Personal Finance tips for Students

Being a student can be expensive. Like; really expensive! Based on data from Statistics Canada, the average cost of a four-year university degree starting in 2022 is $96,004 for students in residence, or $48,074 for students living at home (a nationwide average across all programs). That can be a lot, especially if you include money for food, events, and anything for leisure that costs money. 

Today, we’d like to share with you a few tips on how to you can better manage your money as a student at Waterloo. Managing your money better will often lead to less stress, more enjoyment of your time, and will leave you with more money to do what you enjoy! 


How to Budget 

As a student you will undoubtedly have lots of expenses, whether that be tuition, books, food, essentials, or other wanted personal expenses. The best way to manage and keep these down is to plan and track your spending. You should avoid impulse purchases as much as possible, and list at the start of each month how much you plan to spend, and what you are going to spend it on. Be strict with yourself about not going over that budget, no matter your method of payment; credit cards still need to be paid off! 


OSAP Grants/Loans 

The Ontario Government offers one of the best student assistance programs in Canada, and it is available to any Canadian citizens, permanent residents, convention refugees, or protected persons. OSAP offers a variety of grants and loans that can help you pay for pretty much anything school related, including living expenses. The amount of your grants and loans is dependant on course load, personal situation, and your education expenses. There isn’t really a perfect way to calculate your OSAP funding, but we strongly recommend that every eligible student apply here, as there is zero downside, and it will likely help you pay for school. 


Scholarships and Awards 

Scholarships and awards are also a common way that people help fund their education. They are financial aid awards offered by schools, individuals, companies, or non-profits that are designed to help students with the costs of school (usually undergraduate degrees). Many scholarships and awards often have grade requirements or require you to submit an essay or answer questions as a part of the challenge. No matter what program you’re in, or what your personal situation likes like, there is likely a scholarship or award for you. You can check out some of the scholarships and awards offered by the University of Waterloo here. Some other websites you can use to search for these include, Government of Canada scholarships, Best of luck! 


Waterloo’s Co-op Program 

The University of Waterloo has one of the best co-operative education programs in the country, with most undergrad programs integrating co-op into the degree. Though not all degrees are eligible for co-op, those that are make around $14,400 per four-month work term. With programs varying from 4-6 work terms, saving the bulk of your co-op earnings can add up quickly, and help you pay for school and other expenses.  


Part Time Work 

Depending on your degree, you may find yourself with some free time on study terms, or even Co-op terms depending on your hours. If you have the energy and time, a part time job opportunity might be suited well for you. These jobs are often more flexible with hours and can help you save up money while on a study term, unlike a full-time job. There are many part time employers in the city of Waterloo, and the school also employs many students for various jobs. For some tips on finding an on-campus job, check out the university website here


Investing when possible 

So, you’ve saved quite a bit of cash now, but what should you do with it? You could save it in cash in a savings account or a GIC offered by your bank, but that might limit your return potential. One good option in trying to contribute the maximum amount each year to your TFSA (Tax-free savings account). The limit is usually $6000 per year, and any individual that is a resident of Canada who has a valid SIN and who is 18 years of age or older is eligible to open a TFSA. If you open a TFSA, you can hold equities inside it, like single stocks or index funds, which may offer a greater return than a traditional savings account of GIC’s. You can usually do this through your bank, or you can open a self-directed brokerage account from one of many brokers online in Canada.  



To conclude, money isn’t something we should have to worry about as we move through our educational journey, and part of not worrying about it is being proactive in keeping our finances in line and organized. Hopefully some of the tips and resources you read about today can help you manage your money better, leading to less stress and more financial freedom. Happy budgeting warriors!