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Managing your money while in school can be a challenge that often seems impossible. With these guidelines, you can set yourself down the path toward financial responsibility without becoming overwhelmed.

Make a Budget Before You Arrive
  • Make a budget for your finances before you start school to prevent any problems as the semester progresses.
  • Calculate what your "income" is (payments from student loans, campus job paycheques, and/or help from your parents).
  • Then figure out what your "expenses" are, and when they're due (e.g. tuition at the beginning of the term).
  • Once you have those figures for the semester (or even a year), break them down into what your income and expenses will be each month.
  • Any remaining money (i.e. money that comes in, but that is not already allocated) should still be budgeted. For example, if you have $100 remaining each month, you could budget $30 for going out to eat, $30 for music and $40 for clothes. Once you reach that amount, you know that you cannot spend anymore.
Get a Campus Job
  • If you need additional income, consider finding an on-campus job. Most students work while attending school. On-campus jobs are often more friendly to student needs than off-campus jobs (e.g. extra time off around finals, flexible hours).
Use Your Student Discount
  • Often businesses offer student discounts. Do not hesitate to ask if places offer a student discount if you show your student ID. You may be pleasantly surprised where you can save money.
Think Creatively
  • Can you save money by buying used books instead of new ones? Not ordering pizza so often? Take notes about what you spend your money on, then think creatively about other options.
Avoid Using Credit Cards
  • Credit card debt can rack up quickly, and increasing numbers of post-secondary students are getting into financial trouble by using their credit cards.
  • If you do not have money for books, find used books or see if you can check them out from the library.
  • Only use a credit card if absolutely necessary.
Have an Emergency Plan
  • Sometimes, life just happens. Try checking with your financial aid office. Explain your situation and see if your school has small, emergency loans.
  • If it is an option, call home and ask for a little help.
  • Most students head to post-secondary institutions looking forward to becoming independent and managing their lives on their own. Managing your money is part of that independence. Review your finances regularly to ensure that your post-secondary experience is focussed on the fun stuff.
Check out:

The Canadian government Education Cost Calculator helps you calculate the cost of your year at college or university.
The Canadian government’s Online Budget Planner helps you plan your budget.
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