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School Year Budgeting Tips for College Students

#MakeItMakeSense is a series from Star that breaks down personal finance issues to help young Canadians gain more confidence and understanding of financial literacy.

Tertiary students also face inflation as they return to virtual and in-person learning Continuing to affect everything from textbooks to groceries makes it harder for them to budget for the school year.

Financial expert Jessica Moorhouse said she knew nothing about personal finance when she entered college, but had to figure out how to pay for her own tuition and budget for things like transportation and meals.

But she says cultivating these money-saving habits as students can benefit graduate students.

“If you figure out how to survive and use whatever money you have as a student and develop those habits, it’s easy to translate them into the real world,” Moorhouse said.

So, how can students achieve the best possible budget and savings for the school year? We asked Moorhouse to provide her best tips and advice for this week’s #MakeItMakeSense.

Keep your budget organized

If possible, Moorhouse encourages students to open several different bank accounts to help them budget.

For Moorhouse, she has a savings account that she only uses for tuition, which she never touches. Then, she has another checking account that she will designate as her monthly allowance. It helps her keep track of her spending habits, she said.

Another way to organize is to use resources, such as a smartphone app with budget templates. Some of these tools allow you to set up notifications to notify you when you make a purchase, Moorhouse says.

“The settings (notifications) can help you be more aware of your spending because it’s easy to spend money online or use a debit or credit card and then forget about it before you pay the bill,” she said.

Having a budget app or even a bank’s app on your phone can also help you easily check your balance and need to decide whether to save when you’re out and about, she added.

Be wary of how you use your credit

As a post-secondary student, if you’ve just turned 18 and meet the age requirements, you may have just started using your first credit card or are looking to apply for one. While it’s exciting to receive a new card for shopping, there are some things you need to be cautious about. You don’t want to get carried away and spend more money than you can afford.

“You never want to go into debt, it’s really dangerous, so you have to be careful with your credit,” Moorhouse said.

As a college student, Moorhouse said she chose to only make large purchases or recurring payments, such as cell phone bills, on her credit card. For everything else, she said she stuck with a debit card.

“It’s because I can easily monitor how much I can afford. It just forces me to think, ‘Eat the food you actually buy for lunch, Jessica, you’re just lazy,'” she said.

Moorhouse says limiting her credit card to specific purchases she knows she can pay off has also helped build her credit score. Another way for students to build their credit score is to see if their school allows tuition to be charged to a credit card.

It will depend on their line of credit, if the school offers it without any extra charge, but Moorhouse says it can have big purchases like tuition and fees on the card and pay it off immediately with cash in the bank or a loan, says Moorhouse Helps to improve your score.

Find student discounts and opportunities

Moorhouse advises students to check what resources the school offers to help them save money or help them when they need it. The University of British Columbia, for example, has previously offered meal-sharing programs to address student food insecurity. Students can apply for funding for food or deep discounts.

Many post-secondary schools will also offer discounts on campus or advertise deals you can get by showing your student ID. Some jobs may come with perks.

“In my fourth year, I worked at the Simon Fraser University bookstore for a few months, making money temporarily, but I also got discounts on books,” she said.

Moorhouse also recommends looking into the SPC card, a student membership card that offers discounts from a variety of stores and brands. Membership is $12 per year and is available in store or online.

“For example, Rexall offers a 10% discount…if you’re there to pick up, just show your physical card or scan it from your phone and you’ll get the discount,” she said.

“If there’s a way for you to get discounts as a student at this stage of your life, do it because once you’re an adult, you’re no longer a student and you won’t be able to get some discounts. Those,” she said.

additional advice

It’s OK to make mistakes, says Moorhouse, because many students never deal with their own personal finances before entering higher education, and you have a lot of time to make up for it.

“Learn from these mistakes and make sure you don’t make them again, because when you get older, it’s going to be a more costly mistake,” she said.

Moorhouse also stressed the importance of keeping entertainment spending in the budget.

“Looking back, I didn’t really realize how wonderful that time was… (later) you were dragged into the adult world, with taxes and responsibilities, and having to do everything yourself. So enjoy your time,” she said .

Moorhouse points out that this enjoyment doesn’t always come with a price. A place where free events are often held around post-secondary schools and campuses. Before heading out for an evening out, you can look around for an affordable bar for a drink with friends.

“Your student life is time to enjoy your broken student life and embrace it. You have so many years in the future to buy that expensive meal or cocktail…you don’t appreciate it when you’re in it, but when you’re like When I was older, you would look back with love,” she said.

Have a problem or scenario you’d like to solve? Contact Madi by email [email protected] We will #MakeItMakeSense.

Jessica Moorhouse is a Canadian accredited financial advisor, host of the More Money podcast and founder of MoorMoney Media Inc., a financial education company.

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