How To Save Money Today

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By Jesse Collier. Updated September 2017.

Saving money is key while you’re a student so you can make large gains in the future. Read on to discover how you can save money in your daily activities.


save money


Are you trying to find ways to save money on everything you can? Being a student is all about saving money while living as cheaply as possible.

Find out how to save money on all your student necessities from groceries to utilities with these tips! Home page 728x90


1 . How to save money on groceries


save money on groceries


There’s always impressive savings at your local grocery stores. Most grocery stores have rewards cards or credit cards that give you points or even cash back for shopping there. Grocery stores also have places in different sections of the store that give discounts on items.

Usually these items have an approaching best before date, which relates to quality, and not when food cannot be eaten. Although food past its best before date will lose some of its freshness, it can still be used.

You should also buy some items in bulk. If you know someone with a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, take advantage of it.

Buying in bulk is better for frozen goods such as meat and vegetables because these can last you a long time and will stay good for a while.

Pasta and rice are also good to buy in bulk and they have a long shelf life. They can also be combined to make better meals than your typical noodles and sauce.

Check out Grocery Savings (Canada) and My Grocery Deals (USA) to check your local stores for the best deals!


2 . Make your own meals


save money by making your own meals


Whenever you can, make your own meals. It’s much cheaper to buy the ingredients and then make recipes that will make a lot of leftovers.

The food you make doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but try to buy things that are actually nutritious instead of just living off of Kraft Dinner.

Cheap ideas include: Fettucine alfredo with tuna and peas, stirfry (literally any type of meat and vegetables over rice) and your favourite pasta with basil and parmesan.

Use Supercook to find recipe ideas based on what you have in your pantry.


3 . Live off campus


save money by not going into debt


Residence rooms are often much more expensive than getting a house with other people or simply living at home with family. On average, residence fees cost $5,000 – $6,000 on top of your tuition.

For first year though, I definitely recommend trying to live in residence as it can open up a whole new range of friendships and experiences.


Overall, you have to think in the long-term about student debt and how much of a load student residence may place on that debt after university.

To help pay for this as well as tuition, there are many scholarships, bursaries, and student aid available from the government as well as your school.



4 . Apply for student aid


save money by getting grants


Your school has many scholarships, bursaries, and grants that will provide you with money to pay for your expenses.

Some of these will be general bursaries or grants, and others will be more program or demographic specific.

You have to think about applying to these from different ways. These include looking for bursaries from your program, different clubs, or bursaries related to sex, age, and disability. Most schools will have a dedicated site to provide you with all of this information.

It will also help to apply for private scholarships and grants. Scholarships Canada and Scholarship Portal are great scholarship search engines to find scholarships. Most of these require sign ups and essays, however if you win these, the payout will be well worth it.

Finally, government student aid is there for students in financial need.

While these funds will be mostly in loans, some of the funds will be in grants. Loans will need to be paid back starting 6 months after you end school (in most places), whereas grants do not need to be paid back.

Check out the Canadian Student Loans page and the American Student Loans page for more info.


5 . Start a budget


save money by budgeting


One of the most important things in learning how to save money is creating a budget and sticking to it.

Creating a budget will allow you to see where your money is going and potentially where you could cut down costs.

Budgeting your expenses will also allow you to stick to a scheduled plan and will outline what you can and can’t spend on.

In your budget, be realistic about your goals. Think about how much you would be making each month (including student loans, grants, and scholarships) and put that as your income.

Then think about paying for school and necessities such as rent and utilities. Next, think about needs over wants. You need to buy groceries, which should take priority in your budget over wanting to go to the liquor store for booze.


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If you plan on saving a little bit of money each month, make sure you put that as an expense in your budget. Saving money in a savings account can be a good practice and will lead to interest gains in the long run. Try to put some money aside specifically for your savings account, and deposit into it monthly.

Overall, it’s hard to stick to your budget all of the time. Smart money management is the key to saving money for the more important things. See this budget worksheet for students or this student budget calculator to jump start your budget.


6 . Get a student discount card


Get a student discount card to save money on your daily purchases. While shopping at stores, going to attractions, and traveling, show your card(s) and you may get massive discounts.

Most of the student discount cards have a fee of around $20 per year, but you can make that back in savings on your first purchase. Popular cards include the International Student Identity CardSPC Card, and the Student Advantage Card.

The ISIC card is mostly used for traveling to other countries, and offers big discounts on monuments, museums, and attractions. The SPC and SAC cards are used mostly for getting you discounts at popular stores such as Foot Locker and Target.



7 . How to save money on utilities


Control Phantom Power


save money by controlling electricity use


There are many ways to save money on utilities. One of the biggest ways to save money is to buy power bars and plug all of your electronics into it. Then, when you’re not using them, just flip the switch on the power bar.

