As September approaches, so does back to school. So today we’re here to offer some tips to help you prepare yourself and your finances for back to school this fall!
Let's dive in!
If you’ve kept up with our previous blog posts, then you already know that here at Untangle Money we really stress using a budget to help track your finances. We like budgets because they help to set your expectations and help you understand what you can afford and align that to your individual priorities. This mental model will help you keep track of where your money is going, and help you visualize the flow of your income and expenses.
Having a budget while you’re in school, at any level, can help you keep your finances on track while easing any financial stress so that you can focus on your education. You can allocate a section of your budget to “education/school expenses” so that you can manage the flow of any income from student loans, grants and scholarships; and the flow of your expenses like tuition payments, textbooks, extracurriculars, etc.
Look for income opportunities.
(Part-time work, co-ops, paid internships, seasonal work, on-campus employment, etc.)
Now, this option may not be feasible for everyone depending on your schedule, time management, and how much you want to take on at once. With that being said, having a part-time job or a side-job can be a great way to have another source of income while you’re pursuing your education.
There are a lot of job opportunities out there that specifically look for students and are flexible with how much and when you want to work. In addition, some places of employment, like retail, offer seasonal work around the holidays or during the summer. Another thing to look out for are opportunities on-campus, such as working in your campus bookstore, any restaurants, cafes or bars on campus. If your program offers it, you can also lookout for co-op or paid internship opportunities, which can be a great source of income plus experience!
Disclaimer: We recognize that right now it may be more difficult to get a part-time job due to the pandemic. This is only advice to consider, if you don’t feel comfortable working right now while also in school or unfortunately just can’t find employment, don’t fret! There are other ways to keep on track with your finances while in school.
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it's worth talking about! While school for most people is online and not on campus because of the pandemic, it’s still really easy to spend your money on eating out or ordering in.
For those of you on-campus right now, a great way to cut back on your spending is to prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time and bring them to campus with you. This way if you get hungry, you’ll be less tempted to buy something because you’ll have it in your bag already! The same goes for those of you doing school online from home. Meal prepping is still a helpful tool so that in your free time you can just walk to your kitchen and your meal is already ready to go. You’re more likely to go buy something or order in when you don’t have anything prepared and don’t want to cook - so this can help you cut down on spending.
This goes for buying coffee too! Especially when you’re on campus, it can be super tempting to hit up a coffee shop before, during, or after your lectures. An easy way to avoid this is to bring a coffee from home! The same rule applies: if you have a coffee maker at home, you’re less likely to buy one. It can actually sometimes be cheaper in the long-run to buy a coffee maker for home, depending on how much coffee you drink. ☕️
Disclaimer: We’re not here to judge your spending habits! If treating yourself to a meal or coffee is your selfcare or non-negotiable that is ok. With that being said, you may need to make adjustments to some areas of your spending to stay on track with your budget and saving - if you don’t want to give up or cut back on buying your coffee for example, you can find somewhere else to cut back! You can also pick one day a week that is your eating out/ordering-in day; or limit yourself to 2 purchased coffees per week!
Stationery & supplies.
Buy what you’ll actually need, not what you think you’ll need!
A great tip to help you save for back-to-school is to buy supplies and stationery that you’ll actually need, and nothing more. It can be super easy to overspend on stationery sets, lots of notebooks, pens and all that fun stuff. But sometimes it ends up just sitting in a drawer and never gets used…
A helpful tip is to wait until you have all of your syllabi, that way you figure out if you actually need notebooks or can use your choice of electronics, how many and what kind of writing utensils you’ll need, etc. Also, you don’t need to buy new stuff every year! Try to use all your products up until their end, then you can replace them.
Textbook & course materials.
Buy used when possible and sell your old materials!
Bouncing off that last tip about supplies, the same goes for textbooks or any course materials you may need to buy. The first thing to check is if you actually need them, make sure to look out for “optional” vs. “required”. If you do need a specific textbook, try to see if you can get a used version from the bookstore or buy it second-hand from a friend or another student.
Sisterly advice: Sell your old textbooks! Most of the time when your course is finished, textbooks go to the back of the shelf or closet and are never looked at again. Sell them! Whether you can return them to your campus bookstore for money or discounts, or sell them on a used-textbook group (check for Facebook pages!), or ask around - selling your old books and course materials is a super easy way to make your money back and save.
Some other helpful ways to save on your textbooks include looking online or at other stores for cheaper deals or free copies or sharing with a classmate or roommate (not ideal for everyone, but it's an option).
Take advantage of your student discount!
One benefit of being a student is that a lot of places actually offer student discounts on your purchases! This is a huge money saver and you absolutely should take advantage of it while you can! There are online services and physical cards you can get like SPC, UNiDAYS, and Student Beans which offer specific discounts and deals for a variety of retail stores as well as food and restaurants, both online and in person. Stores like Apple and Best Buy also offer their own student deals on their products if you are in the market for a new electronic device or printer or anything else! Make sure to take a look at your banks too, they also sometimes offer student deals for you to use.
Sisterly advice: Always have your student card on you! A lot of places offer student discounts these days, from cafes to big name stores - it's best to have your card with you just in case. It also never hurts to ask when you’re at the cash register if they do anything for students!
More sisterly advice: Although this isn’t student specific, you can also add the Honey extension to your internet browser. Honey will look at the website you're on and see if there are any discounts and deals available when you’re checking out!
Tuition & student loans.
Last but definitely not least, is looking into financial aid to help with your education expenses. For starters, some institutions offer payment plans so that you don’t have to pay such a large sum all at once. This is definitely something to consider; but keep in mind it could mean an added weekly or monthly charge that you have to make sure you have enough money for on top of other recurring expenses.
Other options include looking for grant or scholarship opportunities, these are great because you don’t have to pay any money back. It never hurts to look at your school’s scholarship or grant offers, or to do a quick Google search for any grant opportunities available through your city, province or the federal government. There are even things such as essay writing competitions where the prize is a scholarship or grant money. You can also look and apply for all bursaries that you qualify for (or quasi qualify for). We really recommend doing your research to see what offers are out there for you.
Another popular option, which you may already know about, is the Ontario Student Assistance Program a.k.a OSAP. OSAP provides eligible students various types of assistance based on financial need. With OSAP you can get a student loan and/or a grant depending on your eligibility. Obviously the loan will have to be paid back after graduation, but the grant money doesn’t. OSAP is a great option for those who need financial assistance with not just tuition, but also other expenses like textbooks and other education materials, as well as student housing, on campus residences, etc.
Here are some quick-tips for OSAP/student loans:
We must stress that you should only take the loan if you absolutely need it.
If you get grant money on top of the loan and it’s enough to serve your needs, OSAP gives you the option to just take the grant and forgo the loan.
If you really don’t need the assistance, avoid getting the loan all together - you don’t want to give yourself debt for no reason!
Allocate your loan and/or grant money for education purposes only. It can be tempting to splurge a bit of it on other things, but don’t do it! That money is for school!
On that note, if you don’t end up using it all by the end of the year/end of your program, put it away in your savings and don’t touch it until your repayment begins - then you can put the leftover amount towards your repayment.
You can follow us over on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to see more financial tips and tricks, as well as content that empowers people financially. You can also check out our other blog posts here!
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