When many students leave to go to school in a new place, they’re excited about meeting new people, going to class and freedom from parents. One thing we’re not taught is how to spend responsibly. The ‘typical’ student experience says we are supposed to sleep all day, party all night and somehow fit school work in there somewhere.
But if practice has taught me anything, it’s that partying can eat up a considerable chunk of money quickly. What it all comes down to is learning how to pinch pennies and spend the money you do have responsibly.
TD Canada Trust has an excellent guide for students about how to create and maintain a budget while going to school.
First, they say you should figure out how much money you have coming in. Once you know how much money you have, you can then figure out how much money you have per month. To do this, take the total and divide it by how many months you plan on being in school (typically eight).
The next step, according to TD, is to figure out your monthly costs. To do this, save all your receipts for a month, two even, so you know where your money is going. Things to consider are: books, tuition, rent (if you’re living off campus), groceries, phone bill and entertainment.
To figure out your budget, subtract all your monthly fees from the money you have coming in. If the number is in the negatives, you need to start thinking about where you can save money or things that you can cut out of your budget to make sure you don’t run out of money. If your number is a positive, that means you have a little extra cash. Generally, it’s a good idea to put this money away for future years, as school only gets more expensive as you progress.
So, how can you trim a few dollars off your bills? There are lots of ways to save on almost every aspect of your everyday life. One mistake many students make is going out to eat as opposed to making their own food. It can cost as little as a dollar to make a full meal, whereas going out can cost upwards of $20, just for one meal!
Another huge area of spending is on coffee. If you fit the student stereotype at all, drinking coffee will become an almost daily occurrence. Buying coffee from somewhere like Williams or Tim Horton’s can cost around $2 a cup, but if you find a second hand coffee maker and a re-useable cup you can make a cup of coffee for anywhere between 50 cents to 83 cents a cup, according to coffeehabitat.com.
Another great way to save money is to avoid buying brand names and go for the cheaper generic items. These are usually considerably cheaper, and most stores have their own brand of nearly everything, from meats to shoes!
While it may be the last place you want to save, the ‘entertainment’ aspect of student life is arguably the most expensive.. While going to bars can be fun, it also drains your wallet as quick as the tequila shot is down your throat. Instead of going out, why not throw your own party, respecting residence rules, of course. Buying your alcohol from LCBO is cheaper and lasts longer than one night.
Student life is definitely not a cheap lifestyle, but there are ways to make it through. Even if you do have extra money, try to find ways to keep your costs low so that any extra money you have can be transferred over to help pay for books and tuition for the next year.
Living on a tight budget can be stressful, but once you know how to manage your money effectively, the stress disappears and you can start enjoying being a student.