“Phantom power” is when these electronics draw power even when they’re not turned on. By using a power bar and turning it off when you’re not using it, up to 10% of your yearly electrical cost could be saved.


Use high-efficiency bulbs

Another good way to save money on utilities is to use LED or CFL light bulbs. These bulbs use about 25 – 80% less energy and last almost 5 times longer than traditional 60 watt bulbs. These bulbs also return their value in terms of energy-saving costs multiple times over.


Use off-peak hours wisely


save money by controlling hydro use


One of the best ways to save on utilities is to do energy intensive things on off-peak hours. Depending on your energy provider, they may practice off and on-peak hours.

On on-peak hours, some companies charge double the rate per kWh. Off-peak hours are typically from 7 PM to 7 AM from Monday to Friday and all throughout the weekend.

Off-peak hours are when you should do things such as laundry (use cold water!) and running the dishwasher. Also, dry your clothes on a drying rack instead of in the dryer to save energy costs.


Control the thermostat

By setting your thermostat back by a few degrees when not at home or sleeping, you can save up to 10% of your yearly heating costs. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to only turn on in specific hours to save money.

The savings will be greater in milder climates, where heating and cooling may not be needed as much as harsher climates.


Unplug the mini-fridge(s)

Mini-fridges can cost way more than they’re worth in energy costs. Some models can even cost more than full size fridges, so put your alcohol and snacks in your refrigerator and sell the energy grubber.


Use the toaster or microwave

The toaster or microwave can be up to 5 times more efficient than your electric oven. They also take way less time to cook your food and use less than half of the electricity used by conventional ovens.


8 . Get cash back on your purchases


save money with cash back


You should be getting money back on your purchases. Ebates is a great site to get you discounts and cash back when you shop online and in-store.

With over 650 stores in Canada and over 2000 stores in the United States with discounts on their site, Ebates will save you money on almost anything you can think of.

Just browse for your product, buy it through their link, and you will get your cash back to your bank or Paypal account within 3 business days.

Also, try to get a debit and credit card that give you rewards for spending your hard earned money.

Rate Hub and Nerd Wallet let you compare rewards cards from different banks in order to get the most rewards for your buck. Also, most banks offer students no-fee chequing accounts so you won’t get any fees in your time as a student.


9 . Sign up for Amazon Prime


You will always need little things that are easier to just buy on Amazon and have them come in the mail. Amazon Prime for Students gives students six months free Amazon Prime membership, then 50% off after that. Just sign up with your student email and you can enjoy free two-day shipping and all of the other perks of Amazon Prime.


10 . Don’t pay ridiculous ATM fees


save money by avoiding ATM fees


Most banks charge ridiculous fees for withdrawing money from another bank’s ATM. Try using your card if possible, or asking for cash back on purchases in-store. Another way is to ask for payments in cash from your friends if they are in your debt.



Did these tips help teach you how to save money? Leave a comment below if they did and if you have any ideas that should be added to this list!


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Leave a comment


11 months ago

Thanks for sharing. When I think back to the past, I lived pretty frugally. Buying food added up quickly so I quickly learned to bring snacks to eat throughout the day. I don’t remember having access to a microwave.

I transferred into college as a junior so I didn’t have the dorm experience. I think I would have lived even more frugally if I wasn’t married. My husband took care of the living expenses, which I went to school.

I did work every saturday to help pay for my gas and stuff that was necessary for college. I still remember saying to myself I have to do what it takes. I wonder if there is a way to have one set fee for electricity? That would save the burden of having to turn stuff off.


Jesse Collier

11 months ago

I do the same thing throughout my day Sofia :). Being at classes all day forces me to pack lunches throughout the day.

As long as you keep your head up and dedicate yourself to sticking to a budget and practicing smart money management, it can be easy to sustain yourself through school.

In some places, it could be possible to have a set fee for utilities. Usually it depends on usage though, which can be a good thing because it makes you remember to turn off the lights.

Thanks for your comment!



11 months ago

When I was in college, the biggest money savings was in cooking for myself. Eating out costs a fortune in comparison and the food is not nearly as good.

I learned to bake bread from scratch which is really easy and costs next to nothing. Flour, salt, yeast, water and an oven is all you need.

Once you can make bread, you can make pizza crust, so you have two food groups covered right there.

I also made a lot of soups when the weather was cool. Soups are easy and cheap too. All you need is a crock pot, frozen veggies, water and seasonings of your choice.

Jesse Collier

10 months ago

Hi Gary,

Yes, cooking for yourself is definitely one of the best ways to save money while in school. It really doesn’t take a lot of time and the meals you make can be saved for later with leftovers, whereas a fast food meal can cost upwards of $10.

Crock pots are definitely key to cheap homemade meals. We like to buy some type of meat, broth, veggies, and spices and leave it on all day, then come back to dinner for a couple nights. Chipping in, we all spend next to nothing and it’s a fast meal to take on the go!

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