It’s hard to get through this struggling economic climate, but it’s even harder to get through it if you’re a student. I know this from personal experience. As a student who can only work so many hours while juggling a full course load, I also find it hard to support small businesses while saving money.
However, fear not! I’ve found some ways to balance my passion for buying local. And from this have compiled this student guide to help you too!
But first, to address a common buy-local myth: you can’t buy local on a budget.
There’s a pervasive idea that buying from local businesses becomes taxing on your wallet, because you can get cheaper products from big chain stores. Students, especially, might tend to flock to big boxes to purchase everyday items. You might notice that many large chains use marketing tactics to attract students to shop for their merchandise. For example, stores like Loblaws, and Bed Bath and Beyond usually offer student discounts and deals to lure a wider student customer base. Walmart launches big “Back to School” campaigns every year before school, hoping to achieve a higher sales rate from students.
While sometimes it might be cheaper in the short term to purchase products from big box chains, purchasing things from local businesses, when you can, might actually have more long term benefits. The secret is to find a balance. In this student guide, you will learn some small tips to help you make good purchasing decision that will benefit your local community, without sacrificing your bank account!
A student guide to research
As a student, there’s no doubt that you have to write a lot of research papers, or at the very least, you’ll need to do some research. The same goes for your finances. Firstly, it’s a good idea to figure out the best options in terms of your credit. On a related note, I’ve found that Tangerine has some good services for students, offering a relatively high cash back.
It’s also good to take into account the student discounts that stores might offer you. How good is the student discount, and how much are you actually saving? Student discounts might sound great and you might feel that you’ll save a lot. But in reality, the deal might not be that great if the prices are high. Loblaws, for example, is notorious for having high prices, so would you really be saving that much in the end?
Weigh long-term and short-term benefits
As cliché as it sounds, sometimes, it is all about quality over quantity. Let’s say you buy some cheap kitchen utensils like plates and bowls from Dollarama. Of course, with cheaper prices, you could afford to buy a lot more items there. But do you actually need that many plates. Depending on how many people you’re living with, sometimes, only a few dishes will do the job.
Instead of buying more than you may need, consider purchasing fewer better quality plates and bowls – ones that you can find at a local business.
You can also balance out what you value more, and invest in that. For example, you might not particularly care about plates and bowls, but you’re more inclined to invest in some good mugs that can last you a long time. Get your plates and bowls from Dollarama, and look into buying mugs made by local providers. For example, Hannah Hicks Art is a local artisan in Halifax. They sell beautiful paintings that are also used to decorate postcards, calendars, and, more to the point, mugs!
Invest in things that are important to you
This brings us on to the next tip; identify what you are passionate about and what you value. Everyone gets joy out of different things. Some people who are foodies might be more passionate about kitchen supplies, while artists might value their art supplies the most. For me, I tend to value clothes, and more importantly, books. This means that I tend to purchase these things from my local businesses. This might mean that I might resort to big box chains for some things, like food. But if you’re a book hoarder like I am, you can check out this list of Halifax local bookstores for you to visit!
Identifying local businesses that specialize in selling things that you particularly enjoy is also really helpful for your local economy. Chances are, you want these special things to last longer. And buying things made by your community members will ensure better quality as compared to mass-produced items from larger chains.
A student guide to sustainability
In my experience, students are the last people I have to explain sustainability to. I find that we all hold the health of our environment as a priority. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can afford lots of really fancy and innovative sustainability products. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways around it.
With big boxes selling a surplus of merchandise that turn the average consumer into a cash cow, everyone needs to do their part to think more critically of the current economic environment. If you’ve been to the local thrift store in the past few years, you might find racks on racks of clothing with a Shein tag. Industries like fast fashion are obviously not good for the environment. They churn out more clothes than their consumer base can keep up with. According to a CNN article published in 2020, around 80 per cent of all clothes will ultimately end up in landfills. These numbers are … concerning, to say the very least.
A lot of this has to do with trends, their impermanence furthered by the popularity of TikTok and other social medias among the younger generations. While certain fashion trends are certainly very tempting, it’s important to analyze if this is something you really like. Ask yourself if you think this is something you’ll still wear 5-10 years down the line. How often will you wear it? Despite trends, is this something you want in your wardrobe for a long time?
So sometimes, less is more. Instead of buying lots of shirts for very cheap, put all that money into one shirt. While the single shirt might cost more than one of those many shirts, you’ll be less inclined to buy multiple shirts. And chances are, if a shirt costs more, it’s usually better quality, and can last you longer. Making clothing purchases this way, you can diminish your own carbon footprint. Ensuring that fewer clothes end up in landfills.
Another alternative is to make what you can! This method might be more time consuming, but I find that it’s actually happily time-filling. For example, knitting yourself a scarf or a sweater can be a really fun hobby that you accomplish on your bus ride to and from school. You can even source your materials locally. For example, Halifax’s own Nerds With Needles sells a variety of high-quality and hand-dyed yarns and kits that will inspire your next creative knitting adventures!
Be conscious about your purchase choices
Ultimately, we’ve established that, it’s a lot of pressure to be a student. Suddenly, all of your choices have individual and collective effects on you and the people around you. All this while you’re still trying to figure so many life things out yourself. I get it.
Take it easy on your self and do what you can.
Of course, a student guide can only inspire you. Ultimately, you just need to be smart about your spending habits by doing initial research and calculating the cost and value of each item you buy. These are habits that can be learned. And, by practicing these value-based purchase decisions now, you’re sure to become proficient in the future.
By then, you’ll be more financially independent, and you can really put the values you’ve developed as a college student to good (and broader) use!