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Back to School Money Hacks

If you’re a student heading back to school, there’s no doubt money is on your mind. Tuition, textbooks, and living expenses add up quickly. And what about your savings goals? With all these expenses, can you still find a way to put enough money in your high interest savings account to afford that summer vacation you’re planning?

To help ease your stress, we’ve put together a few money hacks for back to school from some of Canada’s smartest entrepreneurs and personal finance experts.

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Tip #1: Party for less

Our first hack comes from personal finance author Kyle Prevost. Kyle knows what he’s talking about—he literally co-wrote a book called More Money for Beer and Textbooks.

“Beer (or wine) is an acquired taste, so acquire a taste for cheap beer.  Who are you trying to impress with your worldly palate?  Try brewing your own beer for maximum savings.”

Trips to the campus pub are a rite for most post-secondary students in Canada but the costs can really add up, especially if you’re drinking fancy craft or imported beers that can easily top $7 a pint. In Ontario, the cheapest bottle of beer is only $1.33 when you buy it in a case of 24. Multiply the difference by the 6.4 drinks the Canadian Campus Survey says the average student consumes, and you could save enough money on beer to cover a couple months’ rent.

Tip #2: Build a mini-business around your schedule

Ryan Shupak, co-founder of Jiffy, recommends working odd jobs when it’s convenient for you. He believes in this so passionately, his company built technology that allows you to find an odd job on a whim.

“It’s never been easier to make an extra buck during your downtime between classes. With Jiffy, I really wanted to create something that would allow young entrepreneur to start their own mini-business (think snow removal, lawn maintenance, etc…) with the customers, payment processing and customer service ready to go. Apps, economy-sharing, and on-demand services like ours are making it more convenient than ever to work around a hectic schedule, like lectures, classes and homework. Take advantage of these opportunities! A little bit of extra income can really build your savings fast.”

According to Ryan, you could earn up to $40.00 for doing an hour of yard work, or $50.00 for shovelling a driveway. To make the same money, you’d have to work four hours at a minimum wage job—and that’s not even considering the commitments required to get and keep a job.

Ryan didn’t mention this to us, but we think an hour of yard work is a good substitute for a trip to the gym. So if you stick with it, you can cross that expensive membership off your budget sheet, too.

Get in touch with Jiffy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and read more tips on its blog.

Tip #3: Find an income stream just for saving

Bridget Eastgaard is responsible for the brilliant site Money After Graduation, but she was happy to weigh in with her tips on what to do while you’re still at school.

“I suggest finding an income stream for saving. For example, when I was in university I kept a tutoring gig where I charged $25 per hour to help first-year university students with chemistry. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but it was enough to seed a small mutual fund that grew to over $5,000 by the time I graduated! It was amazing because I was living off my student loans and part-time job as a server, so I never considered the tutoring money real “income”—but the $5K payoff was very real!”

We did the math and that $5,000 goal is actually really easy to attain. If you charge $25/hour and tutor for two hours a week over the school year, that’s $4,800 in just four years. Right now the best savings accounts in Canada pay 2% interest—enough to push you a few hundred dollars over the $5,000 mark.

Get more ideas straight from Bridget at the Money After Graduation YouTube channel.

Tip #4: Get a good old-fashioned job

Robin Taub, author of A Parent’s Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids, recommends getting to work the old-fashioned way: with an on-campus job.

“I recently interviewed a young man who worked his way through university. He worked lots of different jobs but his main gig was working as a cook and server at his school’s campus pub. As a full-time student, he worked weekend and evening shifts, which were scheduled around his classes. For students looking to earn money while at school full time, see what jobs are available on campus. Whether your earnings are used for living expenses, paying down debt, savings, or some combination, is up to you!”

Using Western University as an example, we found the cost of residence adds up to more than $11,000 a year including meals. We also found you can earn more than half that amount at Western by being a residence advisor (also known as a don, or fun killer). The RA jobs are probably filled for this year but there are plenty of opportunities on campus, so get to work!

Find out more about Robin and A Parent’s Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids at her website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tip #5: Join the sharing economy

Cedric Mathieu is the director of Turo Canada, and his advice is really simple: Let your assets do the work for you.

“I can’t think of a better way to earn extra income as a student than to jump in on the sharing economy. Capitalize on what you already own and start earning an income working only a few hours per month. This is easily done while you’re in school. Turo community members make an average of $600/month renting out their car to travellers. Other ways to earn extra cash in the sharing economy include: renting out your room, selling clothes you no longer wear and even renting out a spare parking space. Taking part in the sharing economy is not just about making a buck—it also feels great to be part of a community of car enthusiasts and travellers. Sharing your assets allows for more flexibility while you focus on your studies.”

The cost of parking at Canada’s universities is not student-budget friendly. In fact, the average cost at the 10 most expensive schools is $718 for the school year, according to Maclean’s. If you can get paid to have someone else take your car while you’re not using it, that’s a win-win.

Find out more about Turo on its website, and visit them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Tip #6: Turn your hobby into cash

Jen Knox of Etsy Canada doesn’t think your work has to be work. She suggests finding a way to turn your hobby into an income stream:

“Turn your artistic hobby into a side business that fits in with your school schedule. Etsy connects you to a global marketplace where you can sell your handmade goods or coveted vintage finds to buyers all over the world. Etsy charges 3.5% on every sale and $0.20 per item listing. The rest of the money is yours to keep and do with it as you like (hello spring break in Mexico fund?)” staff members disagree on how long it’ll take to knit a pair of mittens (if you have the answer, let us know), but let’s imagine it’s not a stretch to knit 25 pairs over the semester. If you sell them on Etsy for $25 each, that’s just under $600 straight in your savings account. But remember, no knitting during class.

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Financial literacy early in life will pay dividends in your future. Learn more with Ratehub's guide to managing your money as a student.