Money Saving Tips for Students
Saving money as a student is something that is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Many students may not realize this, but being careful with your money during your years in post-secondary education is crucial.
The younger you are when you start saving money, the better off you will be. However, keep in mind that it is never too late to start living a more frugal life.
Here are a list of tips that can help you save money while you’re in school. Some of them may seem a bit difficult, but I lived by almost all of these tips myself and they worked out very well for me.
1. Avoid Unnecessary Spending
Try not to take strolls through shopping malls, because there are temptations all around. If you do visit the mall, it’s possible that you consider purchasing sale items solely based on price and not necessity.
Here are a few tips on how to simplify your life and avoid excess.
2. Use Cash
Remember that living off of a student loan is living off of borrowed money. That means you have debt – don’t go further into debt by over-spending.
Avoid using credit cards, and use cash and debit only. This ensures that you are always aware of your money spending habits and that you do not spend more money than you have.
3. Live with Your Parents
Living on campus/residence in first year may be your first choice, but you should give some serious though to just staying at home (if your school is within a reasonable distance for driving or transiting). Of course, this is going to help out a ton with your living expenses.
4. Rent with Roommates
When living with your parents is not an option, look for roommates that you can live with. Try not to live alone, simply because apartments can be quite pricey and roommates can really help with splitting the cost of living.
5. Use Public Transit
Consider public transit for getting to school instead of driving yourself.
When you calculate the cost of your vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance, and possibly even toll roads, versus the cost of public transit, you will likely find that you can save a bunch of money. You will also be able to avoid traffic delays if you take the train or subway.
6. Get a Part Time Job
A great place to start looking for a job would be in your school. There are many positions that schools offer to students. If you’re able to find a job within your faculty that is related to your field of study, even better!
There are paid and unpaid internships. Unpaid can benefit you in the long run, in terms of getting your foot in the door, and of course, paid jobs can help with living expenses.
You should also try to search for full time jobs during your summers off. Don’t forget about the many ways to make money online, too!
7. Lower Your Cellphone Bill
Most Canadians are already aware that we pay too much money to our cellphone providers for their services. Consider making some difficult sacrifices and cut a few things from your cell phone plan.
Avoid signing on to long term contracts; try Prepaid/Pay-As-You-Go plans and it will help you limit the amount that you use your cellphone.
Challenge yourself to disconnect from your cellphone as much as possible and your wallet will thank you. Save your talking for a home phone, save your texting for a messaging app connected to WiFi and save your web browsing for a computer.
8. Go Grocery Shopping
As a student, convenience of fast food is one of the biggest temptations out there. Dedicating one day of your busy schedule to visit your local grocery store can save you a good amount of money.
Grocery shopping can be made fun and easy! You can even use a resource like this amazing checklist to keep a running list of what you need to buy.
If you have roommates, ask them to join you on your shopping trip and consider splitting the cost of family-sized packs of items.
As for cooking, a great way to save time would be to cook a large meal that can be kept as leftovers for meals throughout the week. Need some tips on cooking from scratch? Check out this post.
9. Start Couponing
Learn how to coupon. You don’t have to become an extreme couponer, but if you get in the habit of couponing now, you can pick up a skill that you will find extremely useful for the rest of your life.
Remember that coupons work great in combination with sales, so follow our coupon matchups to get amazing deals.
10. Start Price Matching
Start price matching everything you buy (when possible). If you live near a grocery store that offers price matching, you should really take advantage. You can easily grocery shop by only purchasing sale items and price matching them all.
Grocery stores that offer price matching are Walmart, No Frills, Fresh Co., Real Canadian Superstore, and Giant Tiger to name a few.
Here are some tips on how to price match.
11. Shop Used
When it comes to textbooks, purchasing used will save you a lot of money. If the option of used is available, go for it! There are many places where you can shop around for textbooks, such as your school bookstore, Kijiji, Craigslist and even eBay.
It is also a great idea to shop for other used items at thrift stores. Make sure you learn exactly how to shop at thrift stores, first.
12. Ditch the Media
Save your money and avoid ordering newspaper/magazine delivery services and even television. If you have access to the internet, there are so many resources at your fingertips for free media.
Also, consider subscribing to Netflix and split the cost with your roommates. This is a great way to avoid spending money at movie theatres.
