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The Ultimate Finance Guide for College & University Students - HOW TO MAKE AND SAVE MONEY

*** I began writing this intending for it to be much much longer, but unfortunately a character limited prevented me from doing so. If this gets enough support, I would be happy to continue the guide for everyone in the form of a series or something of that nature. :) Just give the post a 'Like' at the bottom of it, if you want this to continue!

INTRODUCTION
As a business student, and now a business owner, I have found that throughout my post-secondary education career, there hasn't always been the greatest or most easily accessible advice in the financial realm available for students. Especially for Canadian students.

We're all so focused on our studies and grades so much during the school year, and even more so during exam season, that we often forget about the little financial details and don't think twice about eating out all the time or partying when you need to let loose! There's nothing wrong with these things, but moderation is key if you want to feel a little bit more secure financially!

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN
In this guide, I'll be sharing with you the key methods and principles of saving and making money as a full-time student. My goal with this guide is to include every single financial tip, trick, and lifehack, that I have acquired and found success with along my academic journey, in hopes of helping you find an easier way through yours. :)

Without further ado... Let's jump into it!

Section 1: Optimizing Your Current Situation

Part 1. BANKING

Naturally, we'll be starting with the most money oriented adjustment. Your bank. You're likely going to see your bank come into play to some degree in every single step of this guide so we've got to get this one under control first!

Possible Rewards:
- Elimination or lowering of banking fees
- A credit card with some sort of student-exclusive benefit (ie. 2% cash-back at grocery store chains)

Step 0. If you do not currently have a bank account in Canada, first off, try not to bite too hard on the bank offering the "Free iPad for all new accounts opened with us this month!" Sometimes these can end up being your best option, especially if you planned on spending money on an iPad already or if you plan on selling it, but do the research on the fees and things that will accumulate over time first. For all you know, the strategy of the bank giving away free iPads might be to charge clients most aggressively in the account opening stage. For the good of the guide, I cannot compare every fee of every Canadian financial institution, so just be sure to do your research!

Step 1. Walk in, or call the local branch of your bank and set up an appointment to meet with a financial advisor. If you have a family advisor that you or your parents typically see, request that your meeting be with them. Trust me, you will get much more of what you want out of this process if you make a face-to-face meeting and avoid dealing with your bank via phone or e-mail.

Step 2. Make a list of any questions or topics you want to discuss with the advisor in your appointment. Make sure they are very aware that you are a student based on the points and questions. Also add the following to your list:
- Get overdraft protection
- Request a student Credit Card (if they ask if you are looking for any specifics benefits, request the lowest available interest rates, and if the card gives cash-back, request the highest available cash-back rate)
- Request that your debit fees be adjusted to the bank's student program (entirely eliminated debit fees for me)
- Ask if they have any other student benefits or opportunities (ie. My bank had a $10,000 scholarship available which I found out due to asking this)

Step 3. Have the meeting! Bring your list and communicate everything to your advisor. As with any meeting, be nice and respectful, and you'll likely get everything you wanted and more. :)

Rewards I earned from this method:

Cash: +$135
Monthly expenses: +$25-30
Credit Card: 1% cash-back on ALL purchases, 2% cash-back on all grocery store purchases INCLUDING WAL-MART
lmurph
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  • 2. TRANSPORTATION


    Another crucial one! As students, we ALL have to get around to some degree. Yes, even you residence dweller. This section will cover car insurance, commuting, public transportation, gas prices, and how to be cost-efficient and effective with the methods that suit you best!

    Possible rewards: Discounted public transportation, lower car insurance, gas savings, free transportation.

    Step 1. Evaluate your needs. Resist the temptation to buy a car if you live on campus. Unless you're working a part-time job as a pizza delivery person buying a car probably not a "need." If you feel as though you're outside of walking distance to campus but wouldn't classify yourself as a commuter if you owned a vehicle, then public transportation is likely your best bet. I can only really recommend investing in a vehicle for the long-distance commuters or those commuting from outside public transportation zones.

    Step 2. Decide which method you think is the most cost-efficient method of transportation for you. If you're on campus the most you should ever need is a bike, long-board, or electric scooter. If you're just off of campus, take the bus. If you're far away from campus or outside of the city, look into buying a used car.

