Budgeting your moolah

By Sally Jade Powis

As much as you hate the thought of crunching numbers, it is best to start budgeting now while you have the support of family members and the financial aid office, rather than later when you are drowning in debt and struggling to find a new job.

Start by listing all your expenses, including tuition, books, rent, groceries, transportation, entertainment and all other amenities in as much detail as possible. Prioritizing your expenses is important, which means you should figure out your costs for school, housing and food before assigning a large portion of your budget to entertainment expenses.

Next, list your sources of income, including financial support from your parents, loans, scholarships, savings from summer jobs, and income from part-time work during the school year. It is important to be as realistic and accurate as possible when working out incomes and expenses within your budget. If your expenses are more than your income, you will need to find ways to cut spending, or increase income.

When it comes to housing costs, living at home while going to school is the cheapest way. This may not be an option for some, while others simply may not want to consider it. By living on your own, you will not only have to budget the money to cover rent each month, but you will also have to consider costs of furniture, utilities, phone bills, groceries and transportation. It is for this reason that living in fully-furnished residences has its advantages. All you pay is a lump sum to cover the residence accommodation and meal plan fee, with the only monthly payment being the phone bill.

For students living on their own, food costs can be potentially monstrous if they aren’t careful. Many students make impulse food purchases, and end up with cupboards full of food they will never touch. Therefore, it is important to make a grocery list prior to going to the store, and to stick to that list.

While at the grocery store, purchase generic products rather than name-brand twins. Buying from the bulk food section can save some money, and also conserves storage space since you can buy the exact quantity that you want. When purchasing large quantities of an item, make sure it is non-perishable. Items such as pasta, rice, peanut butter and canned goods are ideal.

When it comes to working transportation costs into your budget, you will have to consider your options. Stick to using your U-Pass as it is a mandatory fee paid by all students in September as a part of tuition. This provides unlimited C-Train and bus access throughout the school year. For those who choose to have their own vehicle, it means that they will have to take into consideration the costs of a parking pass, insurance, gas, service and repairs.

By planning and monitoring your budget, you can avoid spending beyond your means, and it will allow you to foresee problems if they are occurring. By keeping all your receipts and bills, you will be able to develop a more accurate monthly budget modifying as required.

If you need extra help, budgeting software designed specifically for students is available at local retailers. To save a little extra coin, you can also try the Real Life Budget Planner, a free interactive calculation tool located at www.canlearn.ca

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