Ah back to school season! Not 100% sure if I miss it to be honest lol, but that’s beside the point! This may be another year in post-secondary for some; and for others this is a whole new journey. Whatever your case may be, I have a few tips for you to navigate this chapter with ease and save some serious cash in the process!
Without further ado, lets begin!
1. Pay Your Tuition First!
Whether you’ve taken a loan or are paying for it yourself, please follow the deadlines for tuition fees! I had taken student loans for the first 2 years of university. Whenever they issued me the funds, the first thing I did was pay my tuition fees. This secures your spot in school and ultimately allows you to get your degree. If you don’t pay, you get barred from classes. Too many times have I seen folks buy stuff they wanted before covering the cost of education. I understand getting a lot of money at once can be overwhelming/exciting. It was the first time I saw 4 figures in my account. I had to fight the urge not to buy anything until I paid for school and bought my textbooks.
So please, resist the temptation to buy things before covering tuition fees. If it helps, keep in mind that it is money borrowed and you gotta give it back with interest so you might as well get a degree out of it. If you’re paying for school with your savings, think of it as a long-term investment (this also applies if you used a loan to pay for school!). These thoughts really put things into perspective for me.
And speaking about buying books…
2. Buy Your Textbooks USED
I said what I said! Buy your books U S E D! I’ve saved hundreds of dollars annually by doing this! While I don’t have exact figures, I know that if I add all years together, I saved at least $2000-$3000! I think many of us can agree that no matter your major, textbooks are ridiculously priced!
How do you find used books? You can do so by joining Facebook groups geared towards textbook buying+selling and by checking out classifieds such as Kijiji, LetGo and Carousell (only vouching for the mediums I’ve used).
Also have a chat with your professor. While the syllabus requires the newest edition, the previous one can still work for the course. I took a Philosophy class and bought the 1st edition from a student rather than the 2nd edition in stores. I asked my professor what the difference was and he literally said: “honestly just the page numbers” (Could you imagine!? Scammers lol!) Anywho, ask around! Most of the time these companies are just trying to find ways to get more money when all they did was add more images or change the fonts.
Keep an eye out for ads on campus too. I sat in one of my electives and noticed that someone left a note on the board advising that they have the required textbooks. I contacted the seller, but it was too late. Luckily the person had a friend who was selling the same books! Do you know how much she sold both books for? $30!!! (I kid you not they are worth at least $150! She really wanted them out her house!).
In short, all these avenues helped me keep a lot money in my pockets. Honestly, the only time you have to go to the bookstore is when it’s a completely different book or if they happen to do a real revamp with the new edition.
3. DON’T Sell Your Textbooks To The Campus Bookstore!
I wish I had a t-shirt with this tip written in bold so I can walk around campus to spread awareness! I’m pretty sure every campus bookstore is part of this scheme. For example, if you buy a $200 textbook and would like to sell it after you’ve completed the class, the bookstore will buy it back for a small fraction of its worth! I’m talking wayyyy less than what it cost used!
I’ve been told this by a former student so as a test, I sold 2 books that I bought used for a total of $10 (they were worth about $50 in stores). I went to the campus bookstore as they have the buyback program. The money I got back wasn’t even be enough to take the TTC (our transit system if you’re not from Toronto!). In essence, sell your textbooks in the same realms you can buy them used. You’re bound to find students in Facebook groups or classified sites who need those books. You get some money back, while they save some money! Both parties win!
4. Make Good Use of Your E-Library!
Have you ever noticed mid-way through your course that you didn’t need to buy the required material? Well I have. To explain, there are some classes that require “course kits”. This is a kit that contains a series of journals, articles, research papers or studies. It pretty much contains all the required readings for your course.
I remember browsing on Google Scholar and finding one of the articles listed in the course kit’s table of contents. I researched the rest of the articles and they were all online! Google Scholar was available for free as a university student (as in full access to a vast selection of articles!). There are also certain archives for journals and research papers available for you as a post-secondary student. To access that software, all I had to was log in through the library portal. Not sure if all post-secondary schools offer these resources, but it’s worth a try.
What am I trying to say here? Check your syllabus to see what is required for the course. Some professors would list the course kits and its contents. If you can find all the contents on Google Scholar and other archives, you don’t need to buy the course kits. As a result, money is saved.
FYI: It’s tricky to sell course kits. They can easily change the contents every year. Also this tip doesn’t work for all courses/majors. You may be left with no choice but to buy the kit. You have been warned lol.
Side Note: Do not sell or distribute copies to others due to copyright laws and do not download any content through pirated websites. I’m not endorsing getting any material illegally. Your school gives YOU access to these materials for free (well technically. I feel that it’s kind of included in tuition). Read what you need to read and log out lol. Also, I hope these course kits aren’t commission for professors. I was just trying to save money given that I had little to spare.
