Savings advice for first year university students

August 22nd, 2018  |  Personal Finance

Congratulations on taking the first step towards your academic future, first year university student! In this post we’re going to look at a bunch of tips that will go easy on your wallet during the big year ahead.

Money management is the key to success here, on top of maintaining your grades and passing all your credits. Some of the tips below will stretch your funds so you can leave school with less debt, plus, you might form some lifelong habits along the way!

We’ve divided the tips into lifestyle categories that will help you organize yourself for the semesters ahead.


Academic publishers, universities and professors know that the textbook is one of the most unavoidable costs related to the school year. Some professors will even assign their own textbooks, just so they can make a return on top of their salary. It’s a cut-throat game, academia.

There are, however, a couple of workarounds available tobudget-conscious students:

First, try to buy secondhand where ever possible. If you need an electronic device for answering polls in-class, see if there’s someone from a higher year selling their old one (student forums, Facebook or Craigslist are good bets).

If your bookstore carries second hand texts, purchase or rent these at a discount. Check Amazon against your campus bookstore to see if you’re really getting the best deal (you usually aren’t). And lastly, the library will always be your free friend! In English classes, for example, you’re mostly required to read a book for a week or two then move on to another one. Borrow these fleeting texts, or buy them secondhand afterwards if you really enjoy them.

Also, hint: a lot of things exist online in .pdf or ebook form. Google any required reading using “.pdf” as a keyword.

Room and board

Living with other people will almost always cut your living expenses by at least half. Rent, internet, hydro and gas all get divided and can usually open up larger spaces with your pooled money for rent.

Stay away from a cable subscription. Instead, sign up for a streaming service and hook up your laptop to the TV for movie nights.

Sell anything you don’t use or need on a classifieds website or forum.

If you live in a big student house or dorm, consider renters insurance to protect your possessions. Your laptop, cellphone, or expensive clothing is at risk of “going missing” during a house party; it’s best to think ahead with one of the cheapest forms of insurance protection on the market.


Food will make or break any budget. If you’re studying in a big city, it’s crucial to find all of the cheap eating places, grocery stores, and fruit stands. Try to eat healthy more often than not. Cooking on Sundays with roommates can help stretch leftovers into the week and save you money while pooling resources.

Pasta and sauce is very cheap, as are instant noodles, but break the mold and make some creative dishes for the same price!

Further, find where the student specials are. Metro Ontario, for example, has a student discount on Tuesdays in Toronto. Doing your big shopping on this day would save students 10% to 15% on their bills with their university, college or even high school ID.

Make your own coffee and bring it with you to your classes. Most campus cafeterias have microwaves where you can heat up a cup.


Take advantage of student transit passes, usually offered through your university or college at a discount. Walk to class or cycle; whatever you do, try not to drive. Parking in an urban area can add up quickly and total into a huge annual expense.


Budget for your entertainment! You don’t need to hermit up at home (unless it’s midterms), but you shouldn’t be going out every day of the weekend or binge drinking at any social event. Keep your vices in check, they’ll only mess up your studies. If you fail a class, taking it again isn’t free.

See what’s on campus in the form of movie nights, museums, art galleries, socials or semi-formals. Joining an organization can open you up to new friends and new events; get networking!

If you’re used to getting active in a gym environment, join a school team or go to the campus gym instead of getting a paid membership elsewhere.

Side hustle

As the last tip, get a part-time job. A huge portion of full-time students have part-time jobs to keep an income and help pay down any debt they’re accruing during post-secondary.

You can keep your job local too. See if there are any positions open at the campus libraries, dormitories, bookstores, schools, cafes, etc. The best thing about working on campus is that you’ll usually receive some perks that will stretch your money even farther, be it free food, free rent, discounts on textbooks or clothing, or the ability to study while at work (my dream job was always the library).

Working while studying takes dedication and time management, and it’s totally possible, you just have to strategize and know that it’s just for the short term.

All the best this year

Keep all of these tips in mind as you climb the ladder to your degree or diploma. Putting these to work will require some practice, but they’ll form long lasting habits that will help you cut down on your long-term debt.

Good luck! We believe in you.

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