Friday, 28 August 2015

13 Tips to get the most out of your student budget

University is pretty pricey, there’s no doubt about it. Somewhere between paying for tuition, textbooks, housing, and pizza fuelled study binges, the realization sets in that everything has a price! I can’t say I am an expert at saving money, much on the contrary actually… HOWEVER, these are things I should have done during my university experience (and am going to do this year, honest). You will notice most of this revolves around food, maybe I like to eat a bit too much, but this is where a lot of dough can be saved!

1. Ditch the cafeteria and the fast food

This one’s a no brainer, if you make your own food at home, it’s not only healthier (usually), but also a lot cheaper per meal.

Spoiler Alert: We'll be offering up some brown bag tips later this month.

2. Cook in batches 

This saves you both money AND time. A lot of people comment that it’s difficult to make their own meals every day. What I often found worked was to make a large pot of chili, or stir fry, or whatever large quantity of food I desired on a Sunday afternoon, and hopefully this would at least make lunches for the whole week! If you go the extra step and pre-package all of these, it will make things much easier when preparing your lunch each day. 

Double Spoiler Alert: We're going to offer up more on this later too.

3. Make your own bread/dough/pizza

A bag of flour, a jar of yeast, and water will likely run you less than $15 and can last a very long time which is quite the deal when you consider that you have to spend  $2-3 every time you buy a loaf of bread from the store. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of fresh baked bread? Good starter recipes can be found on, or simply by doing a google search.

4. Go to school run events

Almost every club meeting, educational session, and large event has some form of catering. This one’s a win win, not only do you get to mingle and learn, but you might also get a free meal! Often the SU runs social events as well, which if they aren’t free, they’re very easy on the wallet. 

For the first week back - be sure to hit up as many of the SU WOW pancake breakfasts as you can! They should be over in the WOW Villiage are in front of CCIS.

And word on the street is that there will be free hotdogs for lunch handed out in front of the Admin Building on Monday (i.e. Orientation) and Tuesday (i.e. the first day of classes). Maybe. I'm not making promises.

5. Contests! 

This might be a bit of a stretch, but I can recall at least two separate occasions in one term where this became beneficial. It involved an eating competition both times, and the winner received a gift card to the university pub. Free meal in front of an audience and free meal, not bad! Other competitions around campus often involve gift cards or other free things like school supplies.

6. Participate in surveys/studies 

A lot of researchers, companies, and student groups will often give you a gift card or a monetary incentive for a small amount of your time.  

7. Forget the car, walk as much as you can! 

This is not only good exercise, but time away from the car/cab is money saved.

8. Or use your U-Pass! 

Seriously, you’ve already paid for it in your fees, so go get it and use it. 

9. Get a job 

There are a multitude of job opportunities both on and off campus. In the retail and hospitality industry, it’s as easy as going to the company website and submitting an application. For campus jobs, there are a multitude of places to find work. Within the U of A, one can often find work with Campus Rec, Res Life, The Bookstore, InfoLink, and other departments within the Student Union and the University community. Good starting points include CAPS and International Student Services has put together an excellent document with some great starting points as well, so you might want to peek at it here.

10. Sell your old stuff

The internet makes it easy to sell a lot of things that you no longer need, but that may be exactly what someone else is looking for. I have sold a lot of video games, electronics, and books through an account with, check it out. For extra, you can always sell some of your family’s unneeded items… obviously, do this with their permission…

11. Buy Used – Books that is! 

Check out InfoLink's Used Book Registry to see what you're fellow students have to offer (and yes, some do literally offer up their old books for free), or stop by SUBtitles to see what books are available for consingment. 

You can also sell your old books back to the Bookstore, every Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You might even want to check out the new eBookshelf that's been made available on iTunes, since it will offer digital versions of your coursepacks, etc. (The Bookstore's main page is the best place to learn more about the e-materials.)

12. Apply for scholarships/bursaries 

There are a lot of scholarship competitions to check out, in addition to bursaries. To see what is available to you, simply log into bear tracks, and go to the awards section. For more information, check out the Registrar's site

Other “one stop shops” for scholarship information include

and the Alberta Learning Information Service Website.

13. Be aware of retail tricks

So, when it comes to your everyday spending, keep in mind that there is a "science" to getting you to spend more than you may need or want to. And lucky for you, we've listed a few of them in our post Top 10 Retailer Tricks Students Should Know.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this post suggested that there were 16 tips to know... but wanting to be economical, we've cut that down to 13. And have also shaken our fists on the formatting in the original word doc where this post was drafted. 

Albert - YouAlberta Contributor

Albert is a final year MD/MBA student. When not at the books, he enjoys playing guitar, squash, dancing, cooking, travelling, and adrenaline sports. As a kid, Albert would often throw up whenever startled, to the dismay of haunted house employees. With a stronger stomach, he intends to try unique food on every continent.


1 comment

  1. Need to recount????? What happened to 10, 12, and 14?


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