How to budget for Post Secondary Education

Katie Weber

Sep 11, 2020

Figuring out your finances for post-secondary can be an extremely stressful time for many students due to the costs of tuition. For many students this will be their first time on their own so having a budget tailored to them can cut stress and overspending, while also shaping healthy financial habits for the future.

Talk it out:

Before you can even begin to budget for post-secondary, you need to go over some important details with parents, guardians or partners. The most important one being “Who is paying for post-secondary?” For some post-secondary costs will be covered by there parents or guardians which is a big stress reliever.

Unfortunately for others that is not an option, which brings in the options of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) or student lines of credit (SLOC). Along with OSAP and SLOC you need to consider expected expenses and even unexpected expenses. The best way to start planning for these expenses is to talk with family and friends about what to expect.

List Expenses:

To determine what you will be spending each semester, you need to do research to see what post-secondary related expenses to keep on your radar.

Textbooks and school supplies: Course Materials are the most basic and expected expense for most students, but they can take up quite a chunk of your budget. The best way to know what to budget for these costs is to look at the program requirements, they will list the textbooks and supplies required per class which allows you to budget. For textbooks depending on the course, you can take advantage of used or electronics versions.

Room and Board: When it comes to living arrangements comparing the cost of living on campus with a meal plan versus living off campus. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you do have the option to live at home and commute that is a great way to save on some additional expenses right from the get-go.

Transportation: Many schools now offer a transit pass included in their tuition costs, when deciding how you will be getting to and from school make sure to look at what the school offers to you. If your school doesn’t provide that luxury compare the costs of a monthly or yearly transit passes to the cost of gas, insurance and parking passes.

Discretionary spending (fun spending): Leave room in your budget for fun activities like dinner with friends or a trip to the movies. Everyone deserves a break from studying.

Track Spending:

Tracking your spending doesn’t need to be a grueling process that you monitor everyday (Unless you want it to be). Tracking you spending can be easily done by setting some time aside once a month or once a week if you really want to stay on top of things. Online banking is a great way to take inventory of what you have in the bank and what you’ve spent, laying out your spending in an easy to view format. Majority of Canadians banks now offer additional tools on their online banking apps to help you control your spending.

Needs/Wants: It can be extremely tricky to differentiate needs versus wants when they often feel like the same thing, take some time to identity what is essential and reduce spending on things that don’t fall into the category. Start this with a common culprit like food, getting the meal plan that fits your needs without being way more than you can eat in a year or not enough leaving you hungry can be a big money saver. If you are shopping for groceries always have a list, take advantage of coupons and sale. That is a great way to stay on budget and keep impulse purchases to a minimum. Also making sure not to order take out every time you don’t feel like cooking, not only is it better for your wallet it is better for you as well.

Time the non-essentials:

Sometimes we take some expenses for granted like subscriptions, Haircuts, Gifts etcetera. These are expenses that are often forgotten and may catch you by surprise but they can definitely fit into your budget, many subscription services offer plans for students at a reduced cost to there normal plans which is definitely something to look into if you cant live without your Spotify or Amazon Prime.

As for haircuts and grooming a great way to save a bit of money while helping fellow students out is by visiting a local college that has a esthetician program, they often are looking for people to practice what they have been learning on and offer grooming services free or at a low cost. There are many ways to save money here and there without giving up the things you love.

Keep your future self in mind:

If you have managed to build a budget and stick with it, you likely in good shape to continue a financially healthy path post-graduation. If you’re working and have surplus income set financial goals, like paying off student loans or creating an emergency fund. Don’t forget to continue to save money for something you enjoy as well like a trip or a new couch.

No matter what, saving during post-secondary is a great way to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that you have surrounding school, it also gives you a healthy grasp of reality in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can afford in post-secondary and what you need to do when you leave school to be able to afford more.