Rounding it up
University is expensive, and the hidden costs don’t help. Luckily, you can avoid them with a bit of planning.
Lower your book costs by opting for digital or secondhand options, and your grocery bill by cooking at home.
Curb your transportation expenses by getting discounted student transport passes or carpooling with your classmates.
Student loan fees can come as a major surprise, especially if you take out a credit line. Consider taking on a part-time job to start a savings account.
Heading off to university and wondering how you’re going to make ends meet? You’re definitely not alone.
College and university are expensive, and finding ways to get straight As without dragging your bank account into the red is no easy feat. If that wasn’t tricky enough, post-secondary life comes with a whole host of hidden costs that can really do a number on your financial health.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid many of the hidden expenses of school. The key is to know what these costs are so you can keep your expenses at a minimum throughout your post-secondary education.
1. Books & school supplies
Heading to school means hitting the books and, unfortunately, books and school supplies can be exceptionally expensive. While your standard paperback novel might not cost that much, textbooks are known for being pricey, which can be scary when you’re worried about your bottom line.
Although there’s no way to get around the fact that you will need to buy books for school, there are ways you can keep this cost as low as possible. As you shop for school books and supplies, ask yourself the following questions:
Can I buy used books?
Is it cheaper to get an electronic version of my textbooks?
Are my books available for rent?
Can I borrow my course books from the library?
Are there other students in my program that can loan me course books?
Regardless of how you end up paying for your books, purchasing them using your KOHO prepaid Mastercard can help you recuperate some of the costs. Since you earn cash back on the must-haves and extra cash back with our partners, you can save money with every purchase and put those funds toward next semester’s supplies.
2. Extracurricular activities
University life isn’t solely about academics. If you want to take advantage of all that your school has to offer, you’ll probably find yourself signing up for clubs, sports teams, gym memberships, and other extracurriculars.
Although extracurriculars can be a great way to build your resume, stay active, or even make new friends, few incoming students realize that they can cost you a pretty penny just for signing up. Other times, your school will actually get charged a “student services” fee on top of your tuition bill just to pay for clubs that you may or may not join.
Finding ways to pay for these extracurriculars can be challenging if you’re already working with a tight budget, but you do have some options.
If you’re planning on taking out a student loan or if you think you’ll receive grant money for your studies, you can often use these funds to help pay for student activities. Do keep in mind that any money you spend from your loans will accrue interest, so you’ll need to decide if doing so is right for you.
Otherwise, you can find ways to build student activities and extracurriculars into your monthly budget. Consider creating a savings goal in your KOHO account to cover the costs of your extracurricular activities. Alternatively, you could set up RoundUps so that you automatically put aside money for your student activities every time you make a purchase on your card.
3. Meal plans & dining expenses
Whether you’re planning on living in student housing or finding your own apartment, meal plans and dining costs are sure to be some of your biggest monthly expenses.
Although it depends on your dining habits and the specifics of your school’s meal plans, you’ll almost always find that meal plan eating is more expensive than buying and preparing your own food. Of course, getting take out every night isn’t cheap either, so if you really want to save money while you’re in school, plan on cooking for yourself most nights.
If you’re moving to a new city for college or university, you’ll need to learn about the general cost of living in the area before you make your monthly meal budget. Most schools will have this information online for incoming students, but you can usually find information on average monthly food costs in major cities with a quick Google search.
Oh, and when you’re shopping for food at school, don’t forget that KOHO Extra accounts get an instant 2% cash back on groceries and restaurants. For nights when you just don’t feel like cooking, be sure to check out the latest cash back partners to see if you can save even more on food delivery, take out, and any meals you don’t eat at home.
Unless you happen to live right next to your main classroom building, chances are pretty high that you’ll need to travel to get to and from your classes each day.
If you’re within walking or biking distance, your daily transportation costs might be quite low, but anyone relying on a car or public transit should take these expenses into account. A $3 train or bus ticket might not seem like much, but if you take public transit every day, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars each month!
Thankfully, many cities offer discounted monthly and annual transport passes for students, so do your research to find out what your options are. If you have to drive to get to class, see if you can carpool with your classmates and split the parking and gas costs.
5. Student loan fees
Tuition is expensive, so many Canadians turn to the Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) or student lines of credit to pay for their studies. However, depending on what you use to finance your studies, you may get stuck with hefty fees and interest rates both before and after you leave school.
These fees can come as a major surprise to some students, especially if you take out a credit line, which starts racking up interest right away. This means that, regardless of how you finance your classes, you’ll need to have a plan to pay off your debts once you’re a freshly-minted graduate.
You can do this by living within your means and being thrifty to minimize your school-year spending. Avoiding credit cards and opting for prepaid credit cards instead can also help prevent excessive spending while you’re in school. Or, consider taking on a part-time job to start a savings account which you can later use to pay off your student loan debt once you graduate.
Say goodbye to hidden school fees
Going to university can be a pricey experience, but it’s one that you’ll certainly remember. To ensure that you can enjoy your school days without driving yourself into debt, look for little ways to save money every day so you can avoid the plethora of hidden costs that come with being a student.
That way, once you graduate, you’ll be a few steps ahead with respect to your financial situation and can begin the next chapter of your life with a little less stress!
Gaby Pilson is a writer, educator, travel guide, and lover of all things personal finance. She’s passionate about helping people feel empowered to take control of their financial lives by making investing, budgeting, and money-saving resources accessible to everyone.