Managing your money while you’re a student can be difficult because more often than not you’re using borrowed money. And everything you pay for could put you deeper into debt.
That’s why it’s important to have a budget. However, the most difficult part of budgeting is sticking to it.
Here are some tips you can use to manage your money more wisely while you’re in school.
Watch those bank fees
Most banks let you withdraw from one of their ATMs for free as long as you have an account with them. But sometimes you could get charged as much as $1.50 per withdrawal, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It can be much costlier if you use an ATM owned by a different financial institution or a private operator. You could get charged regular fee and a network access fee by your bank as well as a convenience fee charged by another financial institution or private operator. The total transaction cost could be as low as $1 and as much as $8.40. If you usually withdraw just $20, those fees can add up very quickly.
Also, you should look at getting a student bank account. Many will provide you with free ATM withdrawals and a number of free debit transactions. If your current bank doesn’t offer a student account, you should consider switching to a financial institution that offers one.
Look for discounts
Being a student has its advantages, including getting access to student discounts. A number of clothing stores, grocery stores, movie theatres, and restaurants – especially those close to colleges and universities – will offer discounts of 10% or more if you have a valid student ID card. Many retailers will also offer employee discounts so you may want to consider working at one on a part-time basis to get a new wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Eat in, not out
Eating out a lot can not only lead to a bit of weight gain (think the freshman 15), it can also put a dent in your wallet. If you eat out and spend just $50 a week, it’ll cost you $650 over a 13-week semester or $1,300 over two semesters. That’s a lot of money you could use to pay down your student loan in the future.
Get a student credit card
Be sure to choose a student credit card. Don’t be a sucker like me and sign up for one at school for a free gift. Make sure there’s no annual fee and look for a rewards card. If you’re going to need textbooks, groceries, and take public transportation, you can use your card to earn rewards.
A credit card should be used responsibly and paid off in full every month; otherwise you’ll have to pay interest rates of nearly 20% annually. If you don’t have enough cash to pay off your balance, at least make the minimum payment. If you miss the minimum payment, you could end up paying a higher rate on your debt. You also want to avoid having credit card debt as well as your student loan when you graduate. Also, try not to go over your credit limit or you may be charged a fee.
Using a credit card responsibly will help you establish your credit history and improve your credit score. This is very important for later years when you need to rent an apartment, get a car loan, or when you decide to get a mortgage. The higher your credit score, the better the chance you’ll be able to secure an apartment and receive good rates for either a car loan or a mortgage.
Here are two cards you can use to build up your credit history and also earn rewards or get cash back:
Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card
Scotiabank L’earn Visa Card
One last thing you could use to help your student budget – a $1,000 Student Budget Refresh from RateHub.ca and JobPostings.ca. Apply for the Scotia SCENE Visa or the Scotiabank L’earn Visa Card on RateHub.ca for your chance to win.