True Cost of Education: Student Saving Tips

Back-to-school is here, so we thought it would be the perfect time to look at the true cost of higher education. For most families, when a child decides to attend a post-secondary institution, it’s a major expense. Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) are a great way to save towards post-secondary education, one of the questions that comes up time and again is how much should you save? Let’s take a look at the main categories of costs of higher education.

Tuition Fees

For a lot of students, tuition fees are the most expensive cost of attending college or university. The cost of your tuition depends on several factors, including your program of study, your college or university, and the province you study in. In 2014 and 2015, the average tuition for a Canadian university was $5,959, according to Statistics Canada. College programs typically cost less, but it depends on the program you’re enrolled in. If you already have an idea about the program you want to study at and the college or university you want to attend, visit the website of the post-secondary institution to find out the current tuition fees.

Books and School Supplies

Books and school supplies are another costly expense of higher education. For most undergraduate university programs, budgeting between $800 and $1,000 per year towards books and school supplies is reasonable, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. You can often budget less for books and school supplies for college. To get a more accurate estimate, consider asking someone already enrolled in the program or check the university’s website.

Living Costs

Unlike tuition fees, books and school supplies, you typically have more discretion over how much you spend on living costs. For some students, living accommodations can be the most costly expense of higher education. Your living expenses can have a profound bearing on where you stand financially upon graduation.

In financial terms, the decision to live at home with your parents or on campus is a major one; you can save thousands of dollars per year by living at home. For some students attending college or university in a different city, they have no choice but to live on campus. However, if a similar program is offered at a college or university close to home, you may consider attending that school instead.

Meals can be a costly expense for students. Sometimes, the expense of a meal plan is included as part of your tuition fees. Check with the college or university to find out. Transportation can be another costly expense for students. If you don’t live within walking distance of your college or university, you should budget $100 per month towards transportation. Other costs to budget for include clothing, computers, entertainment, and mobile phones.

Student Discounts

Many colleges and universities offer discounts to current students and alumni. We encourage students to seek these out and make use of them. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. If you’re planning to go away for reading week, you may be able to obtain group discount rates on hotels. You may also obtain them on campus services, sporting events, theatre tickets, trade shows and more. If this is money you’re already planning to spend this back-to-school season, saving 10 percent here and there can add up to big savings.

Student Saving Tips

Have you ever heard of the term “live like a student?” Being a student is all about being frugal. Just because higher education is costly doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save money. There are a number of ways for students to scrimp and save. Instead of buying brand-new books, consider buying them second-hand or sharing with friends and roommates. Other student saving tips include splitting up residence costs and staying at home. 

You can also feel free to check out these other blog articles for a bigger picture of the post-secondary cost landscape:

Cost of Education and RESP Calculator

There is also a great tool to help you get a better idea of what it will cost for your child’s higher education, both locally or abroad. This provides you with a better estimate of how much you should be saving regularly to ensure you meet your goal once your child is ready to go to school.

Go ahead and give this RESP calculator a try; you may be surprised by how much you end up saving..