Debt is nothing new to the average university student, but it is a common issue both inside and outside of the university world. Saving money is especially difficult as expenses often outweigh money earned. With the ever-rising need to borrow money to cover tuition, fees and other school expenses, students are increasingly strapped for cash.
So how does one go about saving a little money for financial emergencies? The cost of living is not going to go down anytime soon, but there are ways to reduce your spending and control your debt.
The first thing that will help students is financial education, specifically on when and how to use credit cards. When first given a credit card, some students will initially listen to warnings on how a credit card is not free cash and must be paid off every month. However — intentionally or unintentionally — things can get out of hand, especially when credit cards are relied on in excess.
It is very important to limit credit card usage and only spend what you can pay off. Unless there is an emergency, try to use cash on hand. If it is necessary to spend more than you can pay off make a plan to pay off a little bit at a time, to minimize the amount of interest that builds up. This accumulation of interest on credit cards is a major mistake many people will make when they do not consider the consequences of using credit cards to pay for everything. Using money you have available is a safe bet unless you are sure you can earn enough to pay off your credit card every month.
Speaking of cash, where you keep your cash matters. Most banks offer student banking accounts that have unlimited transactions and no fees, which can save you money over time. By depositing a portion of every paycheque, you can easily build up some savings.
If you have money coming in from a part-time job or from other sources, now is the time to learn how to budget. To avoid draining your precious savings as quickly as you earn them, try to track your expenses diligently. An easy tip to avoid ending up in debt at the end of the month is to spend less money than you have coming in. Estimate how much your necessities will cost and plan for those expenses. Leave a little for emergencies or extra interests — like that party that you just had to attend on the weekend. This sounds simple enough, but it is a skill that many students lack and learning it will help you save money both in university and when you enter the “real world.”
A very large part of a student’s budget is textbooks — but going to the bookstore is often an exercise in watching your bank account drain. Cheaper textbooks can be found online at Bookmob or Amazon. You can also save those hard earned dollars by buying used textbooks from other students on the Buy/Sell Used Textbooks from the U of S Facebook page or from Books Unlimited.
Now that you have got the books, getting to class is the next financial hurdle. Make good use of your U-PASS, as using public transit is much cheaper than using a car. If you must travel by car, carpool with friends and split the cost of gas. For holidays and weekends, if you would prefer to use Greyhound or Saskatchewan Transportation Company buses, take advantage of the student discount as this will save you a little money off the bus fare.
Living with roommates is another great way to share the burden of living expenses like groceries and rent. When you go shopping for groceries, go with your roommates and split the cost among yourselves. When an item is on sale, stock up on it to save money as sales don’t last forever. That discount on ramen noodles could be a lifesaver when it comes to finals week, you never know.
If an option, living with your parents or other family members can save you even more money. On top of home cooked meals, living with family can usually remove the burden of paying rent.
Saving money in college can be a challenge, but it can be conquered as long as you use the right skills.
Graphic: Stephanie Mah / Graphics Editor