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  • Writer's pictureThe Mentorship Spot

How to Save Money in University

By Komal Patel

University is expensive! Between bills for rent, tuition, living expenses and the occasional night out with friends, the costs quickly add up. As someone who’s paying for school on my own, I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips to earn and save money as you pursue your education. None of these tips will make you rich, but taken together, they might help you stretch your dollars a bit further and feel more secure about your finances.

1. Pay your bills on time

This is the most obvious and easiest way to prevent yourself from incurring extra fees for late tuition, credit card bills, or rent payments. If you’re in the habit of paying any of your bills late, take the upcoming month to “reset” by limiting your spending for a few weeks and putting the money toward overdue bills. 2. Take advantage of tuition and housing payment plans

If you don’t have enough money to cover your tuition or residence expense in two lump-sum payments, approach your school about options for payment plans. With most universities, sending an email or making a phone call well in advance of the tuition due dates will allow them to restructure your payments so that you can pay smaller amounts over a period of time, without any additional charges.

3. Student discounts are the best!

From lower fees on your bank account to 50% off at your favourite pizza place, student discounts really help with saving money. For 10% off at a wide variety of stores, check out the Student Price Card (SPC). This isn’t a sponsored post by the way! I just like good deals. You might receive coupons in your school planners or student guides, and when in doubt, ask! I’ve gotten cheaper rates on transportation, accommodation, and entry to events just by asking about student pricing.

4. Get a travel mug and use it constantly

Spending $3 on your morning coffee or tea doesn’t sound like a lot, until you’re doing it five days a week for eight months of the year. That adds up to $480! Invest in a functional travel mug (or win one at a campus event like I did) and pack some tea bags or coffee singles in your backpack. You can get boiling water for free pretty much anywhere, as well as milk and sugar at the campus starbucks. If you like your caffeine black, that’s even more of an incentive to make it yourself.

5. Don’t buy textbooks until you’ve taken the first few classes of a course

Some professors will mention that readings are not testable, others may tell you that an older version of the textbook is totally fine, and some might even send you a link to the book online! Even if you do need a textbook for a course, you can check online for free versions or ask students who previously took the course for a discount on their copies.

6. Open up an investment account and put in $10

This is more of a long-term strategy, but university is the perfect time to start saving for the future. You can take advantage of apps such as acorns that will invest on autopilot for you, or put that coffee money to good use. If you don’t know where to start or are intimidated, try opening an account with an online advisor such as Wealthsimple or Questrade and make it a habit to deposit small amounts each month. For example, I invest $30 per month while at school, and increase the amount when I’m working over the summer.

7. Embrace freebies or buy things second hand

Before you reject the slightly used, mismatched furniture from well-meaning relatives or friends, consider this: the cheapest single bed you can find on Ikea is around $60, and it’s rickety and might fall apart on you. Looking for a new desk, chair, shelf, lamp, kitchen table, sofa, and shoe rack as well? Be prepared to pay over $400 to outfit your apartment. I’m all about having sturdy, functional furniture, but if you can get it second-hand at a discount or totally free, don’t turn your nose up at it! Also keep an eye out on Kijiji, your local ReStore, and other online marketplaces.

8. Sell your old stuff

Moving to a new residence or apartment is the perfect time to go through your belongings and sell the ones that you no longer use. Check out Poshmark or Plato’s closet to sell clothes, Varagesale, Kijiji, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. You can also trade for new items that you need without spending a dime!

9. Get a part-time paid position

Take advantage of work-study programs that will allow you to gain academic experience while getting paid, tutor a local fifth-grader in math, french, or another subject, or interview for a job on campus. The work might not be glamorous, but it’ll definitely help with covering your rent and everyday expenses. Think you’re too busy to work? Tutoring can pay $30 an hour with very little effort, and can be customized to your schedule. Put up an ad and try it before you knock it!

10. Last but not least, make a budget

This doesn’t have to be a fancy, multi-page spreadsheet with 14 colours and complicated formulas. Start simple by anticipating your essential expenses and expected income from student loans, scholarships, grants, parents, and work. This will give you a realistic picture of the upcoming year and might help contextualize the cost of rent or personal expenses. Once you’ve done that, set a spending limit for “extra” expenses and stick to it (hint - if it’s fun in any way, it’s probably an extra expense)


There you have it! If you liked this article and want more information on how to save money in university, let us know @thementorshipspot on instagram or send us an email at Thanks for reading!

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