Tips For Students To Save Money In University

My wife and I left University with over $60,000 in student loan and credit card debt.  We were able to pay off our debts and improve our finances fairly quickly, but we definitely could have done a better job managing our money while we were in school.

With students headed back to school this week, I thought it would be timely to share some tips for students to save money in University.

Tips For Students To Save Money

1. Housing – I lived on campus in my first year of University before my parents and I purchased a 5-bedroom home about 5 minutes away from the school.  It’s not practical (or advisable) for every parent to buy a house for their child, but sharing accommodations and living within walking distance from campus will save you money.

Many students set their expectations too high when searching for housing.  The newer (and nicer) accommodations are often much smaller 2 or 3 bedrooms homes located further away from campus, which will impact what you pay for rent, utilities and transportation.  Instead, you should try and find an older 4 or 5-bedroom home located closer to campus.  Living with roommates can be a challenge, but the more people you can get sharing housing expenses, the more money you can keep in your wallet.

2. Groceries – Now that we’re a single income family we have really tightened up our grocery budget by planning our meals and eating at home.  If we would have done this while we were going to school we could have saved hundreds of dollars a month on our food budget.  My advice to University students is to get some decent pots and pans, find 5 or 6 recipes that are healthy and easy to prepare, and make sure you cook dinner at home at least 3 times a week.

When grocery shopping, don’t just shop for convenience.  Most grocery stores have a customer appreciation day that you can take advantage of once a month.  Get a friend or roommate to split a membership at Costco, you’ll save money buying in bulk rather than paying a premium per unit for those single-serving sizes.

3. Banking and Credit – It’s tough to avoid using credit while going to University.  Over the years it’s become increasingly more difficult to finance a post secondary education.  Student loans may be a reality for most students, but that doesn’t mean you should be racking up the credit card debt as well.

Most lenders advocate that students should carry at least one credit card to help build their credit rating.  But most students are simply not responsible enough to handle even a small credit card limit.  With the ease of online shopping, cash advances and peer pressure to have the latest fashions and coolest gadgets, University students are easily seduced into the credit trap.

Unless you absolutely need a credit card, I would advise against getting one.  Make a budget and projection of your yearly expenses and then take any excess income or student loan money and stash it in a high interest savings account for emergencies.  If you need to buy something online, just open up a PayPal account and link it to your chequing account.  Speaking of chequing accounts, make sure you take advantage of the no fee banking options offered to students.

Other Tips To Save Money

  • Buy used books
  • Walk or bike to school
  • Take advantage of student discounts with your student ID card
  • Use the free coupons that you get on your first day of school
  • Use the free campus recreation facilities
  • Withdraw cash from your own branch, not the ATM’s that charge a $3.00 “convenience” fee
  • Party at home to save on expensive bar drinks
  • Better yet, get a part-time job working Friday and Saturday nights

What are some other tips for students to save money in University?

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  1. VanLarry on September 5, 2011 at 2:35 am

    You can’t get a credit card until after you’ve reached legal age, I think it’s still 18. I remember applying for mine, the bank won’t allow me. They did however, delay my application until my birthday and approved it then. I still hold the same card and it still expires on the month of my birthday.

    Make use of the Student Union. There’s a lot of services they have, yet don’t advertise effectively.

    Make use of the University library. They have plenty of music CD’s, movies, etc, you can borrow for free. Borrow a bunch, rip them on your computer and watch it on your free time. Academically, libraries also have access to journals which you can access for free. Usually these technical journals costs hundreds of dollars a year to subscribe.

    On drinks/party. Have a pre/after party where most of your drinking is at home. It’s alot cheaper to buy your alcohol at the liquor store then to buy a drink in a club. Have 2 drinks which clubbing, chug the JD at friends place. Besides, if someone needs to crash, they’re already at someplace they can, instead of struggling to get a cab.

    Be wary of phony job interviews. Face it, you’re broke and you’re desperate for money. And you notice this ad that’s posted everywhere on campus. It’s a good chance these are phony job interviews. If you ever get stuck in these MLM seminars: get up, leave and ask if anyone wants to leave as well. These network marketing pyramids are waste of your time.

  2. cashflowmantra on September 5, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Textbooks are a big expense that are not often prepared for. Buying them used and then reselling can save a bunch of money.

  3. krantcents on September 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I shared books with friends in certain subjects. It worked if you lived close to each other in a dorm or house. I earned some occasional money n college doing experiments or projects.

  4. JT on September 5, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Good stuff on grocery shopping. I saved a ton there.

    While grocery shopping don’t forget that grocery stores put the freshest beer on the bottom of each stack. It takes a little more work, but the dates are always better. 😉

  5. Stocksicity on September 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I just finished my undergrad degree in May. I was fortunate enough to get a ton of scholarships and grants, but I have friends who weren’t as lucky. So I think housing is a big issue. Too many students live on (and want to live on) campus and I don’t think you can deduct that on your taxes so there isn’t any benefit there. And university dorms tend to be overpriced. I have a friend who lived on campus and is in debt of about a $100,000. She could have lived in an apartment nearby and owe far less because rent just a few miles from the campus is far less than what they charge for on campus dorms.

    I could probably go on that topic forever.

    /end rant.

    • Ally on March 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

      I hear you on the living on campus thing. At my school,the housing is downtown in a big city. It’s about $10,000 for university housing for 8 months. Then it’s on your own for the summer!

      My rent is currently $1000/mo inclusive for a basement apartment that’s redone and actually very nice, and it’s a 30 minute commute to the school. I know a girl that’s right off campus and her rent is $1750/mo, utilities extra, and her place is falling apart.

      My advice? SHOP AROUND. Give yourself time to find places with the right balance of cost, quality, and distance for you. You’ll be happier in the end.

  6. Sarah on September 22, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Another great way for students to save money is through group buying websites where you can consistently find deals at 50 – 90% off. You can find all the deals from Groupon, LivingSocial and the other top group buy websites at You can browse deals based on category and location so finding a good local deal is easy.

  7. Marissa on November 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Find work on campus. You’d be surprised at how many jobs there are on campus and how it really doesnt feel like work most times. My sister and brother both worked on campus and preferred it “real jobs” as they call it.

    • Echo on November 20, 2011 at 11:32 pm

      @Marissa – you’re right, there are plenty of student jobs available on campus. Most campus jobs are sympathetic to student schedules, and they actually pay fairly well.

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