Why Student Budgeting Is Fundamental

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Student budgeting was something I wish I had taken the time to learn more about when I was a student because it’s a significant part of frugal living.

There was a time years ago when I was at University and had to focus on my studies, part-time job, friends, and trying to stay frugal.

Years later, I lived in Canada on an international Visa which helped me prepare but not for the culture shock of student life.

I attended University and College at two different times, at ages 21 and 30, and although I had a similar outlook, my financial direction changed.

It can be overwhelming for students to find a balance between going away to school or staying close to home.

Student budgeting involves getting through today so tomorrow won’t be such a financial burden.

I created 5 SMART guidelines to help students squeeze more from their student loans or savings to avoid increasing debt.

Why Student Budgeting Is Crucial
Why Student Budgeting Is Crucial

Student Budgeting Before Higher-Education

I haven’t read one Canadian University or College website that doesn’t express the need for student budgeting.

For example, The University of Saskatchewan discusses managing cash flow using a budget.

The idea of setting up a budget might initially seem daunting but setting time aside on a weekly or monthly basis can have great advantages in how you manage your cash flow.

Today, students can get budget information and have the ability to estimate yearly costs using such things as a Student Financial Planner.

This calculator will show you how much money you will need to cover tuition and fees, housing costs, food and everything else for the upcoming academic year.

You’ll provide some background and income information, and we’ll show you a budget summary and direct you to some useful resources to help you save money.

Student Financial Planner – University Of Toronto

Mohawk College offers an impressive Mo’ Money Financial Literacy Resources page, which I commend.

Students need to understand how money works is critical, especially with rising costs for Canadians.

Budgeting is only the start of understanding frugal living, long and short-term goals, and debt repayment.

Don’t Rely On Anyone For Money

Not all students have parents, family, OSAP, and Bank loans to fall back on when financial times get rough.

Even if you are fortunate to have such blessings, finding a way to support yourself is essential.

This might mean applying for part-time jobs, blogging, or earning extra income with a side hustle such as tutoring or seasonal work.

Feel proud, powerful, and independent regarding money, even if it’s tough.

Your money source can go belly up at any time, always have a plan B.

Credit Card Marketing For Students

Approach marketing ploys by credit card companies and every other back-to-school advertising with caution and proceed only if needed.

Always read the fine print, as deals often end with paying full price for a product or interest rate you can’t afford.

Remember the difference between wants vs. needs; don’t mix the two or make excuses for debt.

Peer Pressure To Participate

You might find that your entertainment budget category is slim or doesn’t exist.

This tells you that you might struggle to hang out with friends who want to spend money.

Find friends in your financial situation or those who understand your predicament.

It’s easier to navigate extracurricular activities with people you surround yourself with that care.

If you find yourself in this situation, take caution so you don’t fall into peer pressure.

Spending $50 here and there adds up big time and fast.

Student Budgeting Housing and Needs Expenses

Budgeting for housing expenses such as rent or room and board is evident as they are fixed costs.

Variable expenses such as food, utilities, transportation, entertainment, health and beauty, healthcare, debt repayment, and miscellaneous expenses might take research. (that’s what I’m here for)

For example, no matter where you rent, you will need tenants’ insurance to cover your stuff in case of a fire, break, theft, or water damage.

Some students may be covered under their parent’s home insurance when they are away, but no policy is the same.

The homeowner or apartment building that you rent from does not cover you for insurance.

What’s important to remember here is that you need to know everything you are expected to pay for and budget.

The Ultimate Guide For Canadian Grocery Shopping– Over 300 Money-Saving Posts

Debt vs. Student Budgeting

Trust me, a night out guzzling away drinks is not worth the money or the headache.

Find other ways to save money, have fun, and enjoy making memories you’ll remember.

You’re a step ahead if you can avoid other debt besides student debt, such as OSAP or bank loans to pay for school and needs.

If you had to choose debt or debt freedom, which appeals to you more?

Student Budgeting After Graduation

Surviving life after graduation doesn’t have to be a massive surprise financially if you’ve built a knowledge base of information.

Besides understanding how budgeting and other finance tools work, it’s also essential to put them to use.

Don’t let information that can help you succeed with your money get dusty.

You’ll thank me one day.

Government Supports For Students is a government website that is a wealth of information for students.

You can find Everything from student aid to education plans, including budgeting, Scholarships, OSAP, and Student Lines of Credit.

What’s important is that you arm yourself with the information needed to be successful during and after you graduate.

The 2022 Fall Economic Statement proposes to make all Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans permanently interest-free, including those currently being repaid, beginning on April 1, 2023.

Students will still be able to use the Repayment Assistance Plan, allowing them to pause student loan repayment until they make at least $40,000 per year, and reducing payments for those earning slightly above that threshold.

