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Image by micheile henderson


by Emma Shehan,

Contributing Writer

Passionate about mental health advocacy, environmentalism, and animal rights, Emma is proud to be working with the KBI Inspire team to promote positivity for youth. During her free time she enjoys reading, playing instruments, binging Netflix, and hanging out with her cat, Pearl. 

After so much hard work, you’re finally graduating high school and looking forward to the next chapter of your life at post-secondary school! This is one of the most exciting times in life, but along with all of the thrilling changes, there are a few challenges - like finances. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed thinking about handling your money while in school, read on for a few tips and tricks on how to survive and learn some important life skills as well! 


Credit Cards

For many young adults, beginning post-secondary education, or simply graduating from high school, may be the first time they look for a credit card. The choices can seem daunting, especially if you aren’t sure where to begin. 


Before signing up for just any card, you should first consider what your credit needs are. If you have an open bank account, research what credit cards your bank offers. Most banks offer student credit cards, which are especially helpful because they offer $0 annual fees. Nerd Wallet has an excellent article breaking down different student credit cards based on several factors, such as interest rates, rewards, and introductory offers. 


Most importantly, make sure that you understand how the monthly interest rate and credit limit will affect your spending and finances. Your credit card behaviour can impact your credit score - which can affect your ability to make large purchases in the future, such as a car or your first home. 


Part-time Work


It’s always been a challenge to afford post-secondary education, but when it feels like the costs of just about everything are always rising, it can be tough to stay afloat. Just remember that it is very common to complete post-secondary school with debt (and good debt at that).  According to Stats Canada, 49% of students do. I certainly did. However, in order to try and combat the amount owed, you may decide to take a part-time job. 


Start your job hunt on campus - many institutions offer on-campus employment for a variety of roles, some of which may even be related to your program. The added benefits of on-campus jobs are flexibility with hours, above minimum-wage pay, and proximity to class. You’re more likely to hit the library for a study break after work if it’s only five minutes away! Check out your institution's various departments for opportunities - Alumni, Financial, Athletics, Residences, the list goes on.


Above all though, make sure that you are realistic with the amount of time that you are available to work. If you’re leaving too little room for studying, you’ll defeat the purpose of all of your efforts. Try to schedule your days to make sure you are taking care of your schoolwork and most importantly, yourself!


Budget, budget, budget!


Admittedly, this is one area that I personally struggle with. Maintaining a budget is not only a humbling experience, but it requires pretty consistent discipline. That discipline pays off though - when you know where your money goes, you can spend it a bit more mindfully. Creating this habit early will also benefit you throughout life as your spending habits and needs change. 


Here are a few suggestions for highly rated budgeting apps:


  • You Need A Budget (YNAB). 

  • Mint

  • Goodbuget (free!)


For more information on these and other budgeting programs, check out this informative article by Nerd Wallet. 


Khan Academy also offers some quick, easily digestible introductory financial literacy courses (which are also free!). Note that some of the advice is not applicable to Canadians, but it’s got the basics (and then some) covered.


Get Creative


While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, more than a couple of times I purchased the class textbook only to crack it open a few times (to the tune of a few hundred dollars). About halfway through my degree, I stumbled upon a revelatory fact - professors often put aside copies of the textbooks for students at the library. I never bought another textbook again, which saved me some serious cash. It also helped me be a bit more dedicated as I had to go to the library to use them, so I ended up actually focusing on studying. This also led to studying way more and not needing to worry about re-selling my books at the end of the semester for half the amount I paid. While this may not be the same for every school, there is always an abundance of small, money-saving ideas that you can find if you look. 


Read flyers/email newsletters/anything your school puts out - they’ll work hard to advertise bursaries, career fairs, and more. It pays to pay attention. 


Hopefully, these tips have helped you start thinking about finances a little differently, or at least made them feel a little less scary. Starting your post-secondary adventure is incredibly electrifying but if you’re not careful, you can wind up in more debt than you bargained for. Be mindful of your finances and take care of them while you take care of yourself. Remember that the most important thing isn’t pinching pennies, but maintaining your mental and physical health, while keeping your finances as healthy as they can be. 

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