Post secondary education is a huge investment. Between tuition, books, living expenses, and (of course) entertainment costs, university or college can put many someone into debt that takes years to climb out of. With summer around the corner and many students taking a break until September, here are 5 ways you can make the most of this special time of year to ensure that you can get your education while minimizing the damage to your wallet.
1. Building or Revisit your Budget
Everybody needs a budget. This is particularly true of students who typically have limited resources and high expenses. It’s crucial you make sure your making the most of those precious dollars.
For some reason that I still can’t understand, schools don’t teach you how to budget. Arguably one of the most important life skills you’ll ever acquire, yet you’re left to figure it out on your own. For those needing to start a budget for the first time, review my previous posts on budget basics and saving money.
If you already have a budget, dig through your expenses from the previous year and see if there was anything that popped up you didn’t expect. Revisit and adjust your budget every semester, tweaking it when needed and adding in new things you never thought about before.
A budget allows you to lay out all the expenses you will encounter throughout the next semester. If you can see what you’re up against, it will be easier to allocate the appropriate money to make sure everything is covered. Maker sure you budget for entertainment. It’s going to happen at some point, so instead of going off budget every Friday night, make it a part of your plan.
2. Stash Away your Pay Cheque
Many students take on summer jobs (or bulk up the hours they’re working at their current job) to take advantage of their summer break. This is a great idea! While your income is booming and your educational expenses are low, don’t get carried away with all the extra cash you have on hand. Make sure you’re stashing away a large chunk of this extra dough to help you next semester. A lot of students see their summer money as “bonus” cash. But if you blow it all during the summer and then have the fall back on your student loan in September, then you’re only hurting yourself in the long run.
Yes, you should absolutely enjoy the fruits of your labor, but make it a priority to save more than you spend. The summer weather is the perfect opportunity for low-cost outdoor activities that will let you enjoy yourself while saving money.
3. Eliminate Credit Card Debt
To piggy-back on the previous point, use your extra summer cash to eliminate any high-interest debt you have. Most importantly, clear any credit card balances you might have. The interest that is accrued on these accounts is absurd. Whatever you can do to clear or reduce these balances should be done before you get back to class. The points earned on credit cards are great, but if you’re paying 20% interest (or higher), it’s not worth it.
4. Make Connections
During the summer, most students have a lot of down time. Use this to position yourself for a strong future career. Whether you’re working a summer job, a work term, or just taking it easy, make sure you put yourself in the path of influential people. The sad reality of today’s job market is that it’s not “what you know” but “who you know”. That being said, there are often educational requirements for many top jobs, which is why you’re working on your degree. But if you can have the degree and some influential contacts in your community, you’ll have the leg up on the competition when graduation time comes. Even if you volunteer once per week during the summer you could be setting yourself up for a guaranteed job when you finish school. It’s worth the time.
5. Relax and Enjoy the Summer
You worked hard all year in school. You deserve some time to relax. While it’s great to have a summer job and bring in extra money, it’s also important to carve out time to relax. If you stress yourself out too much by working too much or doing some extra courses to get ahead, it may hurt you in the long run. Burn out is a real thing, so you need to make sure you invest in your own well-being so that when September comes you’ll be ready to go for another semester.