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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Drop the Starbucks Latte: 9 Easy Ways to Save Money and Still Treat Yourself

Written by Rachel Wong

Let’s face it: being a student is not cheap. Far from it.

And with each new term comes more books to buy and more fees to pay. There is the perpetual need to buy new things and keep up with our social life and treat ourselves once in a while.

Back in September, CBC reported that university students spend an average of $5,772 on tuition per year, and that is before residence, student fees, health plans, books, and other must-have school supplies (like rainbow sticky tabs or biodegradable notebooks).

So with that in mind, here are 9 student-friendly ways to save money and still be able to hang out with your friends and get those coveted sticky tabs:

DIY it Up

  • Bring your own dorm furniture:

I think we can all agree that we dream of having Tumblr-worthy dorm rooms with lights, patterned bed spread and petite cacti perched on our windowsills. The average student spends $907 on dorm furniture. On move-in day, instead of getting everything new, bring some of the fixtures like bulletin boards, desk lamps and bed spreads with you from home, adding your own personal touch and bringing a bit of home with you.

  • Movie night in the dorm!

Hanging out with friends is expensive, even if you do the simple dinner out + movie night. Dinner per person could be upwards of $12-$15 a person, and a movie ticket (and a large popcorn and soda) could be about the same or more. At the end of the night, you could be out $40, conservatively. Do that every weekend and by the end of the month, you would have spent $160. So bring it back to your place: host a movie night (can you say, Netflix?) complete with microwaveable popcorn.

Cutting Back

  • Attention Starbucks addicts:

Did you know that students spend an average of $103 on drinks from Starbucks each month? Consider other options, such as having hot water kettles in dorms for instant coffee or other, cheaper coffee options on campus. Maybe your floor or housemates would be into splitting the cost of a Tassimo. Keep the Starbucks for post-exam celebrations.

  • Driving in style:

Driving to school is super convenient if you don’t live on campus. But given the cost of gas, car maintenance, insurance, and parking passes, it gets very expensive after one semester. Many student fees for schools may include term passes for public transit, so take advantage of those passes! (Added bonus: you get to help take more cars off the road and lessen your carbon footprint!)

  • Eating out every day:

Your mom made you lunches every day throughout high school. If it wasn’t left over pasta, it was ham and swiss sandwiches with mayo on the side, because she knows you’re a stickler for those things. And now you’re relying on all the fast food stops around school. Thinking back to our movie night in, if you eat 3 meals a day at a fast-food joint or restaurant, you could easily be spending $7 for breakfast, maybe $10 or more for lunch and $15 for dinner. That’s $32 a day, every day! Instead, take it as an opportunity to cook, especially if you are living at home.

  • Buying brand-spanking-new textbooks:

Yes, the covers are shiny. Yes, the pages are all still intact with zero coffee spills or gratuitous highlighting. But the price? Cringeworthy. Students spend an average of $500-$1,000 on textbooks and other course materials, according to the Globe and Mail. And that number is every semester. Utilize the many different options of used books: buying used from the bookstore, text swaps with other students within the school, or buying online from sites like Amazon or BookMob.

Did You Say Free?!

Rob Henderson, who is the president and CEO of Yconic, said in an interview that an “estimated $15 million [in scholarships] go unclaimed each year.” That, my friends, is enough to get you through an undergraduate degree and even eat out a couple times. Many students feel that they are ineligible for scholarships or that there is no chance that they could win. This is where sites such as ScholarshipsCanada come in handy. They match you with scholarships that fit your interests from different organizations, big or small. And if you want to hear a real life story, check out an interview Ryan did with Jared Valdron.

  • Become an RA:

A Resident Assistant is an important job, because you are basically the supervisor of your residence floor. You may have to be the bad guy on occasion, but a major perk of becoming an RA is the free room. According to Alicia Thomas from, some universities may even chip in free food, parking and discounted tuition! Above all, you get to meet the people in your residence, plan social activities and provide guidance for first year students.

  • Go to class!

Yes, you can even save money by going to class! Remember that you or your parents are paying a huge sum of money to go to school. By not going to class you’re wasting that money. Make sure that you choose classes that a) will help you towards your degree and b) interest you. Note the deadlines where you can drop courses without penalty.

What are your tips to a happy and thrifty student life? Comment away!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.