  I also do not spent hours (or even minutes) looking at the grocery flyers that come to our house.  I am busy, and so are you (not to say that coupon clipping doesn’t work – it does!),

I do, however, buy food on sale.  I go to a discount grocery store close to home.  Not every item is the cheapest, but overall, I know I’ll get the cheapest grocery possible at that store (because I refuse to go to a ton of stores).  As well, once in the store I will check all the items on sale – this week was fish – and fish freezes well so I bought enough for 3 meals (different types) and froze it as soon as I got home.
I also needed cereal for the kids.  Now, follow carefully here to see my method: we were low on both sweet cereal (which we use as a toping on regular cereal) and regular cereal.  We were down to Cheerios and Mini-Wheats for non-sweet/regular.  This doesn’t mean that we NEEDED Corn Flakes.  Nobody ever NEEDS Corn Flakes – you may need a non-sweet cereal, but surely not a specific one (unless you have severe food allergies).  So I went to my regular, discount grocery store and looked at what was on sale: Rice Crispies were on sale, not Corn Flakes.  Ok, my kids like Rice Crispies so that’s what I bought.  For sweet cereal, my son wanted Sugar Crisps, but they were NOT on sale.  Corn Pops were on sale so that’s what we bought – he was slightly disappointed, but I explained that the next time Sugar Crisps were on sale, we would buy them; why spend an extra $3 for the regular price when I know that within 2-4 weeks, they will be on sale?

One thing I know is that cereal is always on sale – that is, some cereal is bound to be on sale every week – more or less.  As long as you are willing to buy what is on sale instead of what you had in mind, you will save money.  Or you can wait a few more weeks to buy what you really wanted.  There cannot be a need for a specific cereal when another one will do.
It’s the same for most non-perishable: there is typically some tetra-pack juice on sale, some cereal, some cans, etc.  There is also some meat (fish and chicken included here) and some vegetables on sale.  You are bound to save money by eating chicken this week if on sale and beef next week, instead of insisting that you do it the other way around.

In your food budget, there will be time when you need to buy more than others: for example, when there is a sale of a perishable that you will use for sure (before it goes bad!), such as pasta or canned soup or beans.  As well, the beginning of your ‘cook-for-yourself’ life, you will need to buy some basics: spices; staples such as flour, rice, pasta, cereal, a few canned goods, frozen vegetables, etc.  So for most students, because cash flow can be limited (as well as total amount of fund), it is wise to keep aside $3-5 per week so that when a sale comes up, you can take advantage of it.  As well, plan for the higher cost of stocking your kitchen when you start cooking on your own (when you move away from home or out of residence).

Now cook and be merry!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Food: homemade vs. premade vs. take-out vs. restaurant

It is so tempting, at the end of a hard day of classes, labs, studying, and perhaps a part-time job, to buy dinner at a take-out place, or to eat out.  You are tired, need to eat, and can’t be bothered with cooking.  I understand, and I feel the same many times.  As well, once a while I would like to be able to eat without having to prepare the meal first and feel like eating out.  However, eating out with my 3 kids, without wine nor dessert, is close to $80! in one night, with nothing to show for it afterwards (except an urge to exercise!!).

After studying varying food prices and quality, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, I found this interesting truth:
For the SAME QUALITY, homemade is cheaper than grocery premade (frozen or not) which is cheaper than take-out which is cheaper than restaurant food.  What this means is that if you want a great pizza meal (with salad and soda), making it at home is cheaper than a frozen one which is cheaper than take out which is cheaper than eating it in a restaurant.  This makes sense considering that in a restaurant there would be a large drink and salad charge; at a take-out place, the drink would come in a bottle and would be cheaper (salad made at home), a really good pizza from a grocery (most likely frozen) would be cheaper still, but making your own with pita, English muffin, or bread dough, and canned spaghetti sauce is still cheaper (and a large soda bottle at the grocery store is about $1 if you buy no-name). 

Notice that I talk about same quality meal – this is because, in the example of a pizza, the amount of chicken, say, on a frozen pizza is so small that if you were to make a chicken pizza at home, it’s likely you would put more chicken on it, driving the price up.  Yes, frozen pizzas are practical and they taste good, but in terms of quality of food, don’t count the few morsels of sweet peppers as a serving of vegetables.  Basically, you can make a much healthier meal at home for the same price (or the same meal for much less).
So let’s say you want a meal of salmon, asparagus and rice.  In a restaurant, that’s at least $22 plus drinks, taxes, and tip (plus the drive there and back).  At home, you can buy a serving of salmon (frozen) for less than $5; rice is pennies, and asparagus is about $2 a bunch (for a person).  That’s no more than $8 plus drinks, taxes (there is some tax at the grocery store) and yes, you have to go to the grocery store to buy these, but chances are you buy groceries only once a week, not every time you want to eat.  Drinks will be cheaper at home, and so will dessert.  If you did take out, you would not purchase the drink(s) and you wouldn’t have the tip to pay either (assuming the meal is the same price; often take-out is cheaper because you aren’t taking up space in their restaurant and they do not have to pay a waitress to serve you).

Finally, there’s one thing I often ask myself before I go out to eat: I first evaluate the price of the meal (roughly) and ask myself what else I could buy with that money, something I would enjoy for longer than the duration of the meal: a book? a CD? a new shirt? it’s very seldom that a meal out seems the best value for me.  Bon appétit!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why be frugal? Motivation

After weeks and maybe months of being frugal, we often want to give up and live the life we see others living.  Being frugal can be hard – especially if everyone else ‘seems’ to be having more fun because they are spending more.  So how do we stay motivated? a few ways…

- First of all, be realistic about your classmates and other students; you may think they are spending lots of money, but it’s possible they are raking high credit card debts or that their parents have lots of funds for them.  It’s also possible that they spend less on something you spend more on (maybe some other students have free textbooks from big brother or sister, or they have very low cost traveling back home).  Regardless, remember that you should be happy with what you have because you are content, not because others have more or less than you.

