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Best budgeting tips for university students in Canada

Across the country, tuition costs for universities have increased.

A look at the Statistics Canada tuition fees report shows that for the 2021/2022 classes, Canadian undergraduates paid an average of $6,693 for tuition per year (an increase of 1.7 per cent compared to 2021).

Canadian graduate student costs are slightly higher, with an average cost of $7,472 for tuition per year (a 1.5 per cent increase).

There are, however, some ways for students to budget, save money, and cut their costs, so they aren’t affected as severely by rising costs. Today, I’ll share some of the best budgeting tips for university students in Canada.

Best budgeting tips for university students

Attending university is the first time that many Canadian students get to practice real-life budgeting. With rising tuition costs, creating a budget and saving money is more difficult than it used to be. However, it’s still possible to save by following practical tips, such as:

  • Using a budgeting app
  • Using public transportation
  • Meal-prepping
  • Adopting low-cost hobbies
  • Working a side job

Below, I’ll give you a quick overview of these tips and how they can help you save money, cut costs, and make life easier for a university student.

1. Use a budgeting app to track expenses and income

In the old days, budgeting meant taking out a calculator and making a long list of all of your expenses, receipts, and income. Thankfully, technology has made this a lot easier! Free budgeting apps allow you to connect your debit and credit cards, bank accounts, and more so you can keep track of your money.

Most budgeting apps automatically categorize your spending, allowing you to see where you can cut back and save more. They’ll also keep track of your income, so you can spend less than you earn.

2. Use public transportation or walk and bike when possible

If your city has a good public transportation system, you can use it to avoid the pitfalls of rising fuel costs, high-interest car payments, and insurance costs.

Also, consider walking and biking more places which has an added side bonus of keeping you fit while you are studying.

3. Buy your own groceries and meal-prep

According to Statistics Canada, food prices have increased by 9.8% due to inflation between August 2021 to August 2022.

Eating out is significantly more expensive than cooking your own meals at home. You don’t have to be a Michelin-star chef, but learning to cook a few simple, quick, and healthy meals is a great way to start saving money spent on food. Additionally, meal-prepping for the day ahead can keep you from being tempted to eat out when you’re in a rush.

4. Find low-cost hobbies

Going out to clubs and hip college spots is a great way to blow through a week’s worth of money in one night. If you want to save money, then keep these more-expensive venues to a minimum and find some low-cost hobbies, such as:

  • Biking
  • Going to the gym
  • Free university clubs
  • Local sports leagues
  • Local gaming/eSports leagues
  • Hiking

5. Take advantage of student discounts

Numerous types of businesses offer discounts to post-secondary students in Canada, especially for programs where you have to pay a monthly fee. Some categories include:

  • Streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Spotify, and Apple Music offer student discounts or specials
  • Electronics stores
  • Restaurants
  • Gym memberships
  • Bank accounts

Make sure you inquire if there is a student plan before signing up for anything.

6. Pick up a side gig to build savings

Nova Scotia business Prof. Ed McHugh says, "More and more people are working full-time, but also adding in the gig economy to their structure,” in response to rising costs and inflation.

As a college student, working a side gig is a great way to offset rising tuition costs and start saving for the future. For some ideas, check out the article I wrote about the best part-time jobs for university students.

Setting yourself up for success after university

If you play your cards right, the time you spend attending university can set you up for success after you graduate. By incorporating simple budgeting tips into your daily routine, you’ll be able to save more money while you’re in school and won’t have to face some of the financial pressures that your fellow graduates may have to deal with.

Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder and former financial advisor. He writes personal finance tips for thousands of daily Canadian readers on his Wealth Awesome website.

Do you have a question, tip or story idea about personal finance? Please email us at


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