Super Broke-Ass Guide to Montréal: For Students

By Regina Dentata

CW: bodies, menstruation, money + finances, food, sex, swear words, alcohol

This is the fourth edition of the broke-ass guide, and has been edited due to space constraints by the 2017-2018 School Schmool coordinators.

Aside from ‘fuck exploitative capitalism and its creation and maintenance of poverty and fuck the capitalist class that benefits from the theft of lands and labour, this text is not meant to make any value judgments about how marginalized people choose to resist oppressive systems or reduce the harms caused by them. AKA I am not and encourage others to not be self-righteous assholes about things like dumpster diving and shoplifting– there are lots of reasons people choose to engage or not engage in those and other tactics and I super respect that. If you are visibly queer and/or
racialized these tactics can be more risky.

Some places employ secret shoppers. Always watch out for cameras. Beware of bedbugs when dumpstering and curb shopping especially during moving season (June – July).


Dumpster dive.

Dollar stores can carry a lot of non-perishable food—and the spices are especially cheap! Be aware, however, that Dollarama’s labour practices are EXTREMELY shitty.

Wine & Cheeses—bring a Tupperware or three.

Samosa sales—literally the only worthwhile campus eating situation at McGill (aside from the Midnight Kitchen). Also available at Le Frigo Vert at Concordia.

Free lunch!  Midnight Kitchen, the First Peoples’ House, Rabbit Hole Café, the People’s Potato, and Mother Hubbard’s* all have free or
by-donation meals at least once a week!

Know your grocery stores—some are way more expensive (IGA, Metro) than others (P.A., Aubut, local marchés). Get in the habit of checking sales fliers online.

Food bank/food basket—the Midnight Kitchen at McGill does this.

Save up those little packets of condiments from food courts and diners.

At fast food joints with fill-yr-own fountain drinks, it’s pretty easy to swipe an empty cup off an uncleared table or out of the trash and fill it up–free soda and reusing disposables all at once!

It is legal in Montréal to drink in any public park if you are having a picnic, which essentially means that you can drink in parks if you also have food with you. This is way less expensive than hitting a bar, and you get to be in the sunshine!

In the spring/summer, plant veg and herbs on your balcony; volunteer at a community garden where you can take home produce– the People’s Potato has one at the Loyola campus.


Live with lots of roommates and split the cost of bulk foods

Turn down your heat! Shower less! Bathe never! More layers!

Winter-proof your goddamn house!


Books—textbooks are infuriatingly expensive. See if you can find a free pdf copy or a cheaper physical copy online; borrow or split the cost of a copy and scan the necessary readings onto a USB.

School supplies—check the dumpsters behind big pharmacies like Pharmaprix or Jean Coutu; rummage through people’s moving
garbage; get your pens and post-it notes for the year for free from
various groups during the first few weeks of class.

Apply for literally every grant and bursary—even if you don’t think you qualify for a scholarship or award, apply anyway. I’ve gotten shit that’s good for both my bank account and résumé simply because no one else applied.

See if you can turn your job into an internship for credit—you’ll get paid for your schoolwork, for once!

Laptops are flippin’ expensive. McGill has grants for students to buy a laptop, but they usually don’t cover the whole cost of a machine. There’s also a computer refurbishing club, Reboot McGill, that takes donated machines and brings them back up to snuff before providing them to people in the “McGill community”.


No friperies on St-Laurent, go out of downtown and find little local frips.

Clothing swaps with buds—more challenging if you are not the same size as most of your buds.

Free shit boxes/piles/etc.—most collective houses will have something like this. Take advantage if it’s for public use. You can also find these at the end of the year at some McGill residences.

Dumpster dive behind friperies—all the shit they don’t think they can sell they toss.


Living outside of the area immediately around campus will likely lower your rent, but keep in mind that you’ll need some kind of transportation to get to campus, work, parties, etc. Full time students can get reduced-fare OPUS cards.

Consider getting a bike. The Flat, Right to Move, La Cave, and SantroVélo are all DIY bike repair shops with experienced volunteers to help you learn to care for your steed. (note: there are lots of reasons folks don’t bikebeware bike culture that glorifies the vélo as the ultimate revolutionary tool or whatever)


There are lots of zines and online DIY guides to making your own hygiene products.

If you menstruate, consider getting a Diva Cup/Keeper, reuseable pads, or make your own pads. Remember the UGE has PWYC. Menstrual cups especially cost a lot up front, but they last for years so you’ll more than make up the cost.


Know Yr Labour Rights—If you are a student worker on campus you are likely a member of a union. Figure out which one and grab a copy of your Collective Agreement or get in touch with the exec to make sure you are receiving your correct rate of pay and all the benefits to which you are entitled.

Scam yuppies! Do you like to make stuff? Yuppies will pay a shit ton of money for things that you might be already doing–home canning pickles or embroidering patches, for example. Give’em to your buds in the gift economy but set up an Etsy or display your wares at yuppie-central places like Atwater market.

Studies–there are mailing lists and registries for medical and psychological studies that will pay you to do anything from answer a few questions to be a guinea pig for a couple of months. Some of these can pay extremely well, if you don’t mind being a guinea pig.


Sex! Free condoms are pretty easy to cum by [sic] on campus. Cut them into dental dams! McGill’s Shag Shop has at-cost pregnancy tests, learn to make sex toys via DIY Sex Toy zines. Coconut oil makes great lube (but watch out—it can weaken condoms).

Bike path adventures, especially up the mountain!

Go to a demo/solidarity event.

Free museum days (depends on the museum).