7 easy ways for students to spend less while living their best life

A hand holding a loonie in front of SAIT's Heritage Hall

Life hacks from SAIT’s Financial Advising team that just make cents — er, sense.

You’re enrolled at SAIT, working towards your diploma or degree and dreaming of the exciting career that awaits you — one that comes with purpose, prestige and a steady paycheck.

But rising costs associated with housing, groceries (a.k.a. study snacks) and that coveted Netflix subscription won’t wait for you to finish school and start your career. So what steps can you take now to protect or even grow your wealth?

SAIT’s Financial Advising team is part of the Lamb Learner Success Centre — a department that also helps students stay on top of their coursework with tutoring, learning skills and accessibility services.

Not only does Financial Advising help students figure out how to pay for school, they also host budgeting workshops so you can better manage your money. Here are their top tips for whipping those finances into shape. The best part? You can start right now.

Ready, set, save. 💰

📸 Take a financial snapshot

“Students need to look at their entire financial picture in order to fully commit to their education,” says Funding Advisor Aura Quintanilla.

To get started, track all of your spending for a month — you might be surprised to see where your money goes. A quick Excel spreadsheet ought to do the trick, or check to see if your bank offers spending trackers and analysis. You could also use a budgeting app to track your expenses.

Next, look at your current financial resources — what you have in the bank plus any income coming in. Knowledge is power — seeing your resources and spending side by side will give you a holistic sense of what’s happening and help you pinpoint areas in which to cut back.


✅ Set a budget

Now that you know how much money you have and how much you spend, time to make a financial plan to help guide you moving forward: a budget.

“A budget will help you stay on track with your finances and achieve any short-term or long-term goals you set up while attending school,” says Quintanilla.

Don’t worry — building a budget isn’t all about scarcity, sacrifice and saying no to the things you love. Rather, it’s about setting priorities and being intentional with your spending. If it’s important to you to get out to the ski hill a few times a semester, build it right into your plan so you can enjoy those precious powder days.

Getting started is as simple as reaching out to Financial Advising — they’ll provide a Student Budget Planner form and help you build a budget that works.

The Government of Canada also offers some great tips and tools for building and sticking with a budget.

Pro tip: If you receive student loan payments, this is a particularly important step to ensure you allocate your lump sum funds for the entire duration of your term.


🤵 Switch to a student bank account

Like a well-fitting suit, a bank account should be tailored to your needs. Student bank accounts carry low or no monthly fees compared to regular accounts.


SAIT doesn’t endorse any particular banking institution or account, but below are some resources to start exploring what works best for you.

📖 Best Student Chequing Accounts In Canada For January 2024

🔎 CIBC Student Banking Offers
🔎 TD Student Bank Accounts, Solutions and Packages
🔎 Scotiabank Student Bank Accounts and Packages
🔎 BMO Student Bank Accounts
🔎 RBC Advantage Banking for Students
🔎 Tangerine Student Bank Accounts
🔎 Simplii Financial Student Banking Offer
🔎 First Nations Bank of Canada Student Bank Accounts

Pro tip: Student credit cards are also available — make the switch or seek out a card offering the lowest possible interest rate, around 12.99%. Credit cards are a great way to start building your credit so you can qualify for low-interest loans and mortgages down the road, but only if you pay your balances on time.

🔒 Stash savings in out-of-reach places

The concept is simple: the harder money is to access, the less likely you are to spend it. GICs (guaranteed investment certificates) and tax-free savings accounts are great places to stow your savings.

  • When you deposit money into a GIC, you’re committing to leaving the funds untouched for a specified period of time while it earns you interest. Withdrawing early results in paying a penalty — so best to let it ride.
  • Making a withdrawal from a tax-free savings account isn’t penalized, but usually comes with a short waiting period. Plus, once you take money out, you can’t replace it if it’s going to push you past your contribution limit for the year — something that might make you think twice about withdrawing.


💼 Put your chequing accounts to work

Sometimes two is better than one. Consider having two chequing accounts — one for paying bills (rent, utilities, car payments, phone, streaming accounts, etc.) and one for your everyday spending (gas, groceries, incidental purchases, etc.). Assigning each account a clearly-defined role will give you peace of mind knowing you won’t short your phone bill because you bought a smoothie.


⏰ Pay your bills on time, or even better, when money comes in

Pay bills as soon as possible to avoid late charges — if you’re forgetful, look into setting up recurring automatic bill payments through your bank.

If you have income coming in, pay your bills once the money lands in your account — even if it means paying them early. It’s best to take care of the essentials first so you know what you have to work with for the rest of the pay period.


🎫 Scout out community services and student deals

Who doesn’t love a deal? There are so many ways to save as a student — get out there and start hunting!

  • Saitsa has curated a list of student discounts on everything from electronics to subscriptions to bedsheets.
  • Sign up for a student discount card for access to savings at a number of retailers. Student Beans, SPC Card and UNiDAYS are three memberships Saitsa features.
  • Fill your kitchen with fresh, healthy produce without emptying your bank account with a Good Food Box through Saitsa. A small 15 to 20-pound box of fruits and veggies is just $30!
    Pro tip: Put your produce to good use by signing up for a $10 Saitsa cooking class.
  • Find discounted movie, Calgary Flames and ski lift tickets.
  • This deal is open to anyone visiting SAIT, but don’t forget to stock up on proteins at The Butchery by SAIT and baked goods at the Culinary Campus International Market. You’re sure to find some delicious bargains!


Financial health? Love that for you.

Managing money doesn’t have to be a headache, and Financial Advising is here to help you figure it out.

Learn more
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Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.