6 steps to financial success as a student

Post-secondary education can be one of the most exciting, and expensive, times of your life. You’re venturing out on your own, meeting new people, and learning a lot but none of it comes cheap. Managing your money carefully and living within your means will allow you to avoid costly mistakes and prepare you for life after school.

Paying for tuition and living expenses while avoiding a mountain of debt is definitely a challenge, but there are a few ways to make it through school with a healthy financial outlook:

1. Take advantage of tax breaks. Did you know that students in Canada are eligible for a variety of tax breaks? Find out what your options are, and talk to your accountant to maximize your returns. You work hard for your money, so you’ll want to keep as much as possible!

2. Squeeze in a short-term work opportunity? Proctoring exams, working as a TA, tutoring other students, and working for your school’s alumni office are all possible places to find short-term, supplementary work in between your regular gig or when you have downtime. Check the bulletin board in your student union office, talk to the on-campus employment office and put out the word that you’re looking for a little extra. Is it an election year? There’s always a need for people to pick up temporary work during election time.

3. Search out (and apply for) little-known grants and scholarships. Apply for everything you’re even remotely qualified for. You’d be surprised how often these go unclaimed because no one applies for them. Start with the online databases. Then think about what relationships you have with companies and organizations in your life through connections or family. Have you been volunteering for years with an organization? Had the same credit union since you were twelve years old? Maybe your parents are part of the local Rotary Club? Most local chapters of these organizations have scholarships and bursaries available, but you have to ask in order to find them.

4. Avoid that shiny new card. Campuses are a hot spot for credit card companies looking for new customers. Be careful! If used wisely, credit cards can be a great way to begin building your credit score, but they can also become a very expensive way to borrow money if you don’t pay your balance off every month.

5. Take advantage of campus amenities. Before you head out on the town for the weekend, consider checking out what’s happening on campus. From movie nights to fitness classes, your home base is likely loaded with free and fun things to do with friends if you plan a little ahead.

6. Make payments to your student loan while in school if you can. Don’t think of your student loan as something that has to be dealt with after school. Make lump sum payments whenever possible or increase your monthly payments to pay it off faster. Any amount paid over and above your monthly minimum payment goes directly towards the principal of your loan, reducing the amount of interest you’ll pay.

Looking for more information to help you build your financial knowledge and create more peace of mind? Check out Vancity’s free, Each One, Teach One program and find out when the next financial literacy workshop is happening.  

This is the Third in a series of articles for Financial Literacy Month. Check back throughout November to learn more personal finance tips. 

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