13. Limit Nights Out
We all know that university and college life often involves partying. If possible, avoid/limit nights out at a bar or club, and don’t forget to consider places that don’t charge a cover/entry fee.
An alternative option would be a house party. And of course – drink responsibly!
14. Use the Entertainment Book
If you find it difficult to stay away from outings such as dining out and activities, you may want to purchase an Entertainment Coupon Book. They are definitely worth the cost!
15. Use an SPC Card
Student Price Cards are amazing – they are exclusive to students of all ages and only cost $9 per year.
They offer discounts from 10%-15% off on fashion, dining, lifestyle and travel. Just make sure you have your student identification handy in case you get carded.
16. Show Ctudent ID
Many retailers have student discounts that are not advertised. As long as you have your student identification in your wallet at all times, you can ask the cashier whether or not they offer student discounts at time of checkout. The worst they can say is no, so always ask!
I know it can be difficult to save money as a student, but doing so is very much worth the effort. Plus you will learn quite a bit about personal finance – something that will be useful for the rest of your life.
About owning a car:
Yes, nowadays, the cost of having a car can be huge. Also, I used to think that having a car would save me time, but when I had my car, the time “wasted” by taking the transit, was “wasted” looking for a place to park!
The real advantage for owning a car however, was when I went to University. I had to haul those huge and heavy books (Chemistry, Biology and Biochem)and some nights, labs or classes finished at 10:30pm. Going home by car was way more efficient for me, but I also used to give lifts to friends living in my neighbourhood. We, girls’ we safer, it was more pleasant, and at nights of -40C, it was really a treat not to use the transit!
As for the other tips, I think those are very important tips to follow to the letter! Renting an apartment can be a huge strain on a budget! Having someone, a friend or roommate, not only helps alleviate the burden, but also, one feels less lonely at times when we don’t feel like cooking, or sick in bed.
Thank goodness, we didn’t have cellphones back then!! 😉
Yes, that is very good point. Busy parking lots can be quite frustrating and time consuming!
Of course! The combination of heavy backpacks on your shoulders and transit isn’t a pleasant combination but there are also many classes that have reading material available online now.
Certainly, it can be frightening for ladies when transiting late at night alone. Carpooling would be a great idea for individuals that find that owning a vehicle fits their lifestyles.
Yes, roommates are fantastic! Not only can you connect with your roommates/friends but you can also find (later in life) that you share a bond for the rest of your life!
Ha ha…yes, life was a little “simpler” when I went to university back in the 90s!
My school included a public transit pass in our student fees, so by showing my student card, we rode the bus for “free.”
Try to find an apartment where the utilities are all included: that will save you the hassle of worrying about when the water, power and heating bills are due. If you do pay your own heating bill, invest in that shrinking plastic for the windows (if you live in an old, drafty converted house, as student apartments often are…) and put on a sweater and an extra blanket on your bed rather than cranking up the heat.
If your unit/building doesn’t have laundry facilities, shop around for the cheapest laundromat…they don’t all charge the same amount.
When you know you’re going home, skip doing laundry and pack dirty laundry. Wash it at home, then return with a suitcase full of clean clothes! 🙂
I believe there are still schools that include transit fees within tuition. From personal experience, I had to purchase a monthly Metropass for the TTC (subway, buses and streetcars.) The passes were discounted for students, but not by much. It is also very helpful to remember to claim transit passes when filing taxes! 🙂
Yes, I always looked for rentals with utilities included! It is very hard to monitor what your roommates are doing and it would probably be irritating to constantly ask them to do things like shutting off lights. The window plastic is very handy for student housing! It is very important to dress warm because space heaters are very expensive to use!
I remember the feeling of being able to find a rental that included laundry machines. After dragging my laundry to my parent’s house and to the laundry facility (that was for some reason in a small room that was somewhat on the outside of my rental) I couldn’t be more excited, haha!
Thanks for the tips!
Dont forget that Students ought to apply for the numerous bursaries available – they don’t all hinge on having A+ grades. There are HUNDREDS of these available. Some bursaries are available to students by virtue of military associations, hometown location, union affiliation, industry affiliation (ie children of parents who work in a certain profession or for a certain company), sports achievement, volunteer work, disability or almost anything at all! I really missed the boat on this one the first 2-3 years of university. Also, there are student loan forgiveness programs to consider.
