The Essentials of Budgeting as a University Student

By Concordia University Modified on June 28, 2019

Follow these golden rules to stay on top of your finances.

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Students discuss their work in a biology lab.

So you've accepted your offer of admission and you'll be starting your first university term this fall!

Take your downtime in the summer as an opportunity to prepare yourself a student-friendly budget. Selecting courses and determining your class schedule is a top priority, but it's also important not to let your finances fall through the cracks.

Planning your budget ahead of time will ensure a smooth transition into the school year so that you can be on top of your game.

Here are some helpful step-by-step tips:

1) Income: Collect all of your sources of income on a monthly basis and calculate the total. These include scholarships, bursaries, awards, loans and employment.

2) Expenses: Record a list of your monthly expenses and break them down into two categories in a spreadsheet: 1) fixed and 2) variable.

  • Determine what's fixed (consistent every month, i.e.: rent, utilities, insurance).
  • Determine what's variable (changing every month or optional, i.e.: entertainment, eating out, groceries, clothing, etc.).

3) Spend less: Make sure that your income outweighs your expenses, and if it doesn't, then you'll need to adjust your spending or cut where possible. Cutting down on “variable” costs is the first step.

4) Savings: Avoid the temptation of spending all your leftover money after covering your living costs. Anticipate the possibility of urgent expenses! Some of your disposable income should be reserved for unexpected but necessary costs, such as replacing a lost transit pass, laptop repairs, etc.

5) Credit: Credit cards should be restricted to emergencies — not impulse buys — and shouldn't be conflated with your regular income. If you do need to incur a balance on your account, opt for the lowest interest card you can find, and be sure to make regular payments to maintain a good credit score.

6) Food: Don't let food eat up your budget! It's easy to lose track of how much you spend on lunches, “break” foods such as coffees, snacks and takeout meals. They may seem like small expenses, but they can add up quickly. Give yourself a reasonable budget so these expenses become treats rather than habit, and take the time to meal prep.

For more tips on budgeting, check out these helpful resources: