In just four short days I will be returning to university to complete my Master’s degree in Social Work. While I could not be more excited for this new chapter of my life, I am also acutely aware of the financial strain that comes along with being a university student. So with that in mind, here are some money saving tips that I’ve learned over the course of my years as a university student!
Track your spending
Just as counting calories helps dieters hold themselves accountable, tracking your spending by keeping a financial log book can help you keep track of not only how much you’re spending, but also how much of your monthly expenses are unnecessary. Treating yourself to a non-essential item every once in a while is okay, but if you notice that you’re treating yourself every single week then it might be time to reevaluate your spending habits and budget your money more strictly.
Shop for groceries with cash rather than cards and always use a list
When you go grocery shopping you should always be shopping for what you need rather than what is on sale. Its easy to get sucked into spending too much on groceries if you see items that are on sale for a good good price. By creating a list before you go shopping and restricting yourself to a cash budget you avoid spending too much money on things that you don’t actually need. Say no to sales! They might seem like a good idea at the time but they are there to make you spend more money. The only exception to this rule is if there is a sale on something that you actually use a lot, in which case you should stock up! For me, I eat a lot of pasta during the school year so I stock up on pasta sauce whenever it goes on sale!
Make bulk meals
Slow-cooker bulk meals are a student’s best friend. I tend to cook a lot of chili and stew in bulk batches so that I can get 8-10 meals out of it. This not only saves money, but it also allows you to freeze leftovers for convenient meals when the semester starts to pick up and you don’t have time to cook. Who says you have to live on ramen noodles? Cooking a big pot of chili is just as cheap per serving and its much healthier and nutrient packed!
Make coffee at home
If you’re a coffee or tea drinker you might want to consider switching to instant coffee and/or tea bags from home. A container of instant coffee ranges in price from 3-6$ usually and can last 1-2 months depending how many cups you’re drinking everyday. Alternatively, a package of 100 black tea bags can be purchased for 2$ which means you’re paying roughly 2 cents per cup of tea rather than 2$. Over the course of a year this really adds up! You can easily save hundreds of dollars by making this switch.
Cut your own hair!
This one might be a bit extreme for some, and if you’ve never cut your own hair before then I suggest you watch a few YouTube videos before giving this a go, but it can definitely help you save money. Personally, I have a fairly simple hair style so its easy for me to cut my own hair. Depending on where you get your hair cut, prices range from 15$- 150$. Therefore, this could be a good way to save a few bucks or a significant amount of cash as the case may be. DIY hair cuts won’t be for everyone, but it’s not as hard as you might think!
Buy textbooks used or borrow from the library
Buying used textbooks is a great way to save hundreds of dollars per semester. Alternatively, if you only need a few chapters of a textbook for a class, it might be worth spending some time at the library photocopying only the chapters you need (or just borrow the book to read the chapters) rather than spending the money to buy the book.
Sell things that you no longer use
Recently, I went through my closet and took a pile of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and purses to a local consignment store. The store did not take everything (in fact, they only took six items) but I managed to make an extra 30$! This may not seem like much, but that money was used to buy myself an alarm clock and a school bag, both of which I would otherwise have needed to buy with the money I earn from my job.
Make your own meals rather than dining out
Eating out is one of the first things that I cut from my budget as a student. Packing your own lunch and eating breakfast and dinner at home saves a ton of money!
Avoid costly outings and instead opt for fun nights in
As an introvert, I prefer to spend my time at home so it wasn’t exactly hard for me to cut costs on entertainment. But for those of you who enjoy going out, perhaps you might opt for cheaper options like a movie night in or a games night with friends.
Stop going window shopping to quell boredom
Window shopping is rarely just window shopping. If you spend enough time wandering aimlessly through stores to quell boredom, chances are that you will find something that you will want to buy. Resisting temptation is a lot easier if you never go into the store to begin with! You can’t want that new purse if you don’t even know it exists!
Walk instead of driving or taking public transit
Personally, I love walking and I hate public transit so making this switch was also fairly easy for me. Not only is it a great way to get some exercise in (which is a great way for students to relieve school stress!) but it also helps you save money.
If you don’t absolutely NEED a car, don’t get one!
As someone who has owned a vehicle before, I can understand the strong desire to own your own car. The convenience is wonderful; however, car payments and insurance payments will put a huge dent in your budget. By taking public transit rather than owning a vehicle you will automatically save thousands of dollars in car insurance every year. Sometimes being a student means sacrificing some of life’s luxuries. Owning a car is one of those luxuries.
Work part-time to reduce loan debt and save on interest long-term
Working part-time is not only a good way to build your resume and gain new skill sets, but it also helps you pay for some of your expenses without needing to rely solely on student loans or lines of credit. Working just ten hours a week could bring in roughly 400-450$ (assuming a minimum wage payment) and over time this can really add up when you consider that you won’t be paying interest on that money which would otherwise be accumulating as a debt to be paid off in the future.
These are just a few of the tips that I use to save money while I’m in university and I hope that some of you will find them useful as well! At the end of the day, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to afford the cost of a post-secondary education. Just remember that it will all be worth it in the end when you’re working your dream job!