Budgeting Tips for University Students

Budgeting Tips for University Students

Written by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated September 11, 2015

Attending university is one of the best choices you can make for yourself and your future, you’ll learn to be independent and hopefully carve out a bright future for yourself. University is also a huge investment and needs to be treated as so. Budgeting and saving will become just as important as studying and, here are our top tips for getting an A+ in personal finance.

Asses Your Income

While you’re a university student a steady income is often hard to come by, more often than not you’ll probably have several forms of income that change throughout your degree. Whether your parents offer you a monthly allowance, you have a part time job on campus or you rely on financial aid, keeping track of whatever type of income you have is the first step towards creating a budget that works for you.


Now that you’ve got a good idea about what exactly your monthly income is you need to pin point all your expenses and we mean all of them. As a student you probably have a lot of expenses, from books and food to cell phone bills and rent. Every student’s monthly expenses will be different; it depends on the type of student life you’re experiencing. If you’re living at home and commuting to campus you’ll probably have fewer expenses than a student who’s living in an apartment or student housing.

Budget and Save

Leaving school after a challenging four years with thousands of dollars’ worth of student loan debt (some tips on becoming a debt free student here) and credit card debt is one of the worse and possibly most depressing ways to start your new like. Creating a budget to limit your spending is an essential step towards reducing your post-graduation debt load. Here are a few tips to help you save:

  • Credit cards are not a good idea. Most universities will allow credit card companies to set up booths around campus, avoid them as much as possible. A credit card might sounds like a great idea especially if you’re struggling to pay for books or even food. The reality is if you’re having trouble with money now adding credit card debt on top of it will only make things worse and your post-graduation life even harder.
  • Be a working student. We get it; no one wants to spend four years working the early Saturday morning shift at the campus coffee shop but being a working student can and will help you with your cash flow problems. Finding a part time job you can tolerate will allow you to get experience, make money and reduce the time you have to spend your money on things you don’t need.
  • Fill out those scholarship papers. You know those scholarship forms you pick up on your way out of financial aid the other day? Fill them out and send them in. The only way you might get a scholarship is if you actually apply for one.
  • Buy used books: Be proactive about finding used books to buy. Your university book store might offer used books but they also might sell out quickly so get to the store as soon as you can. Also look online for better deals and for students who are selling their used books.
  • Bigger loans aren’t always better. If you know you’re going to have to rely heavily on student loans to pay for university and life then you need to figure out your budget before you start. Knowing roughly how much money you’ll need for a semester or a year will prevent you from taking out too many loans, just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.
  • Study a lot. You might think that studying has nothing to do with your budget but that’s not necessarily true. Students who study more and spend more time in the library typically spending less money going out. Obviously you’ll want to experience all that university life has to offer but reducing your social time will also reduce your expenses.

How to Stay on Track Post-Graduation

Getting your financing together while you’re in school will without a doubt help you deal with post-graduation life. Having good financial habits and learning to both create a budget and stick to it will make the transition from student life to real life just a little smoother.

  • Understand your loan obligations. Once you’ve finished your degree you’ll be required to start making payments on any student loans you have. Understanding all the requirements is your best bet to becoming debt free as soon as possible.
  • Get a job. Finding the job of your dreams right out of university isn’t going to happen. No one wants to work at a job they hate but you need to start making some money right away, those student loans won’t repay themselves. Plus gaining some experience will in the end help you land that dream job.
  • Don’t give up. Continuing to work the part time job you had while in school once you’ve graduated can be less than motivating but it’s important that you don’t give up. Finding a job in the field you want will take time so in the meantime work hard to pay off your student loans (if you have any) and start handing out those resumes.
  • Keep up with the budgeting. Hopefully you had a budget while in school so now that you’re done you should continue to keep up with it. You’ll probably need to adjust your previous budget to reflect your new life.

Stay Committed

Whether you’re just starting university or have just graduated, the most important financial decision you can make is to stay committed to sticking to your budget. Once you’ve created a great budget that works for you, dealing with any other financial decisions or issues should become a lot less stressful.

Rating of 5/5 based on 2 votes.

Caitlin is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security. One of the main ways she’s built good financial habits is by budgeting and tracking her spending through the YNAB budgeting app. She also automates her savings so she never forgets to put aside a portion of her income into her TFSA. She believes investing and passive income is key to earning financial freedom. She also uses her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect Aeroplan points so that she can save money when she travels.

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