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How to make money and save money as a student

By Sandra Ugwumba

Being a student is already stressful enough - worrying about grades, lectures, your mental and physical health and now the cherry on top: finances. As OSAP continues to dwindle, and the cost of living rises, money issues are becoming a top tier stressor, and I would know as I stress about money A LOT. After being a student for a while now, I’ve picked up on some tips that have been successful in helping me not only to cut costs but also make some cash as well. 

Meals

Food and drinks are considered a necessity and I tend to splurge when it comes to these simply because “I need it to survive”. As that thought lingered on, I found myself spending more than $25 a day on things like coffee, lunch and even snacks while I’m on campus. That is until I started prepping my own meals, making my own coffee or tea at home and packing my own snacks. Through this, you hone your cooking skills as well as save yourself that $5 you would have spent at Tim Hortons. So please, go grocery shopping and save yourself some coin. 

Parties and outings

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Yes, it’s university and there will be partying, but be aware that some of them don’t come cheap. Some events are free, so always opt to attend those. Otherwise, you can get stuck paying a $20 entrance fee to someone’s house party. Always, and I can’t stress this enough, pre-drink (unless you’re underage or the designated driver, then have some juice, no alcohol for you). Drinks at clubs are always expensive so save yourself a fortune and pre-drink at home with your friends. It is much cheaper than buying at bars. When it comes to “going out” clothes, a pair of jeans and a top is something almost everyone owns and they work every time. We’re not celebrities no one cares if we’ve worn it before. There’s no need to spend money buying new clothes, and when in doubt, borrow an outfit from a friend.

Travelling

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Uber everywhere? I think not! We pay to have access to the DRT as part of our tuition, so use it. Ubering is a flex that should be filed under emergencies, or when you’re out of town in parts where you don’t have bus coverage. The transit can take you as far as Ajax, Whitby and Scarborough, so you cut some costs. Going shopping? Hop on the bus, it will most likely drop you off very close to your destination, just plan your trip first. 

Shopping

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying second-hand items or thrift shopping. Items cost significantly less this way. While shopping, cashiers often ask me “Do you need a bag?” and usually I say yes, that’s a couple of cents each time which eventually cumulates into dollars within a few weeks. In reality, I always have a bag on me, a purse or a backpack so small items I purchase can be thrown into them. In the second semester of my first year,  I bought myself 3 eco-friendly shopping bags from Freshco and I still have them today. When I go shopping, I take these with me and it keeps me from saying yes while also saving the environment.

Working

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This is easier said than done. I tried so hard to find a job, and I know that a countless number of my resumes are waiting in piles online and in-store offices. Jobs are closer than you think, though, for instance, there are part-time positions available at the university. The school provides multiple jobs within various departments through the University Works Program. I personally applied to literally almost everything listed on the Student Life Portal and I eventually got the work-study job I have now. If that doesn’t work, find a tutoring job. You’re a university student, parents pay good money to have you tutor their kids because you are less expensive than an actual tutor but you get the job done just as well. 

Cash

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I’m very big on tapping. I tap my card anywhere and everywhere. I even have my card installed on my iPhone in case I need to tap and can’t bother to reach for my wallet. Don’t do it, carry cash. Carrying money around helps maintain a budget and prevents itchy tapping fingers. Plus, with some banks, you can go over your tap limit which can incur a bill from your bank, so just withdraw the money and have it on hand. 

Textbooks

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The motherload of ALL expenses. I take a maximum of five courses per semester and if I’m lucky, only three of those have textbook requirements. Textbook prices can fall into the hundreds so they make a dent in your bank account every time a new semester rolls around. This is why I buy used textbooks, especially from the Ontario Tech Used Textbook group on Facebook. They are much cheaper and you can always sell it back to someone else when you're done with it and make some money off it. Ask a friend to loan you their textbook, or better still, get one from the library if it’s available. PDF versions are available online - some are free, others cost significantly less than the actual paperback book. 

Sell things online

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For those who have skills, this is something I 12/10 would highly recommend. If crafting or creating is something you are passionate about, why don’t you sell it? A friend of mine started an Instagram account where people send her their pictures and she draws them at a price. Other than Instagram, sites such as Redbubble, Etsy or Shopify allows you to sell your crafts as well. I do not have such skills so I went with something else. I started selling my clothes online at sites like Depop because if I’m not wearing them I’d rather they find a good home somewhere else… as I make some money on the side of course. 

Discounts

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My student ID has gotten me so many discounts, especially for stores within the Oshawa area. Ontario Tech students have exclusive discounts at certain shops so I always utilize that. At the Oshawa Centre, your student ID can get you 10 to 15 per cent off items if you have an SPC Card. Some online stores even give student discounts, for instance, Apple Music and Spotify offer student deals just by verifying with your university email.

REMEMBER: Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you need to spend it. Treat yourself - but in moderation.


University resources

Looking for more financial support? Student Awards and Financial Aid is hosting Financial Literacy workshops between November 18 and 21.

  • Cooking on a budget: Monday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to noon
  • Goal-based financial planning with a purpose: Monday, November 18 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
  • Own your financial future; managing debt and making credit work for you: Tuesday, November 19 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
  • OSAP repayment webinar: Thursday, November 21, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Register FOR A FINANCIAL LITERACY WORKSHOP