When you head back to school, have a financial plan

September 6, 2018

By Jane Rooney, Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader

It’s that time again – a hint of fall is in the air, and students everywhere are preparing to go back to school. As I watch my two sons get ready to return to their post-secondary studies, I thought I’d share some information about the importance of creating a savings plan and a budget. 

Whether you’re heading off to college, technical school, an apprentice program or university, having a savings plan and a budget will go a long way toward helping you avoid undue financial stress. Preparing for and starting your post-secondary studies should be an exciting time, one full of changes and new developments. By taking these steps, you can avoid getting bogged down by financial distractions. It will also help you avoid taking on excess debt. 

To start your budget, you’ll need to list how much money you expect to get (your income) and spend (your expenses) during your studies. Include all your costs when making your budget, tuition and student fees, books, course material, and living expenses. Next, list all your sources of income, such as personal savings, scholarships and grants, Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) funds, income from any jobs, and student loans. You can find more detailed information on how to make a budget for student life online. FCAC’s Budget Calculator tool will help you get started.

For those of you who are heading back to high school this fall, it’s also a good idea to map out a savings plan and have a budget. The more money you save before starting your post-secondary education, the less you’ll have to borrow. 

One way to build your savings for post-secondary education is to work part time during high school. Or maybe you worked over the summer and plan to do the same next summer. If you’re working at any point, using automatic deposits is a good way to save money. Speak to your financial institution about having some of your pay automatically deposited into a savings account.

And if you’re in the process of looking at post-secondary education choices, no matter what type of studies you’re considering, you should explore all your options for available financial assistance. Help is available whether you are looking at trade school, apprenticeship training, university or college. As you prepare your applications, it is a good time to research various scholarships, grants and bursaries to learn about the eligibility requirements, and begin drafting your supporting material. Accessing this free money and having your own savings means you’ll have less debt – or no debt - to pay back later, and you’ll be in a better financial position at the end of your studies. You can find more general information and tips on paying for post-secondary education at Canada.ca’s Education Funding page.

No matter what stage you are at, if you have a savings plan and a budget, you’ll be in a better position to enjoy your studies this year and into the future!

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