5. Opt Out The School’s Insurance Plan (If You’re Insured Already!)
If you have your own insurance that provides coverage for the things you need, opt out of your school’s insurance plan. There’s no sense in paying again for something that you already have. I had coverage under my parents insurance so I opted out of my school’s insurance. That saved me about $200 for the year. Be careful though because the opt out period is usually time sensitive. If you don’t opt out by a certain date, you have to keep the insurance. Check with student services to get more information on how to proceed.
To reiterate, if you don’t have insurance or don’t have full coverage, keep the school insurance plan. However, if you have good insurance, save your money and opt out of the school plan!
6. Avoid The Credit Card Salespeople
I don’t know what kind of sorcery is at play lol, but those salespeople sure know when to pop up on campus! Don’t give into their pitch! Credit cards are like another loan. It’s not worth it even if they offer you an SPC card (aka Student Price Card) ! Personally, the SPC card is not worth the hype. The most you’ll save is 10% in stores and tax is more by the way. In addition, so many terms and conditions apply. Nonetheless, If you really want the SPC card, you can always purchase it elsewhere for $10 WITHOUT having to get a credit card. The SPC card is valid for a year.
All of the salespeople who come on campus already have an “incentive” for various personalities. So if you’re difficult to convince, the right salesperson can make you cave in. I’ve declined their offers many times, but it reaches a point where I take a different route to avoid being delayed for class or home lol. If you find that you have a tough time managing money or are still learning how to manage, definitely avoid them at all costs!
7. Secure Employment
I can admit that I didn’t work while in school for the first 2 years of university. I provided for myself with whatever money I saved during the summer and what was leftover from OSAP after paying tuition. When the school year was done, I spent those 4 months we have off working full-time. I went back home after freshman year so it helped me save more of my earnings. By the time 3rd year rolled by, I worked during the academic year and summer break. The money I saved from prior years is what I used to pay for my 3rd year. I then continued paying for tuition myself as I now worked year-round. In the process, this also lowered the amount I owed in student loans.
I understand time and circumstances may vary for everyone, but I highly suggest to look at your schedules and see if it’s possible to work while going to school. If you prefer just working during the months you have off, that’s fine! Although, I’d suggest you begin job searching for summer student jobs in January. You’ll be surprised to find out they start recruiting months in advance!
8. Apply for Bursaries/Scholarships
Do you want the chance to earn free money ? Then bursaries and scholarships are the way to go! You can find them on your school’s website by logging into your student account. Honestly, it may take you a few hours to fill out everything for one bursary/scholarship alone or it may be a simple “apply and wait for a response” process. No matter what, you could get FREE money!
Personally, I’ve gotten one scholarship. It was around $1000 for being a French speaking student so I’m not complaining lol. They asked a series of essay questions and I also had to create a budget for the year! Easy right? On the other hand, I’ve received at least 1-2 bursaries EVERY year I’ve applied (amount varied for each).
For my college program, tuition was around $4000. During that year, I got $1500 worth of bursaries. You could imagine my excitement! To apply, all it takes is a few hours of your time (maybe like 2-4hrs) and you could save hundreds, if not thousands annually! Check for bursaries/scholarships each semester!
9. Commuters: Pack Your Lunch!
Campus food is EXPENSIVE and it’s a quick way for your money to disappear. What seems like small purchases adds up. If you don’t live on campus, you can save some money by bringing your lunch to school. Grocery shopping and meal prepping is much cheaper. There are microwaves available (at least I hope at all schools!) so don’t use the “well how would I warm up my lunch?” as an excuse lol!
So, I repeat: pack your lunch AND snacks! Also, get a reusable water bottle. Even water on campus is expensive *rolls eyes*. My university started creating water stations to eliminate the selling of water bottles, which gave me more incentive to bring my own bottle.
10. Make Use of Student Discounts!
While I shared that it’s best to pack your lunch, for those occasional days where you need to buy lunch, check out the restaurants/take-out spots that offer student discounts!
There are many businesses out there that offer discounts to students in post-secondary. That can include metro passes, museums, movie theatres, select clothing stores and bulk food stores too. You could even get discounts for select software’s such as Microsoft Office and Adobe! Also, there’s music apps such as Spotify with great pricing for students! I mean you most likely use these products, go to certain stores and restaurants. Why pay more when you can pay less lol?
Trust me I’ve graduated over a year ago now and I miss those discounts! It was truly upsetting seeing my Spotify membership be changed to regular price. What got to me the most was losing my free Microsoft Office package. Imagine having something useful for 6 years without having to pay, but now you do! That hurts (kidding! Well sorta lol)
11. Get A Campus Gym Membership
I attended the campus gym for the first year of school. Cost? $10 for the membership card. That’s it that’s all. No monthly membership fees. There were other gyms available at my university with varying prices, but I picked the one at the campus I frequent the most. I had access to the weight room and group classes. It’s probably the most fit I was in my adult years so far, but that’s beside the point lol.
Going to the gym at school is an effective way to cut costs while also doing something that’s beneficial to your mental and physical health! It’s way cheaper than regular gyms!
That concludes all the money saving tips I have for anyone in school! Hoping you have a successful semester and that you save a lot of money in the process! 🙂
All the best,