Creative ways to save and earn money for university

Little black dog looking at camera with tongue hanging out
AlexisSimranWritten by Alexis (she/her) and Simran (she/her), students

Saving for university is a struggle most students know all too well. 

Whether you’re saving money to help fund your education or you just want to get a morning coffee without depleting your bank account, getting in the habit of saving money now will definitely pay off in the long run. 

Here are some ways to start saving money, as well as some tips to help you make the most of your money once you earn it. 

Put your talents to work

Whether you’re great at math, have the patience to teach a struggling student, know how to knit an adorable pair of mittens, or are a really good piano player, I recommend you start trying to make some money by doing what you’re good at!

First of all, if you’re talented in a specific area, you’ll likely find this approach an easy way to make money. How great would it be to make some extra cash by doing something that comes naturally to you? 

Second, if you do this, you might even get to be your own boss. Don’t like early mornings? Only want to work weekends? The choice is yours.

Finally, starting up your own on-the-side business can look good on your résumé. It can demonstrate skills such as the ability to take initiative and work independently, as well as prove you’re dedicated and have good communication and time management skills.


Ways you can use your talents to make money

  • Tutor elementary or fellow high school students
  • Sell crafted items, like mittens, blankets, or jewellery  
  • Teach music lessons
  • Do yard work, like shovelling snow, raking leaves, or landscaping 
  • Walk dogs (yes, this is a talent; and honestly, what could be better than hanging out with a bunch of dogs?)

Personally, I never really thought I had a lot of talents. But, in my final year of high school, I took up tutoring and started tutoring an elementary school student. While it was initially just an easy way for me to make some money, it came naturally to me, and I had a great time doing it. In the end, the experience I gained and the satisfaction I got from helping this student were even more valuable. It was a win-win! 

Take online surveys and get paid for doing them

This may seem a little sketchy at first, but it really is legit. There are a bunch of verified websites that will pay you for completing surveys, as more and more companies are looking to gain greater insight into the mindset of their consumer base. You may end up with actual cash or gift cards, but either way, it's not a bad deal for simply voicing your opinions!

I once did a survey for the Government of Canada that was conducted by a third-party organization. In turn, for about 45 minutes of sharing my views on certain topics, I got a $50 gift card to Amazon. Pretty sweet, if you ask me!

Start delivering food

It seems like people everywhere are getting lazier...or maybe just busier. Either way, it's great for companies like UberEats and SkipTheDishes, and by extension, for students like us. If you're looking to make some money on your own time, you should consider delivering food for these companies. You don't even need access to a car! Having a bicycle works just as well, and it can serve as your workout at the same time. 

Hands holding coins.

Declutter (and maybe make money at the same time)

Decluttering has a few perks, and it's probably something you should do anyway before heading off to university. Even if you’re not moving away from home, it’s still nice to have a bedroom that is neat and tidy (and has room for all your new university swag!).

Decluttering is something I always dread doing, but once it’s done, the feeling is incredible

Before you discard your items, you can first try and make some cash off of them! Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace are great places to put your stuff up for sale. It doesn’t take much effort, and you’ll be surprised what other people are willing to pay for your old stuff!

Decluttering is something I always dread doing, but once it’s done, the feeling is incredible — it’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My family and I decluttered our whole house this past summer and had a huge garage sale. We had things from my childhood that I didn’t even remember. The things I thought would sell didn’t, and the things I didn’t think were worth trying to sell, sold. You really never know what people will buy! We only held the garage sale for three hours, and I made around $500!

Start bringing a lunch, for real

Want to keep more money in your bank account? Stop eating out! Something as simple as packing a lunch a couple of times a week can save you a lot of money.

Need more reasons to start bringing a lunch? It’s quite likely you’ll begin eating healthier. Not only this, but if you use reusable containers, you can cut back on a lot of unnecessary waste. 

If you’re still not convinced and lunch is too much to ask for, why not just stop buying coffee? Make a coffee to-go at home in the morning instead of buying one. Even that small amount will add up over time and make a difference in your savings. 

I always ate out in first year, and I found I ran out of money fast. This year I’ve begun packing my lunch, and now I actually have money left over to treat myself!" — Carly, second-year Arts student

Sign up for a rewards plan 

If you really can't resist that morning coffee, you might a well sign up for a Tim Horton's rewards card so you can reap some benefits while you spend. There are a number of plans out there that 'reward' you for doing everyday things, like going grocery shopping and buying coffee. Through "Drop Rewards", I've gained reward points every time I shop at Walmart or buy Tim Hortons. Then, I can convert these points into gift cards, and trust me, the options are pretty good. I usually end up getting the Amazon gift cards because I'm addicted to the #PrimeLife. 

Student using credit card online.

Challenge yourself

Maybe making and bringing a lunch is already challenging enough; but if not, and you’re looking for a bigger challenge, why not try one of these?

Use the 24-hour rule

If you think you want to buy something, like clothes or a new décor item, wait 24 hours. If 24 hours pass and you still want the item, then allow yourself to buy it. This method of taking a step back and reflecting on your purchases is a great way to ensure you’re actually buying something you want and not just something you thought you wanted. 

If 24 hours pass and you still want the item, then allow yourself to buy it.

This is a rule I live by — largely because I’m indecisive, but also because I care about how I spend my money! Sometimes I even forget about the item after 24 hours, and it takes me weeks to think about it again. That’s when I really know I made the right choice by not buying it. 

Use the matching rule

Did you buy a coffee this morning? Do you really want a new pair of shoes? Buy these things if you feel you must, but match this "indulgence spending" with your savings! If you can afford to spend $4.68 on a fancy Starbucks drink or $80 on a new pair of shoes, then challenge yourself to put the same amount into your savings. This rule will inevitably make you think twice about what you’re spending your money on, and it will ensure that even when you are spending money, you’re at least saving at the same time. 

Challenge yourself to put the same amount into your savings.

Calculate the cost of your purchases differently

If you’re working a part-time job, this challenge is for you. Let’s say you make $14/hour, and your new phone case costs $50. Stop and ask yourself, "Is this phone case really worth working over three and a half hours for?" If it is, great! But if not, don’t waste your money or your time.

Apply to scholarships

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but here’s a reminder: apply for scholarships! Sure, applying can be a tedious process at times, but the payoff can be huge. Check out Scholarships Canada or Disability Awards and see if there’s anything you could apply for. 

Being a student often doesn’t leave you with much free time, but if you can dedicate even just a small amount of your time to any of these, I’m sure you’ll be happy with the extra money you’re able to save.

Best of luck, and happy saving!


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