Tips for Saving Money at University

It’s that time again. Ugh – back to school. You’ve enjoyed a nice long summer getting some sun and also experience to put on your resume. Alas, you must return to school to educate yourself.

I know, it sucks. The worst part of university isn’t the studying and exams though; it’s the HUGE drain on money!! The beginning of your semester is the worst: the shock of supplies, textbooks and back to school partying. You know – because a $5500 tuition cost isn’t enough for you.

From my 4 years in university, and 2 years banking experience, I have developed some pretty good tips and techniques for saving money. Students tend to be naïve in the financial department, so wise up, kids!! Stop letting university and stores take advantage of you!

Textbooks:
Saturday I was sitting at a friend’s kitchen table. We’ve both graduated but his little brother is going into 2nd year and I saw his receipt for textbooks. WOW. The money they charge for textbooks is absolutely ABSURD!! He bought 3 books and dropped about $400. You pay over $100 for a book you will use for 4 months and never open again.

Trust me when I tell you that you will never use that textbook again. You say you will. But you really won’t. Maybe you’ll check 1-2 books for reference in the future, but that’s it!

My first tip regarding textbooks is to BUY USED!! You will instantly save $20-$50 per book. Usually the school bookstore will sell used, but if they are out, try a student run bookstore. Remember to also take advantage of this from the other point of view; resell your old books back to your school bookstore. I know it’s a small fraction of what you paid, but either way, it’s money in your pocket.

Your next outlet is using Facebook. There are PLENTY of groups out there selling used textbooks, and students tend to charge even less than the school bookstore because they are so desperate for money to get their own books.

You can also try talking to friends who took the course and ask to borrow their book or try a student club that specializes in your book topic. Keep in mind that your university library will most likely carry the book so you can check it out for free whenever you want. Be warned that other students use this method too so get your hands on a copy as quickly as possible.

My last point which you really need to be careful of: ask around if you actually need the book. Many times, profs will be up front with you and say, “No.” Maybe other students can advise you. If you are unsure, you can always buy the book and return it after a few weeks as long as you don’t unwrap it.

Student Banking:
You’d be shocked at the wasteful and irresponsible spending I’ve seen while working at the bank. Students tend not to look at their over all balance rather than their full list of transactions for the month. I once had an old high school friend come in and asked for some information and I told him he had spent $35 on banking fees that month. That’s $35 to a big rich bank instead of staying in your pocket. All the big banks in Canada have a student banking plan which typically provide free banking to students.

I know visiting the bank is as much fun as a trip to the dentist, but here’s all you need to do: grab a student ID and your transcript, and go tell the teller you want the student banking account. Phew! Hard stuff. I know! Yah, you don’t even need to go into their secret scary offices, you just need the front line teller! Do that, and I guarantee you will save yourself enough money to buy a round of drinks for you and your friends every month.

Be wary of the student credit cards they cell during the first month of class. I HIGHLY recommend going in to see your Personal Banking Officer(PBO). They know you and your finances best and really aren’t out to get you. Those sales people walking around campus get a commission for each card they sell whereas PBOs don’t get anything for selling a card and are truly looking out for your best interest.

Another bit of advice, ALWAYS PAY YOUR MINIMUM BALANCE!! They honestly make it as easy as possible for students to pay off their Credit Cards. My old card only required I pay $10 a month, rather than the interest like typical cards too. Also, be careful of those ridiculous point plans where you need an exorbitant amount of points to purchase a small selection of items. The best plan you can get is Cash Back. Everybody uses cash and they automatically pay out once a year.

Cell Phone Plans:
I know you see special “Student Plans” that help you save soooo much money every year, but you’d be surprised at some of the backdoor schemes that are used. Unlimited doesn’t actually mean unlimited, especially with all the major service providers. Make sure you RESEARCH your cell plan before you lock yourself into that 3 year contract.

I have a very good friend who has worked marketing cell phones for over 7 years. He’s so good at selling cell phones that he’s been recruited by the major services providers and can tell you all their schemes, twisted plans and of course, the best plans to save you money. From the conversations I’ve had with him about cell phones, I have learned that the best plans go to businesses. Not the small, poor student, but to businesses!

How can you take advantage of that? Find yourself a very good friend (E.g. a sibling who you are forever tied to). To create a ‘business’ you only need 2 people! Then you can find yourself a Business-to-Business sales representative.

Feel free to come up with a wacky business name. That’s just a benefit to getting a business plan deal!

Meal Plans:

Don’t get one. Trust me. It’s just a waste of money and you’ll have extra cash on your plan at the end of the year that you’ll never be able to get back.
Also save yourself the extra 15lbs. Remember, just because your food may have a “healthy” label, doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy (9 grams of saturated fat isn’t healthy!)

Remember, a penny saved is a penny earned, so look for as many places as you can to save money. Any money tips you want to share? Send them in!

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