Managing your Money
Dollars and sense
The Student Awards and Financial Aid team understands you are concerned about managing your finances successfully over the course of your degree. We can help you create a plan that works for you, and build financial skills and strategies that will benefit you while you are a student and beyond.
Start by planning your 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!
Use our online budget tool to get a detailed estimate of your costs while studying at Dalhousie.
1. Determine wants vs. needs
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.
2. List money coming in vs. money going out
First, list all of your sources of income, including money from family/supporters, savings, student loans, scholarships, bursaries and part-time jobs. If you're not sure, make a reasonable guess – and remember that for employment income taxes will be taken off.
Second, 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.
3. Compare your expenses and your income
If you are over budget, adjust your flexible expenses, such as spending money or groceries or entertainment. Keep in mind it's your monthly expenses that you have the most control over. 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.
4. Use technology to your advantage
There are many tools and apps that you can use to build a budget, track your expenses, and even give you alerts when your spending goes over budget.
- Use our basic budget calculator to get a baseline of where you stand.
- More detailed budgeting tools are available online at Credit Counselling of Atlantic Canada or the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
- Try an app like Mint or YNAB (You Need a Budget) so you can track your expenses on the go and as you spend.
Your budget will need adjusting over time, as your financial circumstances change, e.g. a new living arrangement, increased income from a new part-time job, etc. Revisit and revise your budget regularly!
A budget will only help you if you use it! Check out the Dal Student Life blog post "Here's how to actually stick to your budget" to support your success!
- There are many ways to make your money stretch further and to economize on required expenses. Check out these strategies for living affordably for tips and inspiration.
- Before building yor first budget, it's helpful to understand the cost of living in Halifax.
- Even with careful planning, unexpected circumstances may arise. We are here to assist you in dealing with crises and managing your student debt.