- Keep in mind your ultimate goal: being debt-free (or close to) after you graduate is the best reward you can image – yes, it may be 3 or 4 years away, but imagine the reverse situation: you finally get to work full-time with a decent entry-level salary, but you need to spend $400-$800 per month on debt repayment.  That monthly payment could be going to a great retirement fund, new furniture, a down payment on a house, a car or an apartment you don’t need to share.  But instead, you need to make student loan payments. The problem with spending money you don’t have yet, is that there is no guarantee of how easy it will be to repay – first, there will be some interest to pay on the loan, and second, if you can’t find a good paying job, paying your debt may take a huge chunk of your take home dollars.

- Reward yourself once in a while – and make sure it does not involve a huge amount of money (like the person on a diet rewarding herself with a huge piece of cake!): go out with friends once a month; buy a book at a second-hand store; buy one fancy coffee. 

- Dream a little: Write down your financial goals and put pictures up of the first luxury items you will buy once you graduate and have a good job: a cashmere sweater; an espresso machine; tickets to a musical.  Put this up in front of your desk or where you put down your purse or wallet at the end of the day to remind yourself constantly of why you are being frugal.

- Find a friend who is also cash-strapped and commiserate together – it will seem less hard if you don’t feel that you are ‘the only one on campus who does spend reading week on a resort’.  Laugh quietly at the fashion-slaves surrounding you (in a nice way, just to vent), and feel re-energized in your pursuit of a frugal degree.

- Give yourself a challenge – a no spending day (not a penny comes out of your wallet or your credit/debit card today) or a no grocery day – all your food comes from your home, no grocery shopping. 

For me, one of my motivations is my go-to book.  It’s the book I read when I get discouraged about stuff, financial or other, when I think I just can’t handle things right now.  My go-to book is a biography of a mom raising 3 daughters and a son, one of the daughters having cerebral palsy at a time when disabled kids were placed in an institution and forgotten about. I only need to read one chapter of that book to feel that if this woman could do with so little, I could certainly manage with what I have.  Find an uplifting book or song that gives you the drive, the courage and the perseverance to continue.

Perseverance is the key here – an extra day without shopping, an extra day without gourmet coffee, it all adds up.  Do not give up, and if you ‘lapse’ sometimes (we all do), it’s just extra motivation to keep on going.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learn to drink tap water

For many people, any drink that passes their lips must have a flavor: coffee, soda, juice, etc.  However, all of these carry a cost: both caloric AND financial.  Whether you purchase your drinks from the grocery store or the local café, the vending machine or the cafeteria, a few coins are required for each drink.  The only drink that is not charged by the cup (or bottle) is tap water.  Tap water is free in Canadian restaurants, on campus, and in residence.  In your apartment, a cup of water may have a financial cost if your water bill is not included in your rent – but a glass would be less than a penny. Best of all, tap water has no calorie, no aspartame or other artificial sweeteners, no caffeine (ok, this may not be an advantage when trying to complete an assignment!), no artificial color or flavour.  It is healthy, keeps you hydrated, and can be found anywhere you are on campus (including washrooms).  Tap water does not produce plastic or metal waste if you use your own bottle or cup (as opposed to a disposable cup or bottle).

You find plain water boring? Try a few of these:
- For every drink that is not water, drink a glass of water first – this will slow your consumption of other beverages overall.  It’s also a great tip for not getting a hangover while drinking alcohol – the hangover being caused mostly by dehydration.

- Add ice to your tap water – very cold water is much more refreshing than room temperature water, and often appealing drinks are sold very cold in the summer, making them irresistible.  If getting ice throughout the day is difficult (although most cafeteria with fountain drinks have ice cube available at the same machine), fill one third of your bottle with water the night before and freeze it – in the morning, add cold tap water to the bottle and the water will stay cold for longer.
- Add a slice of cucumber or a wedge of lemon or lime to your water.  One piece will last the day even if you refill often, and will make it seem much more ‘designer’ than plain tap water.  Yes, this adds to the cost of your water, but does not bring it up to the cost of soft-drink or even bottled water.

- The container you use often has an impact on the overall beverage ‘experience’; if you like a drink with a straw, buy an insulated glass with a hard plastic straw.  You can also choose from a variety of different drinking cups with different spouts – choose what you enjoy the most and even ‘invest’ in a few different types.  Insulated containers prevent too much temperature variation.
- Keep in mind that the tap water from home most likely tastes different than the one at school – this is especially true if you are in school outside your home time.  Don’t reject the new tap water because you don’t like it at first.  Just like the one at home, you will come to like it once you get used to it.

- If you don’t like the taste of the chlorine in your water, let it sit, uncovered, for a day or so; most of the chlorine will have evaporated by then.  You can also do the same but in the fridge if you want colder water.
- Filtered water is still cheaper than bottled water so invest in a carafe that has a filter if you like the taste of water better this way.

- Order water in restaurants; you are already spending money on food and service, save a bit on beverage.  Order it with a slice of lemon and lots of ice – it’s still free!  And don’t be fooled by the ‘bottom-less’ drinks (or free refill); the first drink is typically around $4, so the free refills are not worth it – a case of 12 soda cans is around $4 in the grocery store!

So… drink and be merry!