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The Cheapskate’s Guide to Halifax

Photo by Calum Agnew
Photo by Calum Agnew

It’s never too early face up to your future and start living like the impoverished wretch you will undoubtedly be four years from now. The following are a few helpful tips from a perpetual penny pinching pauper.



Class reading lists

If you’re using the campus bookstore for anything besides buying overpriced Dal gear, you need rethink your game plan. Between former students, Kijiji, our extensive library holdings, and Dalhousie’s liberal fair dealing guidelines (you can copy up to 10% or one chapter of a book—useful when the prof only plans to cover one section), you should have all of the resources you need to complete your course readings at a fraction of the book store sticker price.


Getting around town

Whether you use it or not, you are currently paying $147 for the U-Pass, a nifty little sticker on your DalCard that grants you unlimited access to Halifax’s public transit system. This is $477 cheaper than buying a bus pass every month, but you still need to use it seven times per month to break even on the deal. If you find yourself desperate to justify the cost, and have very little capacity to feel shame, note that the #10 bus will take you on a 300-meter journey from the SUB to the Dalplex.


Grocery Shopping

The general consensus amongst campus tightwads is that you should do your grocery shipping on Student Discount Tuesdays at Superstore. The 10% discount does add up over time.


There is an even stingier way to shop for groceries, though. In almost the same amount of time as it takes to walk to the Superstore, you can hop a bus across the harbour to the No Frills next to the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal.


No Frills charges less than Superstore and Sobeys for nearly every product—you will not find cheaper grocery prices in the city without purchasing a Costco membership. If you can keep the trip quick, avoid eye contact with the locals, and take a shower afterwards to wash the Dartmouth off of you, the rewards will be more than worth the psychological trauma inflicted during your brief visit to the Dark Side.


Eating Out


Did you know that the U-Pass doubles as a time machine? Use it to catch a #1 heading to Mumford. Keep riding till you hit the corner of Oxford and Bayers Road. Get off before the turn and head into the Westcliffe Diner. One look at the prices on the menu should be enough to confirm that you have indeed travelled back to 1974.

Take a bite of the thick, juicy burger that owner/operators Bev and Tyler shaped and grilled in right front of you. As the cascading mountain of real bacon atop the burger sets your tastebuds on fire for a cost significantly less than a reheated frozen patty at McDonalds, pause for just a moment to remember who sent you there.


You’re welcome.


If pizza is more your thing, Pizza Delight on Spring Garden Road has an all you can eat lunch buffet for $9.99. While this is a little pricier than the Westcliffe, a true master miser can use a little strategic pre-meal fasting to turn that $9.99 investment into over $70 worth of gorging (based on the menu valuation of items consumed.) Play your cards right and, like the mighty anaconda, you can subsist for many moons on a single grotesque feeding frenzy.


Opting Out


Several societies—typically the ones that collect direct levies from every student but deal with politically charged subject matter—are constitutionally mandated to hold opt out periods each semester. Together, NSPIRG, the Loaded Ladle, and South House collect a total of $14 per year. Take the time to read their websites carefully. Some of you may be happy to support their attempts to promote more radical perspectives on campus and in the city. For others, opting out and turning that $14 into a stimulus package for the Halifax burger industry might prove a more meaningful investment of your limited resources.
Whatever your decision on the societies, the real opt-out bonanza is the health plan. Carefully review whether the DSU Health Plan is actually offering you anything beyond the coverage that you might still be receiving under your parents’ plans. Many students are already covered, and if you can provide proof of coverage, the union will allow you to opt out.


The payout? $253. That translates into around 63 bacon cheeseburgers at the Westcliffe, or $1700 worth of buffet pizza if you can master the anaconda strategy.



Practice the above tips over the next four years, and by the time your crippling student loan debt activates, you’ll be well prepared to put the “fun” back into fundamentally screwed.

John Hillman
John Hillman
John Hillman is the Gazette's Opinions Editor. John is a second-year law student, but he has been at Dalhousie for much longer than that. Recently discovered cave paintings indicate he was first observed lurching around campus by Halifax’s original human settlers some time during the late Pleistocene epoch. He started writing for the Gazette back when you were in elementary school, but he unexpectedly went off the grid a half-decade ago to concentrate on helping found Punditry.ca, a DSU-focused political blog. Where exactly was he hiding between the years 2009-2013? Certain individuals would prefer he not comment. Why has he returned? Not because of a top-secret Illuminati indoctrination project known only as the Omega Initiative, that’s for sure. You can email John at opinions@dalgazette.com.

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