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By Jesse Collier. Updated February 2018.

Ever wonder how older people manage to retire in some beachy, warm destination? In this guide on how to save money, we’ll teach you their tricks and more, but it all starts in your student career. 


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Being a student is all about finding how to save money on everything from food to living expenses, while also living a (relatively) comfortable lifestyle. After all, you can’t live off your parents forever.

Find out how to save money on all your student necessities from groceries to utilities with these tips and get set to retire like a boss.


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1 . 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.

Shop on discount days or later at night when stores throw out leftover stock for an added discount!

Usually these items have an approaching best before date, which relates to quality, not when food can’t 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 be combined to make better meals than your typical noodles and sauce and they fill you up for longer to boot!

Check out Grocery Savings (Canada) and My Grocery Deals (USA) to watch 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. Check with your financial aid office to see how you can get help.



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


This is one where you’ll have to collaborate with your housemates. Saving money on utilities requires a team effort, but it can lead to massive savings each year.


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 on 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 gives you rewards for spending your hard earned money.

Rate HubNerd Wallet, and WalletHub 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 school career.


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.


11. Don’t spend on one day a week


Some of you may already be good at this one. Take one day a week, and don’t spend on anything. This will require some forward-planning, such as buying groceries on another day.

Bonus: Don’t cheat and choose a Sunday or a day where you would stay at home anyways. Choose one of your busiest days and see if you can avoid spending. This can include packing your own lunch, or not having that mid-day coffee.

Once you’re good at taking one day off, make that two or three a week. Put that money you save in a savings account instead!


12. Get cheaper flights


how to save money on travelling


Planning your next trip wouldn’t be complete without knocking a few hundred dollars off your flight. Even booking a few hours later or on a different day of the week can save you big bucks.

Sites like statravel and studentuniverse scrape thousands of different sites to get the cheapest flights available, however you might have layovers in different places along the way.

Also look at flying into a city near your destination. So for example, if your destination is Madrid, flying into Lisbon and taking a train would be a lot cheaper.

Read our complete guide to saving money while travelling!


13. Speak to the customer loyalty department


Do you have subscription services that are set for renewal? Chances are you’re getting emails and calls asking if you’ll be subscribing again.

This could be for internet, Amazon Prime, or any other subscription service. Yet these companies are usually pretty protective over their customers and will go the extra length to ensure that you remain as their customer.

You can work this to your advantage. Loyal customers are proven to spend more money than new customers, and businesses know that it costs more to acquire new customers than keep existing ones.

Try calling customer service for your subscription service and ask for a better price or extra perks on your service. Reason that company X has a better deal, and that you’re more than willing to switch. Odds are, your current company will send you directly to their customer loyalty department.

Be firm, but don’t heckle the agent too much! After all, it’s not their fault personally, but with the service as a whole.

14. Don’t spend on your favorite games


save money on buying games


Don’t spend hundreds per year on the games you play. While the temptation of getting to the next level in Clash Royale or being tops in Candy Crush is almost too much to handle, you need to squash the urge to press that “purchase” button.

This includes spending $70+ on the newest console games. If you’re dying to play the new FIFA, wait for sales on it, or ask friends to chip in and share the game. If you have a budget, you’ll see that expenses like in-app purchases and new games eat away at your savings.

There’s plenty of apps that will let you get App Store or Play Store credit that will allow you to become the pay-to-play player that everyone hates.


15. Sign up for newsletters or offers


save money on purchases with newsletters


Do you have an essential purchase to make? Check and see if the store you’re buying from has discounts for signing up for their newsletter.

This is generally more available online, and is usually located in a prominent place on the retailer’s website. As part of their subscriber list, you can get exclusive deals and offers for the products you would buy at full price.

Offering discounts for products is seen on various sites, including Sportchek and Footlocker. Make sure you look for these discounts before you buy!



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!

Stay tuned for more ways to save money!

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