Being a student is an exciting and always busy time. Whether it's finding a place to live, switching your courses around or figuring out what's on your course reading lists, you've got a lot on the go.
Like many students, you're also probably thinking about your budget. Figuring out how to navigate budgeting is key to making sure you don't run out of cash by midterms. We'll help you navigate all of those worries with these budgeting tips.
1. Make a budget
Whatever your school budget looked like last year, this year, most universities and colleges are going back to at least some in-person learning — and that means your budget will need to be adjusted to account for new expenses.
The first step is to look at all the expenses you are likely to have and what income you will be making. Expenses to consider include tuition, student fees, housing costs, groceries, eating out, utilities, cell phone bills, entertainment, subscriptions for streaming services, memberships, gifts for friends, travel, splurges, computer equipment, transportation costs (car, bike, or transit) and other things you typically spend money on.
You can divide your expenses into fixed expenses — things you need to pay every month, like rent or tuition — and variable expenses — things you have more flexibility with, like eating out or travel.
Income sources can include income from jobs, support from family members, student loans, scholarships, bursaries, grants and honorariums. Once you know how much income you bring in, compare that to your expenses and see if you have enough money to pay for everything you need. If you don't, you can either make your budget balance by cutting back on variable expenses, by taking on another job, or by potentially borrowing more in student loans.
If you are an eligible Scotiabank customer, you can get started with making your budget with Scotia Smart Money by Advice+.* You can find this new digital feature, on your Scotia mobile app under the “My Advice+” tab.
2. Track your budget
Don't worry! You don't need to carry a notebook around to write down everything you spend. There are all sorts of ways to track your budget each month to make sure you're not overspending. In fact, they're all easier than trying to learn the steps for that TikTok dance you saw the other day.
For example, once you’re using Scotia Smart Money by Advice+, you can set how much you want to spend each month on different categories, like groceries and entertainment. It will then automatically track how much you spend in each category and if you’re ahead or behind your goal. This can help you not go over your spending limit each month. If you spend less that you planned, you can take that money and save for something special or enjoy a treat.
Looking for some help in setting your budget? You can try using the suggested budget amounts (they are based on your spending over the last six months). The tool also shows your cashflow so you can better understand how much money comes in and out of your accounts each month.
When it comes time to pay off your monthly bills, you can consider paying for everything from your bank account directly with debit or charge them on your credit card, then pay it off at the end of the month. This is a great way to begin to build your credit score and easily track how much money you spent that month. There are great credit cards for students designed to help you do just that.
3. Learn and implement budgeting tips for students
- Ask yourself if you want or need things
You might want a new outfit for a party, but you don't really need it. Borrow something from a friend to mix it up!
- Cut out non-essential purchases
Cut back on eating out or buying coffee at $4 a day; you can buy yourself a coffee machine and make it at home.
- Switch bank accounts
Is your bank account charging you too much for transactions? Make sure to switch to a student bank account with unlimited debit and Interac e-Transfer† transaction.
- Check out advice built for you
Scotia Smart Money by Advice+ provides you with personalized and real time insights that are designed to improve your financial well-being or alert you to something happening in your accounts. This can mean things like when your paycheque is in your account or if you are reaching your credit limit.
- Lower your bills
Shop around for a better deal on recurring bills or call your providers and ask them if they have a cheaper plan or can offer you a discount for not leaving.
- Treat yourself now and then
It's hard to stick to a budget if you don't give yourself a treat. Build in a monthly or weekly splurge into your spending.
- Find the best deals
Shop around or search for discount codes before buying things online.
- Rent a house with friends
Often, you're able to save extra money on housing costs when you rent a larger place with more bedrooms.
- Save money on food
Buy in bulk, cook food in batches and freeze the extras you're not going to eat right away. You'll always have something to take to school or to heat up quickly when pressed for time.
- Make extra money
Take on tutoring someone or pick up more hours at your part-time job.
- Apply for financial aid
Check with your student services office and see whether they can help you or direct you towards awards for which you're a good candidate.
- Look for student discounts
As a student, you can often save big from places like popular campus pizza restaurants to tech companies.
- Nip overspending in the bud
Find yourself overspending every month? If so, figure out what you're overspending on and why, then find an alternative or workaround to help curb the spending.
- Save for an emergency fund
Each month put a bit of money aside in your savings account for an emergency fund to protect yourself if your computer suddenly breaks and needs to be replaced or need to take some time off because of an illness. Use our Scotiabank Money Finder Calculator to determine if you have additional money available to put towards your emergency fund by comparing your income to your expenses.
Budgeting is easier than it looks
Budgeting might seem boring and tricky, but by paying close attention to your budget, you can greatly reduce anxiety about money since you'll always know you're on track and spending within your means. Remember, you can always have helpful tools like Scotia Smart Money by Advice+ in your back pocket to get started.
By tackling your budget now and becoming a boss at it, you will also teach yourself valuable lessons about financial literacy and saving money. These skills will come in handy when you do things like start your student loan repayment or pursue other short-term or long-term financial goals.
Need more support figuring out how to save or budget? A Scotiabank advisor can help you craft a financial plan.