Tips on Saving Money in your First Year of University
Money, money, money – the plight of the common student. Luckily, this article will share some tips that can save you some major cash over your university career. My biggest tip is to research – always shop around for you need and where you can get the best deal. There are great apps (I like the app Flipp) that can help you with finding deals and coupons. Your biggest expenses as a student will likely be textbooks and food – but don’t worry I have some advice for those too.
In my very first semester of university I spent $800 in textbooks – they are no joke in terms of your budgeting. However, there are many ways to circumvent these costs (which sadly, I was not aware of at the time). For one, if you are particularly resourceful, you may be able to find some of your books online for free. Always make sure to check places like Project Gutenberg before buying anything.
If your book is nowhere to be found online, you can try buying it second hand for much less than it would cost new. Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace are popular places where students buy and sell textbooks. Another option is the school library - many libraries carry a copy of the textbook that you’re allowed to borrow for a few hours. During those hours you can read and/or photocopy the chapter(s) you need for the week. It’s a bit more work – but can help save you lots of money in the long run.
Lastly, always wait until after the first day of classes before buying your textbooks – professors typically give you insight into how much you need the textbook, and if you’re allowed to use older versions of it.
Food and drinks
It can be extremely tempting to give up and buy food every day – but that ends up costing a lot of money in the long run.
I highly suggest learning how to cook, investing in Tupperware, and bringing your own meals to school. Your meals will be healthier, and you’ll end up with a lot more money in your pocket for other things!
Some of my to-go meals include chicken and rice, taco bowls, and some fruit and veggies for snacks. This also goes for coffee. Coffee may only be $2 a cup (or up to $5 for a specialty drink), but that adds up to be an extra $40-$100 a month on coffee alone! If you have run out of your home brew for the day and still need a pick me up, many coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own mug. If you need a snack during your school day, there are likely lots of inexpensive fast food options on campus. But be careful - you don’t want to fall victim to the ‘Freshman 15’ (check out our guide on staying fit in first year). A healthier option is to grab a piece of fruit or a protein bar from a coffee shop or your local campus grocer.
Lucky for students, there are a LOT of discounts out there for us. Software like Microsoft Office is free for students, most banks have no-fee student accounts, and Spotify only charges students $5 a month for their premium service. There are also discount cards exclusive to students that give discounts to an array of businesses. Two of the most notable ones are the Student Price Card (SPC) and the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). There is usually a small fee for these cards, but they can be well worth it if the discounts provided are of use to you. Everything from restaurants, clothing stores and dentists have discounts for students if you’re able to show your student ID. Always bring it with you when you’re out shopping - you never know where you might find a nice 10% discount!
Build a budget
A big part of saving is knowing where you’re actually spending your money. Building a budget can help you set spending limits for yourself and track where and when you’re spending. You can track categories for everything from residence and tuition to entertainment and travel. Save your receipts or review your credit card statements each month to see how you’re doing against your budgeting goals!
Being a student is by no means cheap or easy, but there are lots of ways to be efficient with your money. Many businesses have begun to realize that students can be very valuable customers down the line and offer compelling discounts. Being thrown into adulthood and financial responsibility can be jarring, but it gets easier.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to price match your groceries, take advantage of student discounts, and get the most out of loyalty. It takes a little time and effort, but you will soon find there is a lot of money to save.