10 financial tips for students

We know how hard it can be to balance your finances as a student. You’ve got to pay rent, tuition, groceries, utilities…and you still want to have a little fun at some point. Right now is probably the most broke you’ll ever be, and we know it can be challenging. As part of our Financial Literacy Month, we’re sharing our best student finance tips with you. They won’t exactly make you rich, but if you follow some of our advice, you might be able to buy a few extra boxes of mac and cheese this month.

1. Take advantage of all the scholarships and bursaries you can.
In Canada, over $15 Million dollars’ worth of scholarships go unclaimed each year and over 50% of scholarships are not merit-based. Plus, scholarships are not just available in September; they’re offered all year long.

2. Try a budget app.
There’s tons of apps you can download to make budgeting easy. Apps like LearnVest, Level, and Mint automatically upload your bank account information and categorize your spending.You can set budgets for each category and the app will let you know when you’re close to going over.

3. Always ask about student discounts.
You’d be surprised at how many there are out there! Even if a store doesn’t have a discount posted, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, don’t forget to pick up a College Survival Coupons Card at the CUSA office. For just 20 bucks, it gets you awesome discounts at a bunch of local clubs, restaurants,and more.

4. Buy used textbooks—and sell your old ones.
New textbooks are absurdly expensive and you’re probably only going to use them for a semester, so don’t buy them new if you can avoid it. Buy used books from Haven Books or check out one of the Carleton used textbook groups on Facebook. The Carleton Bookstore also offers used and rentable options for most books, so take advantage of those.

5. Buy generic whenever you can.
Sometimes brand name items are better quality than their generic counterparts, but often the items are exactly the same, but in different packaging. Generic ibuprofen, for example, is exactly the same as Advil and it costs quite a bit less. Don’t be afraid to buy generic for everything from condiments to cheese to deli meat. It won’t make a difference and you’ll see the savings when you hit the checkout.

6. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
Okay, this is a silly one, but we all know it’s true. When you’re hungry, everything at the grocery store looks delicious. Eat a quick snack before you go so that you don’t end up blowing your budget on eight dozen croissants and six pints of ice cream.

7. Take advantage of free activities in the city.
Save a few bucks by seeking out free fun! From yoga on Parliament Hill, to free Thursday night admission at the National Gallery, Ottawa has plenty of cool community events that cost you nothing.

8. Check out student bank account options.
Most banks offer chequing accounts for students that include lower fees, unlimited transactions or other special perks. You definitely want to ask your bank what they have available for students.

9. Look for a great student job.
We all know the struggle of trying to find a good part-time job that offers plenty of hours, but works around your school schedule. Finding an on campus job is a great option, and there’s plenty available if you know where to look. They’re all posted on CUHire, the Carleton job portal.

10. Use the Carleton Awards Office.
The Awards Office is a great resource for information on Work Study programs, OSAP, out-of-province scholarships and bursaries, and more. It exists to help students, so take advantage of all the services available.

For more information about managing your finances, make sure to check out all the great Financial Literacy Month events we’ve got going on during November. From scholarship information, to credit counselling, to a seminar on repaying your student loans, there’s something for everyone. Best of all, it’s all FREE. Find out more by checking out the Financial Literacy Month Facebook event.