Back in 1989, for example, Ontario’s minimum wage was $5 an hour. Assuming a university student clocked a 40-hour work week for all 16 weeks of their summer break, they would earn $3,200. At that time, the average cost of a full year of tuition was $1,185, according to Statistics Canada—meaning university tuition would eat up just over a third of a student’s pre-tax income.
Today, minimum wage has grown to $15.50 an hour in Ontario, but the average cost of one year of full-time undergrad studies has increased by 576% to $6,834, for the 2022/2023 school year. Assuming that same working schedule, a student would earn $9,920, meaning tuition would account for about 69% of a student’s pre-tax earnings.
If you’re short on options for increasing the amount of money you have coming in, you could look at ways of making the funds you do have go farther—and every little bit helps. Saving $20 a week on food may not seem like a lot, but even a small win like that can add up to hundreds of dollars over a school year. And the more of these simple money-saving tips you add to your routine, the more you’ll save.
Track your spending
The easiest way to start being more in control of your finances is to track your spending. This allows you to see where your money is going and help you spot areas to cut back if you need to. (Maybe you limit pub nights to Fridays and Saturdays, for example.) You can use technology to make this task easier. Financial apps connect with your bank account to track what you spend, and even remind you when to make bill payments. Or just make a note every time you spend money using good-old-fashioned pen and paper.
Make friends with the supermarket
One of the easiest ways to save money as a student is to spend less eating out and more at the grocery store. Grocery stores near university campuses often offer student discounts on one regular day each week—you could save 10% to 20% on your grocery bill by shopping only on that day. (Read more money-saving tips for groceries.) If you live on-campus in residence and have to buy into the institution’s meal plan, consider the options carefully and then take full advantage of your plan.
Be smart about textbooks
Textbooks are one of those costs that you don’t often think about until your first week of classes—and they can add another $500 to $1,000 to your education bill each semester. Here are three easy ways to trim this necessary expense.
- Buy used. Campus bookstores will often have pre-owned copies in stock, but you can also find cheaper alternatives listed on Facebook pages or through local used-textbook drives.
- Split each textbook with a friend. By sharing the resource, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll also be encouraged to talk about the material and deepen your learning. One friend can have the book from Thursday to Saturday and then send it back to you, their book buddy, for the rest of the week.
- Use library copies. If the two previous options are a no-go, a lot of university libraries will have copies of the text available for two- or three-hour periods. By going to the library once or twice a week, you’ll be able to get all the information you need without having to foot the bill for the book.
Travel home on the cheap
If you’re going to school a few hours away from your hometown, the logistics of returning to visit family and friends can make what should be a relaxing weekend a source of financial stress. Instead of booking a pricey train or bus ticket, look into carpooling whenever possible. If a friend or classmate from the same town has a vehicle, ask when they’re heading home so you can jump in the car in exchange for splitting the cost of gas. Friends don’t have wheels? Check your university or college for public postings where people offer rides for a small fee to help cover the gas bill.
Seek out student discounts
You’d be amazed by the number of student discounts offered, especially by restaurants, retailers, grocery stores, cell phone providers and entertainment spots near campus. You could easily save 20% almost any time you make a purchase. Make sure to check out your student union’s website, as they often have all the best discounts listed.