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How to build a budget for university

You’ve got your university acceptance letter and it’s almost time to begin your post-secondary studies. But are you financially ready to start the school year? Before putting your nose to the books, take time to make a budget for the upcoming academic year. Just like studying for exams, being prepared sets you up for success – and helps prevent stressful situations later. Follow our easy steps on how to build a budget for university and you’ll be a budgeting boss in no time.

1. Calculate the costs

Start with estimating the essential (or fixed) expenses associated with attending your post-secondary institution. Your biggest bills are likely tuition and residence fees, but also consider smaller costs that add up, such as books, meal plans, course materials, a computer, and school supplies.

2. Estimate everyday expenses

Make a “laundry list” of possible living expenses for the upcoming school year: rent, groceries, internet, mobile phone, streaming services, dining out, insurance coverage, transportation, medical needs, clothing, and entertainment. Remember to include a stash of cash for savings and debt repayment. You’ll thank yourself later for building in a buffer for emergencies.

3. Do the math

Add up your fixed and everyday expenses to get a grand total. That’s how much money you’ll likely need to get through the school year. You can use a budget calculator to crunch the numbers.

4. Bridge the gap

Now that you’re in the know, make a plan to pay for your education. An RESP fund helps, but if there’s a gap, you may need to look at other sources of income: scholarships, bursaries, student loans, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, or even a part-time job.

5. Write it down – and stick to it!

Now that you’ve got a sense of your incoming income and outgoing expenses, write a detailed budget. You can use an Excel spreadsheet, a budgeting app, or a Student Budget Worksheet. Then, stick to it! If you find tracking your cash a chore, try using our Take Charge Money Manager™. It gives a snapshot of your saving, spending, and budgeting in one place, and you can access it online anytime.

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