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Practical Tips for Saving Money in University

3 min read

Akshaya Radhakrishnan is a computer science and business student from Western University. She’s currently an Invisor 2019 summer intern, and is working with our portfolio management, web development, and marketing departments.  

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

University can be an important investment. Tuition is generally considered a major expense, but what about everything else? The goal is to graduate university in the best financial position, and confidently start your career. Starting small and reducing some recurring expenses can do wonders in achieving this goal. University is the perfect age to start learning techniques to creatively save up and build stable financial habits. These habits can carry throughout your life. Here are some ways you can save money in university.

1. Consider older or online textbooks

Textbooks are almost never included in tuition. Buying brand new books and lab manuals can cost up to $1500 per year – that’s $6000 for the entire university experience. Before choosing to buy a textbook, there are some fool proof steps you can take find the best deal. After all, you’ll only be using these books for a semester!

The best advice I received was to “never buy a textbook before attending the first lecture.” Your first lecture is when the professor will let you know if the textbook is mandatory to buy and which editions you can use. A lot of the times I got away with buying an older edition that had close to no changes, and I eventually passed on some of my textbooks to a younger student. Additionally, some textbooks might also be openly available online, and doing a bit of research on this can cut out the cost entirely. If the textbook was required for only a small portion of the course, I usually went to the library to take notes on what I needed and returned the book.

2. Weigh the pros and cons of living on campus – then save money on rent

One of the advantages of commuting from home is that you usually don’t have to pay rent. However, it’s important to consider the amount of time it would take to commute, and if it’s feasible with your schedule and workload. Finding out how much it costs per semester to commute versus live on campus can help decide. It might be valuable to live on campus if the commute is more than an hour away.

When I had to live on campus, one of the first things I decided was who I was going to live with, and if we had similar price ranges in mind while selecting rentals. As a student you can spend anywhere between $450 and $1000+ per month depending on proximity to the university and the space itself. If the priorities of your potential roommates align with yours and you have similar financial needs, it’s all smooth sailing.

Another common way students can save is by subletting. A student lease is often signed for the full 12 months, starting in May. Even though I only spent eight months at university and never spent summers there, I’d have to pay for the extra four months as well. By subletting to a summer student (with permission from your landlord), you can reduce the amount of money you’re spending every year by 30%! This can mean saving anything from $1800 - $4000. And if you do the math for all the summers you’ll be in school, you can save $7200 - $16,000. That’s just a simple way to reduce student loans with a little bit of effort.

3. Save on these two major campus expenses: food and furniture 

Food

Buying groceries for an individual can be tough. Food in stores is generally made to serve families. I usually see two things that end up happening: students buy too much and can’t finish the items that they bought, or they end up buying individual meals on campus. This costs even more, because campus food is generally a lot pricier. I find that it’s helpful to shop with a roommate who has similar preferences, share the groceries, and split the cost. It’s a lot healthier and a lot more manageable.

Furniture

Moving into a place means you’ll need furniture. There are many furniture exchange groups and marketplaces to buy used furniture. Generally, you’ll use this furniture for two to three years and then pass it on. I personally contacted the students living in my space before and asked if they would like to sell any of their furniture to me. They were more than happy to sell, and even offered to leave other furniture. Usually students that are graduating don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out how to move their items and might just sell you theirs at a very low cost. It’s a win-win!

Expenses in university can add up quickly. But with these tips, you can finish school in a positive financial situation and create strong financial habits as you enter the workforce.

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