By Meg Crane

When I was 18, I left my parents house and started university without any financial help. Six years later, I graduated with a joint degree from Red River College and the University of Winnipeg with no debt.

How? With a helluva lot of creativity.


My favourite way of getting food less expensively is holding a potluck. You don’t end up with more food, but you end up with more diversity. It’s cheaper to buy ingredients to make two large loaves of bread than to buy ingredients for a half loaf of bread, salad, soup and pasta for one. If you go with option one, your friends can bring over the salad, soup and pasta. You can have a feast, with leftovers, and enjoy one another’s company. Option two, you’re sick of bread in a couple of days but have nothing else around to eat.

In the summer, stock up on all the local grub you can. Volunteer at community gardens, plant in friends’ backyards or go foraging. It’s time consuming, but preserving free foods to eat throughout the winter will cut your grocery bill substantially. I don’t have time to garden, but I offer the use of my dehydrator to friends in exchange for some of the harvest.

Selling skills

I’ve been knitting for nine years. So, when someone tells me they want to learn, I offer to teach them for a few bucks or a meal. If they don’t want to learn but want to give sock monkey hats to all the kids in the family for the holidays, I ask them for a bit more dough or a bag of groceries.

Everyone has some skills other people don’t have. Maybe you’re great at doing taxes and would take care of mine in exchange for a jar of homemade garlic powder. Perhaps you’ll come reupholster my chair in return for a couple baby blankets. Cutting back on the need for money is empowering and can really help in a bad month.


There are many everyday items we buy that can be made inexpensively, or free, at home.

I haven’t bought cat litter since 2010 when one of my munchkins decided it made a good snack. I’m glad she pushed me to look for alternatives, because for the last five years I’ve been shredding paper to make litter instead. It’s free, compostable and doesn’t smell as bad!

In the last issue of Cockroach, we encouraged people to make their own menstrual pads. That could save a lot of dough.

None of these things make a huge difference, but when you don’t have dependents and do make a living wage, the small things do add up.

Got creative money saving suggestions? Tweet @Cockroach Mag.

Meg Crane is the founder of Cockroach. Follow her on Twitter.