I once had a friend tell me that as students we “don’t make enough money to save.” I think she was specifically referring to the high cost of living in downtown Toronto compared to what students make at their minimum wage jobs. In the moment, I agreed with her. Yes, rent prices are extremely high in Toronto and yes, tuition costs a small fortune (not to mention the price of an i>clicker 2). But I’ve been saving since I was 15 – so why should I stop now?
This year my motivation comes in the form of travel; in January I’ll be leaving Toronto to study and live in Singapore as part of the Ryerson exchange program. After my time there I’d like to travel around Southeast Asia with a backpack strapped tightly to my shoulders — but in order to do that, I need to save.
I’d like to share with you some of my tips and tricks to save during the school year in order to travel in the summer. However, I am not a money expert. I’m just a student with a saving rhythm that works for me and I hope it can work for you, too.
The first thing I recommend is reducing your rent. For me, this meant moving in with my parents for first semester. Although sometimes this is not ideal, because of travel times, it can save you upwards of $800 a month. If slumbering under the roof of your ‘rents isn’t an option, try renting out your couch. I’m referring to Airbnb and other temporary renting services. Two of my friends are currently renting the pull-out couch in their living room to travellers in the city. They’ve managed to list their couch for $40 a night, and have been meeting interesting people from all over the world in the process. Cool, right? Coincidentally, they plan on using the money from their guests on travelling.
Another, much smaller, saving technique is meal prep. I usually make a large portion of rice, quinoa, pasta or couscous on Sunday night and leave it in the fridge during the week so I can throw some veggies, beans, sweet potatoes or any leftovers on top the night before. Voila! Lunch. You can also prepare five full meals but I found it was too much work and I ended up throwing most of it away. By making your own lunches you can save $10 a day, or $50 a week.
My third trick is limiting my drinking to a minimum. I still go out, but when I do I give myself a budget; $10 for pre drinking, and $20 at the bar. I’ll usually bring either my debit or my credit card just in-case – but I rarely bring both. I’ve found that when I use two cards interchangeably during the month, I spend too much and can’t pay off my credit card (we all know that’s not fun). When I’m really trying to make my dollars count I only go out once a week, but will bend the rules for special occasions, like birthdays.
The most helpful saving trick I use is budgeting. There are always those unexpected costs that come up during the week that fall outside of food and drinks. So I like to cap my spending money for those things, too. To figure out my spending money I look at my average paycheque. Theoretically, if my weekly pay is $150 and I need $30 for going out, and $10 for when I forget to pack food, then I’m left with $110. If I use another $40 for the extra things — like shopping or a friend’s birthday — I can spend $80 a week and save $70. There will be weeks when you can save more, and likewise weeks when you save less. But as long as you stick to the plan you’ll be able to save something. (You can also learn more about budgeting by catching up on our #RUMoneySmart series with RBC, here!)
My last and most important saving technique is not to be too hard on yourself. Remember that you are still in school and having fun with your friends can be a priority, whatever it is you all like to do. As long as you’re making an effort to spend responsibly you don’t need to stress when you can’t. That being said, saving takes discipline. So, if you’ve never had to save like this before you should try it out for 21 days, without cheating, to make it a habit.
Tweet me @stefphillipss or @RUStudentlife to let us know how your saving is going, and where you’re planning a trip to. We’d love to hear from you!