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Make Your Money Go Further While in College

Written by Dr. Lindsay Spielman in Student Life on May 2, 2022

Moving out and being in control of your own finances for the first time can be hard. Throw in the fact that it’s very expensive to live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and financial management becomes especially challenging. I know this, as when I was a college student, I learned this financial lesson the hard way (more than once). So, I figured, why not share my experiences and a few learned tips with the students at Alexander College. Check out these four tips for making your money go further while in college here.  

Tip #1: Life is expensive! Make a budget and stick to it.  

When I first moved away for college, I was excited for freedom. I was free to do as I pleased without parent supervision and that meant that I was free to spend my money as I pleased too. It was a big eye-opening experience when after my first semester of college, I had burned through nearly half of the savings that I had set aside for my four years of education. Ouch!  

It was time for me to sit down and make a budget and actually learn how to manage my finances. I quickly realized that the place I was renting was too expensive for me and all that eating out at restaurants and the school cafeteria added up really quickly. (Too quickly!) From there, I was able to adjust my expenses. I moved to a new place, where rent was much cheaper. I started cooking at home a lot more, and I figured out other ways to cut back on essential bills. But step one was making a budget.  

Check out the Student Monthly Budget template that I’ve made. Feel free to download it and use it for yourself! All you have to do is insert your monthly income and expenses in the appropriate excel boxes. I’ve already added in the calculations for you, so your monthly income and monthly expenses will auto-calculate. Once all of your finances are input, you will be able to see a total calculation of finances at the bottom (pink box). If the number you see in the pink box is positive this is great! A positive number means that at the end of each month you have more money coming in than going out. If the number in the pink box is negative – uh oh. A negative number means that you are spending more money than your incoming each month – time to make some adjustments. If the number you see in the pink box is negative, don’t fret! I’ve got tips below for how to reduce your monthly bills and increase your income. Keep reading! 

Tip #2: Look for ways to save cash.  

Bills. Bills. Bills. They add up! Looking for student deals on essential services can save you big time.  

Each September, the large internet providers (Shaw and Telus) often come out with student internet deals. These deals are not always advertised, but a quick phone call to your internet provider can get you the info that you need to save on these bills. Give them a call in September to save cash each month. There is also a smaller internet company with great reviews, called Oxio that is currently offering internet plans starting at $40 a month. Whichever plan you get, make sure it’s sufficient for online learning. Check them out! 

It’s also possible to save money on your cellphone bill if you’re a student. Give your cell phone provider a call and let them know you’re a student. They likely have money saving offers for you! This article highlights some of the best cell phone plan offers currently available to students in the Lower Mainland area.  

For saving on the day-to-day spending, look for deals at the grocery store. Keep a mental tally or use the calculator app to keep a running total as you add items to your grocery cart. When I was in college, I would add up the cost of the food items as I walked the aisles and added groceries to my cart keeping a mental total of my grocery bill. When I felt like I was getting close to my limit, I would partition the “need to have” food items from the “would like to have” food items. When I got to the till, I would separate my food items on the conveyer belt and only purchase the “would like to have items” if it was within my budget.  

As a personal aside: one time when I was at the grocery store during college, I could not afford the Crystal Light and couple of other small items that I had placed in my “would like to have” stack. I pushed them aside and paid for the groceries that I could afford, leaving my extra items at the till. It wasn’t until I was bagging my groceries that I noticed the kind stranger behind me in the grocery store line had paid for my few extra items. I was overwhelmed with the kindness of a stranger; I went to my car and cried. I will never forget it. In fact, I still have a flattened box of that peach-flavoured Crystal Light that she purchased me tucked away in my memory box in my office closet. 

Back to the grocery store aisles; One grocery deal that I still use regularly is the Superstore PC Optimum app. It lets me know about deals and offers at this grocery store and gives me points back that add up to free groceries! Who doesn’t love free food? 

Aaaahhh … we all love our morning caffeine fix. Another easy way to save on cash is to make coffee at home. The average cost of a Starbucks beverage is $3.50. That doesn’t sound like much. However, if you stop at Starbucks three times a week on average, that adds up to nearly $50 a month. On the other hand, the average price of a cup of coffee brewed at home is $0.30. If you have home brewed coffee three times per week, over the course of a month the cost is only about $4.00. Voila! Drinking coffee make at home offers instant savings.  

And lastly, but certainly not least, check out the Alexander College Clubs and Events page. Not only are these events free, super fun, and a good way to make friends, but many of these events come with free food! (You can tell I’m a fan of eating for free.) 

Tip #3: Look for work opportunities that give you more cash. 

Making money during college can be challenging. Some employers are not very flexible to schedule around student class schedules, it can be hard to find a decent paying job, and it is also difficult with the limited work hours that international students are permitted to take on. So, here are some options that might be helpful.  

Did you know that Alexander College hires students! On the careers page of the AC website, there are student jobs listed. AC understands that education is a priority and has no problem scheduling student work hours around class schedules. Plus, there’s the added bonus of saving time; you don’t have to commute between work and school since work is at school! Check out the list of current AC employment opportunities here.  

Getting a job for higher pay can be challenging. When I was in college, I worked various part-time jobs. I found that working restaurant serving jobs were the most lucrative for my time. Try looking for jobs in the service industry where you can earn some tips. Tips can really add up! This can make a big difference to your monthly budget.  

If you are a strong student academically, one additional option is to become a tutor. The hourly wages for tutors can range from $20/hour and up! As an added bonus, inserting tutor to your list of job experiences can bump you up in National Occupational Classification (NOC) for permanent residency in Canada! 

Tip #4: Seek out scholarship opportunities.  

Funding for education of international students can be especially challenging. Many of the Canadian aid options that are available for domestic students are not available for international students. But alas, some options still exist! There are some international scholarships, which are based primarily on academic achievement, that offer free money to students to further their education. 

The Government of Canada and the Canadian Bureau for International Education both have a list of scholarships available to international students. So, if you have high academic scores, check these out and apply. You might get free money to continue your education! 

It is no secret that life as a student can be financially challenging. Hopefully you have learned a few new tips here that might help to make your money go further while you’re in college and perhaps change the pink excel budget line box change from negative to positive.  


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