Now that we are fully immersed in October, the realities of being a student are surfacing. It's not just about making new friends, going out, navigating new neighbourhoods, staying up late or getting good grades – day to day life has arrived and the finer points of being a ‘successful’ student need to be addressed.
Often, one of the surprises students are hit with is the necessity of creating a budget. At the beginning of the year, you have a bit more wiggle room: summer job money, fresh flow of student loan income or the funds from your eccentric great aunt who celebrated your post-secondary debut with a card stuffed full of money (we can all dream). But as the semester charges on, that money can be hit hard. This is the perfect time to make a budget and stick to it.
When we hear the word budget, what often comes to mind is 'being careful with my money'. But budgeting is a fine art. It's not about shaming yourself for your spending habits: it's about taking a conscious, proactive stance about where you channel your money and sticking to it.
One of the Know the Score quiz questions (spoiler alert!) clearly shows the difference between the 'idea' of budgeting and an actual tangible budget.
- Question: Choose the best statement for budgeting guidance as a student:
- Answer A (one of the incorrect answers) hits home: Keep a monthly tally of expenses in your head, and cut back on spending if you start to run out as you get closer to the end of the month.
This is not budgeting.
A budget involves listing all of your expenses, paying bills on time, setting a small amount towards savings and allocating a set amount of money towards entertainment which may – or may not – include gambling.
There are a number of resources for students that can help you create a budget and stick to it:
On campus: Many campuses provide financial guidance for students through their financial aid offices. Look them up in the campus directory and make an appointment. You don't have to be a student loan holder to access their resources. For example, Mohawk College's Mo'Money Resource Centre connects students with a Money Coach and other valuable services.
Online: Many college and university websites have great tools you can use without seeing an actual human. Try Fleming College's budget calculator to estimate expenses and income or check out Mohawk College's excellent budget worksheet.
Student Budgeting Apps: There is a number of budgeting apps you can download to help track finances and pinpoint problem spots. A really cool app, Mint, securely connects to your bank account and inputs purchases you've made. The tough part about tracking expenses is remembering to log them – this app does it automatically with all ATM purchases.
Getting on top of your budget early on in the school year can greatly reduce stress and help you focus on the business of being a student. Knowing how much money you will need for college or university and learning to manage money is an important part of student success.