Going off to University or College is often the first time many of us feel like we’re truly entering the adult world. Suddenly we no longer need our parents’ permission for everything; We alone are responsible for going to class, getting our work done – and in the case of students living away from home for the first time – ensuring we do our fair share to keep our student residence or off-campus housing clean. With this new freedom also comes a lot of responsibility and the financial burden of finding ways of saving money in college and university.
In order to help relieve the financial stress that comes with being a post-secondary student entering the ‘real’ world for the first time, we’ve come up with a guide to help cut down on costs, save money, and prevent some serious anxiety.
One of, if not the most important things you can do as soon as you go off to school is create a budget and stick to it. You need to develop good spending habits as early on as possible, and there’s no better time than when you’ve got your newly received student loan money burning a hole in your pocket.
Keep track of how much money is coming in each month (or, how much you’ll have access to throughout the entire term if you’re going to be surviving on the chunk you got at the beginning of the year), how much is going out, and how much will be leftover.
Make sure you pay off the important things first – anything you absolutely have to have for school (tuition, textbooks, money for transit) and important bills (rent, phone, electric, gas, internet etc.) Then make sure you put aside enough money for groceries and the occasional bit of take out or dinner at the pub.
Of whatever’s left, make sure to save at least a portion of it and think long term. Just because you happen to have a nice surplus of money one month doesn’t mean you won’t be strapped for cash the next. Always have some emergency funds ready to go if need be and never spend more money than you actually have.
Track What You’re Spending
If you find that you’re still spending money faster than you can save it, it’s time to be proactive and start taking a serious look at where your disposable funds are going.
Keep your receipts for at least two weeks and track your spending patterns. How much are you really spending on expensive coffees and take out?
Once you’re aware of what unnecessary items you’re blowing your budget on, you can take measures to counteract your bad spending. Plan meals ahead of time or start bringing your own coffee to class if you need to – the important thing is to be aware of why you never seem to have as much money available as you’d planned.
Sell Sell Sell (And Buy Secondhand)
This is probably the most common advice passed down to new students, but sell absolutely anything you don’t need that’s worth something to other students. Textbooks, course readers, even old electronics can get you some serious pocket change when sold to the right people.
By the same token, put your pride away and don’t be afraid to buy second hand items for your own classes to save a lot of money long term. A textbook is a textbook – who cares if someone else used it first?
Research Student Discounts
There are so many discounts and offers available to students – you just have to be willing to look for them. From banking to public transit to a night out at the movies, it’s almost harder to find a company or business that doesn’t offer some sort of incentive for students.
Most banks offer student rates for checking and savings accounts, and many credit card companies do the same (or at the very least, offer cards with SPC savings or cash back programs built in).
Nearly every major city offers either free or discounted public transportation to students (though you will most likely need proof).
Check with your student union and see what sort of discounts are available to you. The ROM in Toronto, for instance, offers free admission for post-secondary students every Tuesday , and movie theatres often sell discounted tickets directly through your university or college.
Educate Yourself about Credit
This is a tip that becomes important during post-secondary but never stops being relevant regardless of your age: Understand credit. Know why and how credit cards, lines of credit, and student loans actually work.
You’re going to have start paying all of the institutions lending you money back eventually. Prepare yourself for the process by educating yourself and knowing what’s expected of you before the National Student Loan Service Centre sends you a letter demanding repayment.