Tips on Student Finance
1. Start planning your finances early. Figure out how much money you’ll need as soon as possible (tuition, ancillary fees, books and supplies, living expenses) so you’ll know how much financial support you’ll need. Include a realistic monthly budget for transportation, laundry, groceries, toiletries, entertainment, rent, etc.
2. Use free money first if you have access to it (money from parents, money saved for your education including RESPs, scholarships and bursaries, etc.). If you need to borrow money, use low interest or no-interest options first, with OSAP being the best example. If you need to borrow money on top of that, try and get a cheap student loan. Stay away from credit cards if you can.
3. Check out the OSAP Access Window at http://osap.gov.on.ca. The OSAP Access Window was developed by the Ontario government to help students make informed decisions when planning for their post-secondary education. It provides approximate costs by post-secondary institution, OSAP funding estimators, repayment tools and lots of other useful information.
4. Explore early the scholarships, awards and bursaries offered by the university. There may be some program-specific or special interest awards that you may be eligible for. Many scholarships, awards and bursaries have deadlines and require applications.
5. Don’t miss an application deadline. Include deadlines for financial support applications in your calendar and make sure you apply in time to be considered.
6. Investigate getting a job as a source of income. If you need to work, work as much as possible in the summer period, rather than during the school year. If you need to work during the school year, try to avoid working a great deal in your first semester or in any semester that you expect to be particularly challenging. If you expect to be pressed for cash, consider postponing your studies for a year and saving some money, or consider reducing your course load from five or six courses to three or four courses per semester.
7. Look into various means of saving money:
• Brown bag it. Packing your own lunch is cheaper and healthier.
• Buy new to you. Whether it’s used books, secondhand clothing or garage sale furniture, you can find what you need at a fraction of the cost.
• Shop online to browse, create budgets, compare prices and take advantage of online savings.
• Take advantage of student discounts. Be sure to flash your student ID at entertainment venues, on public transportation and anywhere else that will take it. Check out special deals through your student union.
• Pick up the free weeklies to see what entertainment is going on in the city for free. Also check out free events hosted by the university.
•Maximize public and active transportation (walking, cycling) to keep commuting costs down.
• Avoid the latte effect and buy a coffeemaker or a kettle to make your own.
8. Resist the temptation to sign up for a student credit card. If you end up falling into the “this-is-my-only-credit-card” crowd, make sure you get one with a low interest rate and ask them to fix the credit level at $500. Then be sure to use it only for emergencies. When credit cards are the only accepted methods of payment, as in online transactions, save the money you will need before you make the purchase. Then pay off your credit card immediately after charging it.
9. A line of credit typically has a much lower interest rate than credit cards. A line of credit can be a cost-effective, convenient way to borrow money for a short period of time. Most financial institutions have a student line of credit that offers a lower interest rate, no annual fee and fairly lenient terms and conditions.
10. Monitor your expenses. Keep all your receipts and track your expenses. This will force you to write down how much you’re spending, prompting you to think about whether you really need to spend that money or not. This will also definitely let you know if you need to change your spending habits and/or increase your income before it’s too late.
11. If you find you’re running into financial difficulties, immediately speak to a student financial assistance advisor on campus or at your bank. They will look at your budget and give you some good advice before you get in over your head.