Budgeting 101: How to avoid going broke in university

Budgeting 101: How to avoid going broke in university

Keep a budget now, afford stuff later

Managing your money using a budget may not seem fun right now, but future-you is going to love being able to afford luxuries like phone payments, car payments, house payments, and insurance payments.

Budgeting apps can help you keep track of your finances so that you’re not adding to your debt any more than absolutely necessary.

The budgeting app Mint, for example, synchronizes all of your cards and bank accounts so that you know where your money is going with a glance at your smartphone. Gone are the days of having to do fancy, time-consuming, Excel spreadsheet–fuelled magic and the least fun math of your life.     

Alora Griffiths | The Ontarion

Budgeting apps allow you to set monthly budgets for all the necessities of life and let you organize what categories the expenses from your cards fall under. All that’s left for you to do is keep track of what you’re spending your cash on once you withdraw it.

As a student you will have essential expenses that there is no way around.

These can include car payments, parking, gas, rent, utilities, books, and tuition. Of course, you can aim to get a cheaper car or take public transportation, live in a rental that include utilities and internet, and buy second hand books, but there’s only so much wiggle room.

Your budget should keep these fixed costs in mind as you decide how to handle your other expenses.

To figure out what’s right for you, ask yourself a few questions:

1. How much can you afford to spend per month?

You should base this on how much money you have coming in per month and what your fixed expenses, discussed above, are already costing you.

2. Are your basic expenses reasonable?

Most students have these basic expenses:

  • Groceries
  • Phone bill
  • Restaurants
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Emergencies

If you’re adding more categories then it’s important to evaluate if you can afford them right now.

3. How did I do last month?

Ideally, you should check your budgets more than once a month to make sure you’re staying on track. At the very least, however, check your budget once a month to see what needs to be adjusted, what you need to stop spending money on, and whether you need to find a part-time job or pick up an extra shift once a week.

Once you know the amount you can afford to spend per month, you will need to adjust the amount for each budget category so they line up with how much money you have coming in.

For example, if you aim to spend $400 on your basic expenses each month then you might split it up like this:

Frances Esenwa | The Ontarion

Think of a budget as a guideline. If you go a little over or under it can roll into your next month. If you are going a lot over or under then it’s important to figure out why and make adjustments to either your income, your expenses, or your budget (if it’s a reasonable amount).

Most of the time, even if you go a little over your budget it will still be better than having no idea where your money is going.

You might think you didn’t do anything but study during school, but all of those coffee and fast food quick fixes can add up to thousands of dollars over the year if left unchecked. 

If you find yourself still needing help with managing your expenses then visit Student Financial Services; they offer assistance with

  • Budget counselling
  • OSAP appeals
  • Bursary appeals
  • Emergency funding requests

Photo by Alora Griffiths/The Ontarion.