Getting Smart about Budgets

Now is the perfect time to figure out how to make your money work for you. It might seem like a chore, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Get help to learn how to make a budget - and stick to it - with these useful tips and resources.

Doing the math

Setting a budget involves allocating money to spend each month. To do this, you'll have to add up your monthly income and expenses for the entire school year.

See our Student Budget Calculator to get a good head start.

Here are some tips to help you create an accurate budget:

  • Determine your fixed costs, such as tuition, rent and utilities
  • Estimate variable expenses, such as food, laundry, clothing and entertainment
  • Don't overlook one-time expenses such as trips home, gifts, books and course materials
  • Include your "small" expenses including coffees, snacks and magazines; they add up!

Working with the numbers

After you've listed your planned expenses, record every penny you spend for 2 weeks by:

  • Tracking your purchases in a notebook
  • Keeping all your receipts and adding them up at the end of the week
  • Going back and comparing your expenses to your income and decide how much you can actually afford.

Cutting corners is really easy when you know your weaknesses. For example: If you buy a $3 coffee and snack 3 times a week, that's about $300 for the school year. Can you afford to spend that? You won't know unless you do the math.

Keeping it current

Here are some useful strategies to keep yourself in check throughout the school year:

  • Stay on top of your budget by comparing your results with your budgeted estimates every month and making adjustments as needed
  • Try to find ways to keep within your expense target by tracking your spending online and using your monthly bank statements to cross-reference with your receipts

Reaping the rewards

Making a budget and sticking to it is the foundation of good financial planning. It helps you stay in control of your finances, no matter how much you have to work with.

Although it takes time and discipline, you'll be thankful when April rolls around and you've managed to make September's money last until your final exam. You just might be able squeeze in a special end-of-year celebration!


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