indicatorStudents Education and RESPs

Savings tips for students

By ATB Financial 18 September 2023 5 min read

For most students, managing school obligations, work, day-to-day expenses and staying within a budget can be a constant juggling act. The thought of putting money away as savings might feel out of reach, but with a little planning and know-how, it’s possible to start saving today.

While the thought of buying a home or starting your retirement might feel decades away (after all, you’re just starting your career!), there are huge benefits to starting to save now, which will put you years ahead and even closer to your goals.

Many people say, “I wish I’d started saving sooner,” or “I wish I had known where to start.” Now is your time to get the head start you deserve. We’ve pulled together some valuable savings advice specifically for students. 


I Don’t Have Any Money To Spare

Most students feel like they’re just making ends meet, but by committing to a budget, you can find ways to save a little every month. ATB’s Prosper account is a great savings tool, and an account can be opened with just $100. For example, if you decide to forego a fancy coffee just once a week, you could contribute an additional $25 per month to your savings.

At the end of year one, you would have $400 in principal saved ($100 starting deposit plus $25 deposit per month / 12 months), plus any market gains you may have earned. If you keep contributing and saving, you'll have the benefit of the market growth from your initial contributions, as well as the growth of the distributions. This is called compounding, and it's a great way to let your money grow for you over a long period of time.

Plus, for every $1,000 you have in your Prosper account, you’ll receive an additional $5.00 Prosper bonus – that’s a reward put into your account, just for saving!

You can check out the Prosper website to see how your money can grow over time, even with small contributions along the way.

Once you’ve graduated from school and are likely earning more money by working full-time and starting your career, you can continue to save and even increase your contributions. You will already have created good habits by putting money away each month, and you can carry that routine throughout your life to provide you with security, access to funds for life’s big purchases and the opportunity to continue to pursue your dreams.

I Have Debt – Should I Still Save?

Knowing whether to save while carrying debt is a common question. A lot of students carry debt or have student loans once they graduate from school. They often wonder, “Should I save or pay down my debt?” While every situation is different, a good rule of thumb is that if the interest you’re carrying on your debt is high (like credit card debt), you are better off paying down your debt before investing. If your debt interest is low, or can be deferred for a few years (like a student loan), then it might make sense to start investing now and let the power of compound interest start working for you.  

If the interest rate on your debt is less than the average return expected on that investment, you could benefit more financially from investing the money compared to putting it towards the loan. An ATB specialist can help you navigate these decisions.

If you’re looking to apply for a student loan to help you manage your expenses, you can learn more about the different types of student loans here

What Is An Emergency Fund?

Life is filled with unexpected surprises, and as you become more financially independent, you may have more to contend with. For example, at some point, you may have to deal with a costly car repair, tuition hikes, or other financial matters. Consider creating an emergency fund, which is a savings account that is separate from your long-term investments like your registered retirement funds.

It’s smart to have three to six months of expenses saved in your emergency fund which could cover unanticipated costs or monthly expenses like your rent, cell phone or car payment in case you lost your job or you couldn’t work for a period of time. An emergency fund will give you peace of mind throughout your life, and if you need to draw from it, you can build it back up again. Putting emergency funds into something like a tax-free savings account (TFSA) means you won’t pay any tax on interest earned, and it provides the flexibility to draw some money out and put money back in again without a penalty*. You can learn more about TFSAs here

Saving Isn’t Only for Retirement

By now you’ve learned that starting to save early will benefit you down the road, but savings isn’t just for your retirement. Between now and then, you may have other goals in mind, like going around the world, paying off your student loans, purchasing a condo or home, starting a family or purchasing a vacation property. Having a savings plan in place will help you attain both your short and long-term savings goals.

The key is to start early, contribute regularly, and let the power of compounding help your registered plans grow. You’ll look back and be glad you did!

Time Is On Your Side

Being a student is hard work! Budgeting can be tough and unexpected expenses will always arise, but creating good habits today will help create a solid foundation that will benefit you for decades to come, and help you reach your dreams and goals.

If you have a question or are looking for advice, you can always reach out to ATB. We’re here to inform, support, and help. There’s no pressure to bank with us, and we’re always here to listen.


Looking to make compounding start to work for you right away? Check out to get set up in saving for your future!

You may be interested in

Need help?

Our Client Care team will be happy to assist.

Chat now
ATB Virtual Assistant
The ATB Virtual Assistant doesn't support landscape mode. Please tilt your device vertically to portrait mode.