Surviving on a student budget


According to a 2015 report by the Canadian Federation of Students, 70 per cent of new jobs in Canada required at least some form of post-secondary education. With more students needing to go to school, the amount of loans and school-driven financial needs have increased.

Getting a loan doesn’t make you rich, but it does give you the ability to get through the school year with a little extra help.

But not all students are the same, and some have more on their plate than others. Whether you live with your parents, have a child, seize the opportunity for bursaries and scholarships, or live by yourself and must work at least a part-time job, if there’s one thing that can help you throughout the year, it’s having the ability to budget properly. It sounds simple, but budgeting takes time and effort. Luckily for some people, this comes easier to them than others.

Second-year radio broadcasting student Sumaya Alibhai knows the value of a dollar, and because of this, she takes into consideration the resources offered by both the college and the community.

“I go to the food cupboard (at Algonquin) once a month as they allow and I use it as an extra way to supplement food,” says Alibhai. “A lot of times you can get some good stuff there, and my mom used to always go there when I was a kid so I know about the resource.”

And it’s not just food at the college that she saves money – she can’t remember the last time she bought clothing brand new and she says all her clothes are from Value Village.

“There’s so many really good thrift shops, just on Merivale, and I found it so convenient that I’m a student living in the area and there are so many places.”

Sometimes, being able to handle a budgeting plan only goes so far. Life can throw you a curveball at any moment and for Michelle Stevenson, a recent graduate of the nursing program at Algonquin, she discovered she was pregnant going into her final year.

With her boyfriend working full-time and her family helping, it made things a little bit easier for her, but she still took the time to ensure that money was being saved. When her child, Colton, finally arrived there was a lot to do to ensure they were financially stable.

“We cut going out from our budget, because when you go out, even if you don’t mean to, it always turns into a hundred-dollar night,” says Stevenson. “One drink turns into two, two turns into three, and then you buy food, Uber there and back… it just gets really expensive.”

The use of buy/sell websites like Kijiji also helped her get furniture for a much cheaper price than she would have in stores.

Another tool that she utilizes is the Flipp app that you can download on any smartphone or tablet. It gives you the ability to search flyer deals and coupons within Ottawa using only a key word.

“Let’s say you want chicken breast for dinner, you search up chicken breast and it tells you the cheapest in the city at all the grocery stores during that week,” she says. “I can go to the Superstore and say ‘oh, Walmart has it for this price,’ and they will price match for me.”

And for those students who are in trouble financially, there is someone at every college and university who can help.

Deborah Buck, who is the Student Success Specialist at Algonquin College, aids students who are in serious need of financial aid.

“School is very expensive, and it’s not easy to budget for,” says Buck. “Some students are reluctant to apply for OSAP or financial aid because they are concerned about the loan.”

But she explains that as a college student, you can’t work full-time and go to school full-time because it can put them at risk. Buck says that you must lay-out your key expenses and go from there.

Finances can be rough. That is why accomplishing the little things can go a long way in saving a ton of cash. Whether it is bursaries or scholarships, packing your own lunches, using thrift stores and food banks, or simply splitting your paycheque in half and only buying exactly what you need – every little thing counts.

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