University and College Support For Students

Depending on the school, you will find some form of financial support if you visit their website.

You might be offered financial tools, student counselling, loan and scholarship support.

Take advantage of your school’s freebies, and perhaps consider starting a finance group.

Advertise your group’s inspiration within your school and on social media platforms.

  • Start a Private Facebook Group
  • Instagram Group Chat
  • X (Twitter) Live Group Chat
  • In-Person Coffee Group Chat

There are probably loads of students who would love to meet like-minded people to share and support each other.

Emergency Loans

The University of Manitoba emergency loan program provides short-term assistance to students who experience unexpected and immediate financial expenses or constraints.

This includes, but is not limited to, unanticipated personal living costs, and unexpected delays in government loans, and other award funding.

University of Manitoba

University Food Banks

Eligible students are welcome to use the UM’s Food Bank services once every three weeks, at no cost to them, to help offset the costs of their groceries during times of financial distress.

To be eligible to use the food bank, students must be enrolled (full or part-time) in the current academic term. 

University Of Manitoba Food Bank

Almost all communities have one you can visit monthly if your school does not host a food bank.

It’s a great place to pick up non-perishables to stock your pantry with items you can’t afford.

Related: Poverty Food Hacks For Canadians

5 SMART Student Budgeting Guidelines

I wish I had finance blogs to read to learn from their experiences when I was in school for the first time.

Unfortunately, I did not, so I made mistakes which everyone will do in their lives, and that’s perfectly fine.

Without mistakes, we don’t learn to improve to become the best version of ourselves or the goals we’ve set.

Below let’s explore SMART student budgeting.

S = Self Awareness

I wanted self-awareness to be part of my SMART budgeting because so many people don’t know themselves.

Start a journal and document what makes you happy and sad or gets your blood boiling.

For example, how does it make you feel when you can’t pay a bill or are short rent money?

  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you have any short-term and long-term financial goals?
  • Create a list of things you enjoy that won’t cost you money.
  • What are your favourite meals, snacks, and desserts to make?

You can create a list for yourself but document the answers.

You’ve considered it even if you don’t refer to your journal.

It’s easier to recall what you’ve already been mindful of when you need it the most.

For example, if you’re grocery shopping and find an in-store special on beef.

First, will buying a pack of beef fit into your grocery budget?

You might have to remove something from your grocery list to fit it into the meal plan.

Second, what will you make with the beef?

If you know that meatballs are a hit for your tummy, the meat is a bargain.

However, if you might not eat much beef so it’s not worth buying.

M = Money Management

There are obvious signs of poor money management

A = Apps For Saving Money

If you’re a student, you most likely have a mobile phone or access to a computer.

Use it to help save money.

Saving money to put towards your education before you attend school is also a huge bonus.

Working during your education and earning some money is the cherry on the sundae.

Every little bit of savings helps, whether from online savings apps, coupons, cashback and rewards points, etc. It all matters.

R = Return On Investment

I might have an odd way of thinking about money but return on investment is important.

Any time we buy or invest in anything, it’s valid to consider what we’ll get from it.

The reward does not have to be monetary, but if it’s not, consider the consequences of the action.

For example, is that realistic if you put concert tickets on your credit card and convince yourself that you’ll pay the bill the following month?

Excuses or “feel happy” agendas don’t work in budgeting because they often lead to debt.

We’ve never had credit card debt because if we didn’t have the cash saved to pay for something, we didn’t buy it.

If we didn’t have emergency savings and the cash to buy something, we didn’t.

This mindset goes back to when we were young, even though we didn’t budget.

You might think that’s harsh and that I need to “live a little,” but there’s nothing worse than debt or dying, leaving it for someone else to deal with.

Growing up in a family where money was tight, bill collectors were calling, and no was the answer to every question, then listen up.

Be the person that breaks the generational debt train.

T = Track Everything You Spend

Since 2012 I have written many finance blog posts that revolved around tracking.

Each link below includes free printables, tips, and situations we’ve experienced.

When you know where your money is going by tracking expenses, you’ll understand your spending and saving patterns.

Unfortunately, I did not do this as a student, and I wish I had known.

I would have saved money and found ways to increase my frugal mindset.

Choose Your Financial Route

Download the Goal Action Plan FREE student pdf of the CBB Free Budget Tools Page and many more.

Student Goals Action Plan
Student Goals Action Plan

If you’re new to Canadian Budget Binder, take a moment to read more about who I am, where I came from, and how we became debt-free before we were 40.

Create an action plan before you start budgeting so you know what you’re getting into.

Understanding why you want to start budgeting is part of the building process.

Good Luck on your student budgeting journey.

Don’t forget to subscribe for your free Emergency and Canadian Budget Binder.


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