More than any other city in North America, Montreal is a friendly and fun-loving place for people on any budget. With a very diverse population of poor people and its teeming masses of students, this exciting metropolis doesn’t shut out those with thin wallets. It’s possible to survive, thrive and have a lot of fun here for free or for very cheap.

After you get to know your way around, you’ll develop your own roster of favourite eateries, friperies (clothing bazaars) and bouquineries (bookstores). But here’s a little list of great deals on life’s essentials and near-essentials, to get you started.

Chapter 1: Eating As we all know, Quebec is internationally known for two hometown delicacies, poutine and smoked meat, that aren’t exactly easy on the senses of the scales. But Montreal really is an international city. You can sample the cuisines of almost any locale in the world here, and mostly for a reasonable price.

The following are just a few suggestions: Health- and budget-conscious eaters will find a wealth of Asian food, and not only around Chinatown. Nothing beats Vietnamese Pho (a big, steaming bowl of noodle soup that eats like a meal). It can deliver all four major food groups for under five bucks, and is a delicious way to fill up on a cold winter afternoon. Try out a Pho at the downtown Soup and Noodles location (1671 Ste- Catherine St. West) or Just Noodles at 3711 St-Laurent, or Gourmet Thai et Viet (3610 St-Dominique). A number of other Pho shops are down in clubland on Ste-Catherine near St-Denis.

Further south, Montreal’s Chinatown has several yummy places to get a big, cheap Chinese meal: a local favourite is the Deer Garden, at 1162 St-Laurent. For the truly famished who don’t mind their share of grease and MSG, the $5.75 buffet houses on De La Gauchetiere can really fill you up.

East Indian food is hot enough to get your heart racing and very nutritious, with dishes that combine lean meats with a wide variety of veggies and rice. It’s also very inexpensive: a filling, delicious, varied meal at Indian restaurant can often be had for about $10. Check out St-Laurent near Fairmont, where two places, the Maison de Cari Golden (5210 St-Laurent) and the Royal Cari (5213 St-Laurent), will curry your favour.

Montreal supermarkets tend to be dominated by the huge chains, which can be dizzying to shop in (“You mean the dairy section is half a mile back there?”). A couple can be handy at 4 am, though, when you need milk for tomorrow’s Shreddies. So we’re happy to have some 24-hour stores in the downtown core, including the Provigo on the corner of Sherbrooke and Park Avenue and the slightly pricy Quatre Frères on St-Laurent south of Des Pins.

For bulk organic produce and health foods, Le Frigo Vert is a godsend. Run out of Concordia University as a non-profit student initiative, the FV is well worth the $15 membership fee for non-Con U students. It’s at 2130 Mackay.

We’re also grateful to have four wonderful farmer’s markets: Marché Atwater (138 Atwater), is a little upscale, but it’s still cheaper than the supermarket and only a five-minute walk from Lionel-Groulx metro. The best, biggest, brightest place in the whole city to shop for food is the Marche Jean-Talon (7075 Casgrain, Jean-Talon metro). The market is open every day, all year round, for seasonal produce and other farm goods. It’s especially worthwhile during berry season and in the fall around harvest time, when the stalls overflow with squashes and Hallowe’en pumpkins. Take some friends and spend a morning wandering through stalls of bountiful fruits, veggies and flowers – you can buy produce in bulk baskets and split it with your pals. That way, your kilo of tomatoes or zucchini won’t go to waste. The butchers and fishmongers on the streets are also reasonable and fresh, so a trip up St-Laurent to Little Italy, where the market is located, is definitely worth a weekly outing.

Chapter 2: Dressing One of the first things you’ll notice on the streets of Montreal is that people are very snappy dressers – even on a very tight budget. If you’re the kind of person who likes to shop, you’ll find that you never, ever run out of neighbourhood boutiques to discover. And if you’re the kind who thinks that one T-shirt and pair of jeans are as good as the next one, you’ll be able to cover up your limbs from the elements with a minimum of effort and expenditure.

