Budgeting for Post-secondary Students
Starting college or university is stressful enough without having to worry about money too. Dealing with exams, papers, classes and work doesn't leave much room to think about your finances. However, by creating a budget you can make your life less stressful. A budget shows you how much money is coming in and what goes out for bills and expenses. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a student budget worksheet that can help you with your financial planning. There are many ways to save money every day and it doesn't need to be painful. Consider the following tips:
1. Course materials
Textbooks can be a huge expense when starting a new school year. Look for second-hand textbooks at your university bookstore, at student-run co-op bookstores, on kijiji and various other online websites like textbookexchange.ca.
Cooking meals for yourself is really the cheapest alternative. Watch for grocery store specials. Cook in bulk and freeze extras. This way nothing gets wasted. Pack lunches for yourself instead of picking up those grab and go eats. And, remember to never go shopping when you are hungry. This is the way non-essentials end up walking out the door with you.
The cost of socializing can really add up. But this doesn't mean that you shouldn't ever go out or entertain your friends. Organize potluck dinners where everyone brings a dish. Take advantage of free events on campus. Most importantly allocate a certain amount of "fun money" per week that fits in with your budget and be sure to stick to that amount.
Save money on clothing by buying second-hand or in discount stores. Find extra discounts by shopping online. Some online retailers will send you discounts if you sign up for their email list. Or host a clothes swapping party for a fun and cheap alternative to shopping.
5. Credit cards
If you don't have cash to buy something, don't buy it. Buying on credit only delays the inevitable. When that bill comes in at the end of the month, you may not be able to pay it all off and interest charges will start to accumulate thereby affecting your credit rating.
6. Discounts and sales
Many shops and restaurants offer discounts that may come in the mail or via email. Get a SPC card for savings at numerous retail outlets, check out sites like Shoestring shopping for warehouse sales in your area, as well as other discounts and coupons.
For more tips on how to save money, check out the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and take a look at the following books for more information on how to be a financially savvy student: