How to Save Money as a Student
Being money savvy is super important, ESPECIALLY as students. We are working super hard today with the hopes of a better job in the future. Making smart financial decisions today will allow us to fully enjoy our hard work sooner, rather than being burdened paying off frivolous money decisions we made as students. Having little ways to be smart with your money allows for extra savings, which allow you to invest in the things that you love (such as travelling!)
Disclaimer: I am NOT a financial expert. I have learned from my fair share of my own money missteps, have discovered a few ways to save money, and am just generally interested in the subject.
1. Meal prep
If you don’t pack your lunches to bring to school, I am judging you. Buying your meals on campus REALLY adds up!!! Bring coffee from home, bring your own meals, and bring your own snacks. In my first year, I would stay on campus and buy my dinner. I could not pinpoint why I was broke, and I also definitely gained the freshmen fifteen. Now, I know better. You can spot me on campus carrying the world’s biggest lunch bag looking like a dork, but feeling healthier and financially smarter!
Just to put this into perspective: An average lunch will cost about $15. If I did that every day, it would be about $75 a week, equal to or more than what it would cost me to buy groceries for the entire week.
2. Don’t take money to school
Hi, my name is Azra and I am addicted to Starbucks, Second Cup, and Tim Hortons. I am pretty sure my addiction is fuelled by the abundance of coffee shops on campus. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I want a drink or if I am bored. The same goes to random food that I buy on campus. The availability leads me to spend my money. By leaving my money at home, I have no way of giving into the temptation. Also, honestly, if I pack a proper lunch, I never need money on campus anyway.
Just to put this into perspective: If I buy a $5 drink every school day for a month, I would be spending $100 a month. For anybody, that is money that could be better spent elsewhere….
3. Budget and set goals
I will probably never give up my expensive coffee habit (addictions are real). But, I have compromised and set up a weekly budget for what I can spend on it. Having a budget allows you to keep track of spending and helps avoid accidentally going into extraneous debt. For example, nights out are necessary but can end up being super expensive. Allotting a certain amount of money towards your night out and ensuring that you stick to that amount will allow for a much less stressful credit card bill. Setting goals is also very important to me. I have goals for contribution amounts to my travel savings and my personal savings. I think having goals ensure that I stay motivated and accountable!
4. Student deals
Okay, so being a student is expensive. But, students also get a lot of deals. For example, Infolink sells discounted Cineplex movie tickets and West Edmonton Mall attraction passes. As students, we are entitled to free Microsoft Office 365. Internet providers (Shaw and Telus) offer student discounts at the start of the school year. The yoga studio near my place offers a student price. Basically, always mention that you are a student anywhere you go, look for student pricing, and check out this link for a list of retailers offering student discounts.
5. Use the resources available to you
This takes me back to the Library Resources post I wrote. My use of the university library can all be traced back to the fact that I am very cheap and that I didn’t want to buy a textbook. Making full use of the library has saved me lots of money. Since a U-Pass is part of my tuition, public transit is my mainstay for transportation during the year. Rather than buying a separate gym membership, I use the university gym. If you did not opt out of the insurance plan, don’t forget to use it!
6. Pay attention
At the beginning of my post, I mentioned that I have taken a lot of financial missteps. They can almost all be traced back to not paying attention. For example: automatic monthly renewals totally cost me. Make sure that if you only want a service for a month that you promptly cancel or set a reminder to cancel. It is a total bummer to see a renewal charge for something on your credit card that you no longer are using (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify…). As university students, our four-month summers can allow for multiple part time jobs — I’ve even balanced five part-time jobs with a full course load. It is really important to pay attention to your annual income because you don’t want to be shocked by the income tax that you owe. I would also pay attention to what your spending habits are, and which credit card caters best to your needs (For me, a Simplii Visa is the best match because it offers cash back on purchases from restaurants, i.e. Starbucks). Credit cards have extremely high interest rates, so ensuring that you don’t forget to pay your credit card bill every month is VERY important.
If you have extra money that you put into a savings account, I think it is also important to explore the different saving options that are available such as the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). The earlier you get an understanding of these accounts, the sooner you can get in the game and reap the benefits they offer, and the more financially secure you will eventually be!
To conclude this piece, I would like to share the fact that my boyfriend thinks I am the cheapest person in the world. I know he’s insulting me, but I take it as an ultimate compliment. Nothing wrong with trying to make smart financial decisions!