There are a lot of things about this upcoming school year that will be different from usual, but the importance of saving your money is not one of them. Sure, some of the public health restrictions may slow down your spending in some areas, but you would be surprised just how quickly (and slyly) money can evade your grasp, even during COVID. This is not the time to let your guard down. Whether it’s your first time around the block, or you’re a veteran of the university arena, here are some tips that will help you stretch your dollars as far as possible.
It is an essential part of almost every activity and a real source of joy for many of us, yet it can be the bane of our financial health. It’s just too easy to spend too much on food, especially if you are a student. Luckily there are a few easy measures that you can take to help keep things in check.
Let’s start with the basics: all grocery stores are not created equal. Some stores have lower prices and more deals on average than others. Shopping at the right place could end up saving you hundreds of dollars a year. As you explore your options, keep a record of the prices of the items that you buy frequently. This is the best way to compare stores and make sure that you are getting the best deal.
Savvy Senior Tip: If you’re new to your school’s town, find out where the discount grocery stores are. Sometimes the ones close to campus are pricier than the ones a bus ride away.
While we’re on the topic of writing things down, it’s a good idea to make a list of things that you need before you go to the store. This helps to limit unnecessary purchases and another trip back to the store.
Additionally, make it a point to find out about student discount days. Nearly every grocery store has at least one day of the week where students get a rebate on their groceries. Plan to do most of your shopping on that day!
To take things to the next level, an application like the Flipp app helps you find weekly deals and coupons, and you can create shopping lists in the app itself. It is also incredibly useful for price-matching at the checkout. If you can find a lower price being offered at a different store for the same product, most grocery stores promise their customers that they will match that price.
Savvy Senior Tip: Find your favourite price-matching store, use the Flipp app to create your shopping list, and then price match at checkout—no need to trek to a bunch of different stores.
Free food becomes very attractive quickly on campus. Keep an eye out for potlucks or luncheons that may be offered by different clubs, societies, or faculties, as well as visiting recruiters on your campus. Be sure to check bulletin boards occasionally and pay attention to your email inbox to find out about these eating opportunities. These are a great way to save yourself the hassle of cooking, try something new, and save money!
Save On School Supplies
Fees associated with your academics apart from tuition can also add up to a significant sum throughout the year. One of the biggest expenses that students forget to account for is the cost of textbooks and online educational materials across the 5-10 courses post-secondary students take in a year.
The good news is that 99% of the time, there are people that have taken the course before you who can a) give you insight into how frequently the textbook is actually used in the course, and b) might be able to sell you their used textbooks at a lower price (the same goes for lab coats, lab goggles and clickers).
Depending on your learning style and the way that the professor intends to use the resource, it may not be worth it to buy a textbook in the first place. However, it is critical that you thoroughly understand the course structure before making your decision, because sometimes textbook material will make up the bulk of your evaluation content, and/or it will be linked to an online service that is used to conduct tests, quizzes, and exams.
If you decide that you do need a textbook, be sure to check if your campus bookstore sells used textbooks. This can save you the hassle of trying to find a seller yourself.
Savvy Senior Tip: Explore purchasing textbooks someplace other than the campus bookstore. It may be cheaper to order the textbook from a website like Amazon. However, be wary of delivery dates–you wouldn’t want a resource that you really need to come a month too late!
It is also a great idea to check with your professor and see whether they have put relevant course materials available on reserve at your school’s library. At most institutions, the professor has the ability to set aside certain books and documents at the library for the students that are taking their course. This gives students a way to access course material without having to spend a dime. With this option, however, you will have limited access to the resource (use is limited to a set number of hours per day) and might have to wait your turn if it is currently in use by another student.
Saving On Housing
Whether you have decided to live in residence or off-campus this year, there are probably a few things that you need to buy new, even as a returning student. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you will need because everyone has a different situation. It depends on how much space you have, the amenities provided, personal preferences, etc. A good place to start is by communicating with your roommates as early as possible to find out which sharable items everyone will contribute. Using a shareable document like Google Sheets is a great way to keep an active and up-to-date list of who is buying what. This helps you avoid purchasing duplicate items and save money.
There’s also a great, free tool offered by Bed Bath & Beyond called the University Checklist. It allows you to create a checklist for items needed for residence or house living with pick up in your school city. Many store locations actually have details related to specific residence rooms (you’ll appreciate this when you discover the mattress in your residence room is an oddly different size than anything you’ve seen before!).
Savvy Senior Tip: If you buy IKEA furniture, once you’ve earned your PhD in its assembly, there will be lots of parents the following term who would hire a student with this particular skill set, either by word of mouth or through apps like Task Rabbit, so consider advertising your expertise and earning a couple of extra bucks!
Find it Used
Most schools also have Facebook pages where students can buy and sell used items, most of which are household necessities. They are typically called ‘Free and For Sale’ pages or something similar. This is yet another way to find good deals, and save money by buying used items.
Lastly, there are websites like Kijiji and Craigslist (as well as Facebook Marketplace) that are great for finding good quality used items from people in the area. Many sites offer you the ability to sort items based on the price, your location and even the urgency of the seller. As when buying anything used, it is important to be mindful of scams. Be sure to scrutinize the images of the item carefully before committing to purchase, and ask the seller all the questions you need in order to feel comfortable before buying.
There are a bunch of ways to save money throughout the year; all it takes is some thoughtful planning. If you add up the savings from your grocery store selection, selective textbook use, and the sharing of certain household items, it translates to a lot of good for your wallet! We know that you’ll have a lot of things on your mind during the school year and may not really be interested in counting your pennies. But it’s better to be counting pennies than not to have any at all!
This article was researched and written by Arinze Imasogie. Arinze is a mechanical engineering student from Queen’s University who acts like a Swiss Army knife for HigherEdPoints! From blog posts to marketing solutions, Arinze plays a part in anything and everything as needed.