The first stops in discount-wardrobe stocking are of course the Value Village and Salvation Army. Both chains are dirt-cheap for used clothes, and they often have a great selection of tees, leather, suit jackets, shoes and denim. Check white pages for addresses.

Namur metro is the savvy girl’s and boy’s one-stop fashion stop. There is a Sally Ann and a VV as well as Le Chateau Warehouse – the outlet store for the chain’s unsold stock – which is a good place to find rock-star outfits, coats and sexy lingerie for decimated prices.

Another big used-clothes emporium is the lesser-known known (which means their selection is less picked-over) Fripe-Prix Renaissance at 7250 St-Laurent. For new, knocked-down prices on brand-new designer-fashions, try Winner’s, which has major locations in most suburban malls.

Outlet stores are great places to get new, stylish brand-name clothes at huge discounts. Although the typical store on downtown Ste-Catherine St. charges big prices to pay its big-time rent, there are three low-end designer outlets you should definitely check out: The Bedo outlet (men and women) is at 1256 Ste-Catherine St. West. The Jacob outlet (women only) is 1220 Ste-Catherine St. West in the basement. Tristan and Iseut/America is one of Quebec’s great success stories – a fashion line, started by a hometown husband-wife team, that has expanded like wildfire across North America. Their entrepot is at 1334 Ste-Catherine St. West, and contains 3 floors of incredibly discounted fashions for men and women.

While you’re downtown, check out the Payless Shoesource at 1204 Ste-Catherine St. West. It’s a mystery how Payless manages to sell nice-looking, good-wearing shoes for almost nothing and still not look much different than the ones sold across the street for five times as much.

Another cheap shoe chain, which sells hilarious novelty shoes (stilletoes and platform heels, cowboy boots in candy-cane colours) as well as sneakers, walking shoes and handbags, is Yellow, with locations all over town. Similar goods can also be found at the giant Aldo warehouse at 1376 Mont-Royal.

Up on Mont-Royal, you won’t just be looking for shoes, for you’re in friperie heaven. All along this crowded avenue, you’ll find vintage, used, discount, disco, neo-punk apparel for all tastes and sizes. This is the place to go for a kilt, a pair of jeans or a hot-pink feather boa, as well as for plaid shirts and cordueroy pants. The stock changes as often as the locals’ outfits around here, and it’s also the best street in town to window-shop.

For those wanting to stray even further off the beaten path, St-Viateur Street up in the Mile-End district is becoming known for its fashion quotient. There are a handful of wonderful used-clothing emporiums, including Lolita (274 St-Viateur W.) and, especially, Friperie Pour Femmes, Homme et Enfants (206 St-Viateur W.), which has a great selection for kids as well.

Chapter 3: Decorating In Montreal, most people furnish their nests with a lot of hand-me-downs. Often, your grandmother’s lampshade is not only useful and practical, but will have sentimental value as well, and that’s worth more than anything you’ll find at IKEA. But while it may be possible to drive a truckload of furniture down from Mistissini, it’s a different story shipping the hide-a-bed all the way from Whapmagoostui.

Alley-hunting and dumpster-diving for usable housewares and fixable furniture isn’t a shameful obsession in Montreal, it’s a viable pastime. July 1st, Montreal’s moving day, is the best time for treasure-hunting. But the first and last days of any month are always good times to hunt, so make it a habit to cut through alleys and explore neighbourhoods, and keep your eyes peeled.

For new-to-you purchases, it’s worth a trip to the Value Villages and Salvation Army, although if you have access to a car, the further-flung locations are less picked-over. Locations are listed in the white pages under Village de Valeurs and Armée du Salut.

The Montreal Métropolitain flea market is, as their motto says, “a great place to shop!” Hundreds of booths sell anything you can imagine, and there can be fun people-watching and live bands on weekends ( 6145 St-Leonard).

V.G.C. is a used furniture emporium in a warehouse at 4056 Jean-Talon Ouest that is a great place to get previously-owned furniture, lampshades, mirrors and everyday useful items..

