Occasionally I get emails from friends or coworkers asking how I was able to graduate college with no student loans (and with slightly over $10,000 in my bank account). It wasn’t easy and it’s never fun saving every dime you have because your income is minimal, but I was lucky enough to pull it off and come out ahead.
Saving is becoming more important for students as tuition increases.
In 2012, Canadians paid over $11,000 in tuition alone for an undergraduate. Here are some of the things I did to maximize savings and keep costs low.
Related: How I Multiply My Savings
I always worked one job full time and sometimes had a second job to increase my income. A typical week for me would be 40 hours at my full time job and 10-20 hours at another job.
Since I knew I wouldn’t pay any taxes on my earnings (my annual income wasn’t high enough and I had tuition credits as well) it was easy to be motivated enough to work that many hours.
I worked at a casino, at a fast food restaurant, gas station, mowing lawns – anything I needed to do to save up enough to make it through the year.
Living With the Parents (Summer)
I moved back home with my parents to save money on rent during the summer. This allowed me to significantly reduce my costs – I saved on groceries, utilities, phone/internet/cable, and of course rent. A bonus was that I came home to a delicious meal every night 🙂
Living On Campus (Fall/Winter)
I lived in a four bedroom apartment that I shared with three other guys, so I was able to cut down on rent and food costs because we usually shared food.
Living on campus allowed me to decrease my transportation costs and I took advantage of the phone/internet/cable bundle that the school residence offered (significantly below what I would pay off campus).
Since I lived on campus I had time to prepare my own meals and I always packed a lunch to school.
Luckily, I was able to keep my grades high throughout school and graduated with distinction. This led to numerous scholarships/bursaries during my undergrad and while they didn’t pay off my tuition completely, they definitely helped to reduce the costs.
The ‘Simple Life’
I lived the life of a typical student – barely scraping by with no income (until the following summer) but enjoying the simple life.
My girlfriend (now my wife) and I went for walks, went window shopping and rarely went out for dinner. A special treat for us was on Thursday evenings we would buy a $5 pizza and watch DVDs we owned or rented (for free) from the school.
We bought used textbooks, borrowed textbooks from classmates if we felt we didn’t need to buy the book, used the school gym (for free), clipped coupons for groceries, got all our household items at Wal-Mart & Costco and took advantage of drink specials at the local pub.
Conclusion: Through hard work and frugal living I was able to graduate with no debt and just over $10,000 in my bank account. My personal belief is that student debt can be drastically reduced by making lifestyle changes while in school.
How do you save money as a student?
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