12 money saving tips for college and university students

Written by the Square One team

Updated June 18, 2024 | Published November 17, 2018

For many students, moving to university represents an exciting new level of freedom. With freedom, however, comes responsibility, and that includes fending for yourself financially. Obtaining a post-secondary education is a rewarding but expensive endeavour.

You’ll need accommodation, food, textbooks, clothing and money for activities These costs can easily spiral out of control.

When you may already be signing up for sizeable debt from your tuition, how can you minimize additional expenses to stay on top of your finances? Continue reading for 12 tips for assessing expenses and coping with your newfound financial freedom.


Thumbnail of the Money Saving Tips for University Students video
  1. Tap into financial aid

    Tuition is almost universally expensive, so be sure to exhaust all options for assistance. This could take the form of a scholarship, award, or simply a student loan. Your university’s financial aid office is a great place to visit. The staff are usually knowledgeable and eager to help.

    Often, alumni have created awards geared toward outstanding students, students with specific interests or students from particular backgrounds. Why not see if you qualify?

  2. Get a job

    A little extra cash is always welcome and a part-time job shouldn’t cut into your study time too much. Most campuses have work-study positions available, giving you a bit of extra income for assisting in a departmental office or at the dining hall. If you have computer skills or writing talent, you can pick up freelance jobs and work from home in your spare time.

  3. Create a budget

    Learning to live within your means is a valuable skill that will serve you well after your graduate. Once you’ve determined how much money you have coming in each month from your loan and any work, make a list of your expenses. The remainder is yours to spend or save.

    Track your spending for a month or two to look for patterns; see where those dollars go and whether there are places you can cut back or find cheaper alternatives.

    If you need help with budgeting, make the most of technology. These days, there are a plethora of apps or online tools to help you keep track of your monthly payments.

  4. Compare housing options

    Once you have an idea of how much you can spend each month, consider your largest expenditures. For most students, rent is the biggest monthly expense you’ll incur, so consider ways you might save money.

    Contact your university’s housing office and ask about the options available to you to get an idea of the cost involved. Usually, you’ll find that it’s cheaper to live off-campus. But remember to weigh the money-saving benefits against the convenience of living on campus and the ease of making friends in residence.

  5. Think about textbooks

    Textbooks are expensive. Before you rush off to the bookstore and spend hundreds of dollars on books you may never use again, consider alternatives. You may be able to get a copy at the library, share one with a classmate, download one or purchase a used version.

    Check with upper-year students in your program to see if they have books they’d like to dump. Perhaps someone will be kind enough to offer a loan.

  6. Cut the coffee

    Buying lunch on campus every day quickly adds up. Save money by packing your lunch and bringing a thermos of coffee in the morning to keep you awake during that early morning class.

  7. Enjoy free food

    Scout out the opportunities for free food on campus. If you belong to a student club, there will often be pizza nights. Volunteers for various activities may get fed in exchange for their time.

    Lectures and conferences often serve refreshments and snacks, so attend a few – why not broaden your mind and fill up at the same time?

  8. Appreciate activities

    Why look for pricey off-campus entertainment when you can likely find free activities on campus? Many universities include gym memberships with the cost of tuition, so be sure to take advantage of it.

    Many faculties or institutes host free lectures, films and concerts with high-quality speakers and performers; broaden your mind while tightening your wallet.

  9. Switch banks if necessary

    Many banks offer free ATM usage and waive other fees for students as a way of building loyalty for the days when you are earning good money. Be sure to shop around to find the benefits that best suit you.

  10. Cash in on student discounts

    Your student ID card is a valuable asset. Many stores, restaurants, entertainment venues and travel companies offer discounts of 10-15% for students. Even outlets outside the surrounding area may be part of a discount plan; it’s always worth asking.

  11. Invest your spare cash

    If you don’t need all of your loan or scholarship funds immediately, consider placing the surplus into an interest-bearing vehicle, such as a guaranteed investment certificate. Why not let your money earn interest until you need it?

  12. Insure your valuables

    Think about protecting the items you own that would be expensive to replace: your laptop and smartphone, your speakers, and your bicycle are good examples. Residences are home to many people, not all of them honest.

    For about $12/month, you can get tenants insurance to save you the cost of replacing stolen property.

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