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Reduce school stress by starting with a budget

Going to university or college is an exciting time. It’s also expensive, especially if you’re living on your own for the first time. Managing studies and your money at the same time can be overwhelming. But the best thing to do is make a budget and stick to it.

As a student, you might be adjusting to a new city. You have exams, roommates, and a social life to juggle. Maybe you have a part-time job. No matter how busy it gets, make time to create a budget. It’ll reduce your stress in the long run and start you on a good financial path.

In 2013 and 2014, the average annual cost of tuition at a Canadian university was $5,772, according to Statistics Canada. Books and materials can add as much as $800 to $1,000 per year. Keep in mind your student costs are likely to rise over the years. It’s a big investment, but research shows that students who organize their spending are more likely to avoid a heavy debt load upon graduation.

If you don’t have a budget, you’re not alone. In fact, Canadians aged 18 to 24 are the least likely to have one. Yet 93 per cent of people with a budget stay within it most of the time.

Creating a budget is as simple as tracking money coming in and going out. It will help you to figure out the difference between what you need versus what you want — and what you can afford.

You don’t have to start from scratch. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has online tools like a budget tool, tips, and a student worksheet that’s easy to use.

“A budget is the best way to deal with the number one stressor: money,” advises Jane Rooney, Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader.

Her top tips include:

  • ​Reviewing it regularly as life changes.

  • Setting up a spending plan for student loan money over the semester so you don’t run out before the term ends.

  • Planning for unexpected costs such as repairs to your computer or buying books that weren’t on the list at the beginning of the semester.

Budgeting is a life-long skill that will help as you get your first paycheque, buy a home and invest in your future. Remember that you’re never too young to get started.

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