Graham Christian, Content Strategist
With another school year nearly over and summer on the horizon, students are looking forward to a long break full of parties, road trips, concerts, and more. But as the sunniest months of the year roll on, your diminishing bank balance may cast a dark shadow. So how do you maximize your fun while also ensuring you won’t crash into September sad and broke?
The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you think - it just takes a bit of discipline and planning. Read on for our tips on how to have a blast this summer without sacrificing your financial health.
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Get a summer job
If you’re like most students, you’re going to have a tough time paying for fun stuff (and saving for next semester) if you don’t have any money coming in, so getting yourself a job for the summer is essential.
Spend some afternoons walking around your neighborhood, keeping an eye out for “help wanted” signs in the windows of local businesses. Many retail stores and restaurants need extra hands during the busy summer months, so spread your resume far and wide. Odds are you’ll get a few calls back.
But what if you’re not into standing behind a counter all day? You could start a side hustle doing things like dog walking, food delivery, or ride-sharing. These are also jobs where you’ll largely get to set your own hours, making it much easier to plan your social life around them. For the more administrative-minded, consider sending your resume to temp agencies for seasonal office work. These jobs might not be the most exciting, but many of them do pay above minimum wage. Those looking for a work-out while they work can visit the same agencies for construction or warehouse jobs. Finally, see if there are any summer openings at your college or university, especially within your department. Not only will you get great experience for your resume, you’ll make professional connections within your field, which is always valuable.
Set a budget
If you’re looking to end the summer in good financial shape, setting and keeping a budget is an important step to take.
Create a spreadsheet and note your monthly income and expenses. Do you have any essential bills (such as rent, hydro, etc.)? Those should be a top priority. After that, set up a certain amount to put into savings each month. Depending on your situation, this money could be used to help with tuition, textbooks, or simply to supplement your income or spending money during the school year. Once you’ve allocated funds into those areas, what’s left over? This is where you can decide how much to spend on entertainment, restaurants, travel, etc.
It may get tough sometimes, but sticking to a budget will keep you from sliding into nasty territory like credit card debt and overdraft charges, which can ultimately hurt your credit score going forward. Plus, you can enjoy yourself knowing that your essentials are taken care of every month.
Move back home for the summer
Once the school year ends, consider saving some money by moving back home if possible. Rent and utilities make up a huge chunk of anyone’s monthly expenses, so being able to take those responsibilities off the table, even temporarily, can provide a lot of breathing room. Living back at home and working a job can not only put a lot more of your funds into savings, but leave you with more money to spend however you’d like.
If moving back home isn’t in the cards, you can still minimize your bills by renting with a few friends and splitting costs (or renting a room in an existing house).
Get a student credit card
If you haven’t signed up for a student credit card yet, summer is a perfect time to knock that off the list. Credit cards are useful for building and maintaining good credit, which will come in handy once you’re out of school and interested in applying for mortgages and bank loans.
That said, the world of credit cards is wide and varied, so make sure you do your research and pick the best card for you before signing up. In general, look for a card with:
- Low interest
- No annual fee
- No (or low) minimum income requirement
- Rewards of some kind (some student cards allow you to earn cash back on purchases like gas and groceries)
Using your student card responsibly will kickstart your credit history and make it easier to move on to fancier, higher-tier cards once you’re out of school and working.
Looking for the perfect student credit card?
Cook meals and entertain at home
No matter where you’re living, it most likely has a kitchen, so why not save a bit of cash by grocery shopping and cooking meals at home? Not only are home-cooked meals healthier, they’ll also save you from spending too much on restaurants and take out spots over the summer. If you’re new to cooking, don’t stress - there are plenty of excellent resources out there with cheap, easy-to-make recipes that taste fantastic (Budget Bytes is a great example).
For those who drink, bar nights can also eat into your budget very easily if you’re not smart about how and when you spend, so save money and mix it up every once in a while by having some pals over to your place instead. The advantage? You get to choose the music and the patrons!
Plan ahead for group activities
Summer means lots of hanging out with friends, and sometimes that can involve bigger, more expensive outings like road trips, concerts, or vacations abroad. If your plans involve these types of activities, make sure you and your pals have a chat beforehand to organize who is going to be paying for what.
There’s nothing worse than getting stuck with extra costs or expenses you weren’t expecting due to poor planning, so make sure everyone is covering their fair share. If you’re the one purchasing concert tickets for the group, make sure everyone has paid you back well before the day of the event. For road trips, ensure everyone takes their turn chipping in for gas along the way. Having an established understanding of who is responsible for which expenses (or how one expense is being split up) can go a long way to avoiding uncomfortable situations with friends.
Enjoy a staycation
If you’re not in a financial position to travel or attend pricey concerts and festivals, there’s nothing wrong with staying local and enjoying public places and free events. No matter where you are, chances are you live within walking, biking, or driving distance to a beach or park. Bring a book and some snacks, and you can enjoy a beautiful afternoon of sun and relaxation. If you need to cool off, look up any public pools close to you. And if you’re looking for something a bit more involved, see if there’s any free community events happening nearby. Depending on where you live, these could range anywhere from live music and theatre to creative workshops and street festivals.
Places like museums, art galleries, and the like also typically have student discounts, allowing you to enjoy their exhibits at a more affordable price.
Cash in on spring cleaning
After the past year of school, chances are you’ve got some stuff piled up you could get rid of. This is especially true if you’re moving back home for the summer or into a new place with friends, as the process of packing everything up can unearth plenty of sellable items. Take stock of what you want to bring with you and what you can let go of, then see if anything could fetch a decent price on platforms like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Kijiji. How much you could make depends on what you’re selling, but it’s a great way to simplify your life and make a bit of cash in the process.
This is especially true for old textbooks, which are always a hot commodity. Most campuses have used bookstores near them which cater specifically to academic texts. Or you could try advertising your list of books and selling to other students directly. Either way, you’ll make some of your money back, which will help you purchase new books for the semesters ahead.
Apply for scholarships
One of the biggest reasons students work and save during the summer (not to mention throughout the school year) is to help afford their ongoing tuition costs. While there are plenty of scholarships designed for high school students just entering post-secondary, many are available to existing college and university students as well. Not only that, but oftentimes these offers don’t get many applicants, making it easier than you think to gain financial help if you meet their qualifications. These types of tuition assistance take a huge financial burden off your shoulders and are always worth trying for.
Talk to a student advisor on campus about your options, and visit websites like 99 Scholarships to see what’s available to you.
The bottom line
While summer is a great opportunity to save money for the coming school year, it shouldn’t have to be at the expense of a good time. Using our tips above, you’ll be able to balance fun and responsibility without having to worry about what your action-packed summer is costing you down the line.
And if you have any extra tips to provide, be sure to mention them in the comments below.