Yes! Thanks for mentioning Bursaries!!
I’ve been a post-secondary student for 10 years (my Bachelor’s, Master’s and now PhD degree), so saving money where I can has been a way of life for a while. I always try to buy my textbooks used (my favourite website for great used books is abebooks.com), only buy clothes when they are on sale (I have been known to watch an item for 3-4 months before it goes on sale) and have avoided buying a car. I’ve also been couponing for over a year now and have managed to get my grocery bill down to about $50/week through the various money saving methods described on this website.
I think the biggest thing I have learned is that, as a student, you can’t expect to have all of the same things that your friends who have full-time jobs have!
I’m impressed Stephanie, you’ve got it figured out! Thanks for taking the time to comment and share! Glad to hear that MapleMoney.com has been able to help you out with couponing as well!
I second looking to bursary programs that your school offers. I have worked in an area that offers these at a major Ontario university, and am always surprised how few people actually come in to ask how they can save money as a student. There are a lot of opt-out only fees (like a health and dental plan, faculty donation fee) that students don’t think of often either. It can also be worth meeting with a Financial Aid officer to discuss how your finances impact the amount of grant (things you don’t pay back) versus loan (things that you do have to pay back). Sometimes taking courses at different times of the year can also be cheaper.
That is true! I forgot about opting out of health and dental plans and I know that it is a very easily overlooked. Thanks for your input Heather!
Students need to remember not to sacrifice their long-term financial future in favour of their short-term finances. Your education will be something you carry with you for your entire life, and you should put your utmost into it. While it may seem financially daunting to take on student loans, they can give you the flexibility to pursue your studies and devote enough time to them.
When I was in law school, I saw some students who, wanting to graduate with as little debt as possible, took on jobs during law school. These students were usually exhausted, missed classes (or were very tired during them and not paying attention), and did not have time to read all the materials. Usually, these students did not do as well in their grades, which, in law, are pretty much everything when it comes to securing articling positions. So, in an effort to not take on debt, they lost out on getting the good jobs with the decent salaries. I’d rather be graduating with student debt that I know I can pay down and have a secure future, rather than graduating, yes with less debt, but also with fewer employment prospects.
Very good points! That brings us back to the topic of Scholarships and Bursaries, mentioned below. Better grades can lead to awards as well as more opportunities!
After completing my University degree last year, I have another couple of tips regarding textbooks!
1) If you aren’t required to keep your textbooks for other classes and won’t use them again as references, sell them after the semester is over. There is often a new edition every year meaning your textbook basically becomes worthless. (I just put close to $1000 worth of textbooks in the recycle bin [and cried about it] for this reason, I couldn’t even give them away to the library!)
2) Check out your student union to see if they have an annual book sale, often you will get a better price selling your books there than at the university book store buy backs. (Plus when you buy a book, your money goes to that student selling and a portion to the student union to help fund some of the fun university activities!)
3) **This really depends on the type of class but you can see if a previous edition of the text will work, I needed a $200 Market Research textbook and purchased the previous years edition for $14 on Amazon.ca If you are unsure just check with the professor to see if the previous edition of that textbook is effective, lots of profs use the same textbook year over year.
How about sharing textbooks among roommates? In my last year of university, my boyfriend and I had one class in common, so we split the cost of one set of books.
That’s also a great idea Kris! I had friends do that too, it’s very convenient when you live together!
Thanks for the helpful tips Beckie!
As a student I take full advantatge of the U-Pass that is apart of my tuition/student fees. It provides me with free transit, as well as use of the local rec. centres for free.
Apply for the smaller scholarships that are out there. I found that most people only apply for larger ones so some of the smaller ones had no applicants at all! Find out about volunteering in student governments. I was on a council for a year that gave me a stipend which made a huge difference.
Also, the university I went to had some of the course textbooks in the library. Some were reference only while others you could check out. I saved tons on textbooks this way!
The university I attended required me to live on campus for the first two years as I was an international student. The meal plan was ridiculously expensive and the food was unhealthy so I got a medical note to exempt me and bought a small mini fridge to keep in my room. There is always free food to be found at University with all the activities that go on around campus.
Also, having gone to an international school I was looking at a cost of about $700 to fly home once I graduated. I was able to secure an internship in my home city and the university paid for my airfare home as part of the internship program =o)