Building Savings as a Student

Okay.

I’m sick of watching all of those money-saving life-hack videos that advise giving up Starbucks, because you don’t need that five dollar latte. Lies. First of all, I do need it. Second, my iced coffee is $3.10 with free refills, so I make it work. 😉

Here are my tips for saving money as a student, while still affording extras like Starbucks and manicures — because financial independence should not be synonymous with restricting yourself from items you genuinely enjoy.

TIP #1 Check your Bank Account Daily.
On a daily basis, I check my balance on my phone. This quick and frequent access enables me to have a constant understanding of how much money I have saved, and how much is at my disposal. A habit like this also keeps me on top of whether or not I’ve paid my bills, whether I’ve received payments for work, and it keeps my credit card balance nice and low.

TIP #2 Establish Multiple Sources of Income
As a student, this can be more of a challenge. For me, some great sources of income as a university student were:
a) Teaching Assistant: I was lucky enough to work as a teaching assistant for an online course for more than two school years. The hourly wage was significantly higher than minimum wage ($22-$26/term), and since it was online, I was able to easily integrate this job into my schedule.
b) Don/Residence Assistant: I did this for my final two terms of university. While this job involves a lot of work (read: do not do it for the money – you need to genuinely love it, the compensation will be a perk). Here, I had free on-campus living accommodations, as well as a generously allotted meal-plan (Starbucks was included in this!!). Living on campus also was a time-saver, less time travelling to class == more time doing productive things.
c) What do you love? I like to work with kids. While I don’t see this in my long-term career trajectory, it’s something I noticed I was good at, and something I could help people with. This allowed for an additional $40 – $200 per week during school weeks. Not being bound to a supervisor also enabled flexibility, so I was never too overwhelmed.

TIP #3 Play the Market.
Play the stock market if that’s your game. Investments are good to have! Although, here I’m referring to the student housing market. Often, I lived on a term-by-term basis. Moving every 4 months allowed me to always get the cheapest rent available. I could negotiate for additional fees, like internet, to be included in the rent. And as a student, summer terms mean less students in town, therefore more empty rooms that tenants are looking to fill for a discounted price. One summer, I managed to get a room in a luxury student building that usually charges ~$730+ per month (plus utilities), for just $375 all-inclusive.

TIP #4 Budget with Cash.
I frequently use cash to pay for goods. This allows me to budget more carefully, as I leave my “digital” money out of sight and out of mind when shopping. It’s said that a country’s economy works in one of four ways: They’re rich and act rich, they’re poor and act poor, they’re poor and act rich, or they’re rich and act poor.

It’s always best to act poor, even when rich, and spend accordingly. This will make you more frugal when you don’t have to be, which results in more savings. Little efforts, like looking for sales on groceries and things you need, getting student discounts, selling gently used clothes and books, let you save more while also making accommodations in your budget for “fun” things, like that $3.10 coffee from Starbucks. 😉

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And those are some of the tips that helped me to build a savings account and repay student debt while still in university! Best of luck with your financial goals, everyone!