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Planning is the key to managing your financial life at school. A realistic and well-thought-out budget will allow you to control your spending.

A budget tells you where your money goes and what it does for you, and it keeps you up-to-date on how much money you have left.

The best time to build your budget is before the school year starts. Having an early look at your available resources and expenses will help you determine whether you need to find additional funding sources. Follow these steps to build your budget:

Step 1: Estimate your expenses

The cost of education varies from student to student and depends on many factors, including your:

  • accommodations
  • program of study
  • spending habits
  • travel

Be accurate and realistic about your expenses. If you're not sure you can live by it, you won't. Try to figure out a sensible money-spending allowance and stick to it. Be sure to include some funds for unexpected purchases or emergencies.

Step 2: Explore all possible sources for funding

Resources may include:

  • Contributions from parents/spouse
  • Government loans
  • Income from part-time or summer work
  • Scholarships, awards or bursaries
  • Your savings
  • Other funding sources (bank loans, lines of credit)

Step 3: Monitor your expenses and create a weekly or monthly budget

Regular monitoring of your expenses lets you see where you are spending more than you budgeted. This helps identify where you need to reduce spending before you get into trouble.

Step 4: Keep track of your expenses

Having an accurate record of your expenses is valuable when preparing next year’s budget.

Budgeting tools

Use our online budget calculator. 

The City is an online resource from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada that teaches students how to manage money and achieve financial success.

The Debt-Free Graduate, by Canadian author Murray Baker, gives strategies and tips to help students survive college or university without going broke.

Get Smarter About Money features information about planning and investing for many of life’s events, including getting an education

National Strategy for Financial Literacy can help you improve your financial knowledge, skills and confidence; and what tools are available to help you manage your personal finances.

Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services is the leader in financial counselling and education. Use their search feature to find a qualified counsellor near you.

Parental Contribution Calculator is an interactive tool that helps parents of full-time dependent students estimate the amount of money that they should contribute to their children’s post-secondary education. The amount calculated is based on the Canada Student Loans need assessment tables and will help parents determine whether their child will be eligible to obtain a government-funded student loan.

Student Budget Worksheet, from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, helps students understand their expenses and income while pursuing post-secondary education.

Your Money is an online resource from the Canadian Banker’s Association. Students can learn more about how to use money wisely to reach their goals. Teachers can register online for an in-class seminar presented by a banker volunteer from their community. Parents can access resources to help teach their kids financial literacy at home.

Tips from banks

Here are some tips for stretching your budget:

Books and supplies

  • Buy used textbooks.
  • Sell your textbooks back at the end of each semester.


  • Borrow movies and magazines from a local library.
  • Enjoy free activities on campus or in the community.
  • Have a potluck or invite friends over to make dinner.
  • Join a club or participate in a Campus Recreation program.
  • Watch a movie at home with friends instead of going to the movie theatre.

Groceries and meals

  • Avoid convenience stores where items are usually more expensive.
  • Buy generic instead of brand-name goods.
  • Check grocery store flyers and websites for sales and coupons; Smart Source posts coupons and shows the best grocery flyer deals to use with coupons to maximize savings.
  • Find a friend to share the cost of bulk items with.
  • Make a list when you shop for groceries and stick to it.
  • Make meals from scratch instead of ordering takeout.
  • Pack a lunch for cheaper meals on the go.


Use public transportation (included with your U-Pass), ride a bike or walk instead of taking a cab.

Use your Campus Card

Many businesses offer discounts to students—always carry your Campus Card so you can take advantage of these.