How to save money as a student

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For many Atlantic Canadians, September means one thing: Back to school. For those who are heading off to post-secondary—whether you’re pursing a trade, an undergrad degree, or anything else in between—chances are, things are going to look a little different this year.

Graduating from high school is a significant milestone and the decision to pursue post-secondary education often marks the beginning of a new life chapter. But, much like graduation and prom, expectations for beginning (or continuing) this journey may also have to shift a bit this year. While it might be disappointing, there are actually plenty of potential positive benefits for savvy students—especially when it comes to the financial side of things.


Living on-campus in residence or signing the lease on a sweet pad with your friends might feel like a rite of passage, but it might not make the most financial sense this year. With many classes moving to a mixture of online and in-person learning, where you live might not matter as much as it did before.

Housing is a big—if not your biggest—expense, so opting to stay chez mom or dad for just a little bit longer can actually save you a lot of money in the long run, if it’s at all possible.

If you do decide to continue with your plan of flying the coop, just make sure you have a conversation with your roommates about safety and the importance of keeping everything extra clean and managing money expectations.


For many people, post-secondary education is a great opportunity to make life-long friendships and create lasting memories. In between studying, enjoying a few nights out can be a great way to meet new people and let off a bit of steam (that is, after all your assignments are finished, of course!). But with physical distancing protocols in place, hitting the dance floor might not be possible.

That’s not to say you can’t have fun, you just might have to get a little more creative. This can be good news for your wallet—there are lots of low- or no-cost ways to have a bit of fun—potluck, anyone?

Grab a few pals (virtually) and tune into a live-stream from one of your favourite musicians or somebody you’ve never heard of before. Host a virtual games night and let your competitive streak shine. Or mask-up and get outside to go for a socially distanced walk. It’s still possible to have lots of fun even if you can’t be together in person. Plus, your wallet might thank you.

Part-time work

With a shift to online learning, your schedule might be more flexible than if you were travelling to and from campus and between classes all day. In turn, you might find yourself with more flexibility and time to think about getting a part-time job.

There are lots of student friendly jobs in the food and beverage industry, but it’s also good to keep an open mind and think about what other opportunities could be out there this year. For example, if you like kids, now might be the time to offer babysitting/nanny services for neighbours or close friends/family who are struggling to fill the gaps in their traditional childcare services. Many parents are searching for creative ways to keep the kiddos entertained and safe while they continue to juggle work and other responsibilities.

Online options might also be something to think about. Check with your post-secondary institution to see if they have any openings or hit-up online job banks to see what’s around for part-time or freelance work.

School supplies

Virtual learning also means that instead of buying notebooks and pens, maybe you’re in the market for a laptop or tablet instead. Tech can be a significant investment, so make sure you take the time to do your homework and think about what exactly you’ll need to set yourself up for success at home.

And speaking of comfort, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a proper desk and desk-chair if you have the space. While working or studying from your couch might sound like a dream, your body will thank you in the long run.

It might also be worthwhile to invest in a good set of noise-cancelling headphones or a headset so you can participate in virtual learning without being distracted by noisy roommates or family members.

Know what’s available

The federal and provincial governments have already identified several programs to offer financial support for students. In addition to student loans, there might be programs you qualify for that offer extra financial support. Do your research and know what’s available. Post-secondary education is expensive and every little bit counts.

Learning doesn’t begin or end in the classroom. Taking the time now to study-up on how to look after your money will set you up for success in the future. When in doubt, your local credit union can offer financial advice and planning to help you ace your finances.