How to Save: Five Finance Tips for your First Year at College

One subject you will learn all about in college is freedom — picking your own path, choosing your classes, decorating your apartment, nights out with friends. But freedom can add up in the expense column, and no one enjoys scraping together dollars to get through the year. So where do you start when it comes to financial freedom? Here are five tips to help pay for your college freedom.

1. Budget. It’s fun!

Okay, it’s not really fun. But it’s important, takes time and often leaves you in shock at how much you’re spending. But college is the perfect time to learn how to budget properly before you undertake post-college responsibilities.

Before you start college, take time to create a spending log. Track the small items you are spending cash on every day. After a two months review the items — it’ll give you a good indication of your spending habits in the future and is a base line for estimating your non-college expenses. Monitoring your day-to-day habits will help prevent overspending and let you know where you can easily cut costs.


Next, make a list of comparing monthly income and expenses. Would a part-time job help? If you don’t have an income for the upcoming year, the AC Employment Centre is a good start to your search. The Student Association operates a job board and there are opportunities on campus, or you may want to look into student loan options. Your expenses could include groceries, rent, clothing, laundry, travel, and entertainment.

The final step in your budget is to calculate your school costs like tuition and books. These expenses are typically bunched in the months of September and January. Use the AC estimated costs chart to help you estimate your budget.

2. Where Should You Live?

Another excellent way to save money? Keep living at home! It is definitely a money-saver. You may have cheaper (or no rent) living with your parents, and you won’t need to buy new furniture, but remember to calculate your travel costs to get to and from the campus 5+ days a week.

Are you moving far from home, or just anxious to get out of the house? Then save cash by living with roommates, or look in residence options. Residence rates for the upcoming year are estimated at around $7,500, and Residence offers several payment options to help save money. Don’t forget that residence requires a meal plan, at additional cost.

Residence comes with its advantages. You don’t have to worry about paying for furniture, plus you get Internet access at no extra cost. You avoid a 12-month lease, and by living on campus you can forego many travel costs. Plus, there’s no stress from living with a roommate that may forget to pay their bills.

Whether you choose to live at home, off campus with friends, or in Residence, there are ways to save money.

3. Take advantage your ‘Student Status’

photo-1464958674501-4dc3d73d8f46One great thing about being a student are the discounts! You can use your student ID cards for a discount on meals, books, and sports tickets. You can also score discounts at various places around the city and online — just ask an employee if a store or restaurant offers student discounts with a school ID.


Some key Algonquin College discounts:

  • Student discounts at New Technology Store
  • Thinking of a fancy night out … keep the cost down with your 30% discount at Restaurant International
  • Save up to 13% with a College Meal Plan
  • Save 10% at terra20
  • Discounts off campus at College Square including New Balance, Timothy’s, Extreme Pita, McDonalds, Summerhays Grill & Loblaws (10% off on Tuesdays)

You can also load money onto your student ID card and use as payment on campus, allowing you to control spending by setting a strict monthly budget on your card balance.

4. Be ‘Credit Aware’

While it’s a good idea to start building your credit history and establish a good credit score, you need to be careful with student-based credit cards. Many student cards start at interest rates of 25 – 29% with a $3,000 limit and 1% payment requirement. Do the math on that — if you spend just $100 and only pay 1$ for the month, your interest accumulated would be $24. Regular payments are the most important thing when handling your credit card. Try to avoid the minimum payment and pay in full whenever possible.

Credit score is a reflection of your ability to borrow money responsibly. Regular payments are extremely important to avoid accumulating debt, a problem faced by 46% of Canadians carrying credit card debt.

5. Work during school? Think about it.

Sometimes, working while you are in college is a necessity. It’s important to balance your studies with work, but the good news is that studies in the National Survey of Student Engagement and Journal of Student Financial Aid show that students who were employed and working 10-12 hours a week get better grades and are more likely to complete their education.

There are great programs in Ontario that can help you get a job while being in college, plus resources at photo-1436018626274-89acd1d6ec9dAlgonquin College. Be sure to create an account on and apply to the Federal Student Work Experience Program which helps students get jobs within the Federal Government related to their fields. You can find Algonquin College Job postings and on campus jobs at our website.

Typical jobs for College Students

Barista – As a student you will be spending plenty of time in coffeehouses. Picking up a job in one lets you keep close to campus.

Retail Sales – Working in retail is a great part-time job option for students. Most stores will work around your class schedule, and the discounts that are available to employees can help you keep your costs down.

Restaurant – Waiting, bartending, or even being a line cook will grant you some valuable skills in terms of dealing with fast-based environments and great customer service skills.

Tutoring – Picking up a job as a peer tutor not only earns you cash, but helps you keep up your own studies.


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