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6 smart tips for the budget-savvy student.

article-university-budgetHeading to college or university? Be smart with your spending, and you could save thousands of dollars each year.

On average, a student will spend nearly $6,200 to attend a Canadian university in 2015/2016, according to Statistics Canada. That’s the price of tuition alone, so it’s important to budget for back-to-school supplies and the general cost of living, too.

Your reasons for budgeting are twofold: You can decrease financial stress while you’re in school, and you’ll be happier when you graduate — because you won’t be up to your grad cap in loan debt.

Follow these six tips to help keep your costs down while in school:

  1. Put your math 101 skills to work: Creating a budget comes with its rewards — it can help keep more money in your pocket and help lower your debt accumulation over the course of your education.
     
    To get started, make a list of your monetary sources, including job earnings, savings and RESPs, loans, bursaries, scholarships, and gifted money. Then, list your fixed and monthly expenses, such as tuition, books and class materials, rent and utilities, groceries and personal supplies, phone and Internet costs, and entertainment.
     
    Once you calculate the difference, you’ll have a better idea of how much pocket money you’ll have left over, or whether or not you need to get a part-time job throughout the school year. Regardless, stick by your budget — you’ll thank yourself later.
     

Related: Coupons 101: How to save like a pro

  1. Get a roommate or two: Moving in with friends will lower your living expenses exponentially. Rent is a lot cheaper when it’s split between multiple roomies — as are utilities, Internet and other monthly bills.
     
    For some perspective, Halifax’s Dalhousie University reports that a one-bedroom apartment close to campus is about $1,024 per month, while a three-bedroom home in the same proximity averages $1,874 (or $625 per person). That equals savings of almost $4,788 a year!
     
  1. Mind your spending: Going out on the town to clear your mind is good for the soul. But it’s important to realize when it’s not good for your budget. If your entertainment costs are far beyond your means, look to make some changes.
     
    For instance, consider skipping the $10 cover charge, the $3 coat check and the $8 drinks every so often — entertaining at home is a blast and it’s much easier on the wallet. You could also look for free or low-cost teams, clubs and events to participate in on campus.
     
    Tip: Need motivation to save? Get to know our Savings Builder Account.
     
  1. Don’t feed your debt: Did you know the average Canadian will spend $2,229 at restaurants per year? Those all-you-can-eat sushi dinners and daily Americanos will definitely add up. If you’re living in the dorms, consider purchasing a meal plan so you can eat at a reduced rate in your residence, and keep low-cost snacks in your room for those late-night cravings. If you’re living off-campus, make good use of your kitchen (just skip that truffle oil!). Consider cooking in batches so you can save portions for future meals. Check out EatRight Ontario’s Healthy Eating on a Budget guide for frugal recipe ideas.
     
  1. Lower transportation costs: Taking a cab everywhere can get expensive — as can driving your own car by the time you add up parking, gas, payments and insurance. If you are comfortable on one, use a bike, or if it’s feasible, walk. And don’t forget to take advantage of student transit discounts.
     
    For instance, the University of Calgary offers the UPass, granting students full access to transit for $125 per school year. Meanwhile, if you were to spend $20 per week on cabs, it would cost you $880 from September through June. Also, consider the one-time cost of a bike is about $200 to $400 and using your own two feet won’t cost you a thing.
     
  1. Save on books: Every student knows that books aren’t cheap. While costs may vary depending on your classes,the average student will spend $1,000 per semester on textbooks and general supplies according to Simon Fraser University.
     
    That being said, there are ways to save in this area too. You could save hundreds of dollars per year by renting your books, or buying used books in local stores or online from sites like AbeBooks®*. If you have a tablet, digital copies are cheaper than hard copies, as well.
     

It’s easy to be a spendthrift when you have student loan resources at your disposal. But if you make a habit of cutting costs and saving where you can, you’ll have less debt (and less interest) to pay back. Translation: When you graduate, more of your salary can be spent on celebrating your adulthood ― not making loan payments.

 
Looking for a few more tips? Find special offers and student-friendly deals at BMO Student Banking.
 
®*Registered Trademark of AbeBooks Inc.
 

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