Be it tuition or textbooks, post-secondary school expenses seem to climb every year, but two Winnipeg bloggers are helping students get through university without being swallowed up by debt.
In 2011 – after graduating from the University of Manitoba – Justin Bouchard and Kyle Prevost started a blog called MyUniversityMoney.com. Noticing a demand for cash saving tips, they decided to write More Money for Beer and Textbooks, released by Young and Thrifty Publications in December 2012.
“I think the biggest thing people do wrong is they don’t have a talk with their parents or support network about how they’re going to pull off paying for the year,” Bouchard, Dean of Residence at St. John’s College, says.
“You really need to have some sort of financial game plan. You should establish a budget at the start of the school year and make sure you can stick to it. Try to make sure there’s always a bit of money to put into your savings at the end of the month, even if it’s only a tiny amount.”
One of Bouchard’s biggest tips is to never shy away from applying early and often for scholarships and awards.
“I can speak from experience and say they have more money than applicants for the most part,” he says. “People think they might not perfectly meet the criteria, but they should apply anyway and see what happens.
“Kyle teaches at a high school in Birtle, Manitoba right now and one of his students got a $70,000 scholarship so anything is possible and no one does it enough.”
Of course, you need to pay for things such as food and tuition, but going out is another expense that can’t be totally ignored.
“Leave room for error in your budget,” Bouchard continues. “Leave room for chaos.
Don’t assume you’re going to live like a saint and not do anything fun.”
Bouchard and Prevost dedicate an entire chapter of More Money for Beer and Textbooks to partying without blowing tons of dough. One of their tips is buying a beer kit. Bouchard says you can brew your own suds for as little as 75 cents per bottle.
“Making your own beer is definitely more affordable, but it does take time to get it right,” he says. “It took us a couple batches and it takes four to six weeks before it’s ready. If you don’t have the patience you can still acquire a taste for cheap beer too.
“If you can’t tip the service staff, you can’t afford to go out... it also gets you noticed when you’re in a super long line-up and you’ll definitely get better service.”
If you’re not into partying every day, Bouchard recommends volunteering around campus and checking out some of the school sporting events that take place throughout the year.
“Depending on which campus you’re at, you can watch elite athletes play games for free and if they’re not free, the tickets are still pretty cheap,” he says.