Saving for post-secondary expenses over the summer

If you’re heading back to college or university in the fall, you might find yourself thinking about how to save up some of your summer earnings for the upcoming expenses of your post-secondary education.

After a long school year of not working at all, or working just enough to make ends meet while still making time to study, having a full-time summer income can feel like a windfall.

It can be tough to resist the temptation to spend your paycheque on all the things you likely went without during the school year: clothes, eating out, spending time with friends, maybe a little travel. And while some discipline to save is needed, having a little fun on your time off from school is also part of the big picture.

So if you need a little motivation and some strategies to spend and save wisely this summer, read on.

Set your savings goal

Nothing new here folks: the best way to make sure you save enough money is figuring out how much you need. A simple budget will do the trick: one that takes into account all your income, all your summer spending, and the amount you’ll need for post-secondary expenses. In addition to tuition, some costs you should remember to factor in:

  • Books and additional course fees
  • Stationery, technology and software, and other basic supplies
  • Rent and food
  • Travel back home at holidays
  • Utilities and cell phone bills
  • Parking, gas and insurance, or your transit passes
  • Miscellaneous living expenses like coin laundry, shampoo and conditioner, the occasional haircut, and your Netflix subscription

Cut down on costs

Summer is a great time to try and buy anything second-hand that can be re-used and re-purposed for your student life. Things like books, phones, laptops and furniture are all things you can find used online, at the used bookstore on campus, or at a neighbourhood garage sale.

It’s also a good idea to think about where you can cut down your living costs for the fall if your budget is tight. Having roommates or choosing public transit over a car are a couple good cost-cutting options that you can begin to plan and arrange over your summer break.

Pay yourself first

Now that you’ve got a realistic savings goal and budget in mind, you can work towards that goal by putting a portion of it away with every paycheque.

This is a really good life habit to practice: before you spend all your income on bills and a little fun, you want to tuck away as much as 10% of each paycheque into a savings account and leave it there.

It’s human nature to want to spend the money you have when it’s sitting accessibly in your chequing account. But putting that money aside in a savings account with no linked debit card will help you leave it there to grow. With this strategy, you’ll soon experience the reward of seeing your savings grow and the satisfaction of knowing you’ll have enough money to cover your expenses the whole school year.

Extra income

If you can, it never hurts to pad your budget a little with some extra income when the opportunity arises. Anything from occasional baby and pet sitting, to lawncare for your neighbours, and picking up some extra shifts at your regular summer job, will give you a little extra to put away for the school year.

A few casual shifts throughout the fall and winter semesters can also help keep you on budget, as long as the hours don’t interfere with class time and studying.

Be careful with credit

What you spend is just as important as what you earn and save. It’s pretty easy to rack up credit card debt at any age, but particularly tempting when you’re finally earning a full-time paycheque after months of living lean while studying and in class.

A good strategy is putting a low cap on what you can charge to your credit card. Ask your bank or credit card company to set a limit at or below your budget for summer expenses so that you don’t overcharge and have to dip into your savings to pay off your debt.

Getting into the habit of paying with cash, and paying off your credit card within days of each purchase, are other good habits to keep you on budget and out of your savings.

Call your parents

It never hurts to run your spending and savings plan past your parents for a little extra motivation or strategizing. They’ve likely been saving towards your education for years, so probably have some good advice to offer. And you know they’d love to hear from you.

So while you’re out there enjoying your summer, and earning a healthy paycheque, you can now rest assured you’ll have what you need to cover your college or university expenses in the fall.

That’s more than enough to make any student – and their parents – happy for the whole summer break.

Carmen Kinniburgh

Carmen Kinniburgh is a freelance writer and editor exploring topics and ideas about parenting and families, Canadian science and research, health and medicine, as well as travel and lifestyle. Born and raised in Alberta, Carmen has also lived in Southern Ontario and Manitoba, where she worked in professional communications for a university and a national health charity. Currently living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she gets all her best ideas and insights for Parentwise from her own three delightfully precocious children.

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