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Financial Literacy

Smart Financial Habits for University Students

February 13, 2024Back to Learning Centre

For many students, post-secondary is when they have their first true taste of independence. You’ve finally reached adulthood, taking care of yourself, signing your own papers and maybe even living alone. It may even be your first time managing your own money. This is the perfect time to set some good financial habits and goals that will continue to serve you well as you graduate and embark on your next steps.

Here are some ideas to get you on your way.

Learn how to budget

Whether you’re living on your own or with family, budgeting is an important skill to help you live within your means. Simply put, it ensures you don’t spend more than you have. Calculate how much money you have every month: from your part-time job, student loans, parental support and funds put aside. Subtract your expenses—phone bill, utilities, rent, tuition, groceries, and include a bit of buffer for surprise costs. Include some money for savings and fun—an overly restrictive budget is unrealistic and hard to stick to.

It’s also a good idea to master the basics of personal finance outside of just budgeting. From how to use credit wisely to investing, having strong personal finance skills will pay off—literally—in your future. Look for books, free courses and resources online to get you started.

Look for discounts

Students are often eligible for regular discounts from their favourite merchants. Your student card can unlock everything from a percentage off your purchase to boosted loyalty programs that earn you incentives sooner. If there are stores you shop at frequently, check to see if they have apps or mailing lists you can join for more savings. In some cases, you may even be able to stack your offers – combining promo codes, student discounts and member points to save you even more.

Find part-time work

If your schedule allows it, having a job alongside your studies can be beneficial in several ways. Your income will ease some of your financial pressures and let you spend without guilt. You’ll start learning how to balance your work with school and your other obligations. And by participating in the workforce, you’ll gain valuable skills, grow your network, and perhaps discover a new talent or interest. If your program has a co-op component or your faculty hires students, you may even get the opportunity to gain some experience in your field of study.

Skip the comparisons

When you see others with more, try to resist the temptation to keep up with them. There will always be someone with nicer clothes or a fancy car. On a smaller scale, you may simply have a friend who finds a reason to buy something every time they’re out. The truth is, you won’t know if they’re racking up debt to keep up appearances or whether they’re working on the side to earn extra income. Focus on doing the best for your financial situation and personal circumstances.

Think about what’s next

You won’t be a university student forever, so it’s a good idea to begin thinking about what your post-school plans will look like and what you’ll need to do to achieve them. You may want to travel after graduation, move to a new city, or apply for further schooling. Whatever your next steps are, you can start researching the costs, checking alternatives and budgeting as needed.

By empowering yourself with a good education and solid money management skills, you’re setting the stage for a bright and secure future ahead!


Written by Embark

Embark is Canada’s education savings and planning company. The organization aims to help families and students along their post-secondary journeys, giving them innovative tools and advice to take hold of their bright futures and succeed.