Being a college or university student is great, but it can be tough in a lot of ways. Not only do you have to balance the demands of your classes, assignments, housework and your social life—you have to figure out how to pay for it all! Identifying your needs and goals is a good place to start. You should understand your fixed and variable expenses, and create a budget that considers all facets of your busy life. It doesn’t matter if you have great financial support from your parents or are doing it completely on your own—everyone can benefit from a thorough and well thought out financial plan!
An education is invaluable, so let’s make the most of your college or university experience. Here are some great money saving tips for students.
Plan, plan, plan
When you’re living on a budget, you should have weekly or monthly plans that go hand-in-hand with the numbers and help you meet your goals. Consider meal planning as a way to save on your grocery bill. Limit spending on impulse buys and entertainment (you should have room in your budget for these things, but be prepared to stick to that budget). Understand your monthly expenses and pay all bills on time to avoid interest charges and damage to your credit rating. Be ready to tackle unexpected expenses by maintaining a buffer in your budget or having a rainy day fund.
Ask your school about student support
Most colleges and universities in Canada have a variety of financial offerings available to students, but not every student knows about them. Contact student services at your school and ask about any and all grants, bursaries and scholarships you may quality for. You might be surprised how much money is given out every year! It’s worth seeing if you can access any university funds that don’t require repayment.
Buy used and save the difference
Buying textbooks? Consider used copies instead of new. A year’s worth of brand new textbooks for a Canadian post-secondary program can easily cost a thousand dollars or more. Buying used takes some extra effort, but it can save you hundreds of dollars every semester. It also pays to consider used furniture, decorative pieces and even kitchen items. Try looking through thrift stores and other resale shops. If you’re shopping in the summer, garage sales can be a goldmine of good finds!
Share expenses where you can
Living at home is typically the best way to save money in college, but it’s not right for everyone. If you share housing with a roommate (or several roommates), find out where you can share expenses and cut costs. Things like Internet, cable and utility bills will be fairly obvious, but there are likely more opportunities if you have a group discussion. You may be able to reduce everyone’s grocery costs by splitting bulk-sized items from your local big box store. If you eat a lot of meat as a household, consider buying in bulk from a local butcher (large orders are often less expensive, so this will work best if you have several housemates and a large freezer). If you eat a lot of produce, share the cost of a weekly CSA box. The same theory can be applied to anything from household cleaners to printer ink and toiletries.
Save on transportation costs
If you’re able to live in student housing within walking distance of your school, you’re in luck—you can save a ton of money just by avoiding frequent transportation costs such as bus tickets or subway tokens. If you drive to school, consider carpooling with friends to save on gas money. If you must take public transit on a regular basis, look into student discounts or monthly passes at a cheaper rate. Avoid cabs and ride shares whenever possible as these options will drain your wallet before you know it.
Look for student discounts off campus
Student discounts are everywhere, if you look for them! Many stores, restaurants, fitness centres, movie theatres, art galleries, museums and even grocery stores have student rates that can quickly add up to big savings. Some fast food places even offer 10% off for students! Trains, airlines and bus lines often provide student discounts as well. Be sure to keep your student card on you at all times and proactively look for places that offer deals for post-secondary students. It also helps to get an ISIC card, which is recognized in many places worldwide.
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