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Back to School Finances: Smart Spending for Back to School

By Ailsa Ross

Published September 14, 2021 • 3 Min Read

If you’re gearing up to move away from home for the first time — and raring to experience being in a real-life classroom with other college students — first things first, you’re going to want a few tricks for making the most of your time while staying in control of your finances.

These tips will help you save money in the upcoming school year, helping ensure you have more of a savings buffer to put towards experiences you really want, rather than things you don’t really need.

Buy your books second-hand

It’s likely that, for a lot of your college classes, you’ll be given a reading list of assigned books to get acquainted with over the next semester.

Lots of first-year students end up buying the entire list brand new — a practice that can end up costing many hundreds of dollars. But then in the following years, they’re likely to buy only the key texts second-hand. The others on the assigned list, they know they can read or check out from the library. Why not make the most of the library and second-hand deals too?

Shop the sales

Do you need noise-cancelling headphones so you can study in your room? A new laptop? If you’re willing to take the headache of receiving various e-newsletters, sign up to store emails so you can find out who is doing discounts and when.

Price comparison sites can also be useful when making bigger purchases, as they can help you see where you’ll get the best value for money.

Opt for ‘nearly new’ electronics

Stores like Apple refurbish electronics to ‘nearly new’ condition, so you can get what you need while spending a little less (many companies that sell electronics—from Microsoft to Dell to Lenovo — also do generous student discounts, more on which later).

Meal plan according to your lifestyle

If you’re not on a meal plan, you’ll want to figure out what kind of meal routine really works for you based on your life. For example, if you’re a late riser, you might find that two large, nutritious meals a day better suit your lifestyle than trying to sandwich both breakfast and lunch into a short window just because it seems like the done thing to eat three meals a day.

Ask about student discounts

Make sure you have your student ID on you and don’t be embarrassed to ask about student discounts. From hair salons to restaurants to shops near campus, the list of places that give students a helping hand during their school years is long — so make the most of it.

From Disney+ to Spotify to Adobe and Amazon Prime, many big-name brands have student discounts on offer. This applies to sports and fashion brands too. For example, Adidas and Reebok do generous student discounts of around 30 per cent.

There’s also a handful of popular student loyalty cards available in Canada: Signing up to one or two of those (often for a fee of around $10) will get you immediate discounts at partners like Jugo Juice and H&M.

Bonus: Make sure to pay using a method that lets you collect reward points, so you can get something back, like with RBC Rewards on debits.

Image of model Sam Robinson taken by photographer Talen de St. Croix

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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