Top Financial Tips for University Students
Essential Money Tips for College Kids
1. Student loans do add up
Student loans sound like free money. I was guilty of thinking that when I was in school so I did spend indiscriminately during my first and second years figuring I'd just get more every year. I did, then graduated with approximately $30,000 in debt. I paid it well under the required time but I wish I didn't take out and use the maximum allowed.
2. Consider your meal plan
Don't automatically get the recommended meal plan. Consider how much you eat and what the plan covers before you buy one. That way, you won't waste it if you don't use of all (unless you can sell your points) or have to buy more during the year.
3. Credit cards
There will be credit card offers everywhere you turn on campus. If you do get one, get one with a very low limit, no annual fee and the lowest interest possible. Then be smart about using it. In other words, use it to build a good credit rating, not as a cash machine. If you can't pay it off every month, then don't get one.
4. Share, trade, borrow
Text books are expensive. Computers are expensive. In fact, most things are expensive. Look for secondhand text books from the campus store, student forums or even Craigslist or Kajiji. When it comes to electronics, consider going refurbished for your computer. After all, you're going to put a lot of mileage on it and it might even get damaged so don't buy a top of the line machine if you can't afford it.
If you do buy a new machine, take care of it. Nothing is worse than it getting damaged just before a paper is due.
5. Student cards are useful
I helped a friend move recently and the movers asked if she had a student card. She didn't but another friend did and thanks to her, a discount was applied to the moving costs.
If you have a student card, ask if there are discounts available. Ask everywhere. You can get them for movies, books, clothes and of course, laptops and cellphones.
Didn't think of that, did you? If you're moving out of your parents' home to your dorm or even to off-campus housing, you'll need insurance for your valuables.
A recent survey by TD Insurance found that 47 per cent of Canadians under 35 do not have insurance for their valuables. "I've heard a number of stories about renters who decide to forgo renter's insurance simply because they don't think they are at risk, so are willing to take their chances," says Dave Minor, Vice President, TD Insurance. "But accidents can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, and the financial impact can be significant."
Remember, a basic laptop can start at $400 but do you want to pay that twice if it gets stolen? Home insurance can cover the cost of replacing your items should anything happen to them.
7. Live below your means
Yes, it's the dreaded b-word - budget. You have a student loan, you may also have a part-time job and you may even have money from your parents. Make a budget at the beginning of the year - you'll have the cost of the big items like your courses, your rent, your meal plan and even the cost of your books. Then plan how you're going to spend the rest of your money. No, in the pub does not count.
8. Watch the small things
Yes, fancy coffee adds up but we're talking about library fines. Keeping a book a week past its due date sounds fine but keep three or four books for a week and that's $20. That money could have been used for other things like groceries.
9. Start a TFSA
Seriously. If you have a little extra money, why not put it into a Tax-Free Savings Account? It can sit there happily accruing interest while you earn your degree. When you graduate, it'll be there ready for you to either pay off some (or all) of your loans or for you as you take the next step in your life.