When it comes to being a post-secondary student the word frugal usual comes to mind. Students often live modestly with roommates, they find cheap ways to entertain themselves and don’t spend money on extras like vacations or fancy cars. In fact most students, take the bus, bike or walk to get around.
But according to Statistics Canada, Canadian post-secondary students are graduating – on average – with $26,000 in debt. When graduates land their first job many are struggling to pay their day to day costs while still managing their loans. This is especially true for anyone living in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver, where the cost of living can be very high.
There are ways students can manage their expenses to avoid unnecessary debt. Even after they graduate there are easy ways to deal with any debt they may have.
Work part time
Student life is busy and it can be hard to find the time to make money. But by finding even an extra five hours a week to work, you can make the extra cash you need for things like entertainment and hobbies. If you live on campus look at the job boards at the student center. A campus job will be much more forgiving of a student’s schedule. For example if you need to take time off because you had exams or a project due, they would be more sympathetic to you than a regular workplace. Find work that relates to your own field of study, for example if you’re re studying mechanical engineering, talk to your engineering student group to see if there are jobs on campus that could not only make you money but also help build you resume.
Work in the summer
Whether you work part time in the year not, it is absolute necessary for you to work during the summer months. This is the best time to work full time and save money for you next school year. Try to find co-op positions that relate your field of study to, again, make you money and build your resume at the same time. Co-op jobs in a professional environment tend to pay more that minimum wage as well. To the best of your ability live at home during the summer so you can save money on rent and food.
Have a budget
When I was student my weekly “fun” budget was $33. That’s because after paying my tuition, housing costs and buying books I had a set amount of money left over. I took that number and divided it by the number of weeks I would be in school. It came out to $33. I kept that number top of mind all week, if I knew I had something expensive happening on the weekend I stayed in all week so I could spend the money during the weekend. These early lessons about delayed gratification have served me well my whole life.
Find free money
There are many resources students can tap to earn grants scholarships and bursaries. Visit your student affairs office to learn more about money that may be available to you. A great site to learn about scholarships is the website Scholarships Canada, it boasts to have awarded more almost $200 million worth of scholarship to Canadians students. Also visit Student Awards, it claims to help students find and send to your inbox the right scholarships, bursaries, and student awards available.
Sometimes avoiding student debt is impossible and you may be graduating with tens of thousands of dollars you have to pay back. For the first few years of working continue to live like a student. Keep roommates, take public transit to work. By continuing your frugal ways you will jump start your ability to pay off your loan and get you on financial track that much sooner.
Bottom line the cost of post-secondary school is rising, keep your costs low by being mindful of your spending, so you don’t graduate with more student debt than you anticipated.