They just need to pay a bit more attention to how they choose to spend it by avoiding at least one of these money wasters – a key topic for a family ‘back-to-school’ chat.
1. Not Keeping Your Marks Up
If you were to be admitted to Ottawa’s Carleton University with an admissions average of 80 per cent or better, you would automatically receive a renewable entrance scholarship.
At the low end of the scale, that translates into $1,000 a year, rising to $4,000 annually for someone banging on the door with a 95 per cent average. The catch? You have to maintain or improve your GPA to continue to receive any money.
Most students don’t, however. According to recent surveys, less that 25 per cent of first-year students maintain their funding, leaving a pile of money on the table as a result.
2. Dropping Out Of Classes
Quitting or failing university classes is another major drain on your finances. If you just stop attending your courses, they won’t be automatically dropped from your record and you’ll still be financially responsible for the tuition costs.
Eligibility for a fee refund depends on when you drop the course and the percentage of course load you’re taking. In most instances, even if you make the deadline, you’ll still face some admin costs. Sloppily dropping just one class a semester can easily cost you $700 every year – much more if you simply flunk.
3. Eating Out Every Day
Saying goodbye to mom’s cooking and fending for yourself is never easy. If you’re like most students, you’ll eat out at least twice a day – a very expensive route to take.
If you’re in residence, figure out your meal plan. You may be entitled to a certain number of meals per semester or you may end up with something similar to a debit account: each time you eat, your account is charged until your balance reaches zero.
Since you have to pay up front, be sure you don’t leave any money on the table late in the year.
4. Misusing Your Cell Phone
Being away from friends and family usually means a much higher cell phone bill. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although it may be tough, try to use your cell phone as little as possible. Instead of calling for money every week, use Skype or Tango to plead your case.
To avoid incoming long distance charges, you should probably choose a new phone number in your new city. Be careful though: if you spend summers back home or elsewhere, you’ll be stuck with incoming long distance on all calls made during that time.
Shop around. Some family plans allow free local or long distance calling between family members on the same bill, for instance.
5. Buying Only New Textbooks
While textbook lists do change quite often, buying brand books is one of the most expensive mistakes made by first year students.
Years ago, the only alternative was “off campus” bookstores, but now you can buy and sell textbooks online through retailers like Amazon or comparison sites like SlugBooks.
But, why buy when you can rent? If possible, try to borrow from a friend or sibling or buy used on sites like Kijiji or Craigslist.
In some instances, you can even lease the books you need and then mail them back when the semester is over. Canadian suppliers like Big Mama and Text Book Rental take care of the buying end and then rents them to students online.
Finally, if you’ve already made the mistake of buying a new textbook, be sure to hit the sell button once you’re done with it.