The proliferation of online tools and apps that help university students budget and work toward being debt-free include these:
1. University tools: Most schools have online budget calculators geared to their specific programs. For example, the University of waterloo's interactive calculator is thorough yet uncomplicated. To start, click on one of the five study periods you're budgeting for (January through April, May through August, September through December, January through August, and September through April). Then, it helps you break down all sources of personal income (bank balances, registered education savings plans, scholarships and awards, work during school), government income (provincial student assistance plans), and any other funds. Finally, it gives a thorough list of categories for expenses (tuition, books and incidental fees; for living in residence or off-campus; personal expenses such as clothing, laundry and entertainment; transportation; and others you fill in). At the end, hit the "calculate" button and it gives total expenses and net resources.
2. Mobile apps: There's a range of budgeting apps, but Spenz is one of the cooler ones, developed by two students at Ryerson University in Toronto – from exactly the age group their app is geared to. Downloaded free on iTunes, Spenz not only helps you keep track of your money, as other apps do, but it provides financial incentives such as rewards and deals. Spenz tracks spending by category, and you can automatically enter debit and credit transactions, get deals based on what you like to buy and where you are located, and input cash expenses quickly. Spenz also shows you the average spending of both your friends and the general population, to see how you measure up.
3. Government tools: the government of Canada's CanLearn loan repayment estimator helps take the guesswork out of how much you should budget for repaying federal or provincial student loans, by estimating the monthly payments. Type in the settings for your particular loan, enter the total amount of your loan or loans, select the interest rate you are paying for the grace period options, and decide on the number of monthly payments that you would like. The default number of payments is 114 if you take advantage of the six-month interest grace period, or 120 if you don't. You may request an extended amortization period by revising the terms of your loan agreement. With a click of your keyboard, the loan repayment estimator will then display your results at the bottom of the column. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's interactive budget tools can help you decide which chequing accounts, savings accounts, low-cost bank accounts, and banks across Canada may be right for you, giving information such as monthly, service, transaction and late fees.
4. Bank tools: Most financial institutions offer them free, and they often come with budget, spending and saving advice – cutting the time it would take to go into different banks to comparison shop. Here are just a couple of the bank tools: Bank of Nova Scotia's Fund Your Future budget tracker, which is meant to be used monthly to help raise student awareness about spending habits. Fill out total school income, and then plug in your budget for about two dozen expenses (you can fill in more), everything from rent, to snacks and sodas, car payments and gas, travel, loan payments, and even any money you may be putting into registered retirement savings plans or general savings plans. at the end of the month, fill in the actual amount you've spent on each expense. When you click on "Grade me," it will give the difference and show whether you are in the red or black for the month. Bank of Montreal's student budget calculator gives three easy steps (based on months you'll be in school, how much money you'll have for the school year, and your expenses) to help figure out whether you have enough money for the school year. If you're in good cash shape, it may recommend putting any surplus funds into a savings account to earn interest; if you have a shortfall, it may suggest opening a special student line of credit or credit card.