Invest in yourself: Tips on saving and building strong financial habits for your post-secondary years

August 25, 2023 | RBC Wealth Management


Finance author Noah Booth shares his advice on how to help keep your finances in check.

Invest in yourself: Tips on saving and building strong financial habits for your post-secondary years

For many young Canadians, the shift to post-secondary education can feel like a big leap. It's a time that often marks taking on greater financial independence and responsibilities.

Noah Booth, a Kingston, Ont.-based teen and author of the book A Rich Future: Essential Financial Concepts for Youth, is embarking on this journey, and he's focused on the opportunities ahead.

“Heading to a post-secondary program, such as university or college … is an investment in yourself," he says. "It can lead to a future job, give you great experiences, and, from a financial standpoint … open doors for you down the road."

At the same time, Noah recognizes the financial impacts that tuition, housing, food and other expenses can have on a student. “It's a costly phase of life, for sure; many people going into or in multi-year programs may take on some debt," says Booth. This is where building good habits can help. “I think it starts with awareness—understanding what you have coming in, being careful about what you're spending and where your money is going—even small actions can go a long way over time."

Managing your finances as a post-secondary student

With rising tuition  and higher costs of living across Canada, the post-secondary years can carry a hefty bill. Booth has three tips for how to help keep your finances in check.

1. Plan ahead and set goals

Since costs and expenses may add up while you're attending college or university, being proactive and saving early can help you prepare for these costs. “Planning ahead can make a big difference," says Booth. “If you start saving when you're younger, that can get you into a good routine of setting money aside regularly." Or even as you head into each school year, doing some research and mapping out your anticipated costs will help you plan for how much you'll need.

For some, getting a part-time job is one way to help offset some costs and generate income that can be directed to savings. Further to that, “try to be aware whenever you're spending money," Booth recommends. “Convenience is a big thing, but if you focus on what you need and make conscious choices about what you spend your money on, even small changes in habits can help you save more."

2. Seek out other sources of income or financial support

Depending on your field of study or post-secondary institution, there may be grants or scholarships available. “Things like scholarships, bursaries and grants may take some time to apply for, but they could potentially really help with covering costs of post-secondary," says Booth.

To identify ones that align with your interests or program, and which you might qualify for, consult a guidance counsellor or the financial aid office at your college or university. The Government of Canada site  also offers details on scholarships for undergrad, graduate and postdoctoral studies.

Keep in mind that there may also be certain tax credits and deductions, or tax-assisted programs, available for students to help with managing education costs.

3. Keep expenses under control

While you're attending school, planning and tracking your expenses and budgeting can help keep your costs down and minimize debt, says Booth.

“When you first go to school, lay out your expenses and your budget," he says. “Once you've gotten used to where you're at and what you need, look for ways to save; shop around to find the best value for daily items (e.g., food, clothes, school supplies), track your spending and try to stick to your budget."

Your student budget can be as simple as a list of your expenses and income on a sheet of paper or a computer spreadsheet. Or, you can use one of the many available budgeting apps to keep your expenses organized and accessible.

“When you plan and keep track of your expenses, income, spending and saving, that gives you a good overall picture of your finances," says Booth. “And that can really help!"

In Quebec, financial planning services are provided by RBC Wealth Management Financial Services Inc. which is licensed as a financial services firm in that province. In the rest of Canada, financial planning services are available through RBC Dominion Securities Inc.


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