Student Savings: Steps to Success
Sharing tried-and-true tips for life on a budget!
Written by fourth-year Western University Medical Sciences student Emily Dietrich.
For many university students, being away at school and living on their own is their first real 'adulting' experience. It can be an adjustment, especially if you're coming out of living in residence where many of your daily needs are covered for you. Here are some of my tips for learning to stay on top of your finances!
1. Break down your budget
Managing finances can be intimidating, but I've found that it is easier to process when you see all your expenses in one place. There are numerous apps available that you can use to create a comprehensive overview of your expenses, from Microsoft Excel to Mint and other budget trackers. If you prefer a physical template, those are abundant online also! I used the Budget Worksheet (PDF) from Western's Off-Campus Housing Office and modified it to include my income in addition to my expenses.
Some of the key items to think about in your budget include tuition and academic fees, books, and rent, but it is also important to consider setting aside some money for things like relaxation or entertainment — don't forget about yourself!
2. Find out if utilities are included in your rent (if not, don't worry!)
When living in a student rental, it's important to read through your lease agreement and fully understand what is and isn't covered in your monthly rate. For me, our internet and utilities were not included, so these were additional costs I had to consider. Many internet providers have special rates for students — if you are unsure, don't be afraid to give them a call to see if you can negotiate a package!
A huge lifesaver for my roommates and I, since we had to pay for our gas and hydro bills out-of-pocket, was the Ontario Electricity Support Program. After completing the application with my roommates, we received a monthly deduction on our energy costs, which sometimes covered the entire electricity portion of our hydro bill! If you are attending school outside Ontario, I would recommend reaching out to your local gas or hydro companies to see if there are similar programs available.
3. Use your financial counselling resources
Even for the most organized individuals, trying to wrap your head around your finances can be a big headache. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, so it can be a great idea to look for personalized assistance. Your school will likely have different programs in place, from in-person or virtual financial counselling to workshops, which are fantastic resources!
These programs help to build financial literacy, which you will carry with you well into the future, as well as a sense of confidence and control over your spending. Each school's financial offices can help students get a better sense of how to juggle their unique situations, including tuition, scholarships and student loans. Remember — these people are professionals! They are the experts who are there to navigate and support you as you take this next step!
Ultimately, finances can be a sensitive and stressful subject. However, it's important to remember you are not alone in experiencing this. It may take some time, but conquering your costs can be done!
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