    Step 3.Make your chosen method effective. Once the most efficient method has been selected, it's time to optimize. Below I will list the tips and tricks in my personal repertoire as well as those I have researched for each category of mainstream transportation.

    Walking/Biking


    You can never go wrong with walking; it's free and it's healthy. Alternatively, you can purchase your average adult-sized road or mountain bike for around $200, or a skateboard or long-board for less than $100, depending on your preference. You could also go for used versions of the above from sellers on Kijiji.ca which would likely cut those costs in half.

    Public Transportation


    Depending on the city your school is located in, you may have buses, street cars, a subway system, trains, or a combination of some or all of them. Your best option here is to find what your peers are using and why. If you can't seem to find any patterns with the methods your peers are using, here's what you do. Buy a 1-trip pass for all of the available transportation methods that can get you from point A to point B (home to school). Time each trip and see which is the quickest. Unfortunately, only testing this once may not give you the most accurate times, due to complications like traffic for buses or subway congestion, but I trust that you'll be able to judge and account for these situations if they arise. List the most efficient methods based on this little experiment and go down your list researching the costs for the longest-duration passes that you can manage. Ensure you are looking at the student rates as well, as they will be substantially cheaper.

    Driving


    Buying a car: USED. USED. USED! Do NOT attempt to finance that brand new 2016 Hyundai Genesis because you want to make all your car-less pals jealous. You're a student not a rock star (yet). You WILL end up in debt, and you WILL end up being the jealous pal when you have minimal financial security. I found Kijiji.ca and Autotrader to be the best online marketplaces for used car shopping. If you want, another option is using a day off to run around to your local used car lots and simply having a word with a salesperson at each one. Just let them know you're a student who's looking for something used and in decent shape, and give them your budget. It's typically a 50/50 chance whether they will have some prospects for you to look at or not, as most dealerships tend to lean towards either higher or lower priced vehicles. If they don't have anything in your price range, ask them to direct you to the nearest lot that they think would best suit your needs.

    Car pool. If you have classmates or friends commuting with a similar route to yours, pop the question! Splitting the driving to school 50/50 will do just the same for your gas expenses. This might be a challenge if you're entering a very new school where you may not know many others, but it's a strategy that is totally worth keeping in mind as you begin to make new friends. It's never too late to employ!

    Car Insurance. I shopped around HEAVILY for car insurance when the time came for me to purchase a vehicle. After calling for quotes at over 10 insurance companies, these were my findings: the most expensive one I found was State Farm at over $500 per month, and the least expensive I found was Bel-Air Direct which was $185/mo. as a G2 driver. Upon acquiring my G License, my insurance with Bel-Air dropped to $139/mo. (these quotes are for a 21 Y/o Male driving a Navy Blue, 2008 Chrysler Sebring)

    Bel-Air Direct - Student Car Insurance: http://www.belairdirect.com/en/save-on-insurance/suggested-coverage/insurance-for-students.html

    Gas. If you're a new driver, keep an eye on gas prices. Try to start to recognize when gas prices are either "low" or "high." Contrasting the prices with the amount of cars at the gas stations is often a helpful indicator. If there is a big line-up of cars, the prices are probably on the lower end and you might want to fill up your tank sooner than later.

    Can't think of anything to put on your "Xmas 2016 Wishlist?" Ask for gift cards to gas stations (obviously not the ideal gift, but it is an option)! Another awesome tip I've learned is to NEVER put your foot down on the pedal if you're going downhill, and in general, try not to be a lead-foot. The average lead-foot can end up spending over $1000 on gas per year than a lighter-footed driver!
    lmurph
  • 3. COMMUNICATION


    Some of these expenses are not entirely required in student life... Who am I kidding, you'll be spending your money on them anyway. Let's make this convenience a little bit more cost-efficient for you!

    Rewards: Free or less expensive internet, cheaper cell phone

    Internet


    Internet as an expense is a little bit more complex than your cell phone will be, but that also means there is greater possibilities for saving money! To give you a bit of an idea, Toronto is home to 119 different ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Not all cities will have this many but it is clear that the choice can be a little bit intimidating if it is your first time subscribing to an internet service.

