Being a student is expensive. A post-secondary education is one of the biggest purchases you'll make in your life. Beyond the cost of tuition, there's a lot more to plan for financially – especially if you're moving to a new city, province or even a different country.
Here are some tips to help you navigate your student budget and find some savings along the way.
1. Set a budget and stick to it
This seems like an obvious tip, but it's more important now than ever to watch every dollar you spend. This might be the first time you're responsible for covering your own basic needs. Setting up a budget doesn't have to be complicated. Make a list of your fixed expenses (rent, food, phone bill etc.) and how much they cost each month.
The money you have left over after covering those expenses is what you can spend on discretionary things like recreation, entertainment and shopping (your wants). Knowing how much you have to spend and tracking your money helps to keep you from overspending, prevents having to dip into savings and avoids building debt by resorting to credit cards.
2. Plan how you'll pay for big ticket items
Aside from budgeting the cost of school expenses, you need to plan ahead for large expenses like tuition payments and text books. Do you have savings set aside to pull from? Or will you be using funds from a student loan or line of credit?
And when it comes to actually processing the payment, you should check ahead of time what forms of payment your institution accepts. Look out to see if they charge processing fees, for example with credit card payments, as opposed to no fees for cheque or money transfer. Factor this into your payment decision as those fees can add up year after year.
3. Get a credit card
If you don't already have one, now is the time. Building and maintaining good credit is an important part of your overall financial wellness. Additionally, using a credit card that scores you points (such as a Servus Mastercard® to earn Circle Rewards™) can get you cash back on purchases you're making anyways. Putting large expenses, like tuition and textbooks, on your credit card can help you rack up these points quickly. Just be sure to pay your balance down as soon as possible.
4. Take advantage of free money
There are many scholarships or bursaries available that can help offset some of your education expenses. Often, some go unclaimed simply because students are not applying for them. Check out the Government of Canada's website for details about the many scholarships they offer. Visit your institution's website, ask the organization you work for and find out if any association you're part of offers scholarships—you may be surprised to find out that many do. (Psst—did you know that Servus offers scholarships as well?)
5. Save money on text books
Textbooks are notoriously expensive, and often, you can find ways to get around purchasing them from your school's bookstore. Checking online vendor sites (like amazon.ca) for gently used textbooks can save you lots. Another option is to check online marketplaces, such as Kijiji, for used textbooks. If you can't get around buying a new textbook, you can try to do a textbook share, where you split the cost of a new textbook with a classmate and alternate who has possession of it. Pro-tip: sell your textbooks when you're done with them either online or to other students on campus – at least you'll get some of your money back!
6. Save money on meals
Meal delivery services always seem like a great idea when you're hungry, but we're all familiar with that pang of guilt we get looking at our empty food boxes. Meal delivery is pricey (some restaurants charge up to $6 for delivery) and not always efficient or healthy. Planning and preparing meals in bulk can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Find some recipes for meals you like, save money at the grocery store by buying ingredients in bulk and spend one day a week preparing your meals. Freeze any remainders and you can have up to two weeks' worth of meals from one day of preparation.
7. Find the best student discounts
Lots of retailers offer discounts or special rates for students. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask. Calling your insurance company, changing your Spotify subscription to "student" and getting student bus fare are easy ways to take advantage of your student status and save some money.
8. Shop second-hand sites
Moving out on your own for the first time requires a haul of items that can really add up. By joining online groups, such as local buy/sell groups, or sites like Facebook Marketplace, you can save a lot of money on things like furniture, kitchen appliances and utensils, and more. Even if you're staying at home while attending school, these online sites or thrift stores can be a great place to find clothing, gift cards and other great things for reasonable prices. Best of all, you're upcycling, which is great for the environment.
Life as a post-secondary student is an exciting time and with these tips hopefully you can worry less about your money and more about keeping up your GPA.