Over the past few years, I’ve discovered some great ways to save and earn rewards as a university student! Things can certainly be tight as a student and trust me, I’m not always the best $$ saver, but I’ve found some helpful ways to save on the essentials, so I have money left over to save some and enjoy the rest.
Here are just a couple of the money saving tips and rewards programs I swear by…and will continue to use even now that I’ve graduated.
Student Discount. Many of the grocery stores in Ottawa have certain days when students can get 10% off…which if you’re doing a big shopping, can definitely come in handy! It involves planning ahead, but is certainly worth it in the long run.
Share cost of essentials with roommates. If you live with roommates it is definitely cheaper to buy items to share than to buy everything for yourself. If you are living with roommates try to share some of the essentials, like milk, eggs, and bread and even cook some meals together to save on groceries.
Plan ahead + meal prep. Student life can be super busy, especially when you get home from a long day of classes and you often have to put in some study time. I’m not always the best at this, but meal prepping is a great way to save and be prepared. Making larger meals that are easy to freeze is always cheaper than making a bunch of small meals. I suggest investing in some good tupperware and dedicating some time each week to plan and prep meals.
PC Optimum. This is probably one of my favourite rewards programs…over the past four years of school I’ve earned over $1000 in free groceries! To optimize my point earnings I use a PC Mastercard which gives me and 20 points on every dollar I spend in the grocery store and 10 points on every dollar I spend elsewhere.
Checkout 51. I honestly wish I had discovered this app sooner! Checkout 51 gives you offers on grocery items similar to PC points, but instead of points, you receive cash back! Once you accumulate at least $20, you can have a cheque sent to your house to put towards your next grocery bill.
Rent. Over the past couple years, I’ve been pretty lucky with the prices of paid for the places I’ve lived. Living with roommates is definitely the cheapest option and even living a short bus-ride from downtown can really save you on rent.
Utilities. Over the past couple years, I’ve looked for places either with utilities included or if anything…only hydro. I recently discovered the Government of Ontario offers a hydro rebate for lower-income households which as a student, you would often qualify for.
“Recycling”. Moving so many times I’ve been able to go through and continuously get rid of items I don’t need. I call this recycling because I try to sell things on Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji. Once I sell old things I have some cash to put towards on new items. If I can’t sell, I will donate the rest of the items.
Hand-me-downs. Honestly hand-me-downs have been a lifesaver as a university student. My family and friends have been generous in giving me old furniture and kitchenware, items that would be very expensive if I had to buy new. As a student, you have to accept that your apartment might look like a crazy combination, but honestly functionality is what is most important as a student.
Via Rail. Whenever I used the train to travel home I always tried to book my trains long in advance so I could get the escape fare. Trips from Ottawa to Toronto could cost me as little as $90 round trip if I was organized.
- If you or your parents have a CAA membership you qualify for 10% off travel.
- Collect VIA Preference points…takes a while to accumulate, but you might as well since it’s free to earn and eventually earn free trips.
- If you are making frequent trips, get the student pass
OC Transpo. As a student in Ottawa you receive a bus pass as part of your tuition. If you ride the bus frequently then this pass totally pays off.
When I lived in Ottawa in the summer I discovered the “Equipass” program, designed for lower-income households. I was able to get a monthly pass for about half the cost of a regular pass. Each single ride with the equipass was a $1.50 cheaper than the cash fare.
SPC Card. Each year I’ve used the SPC card to save on clothing purchases. The card offers 10% off at many popular stores and I was able to save on items I needed.
Outlets. Located just outside Ottawa, Tanger Outlets has tons of outlet stores to check out. They often have coupons for even more savings, so I’ve got some really good deals shopping there.
Out with the old, in with the new. Similar to apartment stuff, I try to recycle some of my clothing items so I can buy new ones. I first try to sell whatever I can online or at thrift stores, then I donate the rest.
Buy used + sell. In first year, like many people I was nervous to buy my textbooks used, but I quickly realized this was the best value. The textbook companies often make new editions, but honestly usually there are often only slight changes. There are tons of buy & sell groups on Facebook for textbooks so I either found my books there or from friends and when I was done with the textbook I would sell it. In the end my books barely cost me a thing. As you can see nursing school involved a HUGE stack of books that would have cost me a fortune had I bought them all brand new…
Movies. It is so easy to see movies in the theatre for free or for very cheap. Scene Points are so easy to collect. I collect them by going to the movies and other restaurants and stores, but you can also collect using the Carrot Rewards app just by walking! Another good option is Sinemia. Like Netflix for the theatre, you pay $20 for a memberships and you and your S.O. or a friend can go see two movies together per month.
Ditch the Starbucks. Trust me this is a habit I’ve been trying so hard to break (I think I finally have), but honestly if I made my coffee from home all the time I’d have saved so much $$ over the years. I suggest investing in a good coffee machine and actually using it. My bf and I found a used Nespresso machine and got some flavoured syrup from Amazon and now we can make Starbucks worthy drinks at home.
Plan nights in. Plan some cute at home dates with your S.O. or a girls night in, I love getting ideas from Pinterest. I love having potlucks or Netflix movie nights with friends.