How I Saved Money in College

This time next week, Canadian students of all ages will be heading back to school. New backpacks will be filled with empty notebooks and sharpened pencils, pulled onto the shoulders of boys and girls clothed in new outfits and ready with open minds.

I get a bit nostalgic every September, as back-to-school was always one of my favourite times of the year. For any student, it’s perhaps even more meaningful than New Year’s Eve, as the school year rules the calendar and each September is an opportunity to start over.

This is the first semester I won’t be in school, in more than two years. I don’t need a new backpack or school supplies and I also don’t technically need any new clothes (although my smaller waistline would beg to differ). But that doesn’t mean I can’t share some of the things I learned in my final years as a student. Most importantly, here are a few of the ways I saved money in college:

1. Choose Free Banking
I am a long-time and loyal member of Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, where all of my bank accounts are free (and some are high-interest). When I first became a student, the average student chequing account cost around $6 per month and came with a limited number of transactions. While many banks now offer students “free” banking services, there are always fees for overages, statements, etc. that you need to watch out for. I avoided all of that by only using accounts that offered free unlimited transactions.

2. Say No to Cable
Before moving this year, and getting a great deal on a bundle from Shaw, I had cancelled my cable. And, trust me, I’m a huge fan of television. But $50+ per month is not chump change to a student. $50 is a week’s worth of groceries. Or a cell phone bill. Or a tank of gas. Or half a bus pass. It could even be a student loan interest payment. And with so many other ways to watch or download shows, I knew it was a “want” and not a “need”. (If you really can’t part ways with it, find out if your provider offers any deals to students!)

3. Buy Cheap(er) Textbooks
One of the best lessons I learned in school did not come from a textbook; it was about when and how to buy them. In my program, I learned pretty quickly that I could get through some classes without ever needing to crack open a textbook. So, even if it pushed my first week of participation back by a few days, I waited until reading through the entire syllabus before purchasing the “required” textbook. Then I either bought a used copy on Amazon or I rented an eTextbook through CourseSmart.

4. Sell Textbooks Immediately
The minute I submitted my final assignment for a class, I listed the textbook for sale on Amazon. In total, I did keep 4 or 5 from my program that I would like to either re-read (social media stuff, mostly) or keep for a future Master’s program (Communication theories are probably important there). But the rest of my books were gone before the program ended and I happily pocketed a few hundred dollars as I packaged them up and shipped them off.

5. Pre-Drink (or Don’t Drink At All)
Let’s get serious here. While partying may not be a weekly event for all students, it does happen from time-to-time and there are lots of ways to save while doing it. My go-to method was to have friends over for a few drinks first, which then either limited or stopped my consumption when we were out. I’m not saying you should pound back a bottle of something before leaving the house! But if you know you’re only going to have a few glasses of wine, why not do that at home and then leave just in time to hit the dance floor?

What is/was your favourite way to save money in college?