University is expensive. From tuition to books to commuting home for the holidays and nights out with friends, expenses rack up.
There comes a time when you need to ask yourself: do I have a budget? Am I spending recklessly? Do I spend money I don’t have on things I don’t need?
There are so many opportunities to spend money as a university student. By implementing small changes in your day-to-day life, you can save before you graduate.
Keep to a budget
While tedious, creating a spreadsheet can help you figure out where the bulk of your expenses go. This will help you keep track of your income and cash going out.
Write down some of your biggest expenses first, like tuition, books, rent and groceries, then move on to your person expenses like movie tickets or clothes. This will help you filter out unnecessary purcahses and will give you a clearer idea of where your money should go.
You can check out the Government of Canada’s Budget Planner to get started.
Apps like PocketSmith, KOHO, and Wallet allow you to see your financial activity and understand where the bulk of your spending goes.
The most important step in using a budget is actually sticking to it. Follow your spreadsheet to the best of your abilities and make tweaks if your income or expenses change.
Look out for freebies
Students qualify for a lot of discounts. Whether you're hunting for groceries, clothing or technology, you will find an array of discounts and coupons that can help you save money.
Save textbook money
Most university students know to avoid buying from the bookstore unless it's absolutely necessary.
Check out Western's Used Textbook for Sale page on Facebook to buy or sell your textbooks. You can also post ads on Kijiji or eBay to save or make some extra cash.
Cook at home
Cooking at home and limiting eating out whenever possible will not only save money but serves as a healthier alternative to living on Spoke bagels.
Cook meals in big batches once or twice a week, and put the leftovers in containers to take to class or for a library study session.
Check online meal plans and make use of campus microwaves.
Make your own coffee and tea
School can get so hectic that only a cup of coffee is the only thing helping you get through the day.
The average cup of coffee costs $3, before you even consider fancy Starbucks drinks. That’s over $1,000 a year if you’re buying every day, $500 if you buy every other day and $360 if you’re buying ten times a month by the end of the year.
Instead, buy coffee beans and tea bags to make yourself at home. Invest in a reusable travel mug and take your drink with you anywhere you go.
There are plenty of free social activities you can do yourself or with friends to have a good time.
While engaging in extracurriculars, make sure you spend smart.
While there is an initial fee of about $5 to $20 to join a Western club, pick one or two to devote your time to. You'll make lots of friends, enjoy social events — you might win free stuff too.
Ask for help
Whether it’s turning to a parent, guardian or counsellor, reach out to someone who can help you budget before you get into serious financial trouble. Let a trusted friend or sibling offer you financial advice.
Western offers Financial Counselling where you can talk about any student financial aid problems. You can also reach out to Mental Health Support at Western to talk to a professional if you are facing stress from financial struggles.
Budgeting and learning to save money is hard, especially in university where there are so many things to do and see. But, once you start making the small changes in your day-to-day life, you will see long-term results.