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Student Life: Personal Finance

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Student Life: Personal Finance


Rising tuition, rising textbook costs, rising food prices – it seems to never stop. For a typical student attending university or college, managing your personal finances isn’t always easy.

According to Stats Canada, the average Canadian University tuition for the 2014/2015-year is $5959. However, some programs, such as Dentistry can easily cost over $18,000 per year.

These days, tuition appears to be rising faster than inflation in many developed countries – as seen in the graph below.

Now the question is, how can students manage their personal finances while having such large expenses to pay for? There are many resources out there, such as government grants, loans, scholarships, and the Bank of Mom and Dad. Perhaps, the Bank of Mom and Dad is the best bank since it’s interest free money.

Despite the skyrocketing costs of attending school – there is a way to save money during this financially demanding phase. It’s all about planning your budget, and spending within your means – do not spend more than what you earn. Yes, it is a simple rule – but trust me, many people forget this rule while managing their finances.

Earning Money

Especially if you have taken on a government loan, it’s best to look for ways to earn income (the legal way, of course). These include, but are not limited to, applying for part time jobs, internships, and scholarships.  More students are graduating with large student debt – earning income throughout your education would definitely help to repay your debt upon graduation.

Percentage of Graduates With Debt of $25,000 and More

Image Source: Canadian Federation of Students

During the school year – it’s best to work for a company that has extremely flexible hours (such as a Bank Teller at a large branch, sales representative at a retail store). When applying for internships and part time jobs, aim for a job that is relatable to your desired career field upon graduation. This would give you an advantage among other graduates within your desired field.


While gaining experience and making money simultaneously, it’s also important to start saving. Saving a reasonable amount, such as 20% per paycheque, will lead students to be financially stable over the long run.

Perhaps, John is making $14.00/hour and is working 15 hours a week – the biweekly paycheque would be $420. Saving 20% of that biweekly paycheque ($84) in an investment providing an average return of 8% per year will lead to savings of $9483.58 within four years. Different investment options include, but are not limited to, Mutual Funds, and Exchange Traded Funds.

8% is an estimate – it’s approximately an average yearly return over the long term for mutual funds. Your investment may turn out provide less or more than 8% yearly, on average. Investing in a mutual fund that follows the TSX Composite Index in 2010 would provide a total return of approximately 26.49% (Jul 02, 2010 – Jun 26 – 2015).

Image Source: Google Finance

The return on your investment depends on the risk level, the higher the risk, the higher the return, but there is also a higher chance of making a negative return on investment. It’s recommended to invest within a tax-sheltered account, such as a Tax Free Savings Account (for Canadians), in order to save on taxes.

Books & Tuition

You’ve probably heard the joke of the reported thief stealing $25,000 worth of goods from the bookstore, and can be seen with a school sweater and one textbook. Aside from tuition costs, the prices of textbooks have been skyrocketing as well.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the average student spends $500 to $1000 per semester for course related materials. It is best to shop around for your textbooks – instead of only buying from the bookstore. There are many other options, such as buying used books, since they tend to be around 50% cheaper.

Food & Clothes

For me, food is definitely one of my biggest expenses. I love going out and trying different cuisines. However, I’m sure many students can relate. It can add up to be a costly habit if you’re constantly going out to eat and shopping with friends.

This is not a problem, as long as you stay within your planned budget and spend within your means. When you can, make lunch from home, since it is cheaper, and tends to be healthier.


Although University can be quite expensive, remember to enjoy your time, and make the most out of it. Keep the partying under control, keep up to date on your readings, and be involved on campus by joining student clubs/a sports team. I would also say not to procrastinate, but I’ll save that topic for another time.

Choose a program that you’re passionate about – this would definitely enhance your university learning experience, as you’re more passionate for the topic being studied. Remember; create a budget, start planning, and start saving now. Now is the time to start saving, in order to become financially independent in the future.

Writer: Jelani Smith

Disclaimer: All investing can potentially be risky. Investing or borrowing can lead into financial losses. All content on Bay Street Blog are solely for educational purposes. All other information are obtained from credible and authoritative references. Bay Street Blog is not responsible for any financial losses from the information provided. When investing or borrowing, always consult with an industry professional.


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