Frosh finances

Guest blogger Leanne Salyzyn is an insolvency counselor, licensed restructuring professional and trustee in bankruptcy. Post a comment or contact her on Twitter with your personal-finance questions.
Anyone who lives on the Halifax Peninsula knows this is frosh week. It’s hard not to notice the longer grocery store lineups, busy coffee shops, and increase in traffic. Being the parent of a third-year SMU business student, I know firsthand that frosh week also signifies an upcoming dent in my chequing account (and his). Tuition, books, student fees, supplies, software, and spending money adds up quickly. My son and his friends are probably more financially literate than most due to my constant suggestions (nagging) about how to save money. So when I crashed their “pre-loading before we go downtown” get-together and asked them what financial tips they would suggest parents give to their first year students, the four seasoned guys were anxious to pass on what every student should know.

Tip 1: New is not always better

The average new textbook costs between $70-$150. Used textbooks are half the price and, for most subjects, readily available. Worried about the bookstore selling out? They do restock and you can generally find them online as well. The students suggested waiting a week or two into school before buying a text book. Often the book is not essential or students can share one book between two friends cutting the cost in half. My son is selling his previous year books to help toward the cost of this year’s books. It’s a smart idea and it’s recycling. Check out the university student sites online. Most have book exchanges and a textbook selling page.

Tip 2: Leave the debit/credit card at home

For many students, this is the first time in their life that they will have complete control of the money in their account. Managing this money matures a student. The students agreed creating a spending limit each week (or even daily) is necessary. When going downtown, they suggested leaving the debit card at home and take a specific amount of cash. Once the money runs out, it’s time to go home. If students take their debit card or credit card, they are more likely to use it and overspend, or worse, use the private ATM’s located in the bars which charge extra fees. Poor planning costs. On average, these machines charge a service fee of $3.50 and the bank also charges a fee of $1.50. Know your spending threshold.

Tip 3: Take advantage of student deals

We are a university town. There are student discounts everywhere you turn. The students say it’s always good to ask if there’s a student discount and always carry your student ID. Take advantage of discounts on groceries (student Tuesdays), restaurants, transportation, memberships and even fitness classes. You never know unless you ask! Join local Facebook groups and ask around for discounted student events and bargains. Saving a dollar here and there does make a difference in the long run.

Tip 4: Keep your bucks

Coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi to entice students to hang out, work online and spend money. That daily $5 latte in the run of a week, month and a semester can add up to spending as much as $500. And that’s assuming you only buy one per day. The students agreed that a better place to get free Wi-Fi is the campus library. Know where you spend your money and try to track spending with a phone app. The little things like coffees, lunches, late night downtown snacks, cover charges and even cab rides home can all add up over a semester. Remind students that the money has to last all semester, not just one month.

Tip 5: Get a job

My son and all his friends have part time jobs during the school year. Why is this important? They said not only does this give them extra money, but it also deters them from going out every night since they have a commitment to work the next morning. Smart thinking. It also gives them a sense of independence instead of feeling the need to ask parents constantly for money. Parents like it, too!

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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