A student’s first bed/couch is usually one of those Japanese paragons of minimalism – save scads on your lumpy rite of passage at the Futon Factory Outlet, 937 du College (corner St-Antoine).To keep you warm in the cold winter months. Duvets Ungava (4986 Queen Mary) makes its own duvets for as cheap as $100.

The Dollarama chain of dollar stores is the go-to place for small items (kitchen stuff, candles and weird knickknacks) for a loonie or two.

For creative-minded interior decorators, a functional home must be handsome as well. The following are just a few places to get great house-beautifying ideas.

Industrial Paints and Wallpapers outlet store carries discounts on paint, wallpaper, and accessories at 6659 Hutchison, corner Beaubien.

Uma Beauty Company (6271 Cote Des Neiges) is one of many discount shops that sell saris, those colourful lengths of fabric that women in India wrap themselves in so beautifully. Saris can be made into colourful, inexpensive curtains, bedspreads and pillow covers.

Demolition Treasure Dump is the ultimate place for discarded windows, moldings, fixtures, lumber and other adornments. Take the Mercier Bridge over the St. Lawrence River to route 138 in Chateauguay, continue on to Blvd. Industriel, then turn left at the lights and go 500 metres, the dump is on your left. (And Kahnawake is nearby if you need some cheap smokes.) Chapter 4: Pampering Everyone needs some pampering once in a while- even living on the basics, you probably need the occasional haircut or filling for that dental cavity.

For students in practical skills-based trade schools, learning is necessarily more than just classrooms and paperwork. How can they become beauticians, massage therapists, dentists or makeup artists without practicing on a stable of willing Guinea pigs? With a little savvy and sense of adventure you too can have access to some of life’s little luxuries, and help out other students at the same time. Below are merely a few examples of cut-rate services available in classrooms across the city.

Dentists: It might seem a little sketchy to open your mouth to the mercy of someone who isn’t quite a dentist yet, but the McGill School of Dentistry (934-8021) has its advantages. The clinic is open to everyone, and each dentist-to-be on duty is already in his or her third and fourth year. All procedures are heavily supervised. Surgeries and some other more complicated procedures arc not available, but appointments are easy and quick. And these dentists are so eager to cut their teeth in your mouth that all services are 50 per cent cheaper than the going rate at a regular dental clinic.

Massages: As a student, it’s easy to outdo yourself. Who hasn’t had an aching back from long nights of hunching over textbooks or going crazy on a dance floor? Don’t let a couple of knots in your shoulders slow you down. After all, these are the best years of your lives; an hour-and-a-half back massage can only make them better.

There are several institutes around town that teach therapeutic massage to serious students. The programs are intensive, as these students aim to be real professionals, trained in a variety of massage techniques as well as the details of human physiology.

Ecole de Massage Professionelle A Fleur De Peau is a private massage therapy training institute on Beaubien St. It offers massages for as little as $35 for 90 minutes. Their students study a combination of Californian, Swedish, and Oriental techniques all year round. They need to complete 26 massages in order to become accredited so they’re aching to get at your muscles. Appointments are available on short notice at 723-1583. A list of other massage therapy schools can be found at http:// Esthetics, make-up and haircuts: There are all sorts of cut-rate deals at College Inter-Dec. The estheticians and coiffeurs are always looking for models, so you can get a manicure for as little as $10, a pedicure is $20, and waxing begins at $5, going up to about $28. Services like facial masques are also available. Clients are mostly needed in the second semester, when the estheticians have established their theoretical skills and are ready to try them out.

As far as haircuts go, Inter-Dec is only one of many coiffure schools at which you can get a cut for less. Like the best schools, they always have an instructor on hand to fix any drastic mistakes. You can get a ’do for as little as 6 snips, or get blow-dried and/or coloured for $10-15. Call the Inter-Dec Esthétique and Hairdressing schools at 939-4444.

Have you ever wanted to be a model? If you’re a babe and not overly bossy about your haircuts, try asking around at some high-end salons in your neighbourhood – they always need new hair models for trade shows and portfolios. Sometimes they’ll cut your hair for free or only make you pay a nominal cost for dyes and other products.

