We all know post-secondary education can be quite expensive. In the 2016-17 academic year, a Canadian undergraduate student paid, on average, $6,373 in tuition. And that’s not including the additional costs of things such as textbooks, school fees and living expenses.

When having the #MONEYTALK with students across the province, we heard over and over the challenge of managing money while going to school. When it comes to post-secondary education, what can a student do to reduce money-related stress caused by tuition and living expenses? 

We recently sat down with Braden C., a 3rd-year University of Saskatchewan student and Conexus member, who told us how he manages money while being a student.

Tuition can be expensive. How have you been able to manage the costs of tuition?

My parents have helped me out greatly when it comes to paying for tuition. They’ve been putting money into an RESP since I was born, knowing I would need it at this point in my life. This has definitely relieved a lot of stress when it comes to paying for school.

That’s great to hear! What else can a student do to help cover the cost of tuition or save money for things such as textbooks?

Scholarships are a great way to reduce the cost of tuition. There are many different ones available from the schools, local businesses, etc. It can take some time to apply, but can be worth it in the end by offsetting some of the costs you need to pay.

When it comes to textbooks, a great way to save money is buying used textbooks. For example, the U of S has a program where you can sell your textbooks back to the store. Often you can find a used textbook at a lower price than a new book and from my experience, many of the used books look like new anyways.

What about other expenses such as living costs – how do you make or save money for all of the additional expenses you face?

To allow me to focus on my studies during the school term, I only work during school breaks, such as the summer, and put the money I make into savings. I work as many hours as I can to provide enough money I’ll need for the eight months I’m in school. I know not everyone can do this, and some may need to work part-time while going to school, but I recommend putting as much as you can into savings during the off months so you can work a bit less during the school term.

Are there any tools you use to help you manage your money?

I use several tools including online banking and the Personal Financial Management tool that Conexus offers online. It allows me to set budgets and track how much I spend relative to those budgets. Each month, I look at what I spent in the previous month and make decisions and changes based on what I think will be coming up in the next month. For example, if I know a band I want to see is coming, I adjust my budget so that I have some money set aside for entertainment. This may mean I don’t eat out a couple times that month, but I’m also not going over my budget.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a student with your money?

My biggest challenges with money are probably in the area of groceries. When I know the upcoming week is going to be busy for me, I tend to buy foods that require little to no preparation. I have found, over the past three years, these meals are usually less healthy for me and also cost a little bit more than if I were to buy basic ingredients and make the meals from scratch. I also tend to impulse-buy things when I have cravings.

What tips do you have for other students that are needing to manage their money while going to school?

The biggest thing is to set a budget and track your spending. When you are able to see where your money is going, you can get a better understanding of your needs but also find areas where you maybe don’t need to spend so much such as eating out or buying coffee.

Thanks Braden! Money can be stressful when being a student but that doesn’t just mean you need to live off of ramen noodles. With a bit of understanding and planning, you can set goals, budget and take control of your finances. Here are a few more ways students can save money:

  • Taking advantage of school discounts. There are many places on campus as well as local businesses that offer students a discount by showing their student card.
  • Walking or taking the bus to school. You can save money on gas and parking!
  • Using loyalty reward program cards for places you shop at frequently. For example, Superstore has a PC Plus program that allows you to earn points you can use to take money off your next grocery bill – and it’s free.
  • When shopping for necessities such as groceries, make your meal plans based on what is on sale. Sometimes you may need to buy in groups, but then that just means you can use for another meal the next week.