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Life on a Budget

What is a Budget?

A budget is a detailed plan of how you manage, spend and save your money. Having a financial plan allows you to determine in advance whether or not you can afford to pay for the things you need and the things you’d like to have.

The Benefits of Having a Budget

Creating a working budget will help minimize your financial stress and increase your wellness. It will also give you a better understanding of your spending habits so that you can better manage your daily finances while saving for the future.

Here are some other reasons why you should create a budget (and stick to it!):

  • Satisfaction in taking control of your finances.
  • Awareness of what you spend money on and ways you can cut back.
  • Comfort in knowing whether or not you can afford something.
  • Saving for short- and/or long-term goals.

Courtesy of Toronto Metropolitan University’s debt free handbook.

Tip: Start creating your budget as soon as possible, that way you can familiarize yourself with available financial resources and determine if you will need to utilize additional funding sources.

Need help? Contact our financial literacy specialist at

How to Budget

Follow these simple steps to create your own budget – it’s never too late to start planning your financial future!

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

Think about what it is you’d like to accomplish with your budget by identifying some specific short- and long-term goals. Perhaps you’d like to save for an international exchange, pay off some debt, or go on a trip over reading week. After identifying your goals, make a detailed and realistic plan for how you will achieve them.

Step 2: Calculate Your Financial Resources

List all your sources of income, which may include:

  • personal savings
  • contributions from your family or spouse
  • government loans 
  • scholarship, awards or bursaries
  • RESP contributions
  • other (student line of credit, bank loans, etc.)

Step 3: Calculate Your Expenses

List all your expenses, which may include:

  • education (tuition, fees, books, etc.)
  • living (residence fees, rent, utilities, groceries/meal plan, etc.)
  • transportation (parking, gas, car insurance, car payments, maintenance and repairs, etc.)
  • personal (entertainment, clothing, grooming, travel, etc.)
  • debt (student loan, credit, other)

Step 4: Create a Personalized Budget

Consider the frequency of your financial resources and expenses and determine whether a weekly, monthly, or per-term budget is right for you. Consider including important financial dates – such as tuition deadlines, bills or other payment dates – on your calendar to ensure prompt payment.

To begin creating your own personal budget, use the Budget Planner, courtesy of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Step 5: Regularly Review and Revise Your Budget

Life happens. As circumstances change, so should your budget. Make sure to regularly review your goals, sources of income and expenses to ensure that they are reflective of your current circumstance.

Budgeting Tips

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when building and maintaining your budget:

  • Consider having an emergency fund to pay for the unexpected.
  • Organize and nickname online bank accounts.
  • Sign up for pre-authorized bill payments.
  • Only use your bank’s ATM machines.
  • Consult sale flyers when making a purchase.
  • Shop on student discount days.