We all know the importance of education and Canadian’s are lucky enough to live in a country where education is more accessible than most. In 2016, over two million Canadians were enrolled in post-secondary education and the country tops the list for top ten most educated countries.
Although education is more accessible in Canada, that doesn’t mean that the majority of young people can afford the hefty price tag that’s attached to going to university or college. In a study done by Macleans, students reported to spend on average $9,300 per year if they were still living at home, and a whopping $20,000 for those that moved away from home.
The cost of school and how students are going to pay for it is daunting, and is a leading cause for stress among young people. How do you pay the bills at only 17 or 18 years old? And once you’re finally at college or university, how do you continue to keep your finances in check? Figuring out your finances for going to school can be challenging but here are some tips to help you save money as a student and save your pennies for the things that matter, like getting your tuition paid on time.
Keep your goals in check
Remind yourself what you’re saving for and keep reminding yourself of that every step of the way. For example, if you need to save $773 for textbooks (the average cost in Canada), it likely seems impossible when you stare at the small number of dollar bills in your bank account. However, focusing on that end goal of buying your books every single time you make any purchase, especially unnecessary ones like eating out at restaurants or buying your daily coffee, it’ll keep your focus on your main, end goal. Remind yourself what is important and what you can live without. It’s amazing how quick the savings will add up when you do that!
TIP: Make these goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). By building SMART goals these goals will hold you more accountable and seem more achievable.
It’s no surprise that going to school is a lot of money and it can be overwhelming when you look at the price tag for school as a whole, which is why it’s important to set milestones for your savings. Know how much you want and can save per month, and realize it’s okay to start small. Make sure you build this into your budget! By setting smaller milestones to your larger goals, they’ll become more achievable and less overwhelming. Putting this money automatically into a savings account that you don’t have easy access to will also help your savings add up quicker than you’d think. Look into an RRSP or TFSA.
Look at your options
Consider all your options for paying your student expenses. The smartest thing to do is start saving for school years before you go, however, lots of young people aren’t really on top of this. Instead, it’s common to turn to bank loans like lines of credit, student loans like OSAP in Ontario, scholarships or bursaries, or their parents.
We’ve broken down each of these options a bit more below:
These are awarded on the basis of merit which is usually your academics/grades, involvement in volunteering or school activities, and other achievements. They can range from a couple hundred dollars to full scholarships. You aren’t expected to pay back scholarships, which is the ultimate type of financing to help with your schooling!
Similar to scholarships, you’re not required to pay bursaries back and they are awarded primarily off financial need, but can also include some of the similar requirements or achievements as scholarships.
The government provides loans to help financially support students. These loans require you to pay them back, usually six months after you finish school, and vary in amounts based off financial need and your families income.
Is your family willing to help you out with school? Will you need to pay them back? Ideally if your family can help support your schooling, they are the best people to take the loan from since there won’t be interest on the money. Interest will start adding up the longer it takes for you to pay it back.
You can get more details on where to start with these financial support options here. Think through each of the options and figure out what makes the most sense for you. Also determine how you’re going to ensure you don’t just blow through this money, but make it last so the debt at the end of your schooling isn’t more than it should or could be.
Make a budget
Making a budget can seem daunting and time consuming, however, taking the time to get your finances in order will be one of the most valuable things you do as a student. Otherwise it’s very easy to overspend and lose track of where all your money is going, and believe us, in college, it’ll go quick! So where do you start?
1) Determine a time span for your budget
Whether for a month, the school year or calendar year, determine what makes the most sense to you. However, as a student, keep in mind that your income will likely vary from month-to-month, and if you create a calendar year budget, take into consideration the months you won’t be in school. Also take into consideration any “emergencies” that might come up. For example, budget the cost of maintenance on your car.
2) Choose a tool that helps you manage your budget
It’s 2018, which means there is a lot of great software and apps out there to help you track your expenses and income. One of our favourites is Mint. It’s important to not just make your budget and never look at it again, even when you think you may not be overspending in a certain area, you might be. So keeping track of all your transactions, even the small ones.
3) Review your income and/or savings
When creating your budget, take a look at what your income is or will be. This will really depend on the person’s situation and if they are working throughout school, only in the summer, etc. Your “income” may also be coming from loans and/or family who are helping you out.
4) Identify and categorize your expenses
Estimate your monthly expenses by recording everything you spend in a month (this is where that app will be helpful). This will help you understand where your money is going and where you can cut back. Factor in the costs that come along with school like books, supplies, moving expenses, housing, tuition, etc.
5) Balance your budget
Look at your income and look at your expenses, what does this leave you with each month? Do you have any extra money to spare or are you in the negatives?
6) Keep reviewing your budget
Once you’ve gone through this exercise, don’t forget about it. Review your budget monthly to see where you may have overspent or look for new ways to save.
This extensive guide will help walk you through each of these steps in more detail, but getting your budget in check is going to allow you to really have a grasp on your finances.
Figure out ways to cut costs
You know what your goals are, and you’ve set a budget, but what are some ways to cut costs on everyday expenses to help you stay on track? We all know most students aren’t rolling in a bed of cash, so these tips can help you start thinking about different places you can save money.
1. Buy or rent used textbooks, and sell yours when you’re finished with them.
2. Pay bills on time to avoid laid fees.
3. Walk, bike or use public transit versus a car to save on expenses.
4. Drop your cable package, you can stream almost anything online.
5. Look for student discounts at where you shop.
6. Look into on-campus services including health clinics, free events for entertainment, discounted tickets to local attractions, etc.
7. Make your own coffee or tea, versus buying it every day.
8. See if you can get an on-campus job. You’ll make extra money and they’ll be accommodating to school demands.
9. When furnishing your apartment, look for used furniture, if it needs a bit of work, take it on as a DIY project to save money.
10. Don’t eat out at restaurants, make food at home instead!
11. Apply for scholarships and bursaries every year you’re in school, not just your first year!
12. Use Groupon or coupons!
13. Compare your housing options and if it makes sense to live on or off campus.
14. Consider college versus university–it may be cheaper and also may be better suited for what you want to do.
15. Party at home or your friends houses versus always going out to the bar.
16. Differentiate needs versus wants, and if it helps, go home and think about a purchase versus impulse buying it.
17. Buy generic brands versus name brands. Lots of the times they are identical anyway!
18. Opt-out of student services you don’t need or use, for example, some campuses you can opt out of the health benefits they offer if you already have them and receive a refund.
19. Don’t get a grocery cart at the grocery store, instead, only take a basket or use your arms so you don’t over buy.
20. Pay with cash instead of plastic by taking out only the exact amount of money you budgeting for each week/month and only using that.
There are a ton of smart ways to help you cut costs and save money. Take a hard look at the things you are spending money on and first ask if: a) it’s a need or a want, and b) if there is a cheaper way you can pay or buy it. For example, do you need to go to the fancy gym down the road from campus or can you use the free one on campus instead?
Being a student can be rough on your finances but we all know the importance of education, and even though being a broke student isn’t a long-term problem, being smart while you are student can help you graduate with one foot forward.