Fall is fast approaching, and you're returning to campus for classes after a long period of remote learning due to COVID or, maybe this fall is your first time on campus. The transition back to campus is likely on your mind. Whether it's finding a place to live, switching your courses around, buying a stylish mask or two to wear or figuring out what's on your course reading lists, you've got a lot on the go.

If you're like many students, you're also thinking about your budget. Figuring out how to navigate new budgeting challenges or return to old healthy habits is key to ensuring you don't run out of cash by midterms. We'll help you navigate all of those worries with these budgeting tips.

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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 expenses) and other things you typically spend money on.

You can divide your expenses into fixed expenses — things you have no control over paying every month, like rent or tuition — and variable expenses — things you have more flexibility with how much you spend, like eating out or travel.

Income sources include income from jobs, support from your parents or other 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 expenses, by taking on another job or by borrowing more in student loans if you're able to.

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.

Use a budgeting app like Mint to break down your spending into different categories and roll over the money you didn't spend into the next month. Or pay for everything from your bank account directly with debit or charge everything on your credit card, then pay it off at the end of the month since that allows you 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.
  • Take out a set amount of cash. Limit your spending by paying for everything in cash and only taking out a certain amount each week.
  • 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.
  • Get cheaper 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.
  • Be your own person. Just because your friends are buying something doesn't mean you have to. If it doesn't fit your budget, say no to going out for dinner or buying those concert tickets.
  • 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 a tutoring client 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 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 you have a medical emergency.

Budgeting is easier than it looks

Budgeting might seem boring and hard, 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. There are also fun tools like this budgeting calculator that can help you figure it all out if you feel overwhelmed or if you have extra cash to put towards your goals.

By tackling budgeting 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 start your student loan repayment or pursue other short-term or long-term financial goals. Need support figuring out how to save or budget? Contact a Scotiabank advisor to help you craft a financial plan.

Book a meeting with one of our advisors to help you get your finances on track for your future