Dollars and sense
Developing a budget and managing finances is an important life skill which all students will need to develop during their university journey. On top of planning to finance your tuition, you’ll also need to factor in additional expenses, including costs for books and supplies, insurance, travel, phone, food, personal items, etc.
Develop a budget
A key money management tool is a budget. It shows you how much is coming in from jobs or loans and how much needs to go out for bills and expenses. It will help you make decisions about how you spend your money on a day-to-day basis. Without a budget, you're making those decisions in the dark.
- Determine wants vs. needs
- In preparing a budget, it's important to distinguish between "needs" and "wants". You need food to live, but going out to eat costs a lot more than eating in. At the same time, getting out with friends is important to your mental health. The trick is finding a balance. You need a budget that is not so strict that you are constantly breaking it, or so relaxed that you are always over-spending.
- First, list all of your sources of income including money from your parents, savings, student loans, scholarships, bursaries and money from part-time jobs. If you're not sure, make as good a guess as you can. Remember that for employment income, taxes will be taken off.
- Then, list all of your expenses for the year:
- School costs: tuition, books and course fees.
- One-time expenses: moving, rental deposit, trips home, gifts.
- Monthly expenses: rent, utilities (phone, furnace oil, electricity), groceries, entertainment, gas, bus, car maintenance, clothing. Your monthly expenses will vary. And, in fact, it is the monthly expenses that you have the most control over. If you need to pay for furnace oil, November through March will cost more than other months. Ask your landlord or the oil company for an average cost for the year, then build it into your budget.
- If you are over budget, adjust your flexible expenses, such as spending money or groceries or entertainment. If you know in advance how much you'll be short over the entire year, you can trim by just a little bit throughout the year and maintain control over your budget.
Use our online budget tool to get a detailed estimate your costs while studying at Dalhousie.
Managing your budget
Keep your budget up to date. Circumstances are bound to change. Use your budget to see how you can still make it work. For example, if you spend a little too much one week, find a way to make up for it the next.
Is your budget working? Try recording every penny you spend for a week to see where you're spending your money. Keep receipts or track what you spend in a notebook. Then do the math. Buying one cup of coffee a day could cost $42 a month, or $315 for the year. Can you afford that? You won't know unless you figure out how it all adds up.