It’s February and with most of Canada in a slushy freeze this winter, students are tempted to get through the last weeks of winter by spending money on comfort food, trips down south, evenings out and other expenses that will increase their debt load on graduation. We asked students on our Globe and Mail Student Advisory Council to talk about their best budgeting strategies.
I have a Google Docs spreadsheet with all the money I make and everything I spend (down to each tea or slice of pizza). What gets measured gets managed, and being aware of all my small expenditures is really helpful. – Zachary Strong
By using a student credit card (they’re free) to make small purchases, and paying off the balance every month, you can help yourself out immensely when you get older and want to take out a loan for a house or a car or to start a new business. – Michael Smith
I think the best thing to do at this age is to start preparing to pay off your debt when school is finished. I have a separate tax free savings account that collects interest every month. My goal is to try and deposit $20 dollars here and there which has begun to add up and will hopefully make my debt less of a burden when it comes to paying it off after graduation. – Ali Wilson
The most expensive thing for me seems to be food, so what I do is I plan my meals every day. Smoothie for breakfast (which accounts for minimum fruit, half vegetable, half dairy), and then a dish I affectionately refer to as “bachelor chow.” It’s a recipe which was given to me by my brother which takes two hours to make, costs about $30 bucks and makes lunch for about 11 days (it covers the rest of the vegetables and all the protein) then I eat something light for dinner (salad, fish, chicken). – Chris Robson
I have been blessed to have had it funded entirely by scholarships and bursaries, but applying for these is a lot of hard work (and time). You constantly have to be on the lookout for suitable opportunities and apply to them. Sometimes you are successful and sometimes you are not. But I think a good take home message for students is APPLY!! There are a lot of awards within the Financial Aid Office at most universities that are never claimed (particularly bursaries) because people do not know about them. And the smaller awards ($500, $1000) certainly do add up over time. – Anita Acai
I do something a little different in terms of budgeting expenses in that I limit myself in terms of how many times I can buy something or go somewhere a month. For instance, I’ll only buy myself a coffee four times a month, or I will only go out for dinner twice a month. I even do this with gas for my car, I fill up once every three weeks, if I run out of gas, I’ve gotta bus. This way I am still budgeting my costs but I don’t feel like I am penny pinching all the time. It also makes you consider what you’re actually willing to spend money on. – Sydney Patricia Rudko
I too have been blessed with athletic scholarships and savings from my parents, but with that said I did something very similar to what Sydney does. I allocated certain days where I would allow myself to spend money on dinners/nights out each month and filled those days accordingly. Albeit, as an athlete I never drank during the second semester as it would be on season, however I just substituted those with dinners. I prioritized my needs as well ... anything sport-related took precedence (travel/food/equipment) then school, noted family event days and birthdays, then everything else. Any and all money I made working part-time during school was 70/30 ... 30 per cent into savings and 70 per cent stayed in chequing. – Goran Miletic
Constant useful information is more powerful than the most complex spreadsheet with the prettiest graphics. For motivation, I make as clear as possible to myself why what I’m spending money is worth my money (and therefore my time). Just asking yourself the question “what real value does this have?” reminds you of what you’re working toward and therefore defends you against the snap motivation our consumer culture thrives on. – Benjamin Miller
The Globe and Mail Student Advisory Council is on Facebook. It’s composed of university and college students and recent graduates talking about life on Canadian campuses and in the classroom.