    Step 1. Avoid Bell and Rogers. The two biggest players are able to successfully charge more money for their internet plans than the little guys because of course, they are the most known and people often don't even realize that there are any other options! When you have an incredible customer service infrastructure, towers covering the entire country (and more), and the trust of the general consumer due to being around longer than any other service, you can pretty much charge whatever you want and people will pay. The problem with this is that there are plenty of smaller ISPs offering better plans for less money that are just not well-known! Many are totally reliable and have all of the perks that Bell and Rogers do too.

    Step 2. Learn about the smaller ISPs! What you are looking for in selecting your ISP, essentially, the least expensive monthly plan price for the highest "Mbps," or megabytes per second (internet speed). I would personally recommend TekSavvy (http://teksavvy.com/en/residential/internet) or Contact (https://secure.contact.net/), location permitting. I found a wonderful breakdown of easy-to-digest mini reviews of ISPs within the Toronto area for any of you GTA'ers, which I am sure also applies to most of Canada's larger cities. You can check it out here: http://www.blogto.com/tech/2014/07/internet_providers_in_toronto_beyond_rogers_and_bell/

    Step 3. Select your ISP! Find the best one, and set it up. Right? WRONG! Okay, not entirely... There isn't really a right or wrong answer, you will just have to consider your internet needs, as they are not the same for everyone. This can get into nerdier waters for those who aren't as TekSavvy (ISPuns), but it's not as tricky as it sounds! Here's a little reference you can use to estimate how much internet speed you would actually 'need' to pay for:

    > 6 Mbps - Slowly surf the web, e-mail, etc.
    6 - 12 Mbps - Ideal for basics - surfing the web, & e-mail.
    12 - 20 - Decent for streaming movies, gaming. etc. - will likely be slowed down if multiple devices are doing so.
    < 20 - Comfortable for most internet requiring activities
    < 45 - Comfortable for most internet requiring activities if you live with many other people, or a large family

    Most internet needs will fall in one of the ranges above, so just be sure to only pay for what you absolutely need. If you're really pinching pennies and don't want to spend the money on internet at all, you can find a wifi connection pretty much anywhere nowadays, so if you can handle having to leave the house to access the internet you can always get your digital fix at your school or a local coffee shop.

    Another fantastic tip for students looking to save on internet is trying to negotiate with your landlord to include internet for the homestead within your monthly rent or utilities payments. If you are in a situation where you can tell the landlord is urgently seeking last-minute tenants, this might be much easier than you think! Even if they make you pay for it, living with others and splitting the expense can still save you loads of cash. You could even live on residence where your internet connection would also be free (though most on-campus living is more expensive than off-campus, so be careful with this one).

    Rewards I earned from trying the above: Landlord included internet AND cable within my monthly rent (totally free).
  • Phone


    Let's face it, home phones are on a fast-track to becoming the dial-up of the phone industry. Old news! This section will assume that you don't pay for a home phone as a student, and thus will instead focus on cellular phone plans.

    The difference between paying for internet and paying your phone bill is that there are no totally free alternatives to owning a cell-phone (as far as I know anyway). You can't exactly run over to a Starbucks when you need to make a call, so keeping this consistent expense as low as possible is absolutely crucial for keeping that wallet of yours full!

    Step 1. Evaluate your cellular phone plan needs. Be ruthless and honest with yourself and the word 'needs.'

    One of Tesla Motors (fully-electric car company) biggest obstacles in business is tackling the "range anxiety" of its potential customers. This comes in two main forms. The first is that of a Tesla car owner who, whilst travelling, begins to worry that they won't have enough battery life to reach the next charging station. The second is that of prospecting Tesla car owners, who are worried that if they ever want to go on a road trip, they will suffer the range anxiety of the first form. Both are almost always wrong. The road tripper almost always makes it to the next charging station, or finds one nearer to them than they expected, and with far more remaining battery than expected too. And the one who gets over the "but what if I want to go on a cross-country road trip?" usually never even takes one.

    Step 2. Know what is available to you (you probably don't!)

    If you're like most students you're going to optimally want unlimited texting and Canada-wide calling, on top of a decent chunk of data for 3G internet usage when wifi isn't available. If you don't fall into this category, hopefully it is because you don't need all of those features, but if it is due to needing more features such as unlimited data, you also won't pay too much more. Your best bet for these types of plans is, just like the Internet section above, not with Bell or Rogers.

