For many people, leaving high school and heading off to pursue a post-secondary program is a time of life when we become more independent. Part of that growth process is learning how to be responsible with money, developing the financial habits that can help lead to a lifetime of stability and security.
Students don’t tend to have a ton of money, so one of the first lessons they have to learn is how to save their limited resources while still making sure there’s enough to pay for tuition and textbooks.
If you’re a student who’s trying to stretch your dollar a little further this term, here are a few small things you can do to help save money.
Start by building a budget
You can’t start saving money until you know what you’re spending it on, so take some time to figure it all out as best as you can. Make a list of all your regular bills and expenses, whether it’s cell phone service, grocery bills, nights out with friends, or the fees for your residence room. Add them up and find out how much you’re spending each month.
On the other side of the ledger, figure out how much you have in savings, then add up how much money is coming in from any source, whether it’s a part-time job, a scholarship, or the bank of Mom and Dad.
Compare the columns and see which number is bigger between monthly spending and earnings. Ideally, you’ll be breaking even or possibly even putting a few dollars away. If not, and you’re spending more than you’re earning, it’s time to make some hard choices and start eliminating costs.
Tame your spending urges
Whether it’s a casual stroll through the mall, or a few clicks around your favourite online store, it can be all too easy to spend money unnecessarily, blowing up days and weeks of budgeting efforts.
If you’re struggling to tame your shopping bug, consider only using cash to pay for purchases. Build a few dollars into your budget, if you can afford it, to allow for irregular indulgences, but otherwise try to avoid buying anything you don’t absolutely need. Some students do this by picking one or two days each week where they avoid spending a single dime, finding it to be a good way to develop the discipline needed to reject temptation.
Remember to be mindful of little purchases that add up over time, like the few bucks you might spend without much thought on that daily cup of coffee. By bringing your own beverage, or passing it up altogether, you’ll end up saving hundreds of dollars each term, freeing up cash for more important costs.
Cook your own meals, and avoid ordering in
Online apps have made it easy to get whatever meal we desire delivered right to our door. Still, the high cost of prepared food, plus pricey add-on fees, make ordering meals a surefire budget destroyer. Instead of ordering, save money by planning out your meals in advance, buying what you need from the grocery store, and learning your way around the kitchen.
Use pedal power or public transit instead of owning a car
Between fuel, insurance, parking, and repairs, vehicle ownership is often a serious drain on student finances. Far better, in most cases, to spend your money on buying a bicycle to get to and from campus. If bikes aren’t your thing, check to see whether your school offers free or reduced-cost transit passes for students, and save money by riding the bus.
Take advantage of student discounts and offers
Besides transit, there are tons of other things that students are eligible to save money on. Look around to find reduced rates on cell phone service, monthly bank account fees, restaurants, and more. If you’re looking for cheap ways to socialize with friends, find out whether your student ID gives you access to any museums or galleries in your area. Finally, instead of shelling out cash on expensive fitness classes at a private gym, see what’s on offer at your on-campus gym, where your student fees likely provide free access to the facilities.
Along the same lines, look for ways to turn your spending into savings by participating in rewards programs and loyalty offers. If you know you’re going to be spending money at the grocery store, for instance, a rewards card could end up saving you 10 per cent on your food bill.
Apply for scholarships, awards, and bursaries
Financial awards can make a big difference to some students, helping provide the funds that make it easier to pursue an education. Sometimes, however, post-secondary institutions don’t give out all the financial awards they offer because of a lack of eligible applicants. Research the scholarships, awards, and bursaries available at your school and in your province or territory and apply to anything you have a shot at winning.
Shop used, and sell what you don’t need
Whether you’re shopping for textbooks, a winter coat, furniture for your student apartment, or even phones and computers, you can save big by buying used items instead of brand-new ones. At second-hand stores or through online marketplaces, buying used can be a great way to get the most out of each dollar you spend.
Also, if you’ve got stuff you don’t use or need, consider making a few extra bucks by selling it to someone else. Whether it’s books or bookshelves, skis or sweaters, someone else might buy what’s sitting around collecting dust.