Can I afford a coffee today? – Truths and Tips for living at School for the Year


It’s that time of year again; it’s back to school.

The dreaded September month will always have the summer-loving personalities down in the dumps. However, back to school also means seeing old friends, catching up on what crazy things you did over the summer, and preparing to slowly become broke for another 8 months. Yeah, you read correctly. Financing as a student can be quite the challenge, especially when living away from home. If you’re a student living on campus or in off-campus housing, back to school may be exciting for you, but once that first week goes by, you remember why you loved living with your parents so much. Here are some tips on how to get through your University and College years without putting yourself in a deep hole of debt.


As all students will agree, aside from the unnecessarily high tuition costs that probably could feed a small town in Africa for a year, book costs are probably the most infuriating. It’s hard to justify paying $254.50 for a 40 page textbook that you may look through once or twice. It’s especially annoying when your professors urge you to purchase the textbook because “you will definitely need the textbook in this course and if you don’t buy it you risk failing.” So you go and buy that expensive textbook and the professor only references it once, and all of the information on the tests and exams are from the overhead slides. Come on! It’s okay though, you can probably sell back that textbook to the bookstore so you can at least get most of your money back. Too bad when that eager student goes to sell back that textbook, they’ll realize they won’t be able to eat for the rest of the week because all they got back was $6.00. How does that even make sense?

TIP: Instead of buying textbooks from the bookstore, look from them online.

You could have some luck finding them on places like Amazon or even Chapters. If that’s still too much, there are usually Facebook pages dedicated to students in need of selling and or buying used textbooks to other students. You are able to negotiate and agree to a price that is appropriate for both the seller and the buyer. The best part is you can then sell that textbook back to another student in need next semester which could result in your making your money back!

Grocery cart loaded with fresh fruit and bread moving through the aisle.

Living away from home also means you have to cook for yourself. Mom can’t make your lunch anymore and she definitely won’t have dinner waiting on the table for when you get home from school. Some students love cooking, making healthy and substantial meals, while others rely on Kraft dinner, cereal, pasta and canned soup. But hey, those students can probably cook too, but when you’re getting $6.00 back on a $254.50 book, you can only really afford to buy a bag of pasta and some tomato sauce. Buying groceries is another big expense some students struggle with. You have to buy food for yourself so you can eat everyday which can be stressful if those students are not used to doing the grocery shopping back at home, which is usually the case. Some students get lazy and just eat out with the grocery money they have, but if you don’t want to gain the freshman 15, I suggest you suck it up, buy your groceries and cook your own meals. Miss living with your parents yet?

TIP: Limit the amount of times you go out for a meal and look for free food events instead.

You probably shouldn’t be going out and spending money, when you can make your meal at home, let’s be honest with ourselves. Free food events and anonymous food bank options hosted by the school could really help, especially if you are too busy with school and extracurricular activities to cook something every night.

The last big expense that I feel all students struggle with is rent. So let’s just recap really quickly for a second. You have to pay your tuition once a semester, textbooks once a semester, groceries every couple weeks, and now you have to pay rent once a month? Does it ever end?


Rent is the biggest kick in the butt students have to deal with because it is a set price that sadly comes out of their bank accounts every month. You can’t control it, you can’t deny it and you can’t get rid of it. It also hurts because you are paying to live on campus when you have a beautiful, warm, rent-free home with your parents in it who cook, clean and provide for you. Yes, some students have no choice but to live at the school of their choice, but it still kills you. I think the worst part is that 90% of landlords only offer 12 month leases, even though school is only 8 months. Even if you find a house or apartment that offers students an 8 month lease, it’s a 48 minute bus ride from the school. Again, come on! So you suck it up and go with the 12 month lease. When school ends, and you’re so happy to finally go home to a part time job, a rent-free home, and free food on the table, you still see that $550.00 coming out of your bank account for the next four months for an apartment you’re not even living in anymore. I don’t know about you, but that alone makes me want to cry a little.

TIP: Unfortunately, you can’t avoid paying rent. However, paying rent forces you to have a budget.

If you know your rent payment comes out of your bank account on the first of every month, then budget your money accordingly. Factor in the rent withdrawal, then estimate how much money you will need for groceries, books for school, and any other necessary expenses. That way you know how much you have, how much you need, and how much you have left over for the occasional luxury expense. Be smart with your money.

Young male student.

University and College is a wild ride, ask any graduate. The work is demanding, the professors are crazy and the expenses are outrageous. You have to keep your GPA up, while stressing over if you’ll have enough money to cover all the expenses you need to handle for the month. It may be a lot, but in the end you learn a lot about what it is going to take to live on your own when you decide to move out. Living away from home during school was the best decision I ever made and even though it was hard, it was all worth it for the experience. So, my advice to you is to learn how to manage your money and set priorities. You can’t go and buy that new sweater at the mall if you still have to buy groceries for the week. It’s all about sacrifice and learning when to say no. Especially if you can say no to that $254.50 textbook that you’ll never use! Control your University and College experience, don’t let it control you. So the question of the day is, can you make that coffee at home before class instead of buying it? Yes you can.


Click on these links for more tips on budgeting as a University or College student:

Have any other financial tips for students? Share them below!


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