    WIND Mobile offers a plan of unlimited texting, Canada-wide calling, AND data. Guess how much? $35 per month. They do slow your data speeds down once you reach 10GB of usage per month (triple the limit of Rogers limit at the time I ended my contract with them) but you still have unlimited data. Don't need the data? $25 per month.

    Previously to WIND (earlier this year), I was paying about $70 per month at Rogers for more limited text & calling, and ending up with monthly bills of $90-130 because I would always go over the maximum data usage for my plan. It was clear I needed unlimited data, and they simply didn't offer it. It's 2015! That is absurd!

    Step 3. Choose WIND!
    This is where the little analogy from Step 1 comes in. The downside to WIND is that due to them being a new provider in Canada (and the ONLY phone company in Canada not owned by Bell or Rogers; yes the ONLY one), they have not entirely covered the country with phone towers just yet. This means that leaving the bigger towns or cities in Canada can cause you to lose service or have a weaker signal, but be realistic with how often you are ACTUALLY going to go for a road trip. I'm sure you can see that, in most cases, it is not worth paying three times as much per month to hold on to your ability to scroll through Facebook in the middle of nowhere once a year. Read a book on the drive instead.

    Based on the lock-in style expensive phone contracts, hidden fees, and all that money-grabbing mumbo jumbo, I simply cannot recommend you going with most traditional phone providers like Bell and Rogers.

    Check them out here: https://www.windmobile.ca/reasons-to-join

    Tips & Tricks

    1. Always buy phones up-front in cash.
    When you buy a brand new iphone for "starting at $0.00!!!!!!" you are paying down that phone each month with interest piling on top of it. This is just like making car payments. You'll end up paying $1200 for that new iphone instead of $700 if you buy it for "starting at $0.00!!!!!" or at least some kind of financing fees. When you need a new phone, buy it in cash.

    2. If you're going to use the internet, wi-fi first, data last.
    Pretty simple one to understand. Even with WIND, conserving the full-speed chunk of your data will provide value to you despite not being able to "go over" in the paying-for-it sense.

    3. There are free alternatives to each dimension of cell phone plans.
    There doesn't seem to be standalone alternatives to cell phone plans but you can definitely individualize them. If you pay for internet at home, you don't NEED data too. Facebook messenger is free and pretty much everyone with a phone has it, you can actually also make voice calls through Facebook messenger. Skype voice chat is free, most people also have Skype. There is also Google Voice, which has loads of features that optimize current phone plans entirely free. As you can see, if you're flat broke, there are options for free communication, just be creative! Here is another example:



    "Features of Google Voice, many retained from GrandCentral, include: A single Google forwarding number to all of the user's phones. Unlimited free calls and SMS within the US and Canada, up to three hours in individual length. Calling international phone numbers with rates starting at US$0.01 per minute."

    Apparently users are pairing Google Voice with an app called TalkaTone (rather than typical phone service) to get the cheapest phone number around, and be able to send texts and make calls 100% FREE via wifi to anywhere in North America. This app bundle could be the key to the $0.00 phone plan!

    Rewards I earned from this part:

    Saving $60 per month on my phone plan
    No longer bound to a phone contract
    Pay NO interest on phones purchased through contract
    Road trips are now productive without internet access (books, books, books!)

    Future: planning on attempting the Google Voice & TalkaTone app combo to reduce my phone bill to $0.00 forever.
  • Section 1: Conclusion


    I hope you have enjoyed Section 1: Optimizing Your Current Situation and that you have learned something that will benefit you in the future! As I am writing this portion of the guide on January 1st, I'd like to say I hope you (if you celebrate) have had a very merry Christmas and are not feeling too ill after last night! If bettering your finances happens to be one of your New Year's resolutions and you have not learned anything beneficial within the guide up to this point, stay tuned. I guarantee you will make or save money from this guide!

    I would like to add that, although this guide is tailored towards you students, if you know someone who is looking to improve their finances who isn't a student, be sure to share this guide with them. Especially if there is something unique in here that you didn't know of until you read it, because if that's the case, there may be something that might surprise who you share it with, which they could learn from too.

    Most people write guides such as this one for financial gain, selling it as an e-book or creating it as an "epic post" to drive traffic to their blog for ad profit... I just want to lend a hand! So be sure to pass along the knowledge and lend a hand where you can too.

    Happy New Year!

    Andrew Mullins
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