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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