Costume Make-up: A fun thing for adventuresome types with some extra time on their hands, the Inter-Dec Artistic Makeup program is permanently looking for models, and it’s FREE. Now, this is artistic makeup, so they won’t give you a little rouge and send you on your way. They’ll provide you with a full-body painting or a prosthetic nose. Might be a great thing to do around Halloween or as an anniversary surprise. I’m thinking of going to get made up as a Planet of the Apes extra next time my love life needs a little boost.

Contact the Inter-Dec Artistic Make-up school at 939-4444.

The right to read In this era of so-called “accessible” education, many still aren’t able to breeze through life’s minor reading tasks. The last time Statistics Canada did an official survey, in 1994, 58 per cent of Quebecers were found to be “Level 2” literate or lower in the “document” category. That means that over half the population has trouble interpreting a basic document such as a health questionnaire or a bus schedule. Quebecers scored similarly in “Prose,” which measures a reader’s ability to process the information in a brochure or a newspaper article like this one.

The Centre for Literacy of Quebec at Montreal’s Dawson College provides training resources related to all aspects of literacy, basic skills and media education. They have spearheaded a number of initiatives related especially to native literacy issues, including a Native Literacy Resource Collection and a Native Literacy Pre-School Education Project.

Linda Shohet, founder and director of the centre, sees adult literacy as a crucial human-rights issue, tied in with other societal needs like shelter, food and safety.

“Studies show a proportional correlation between adult illiteracy and childhoods lived in the shadow of abuse, violence and poverty,” she says. “There are reasons that some people didn’t learn the things that others were able to learn.” Shohet says many people are “print disabled,” including elderly and blind people, but others as well. “A ‘print disability’ can block people from being familiar with their own rights, and from September 6, 2002 [sticking up for them],” she explains. “Literacy can be a question of fulfilling social needs, or of accommodating citizenship needs. There are huge gaps to be filled here.” She believes institutions need to make changes in the way they deliver information. “There’s a movement to change the language used in [government], legal and insurance forms.” The Centre most recently piloted the Health and Literacy Project at the Montreal General Hospital, where educators worked with nursing staff to identify patients in chronic care units who do not respond well to printed health-care materials.

Eight miles of books! September is Literacy Month, and the Centre for Literacy of Quebec’s Second Annual International Literacy Day Book Sale is prime pickin’gnounds for broke bookworms: a giant 15,000 square-foot bazaar of remaindered titles form publishing houses and distributors. The market will also feature special events like childrens’ storytelling demos and presentations by literacy groups. The sale is the Centre for Literacy’s single largest fundraising drive of the year. Last year, besides raising badly-needed funds for the Centre, they were able to donate over 20,000 books to community organizations.

For more info on the Centre, see,, or call 931-8731, extension 1411. The Book Sale runs Sept. 5-29 at 11600 de Salaberry, Dollard Des Ormeaux.

Did you know?

School attendance Under the Education Act, all children from 6 to 16 years of age must attend school. Compulsory schooling extends to the last day of the school year in which a child reaches the age of 16. All young people who wish to pursue their secondary studies must have access to educational services up to the age of 18 (21 in the case of students with handicaps).

Choice of school Usually, children go to their local community school, but it is possible to choose another school, subject to certain conditions. The fact that some schools have a specific vocation has led a number of parents to select a school outside their neighbourhood or even outside their school board’s territory because it best meets their expectations. It is important to check whether the school you are interested in has openings since priority is given to children in the immediate area. Schools that accept students from outside their usual territory generally have a selection procedure. Complementary services At school, students have access to services that help them develop autonomy, a sense of responsibility, a feeling of belonging, creativity, initiative and a sense of security. These are called “complementary services” because they complement educational services. All students are entitled to complementary services. Complementary services include: Speech therapy services Psychological services Psychoeducational and special education services Academic counselling services Student support and supervision services Health and social services Services in spiritual care and guidance and community involvement Sports, cultural and social activities Services designed to promote student participation in school life Services designed to educate students about their rights and responsibilities