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Here are some tips to minimize debt:

Ask the experts: Speak to an adviser at a bank or other financial institution – it's free, and can help put your budget into perspective and find ways to cut costs, Henry and Peddigrew note. Universities may also offer free financial counselling services. Expert guidance can also come in the form of online resources and tools that help set customized spending and savings goals, and make you a disciplined spender.

Be cost critical: Sajjad urges students to examine all costs they're charged for, and see what they can opt out of, such as university health, medical and dental plans (which can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 a year) if they have coverage under their parents' plans. He advises students to report any fees that they think are unnecessary or unreasonable.

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Seek student discounts, freebies: Retailers and companies offer student discounts, and there are also special discount cards. One of the most prominent is the International Students Identity Card (ISIC), sold for $20 online through ISIC Canada or offered free to members of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). It gets you 40,000 discounts worldwide on goods, services and travel. Student unions are a good source for savings. For instance, the unions at the University of Toronto and University of Regina offer Good Food Boxes of organic fruit and vegetables, working in conjunction with local growers (a box costing about $13 can feed an individual for a week).

Avoid buying new: When possible, borrow or buy discounted or second-hand school items, including books, computers and mobile devices. Online book exchanges, including those run through universities and student unions such as the Thompson Rivers University Students' Union in Kamloops, B.C., which has gone national through the CFS, allow one to search for the best prices for books across the country. In need of clothes or furniture? Montreal's McGill University, for one, has an online section listing secondhand shops.

SOURCES INCLUDE: MIKE HENRY AT BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA, JANET PEDDIGREW AT BANK OF MONTREAL AND MUNIB SAJJAD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO STUDENTS' UNION.

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