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6 Money-Saving Tips for College and University Students

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August 22, 2019
By:
Shorey Andrews

It’s that time of year again when school supplies line the aisles of every store, and the summer wind down begins to take its course. The back-to-school season can bring about mixed feelings as students come to terms with trading in extended days at the beach for long nights spent studying. One of the more pressing topics that come to mind is money management, as the impending cost of textbooks, meal plans, housing and entertainment is imminent. 

Feeling overwhelmed around this time is natural, but that doesn’t mean the thought of budgeting and spending well needs to be stressful. Planning for your financial future may not seem like a priority right now, but it could help alleviate stress in the future and save you money in the present. 

Check out our six money-saving tips for college and university students heading back-to-school:

1. Download the Wellspent app  

Before you get started, you will want to download a money management app that can help you navigate the various ways to spend your money wisely and budget for your future. At Wellspent, we believe that helping people learn to make good choices with their money and build positive money habits is an important life skill. After all, choosing well leads us to get what we need and want from our money, and helps cultivate experiences that bring us joy, happiness, and value. Not choosing well leads to wasteful spending and emotional pain in the form of regret and remorse. Start by downloading the Wellspent app for free and begin to put the following tasks into action. 

2. Understand the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’

Up until this point, you were probably spending more money on the things you wanted versus the things you needed. The reality of student life is the realization that your ‘needs’ are now more critical than your ‘wants’. You are also likely to be living without the luxury of a disposable income; forcing you to begin drawing the line between these two types of spends. Begin by making a list of all the things you need versus what you want for the new school year ahead. Go through your list of wants and ask yourself if the items under that category can wait until next year or if it’s something you can budget for instead. For example, if a new pair of running shoes is on your list of ‘wants’, determine if the ones you already own can get you through another year or if there is a way to slowly set money aside for a stylish new pair of kicks at some point. 

3. Make a budget and stick to it 

Now that you’ve determined the difference between what you want and what you need; it’s time to set a budget. Establishing a budget for the year will help you plan out the distribution of your student loan and any additional income. Your budget is in your hands, so take the time to decide how you are going to distribute your money thoughtfully. If you get stuck, you can rely on the Wellspent app to help guide some of your decision-making. Taking the time to reflect on your purchases will begin to generate data that will let you know where you are spending mindfully and where you could improve. Use the prompts to help determine where best to distribute your funds and continue to check in with your feelings in Wellspent in order to adjust your budget accordingly.

4. Track your spending in one place 

Tracking what you spend may seem like a task best suited for your budget. However, if your budget is sitting in a spreadsheet on your computer, it’s unlikely you will be check-in enough to keep it updated. This an example of another area where Wellspent can help you better manage your spending. Start by linking your bank cards, so your purchases show up automatically, which will allow you to review and reflect on what you are spending on a rolling basis. If you are making cash payments, you can enter them manually on the app and reflect right after. Regardless of how you are spending, it’s helpful to track everything all in one spot; directly from your phone. 

5. Reflect on your purchases daily 

Setting aside dedicated time to reflect on the money you’ve spent is a vital part of helping you save money in the future. In the Wellspent app, we ask you to decide if your purchase made you happy or unhappy. How you feel about your purchase shouldn’t just come down to the dollars and cents attached to it. You should also be taking into account how you feel about each purchase. Did the item you bought bring you value? Was the time spent spending your money worth the result? Would you spend money on that item or experience again? Ask yourself questions before deciding to determine your emotional connection to the action. 

6. Discover areas to save money 

Now that you have put a proper plan into place and have begun using Wellspent to track and reflect on your spending — it’s time to save some money! Wellspent breaks down your spending by merchants, tags, and categories to help you determine areas you can improve in. Review these results to decide where you could be spending less or at the very least; where you could tweak the amount you spend in particular areas. By adjusting the amount you put towards specific areas of your spending, you will be able to save money without drastically changing your lifestyle. Keep using Wellspent to improve your spending habits so you can save money for the things you need (and want) long after the school year is over. 

Download the Wellspent app and start saving money.


This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) 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 its affiliates.