Post-secondary education is an expensive pursuit, and costs are rising with each passing year. According to Statistics Canada, the average overall annual tuition cost for a Canadian university is $4724, which rounds off to an average of $18,896 over a four year degree. This estimate does not include other costs, such as textbooks, supplies, renting an apartment, utilities and food. The numbers add up really quickly, and it can be a little overwhelming. It is very important that you have a clear understanding of what the costs will be and how you will manage your day-to-day finances.
Here are some money-saving ideas:
- Research scholarships and bursaries that you may be eligible for. Completing the applications can sometimes be a time-consuming and daunting task, but it is worth it if it can help with tuition costs.
- OSAP is an interest free student loan that you don’t have to pay back as long as you are a full time student. However, this does not mean that you can spend this money carelessly. Interest can accumulate quickly upon graduating if you are not prepared to start paying off any accumulated debt.
- Buy used textbooks. The campus bookstore will carry a few used textbooks, but the amount is limited to the number of textbooks that the students sell back. Sometimes the bookstore’s website will have a “used textbook catalogue” or often students have developed a Facebook page where students can post what textbooks they are looking to either buy or sell. If all else fails, ask around, you never know what you might find.
- Sell your old textbooks once you are done with them either the following term or school year. You can do this privately or by selling the textbooks back to the campus bookstore.
- Borrow textbooks from friends/other students.
- Use the library’s textbooks. Often professors will leave a copy on reserve.
- Live at home if possible and distance allows. You could save around $40,000 over four years (maybe more).
- Opt to live off-campus as opposed to on-campus. It is generally cheaper and you can get a nicer place for the same price as on-campus housing. Depending on the location of the University and housing costs, this might not apply to you, however, do the comparison to find out what is more affordable.
- Look into becoming a Don. The University will often cover your on-campus living costs as payment for your services.
- Inquire as to whether or not utilities are included. This can be a costly added expense. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign any binding contracts.
- Read your lease or have someone who may have a better understanding, like a parent, read it before you sign anything to ensure there are no hidden costs.
- Know your rights. Look online to research your rights as a tenant.
- Buy cheap furniture. Look for garage sales. Every year graduating students move out, often trying to sell off their furniture, or in some cases, leaving it behind for free.
- Find free or affordable options for entertainment. There will be plenty of student activities, occasional movie nights, events and shows going on around campus. Look for activities listed in the student newspaper, posters or bulletin boards.
- Join or start a club. The funding is there, you just need to ask the right people.
- Research different discounts that you get with your student card.
- Use Skype to keep in touch with family and friends. It’s free!
- Look into whether or not your university/college offers a free bus pass. If not, look to see if you qualify for discounted public transit rates with your student card.
- Find a house/apartment within walking distance of the school (if possible).
- Try to carpool with other students when going home for visits/holidays. This way you can share gas costs.
- Avoid expensive on-campus food courts. Instead, pack a lunch or leftovers for dinner if you have class late at night.
- Create a meal plan and know exactly what you need when you go to the grocery store. This will save you from spending aimlessly on food that you don’t need.
- Eat local and in-season produce. Pre-packaged, pre-cooked foods are always more expensive and generally are not very good for you.
- Reduce food waste by preserving foods. Freezing leftover food, making soup stock, putting leftovers into casseroles are just some of the strategies that can help you save money in the long run.
- Find out about local farmers markets. Their prices are generally cheaper than those at the grocery store.
- Get in the kitchen with your parents now and learn how to make some of your favourite foods. Not only will you miss those home cooked meals, but eating out is always more costly than making your own meals.