Managing your budget as a student
A budget is a plan that helps you manage your money. It will help you figure out how much money you’ll get and spend during your studies.
Costs to include in your budget
Make sure to include all the costs of student life when making your budget. These costs may include the following categories.
Tuition fees are what you pay your university or college to enroll in their program and attend classes.
Tuition fees may vary depending on:
- your study program
- the school you attend
- the province or territory you’re studying in
- your residency status or citizenship
- the number and type of classes you take
- whether you’re a part-time or full-time student
Check your school’s website for details about the tuition fees you’ll pay.
You’ll need to pay student fees such as student union fees and administration fees. The exact fees will depend on your school.
Private health insurance coverage is usually included in student fees. This insurance covers medical and/or dental costs not covered by your provincial or territorial health insurance.
You may have private health insurance coverage through your job or family. In that case, you may be able to opt out of your school’s coverage. Check with your school to see if you're eligible. Most schools will only let you opt out during the first few weeks of the school year. You may have to provide proof that you have private health insurance coverage from another source.
Books and other course materials
The cost of books and other course materials depends on your program and school. Check with your school for a cost estimate.
To reduce the costs of books and other course materials you may:
- buy used books
- buy textbooks from online retailers that offer items at a lower price than the campus bookstore
- get electronic versions of course materials
- check your school library to see if any of the course material is available to borrow
- sell your used textbooks
- use an older edition of the textbook if possible
It’s important to plan how much you’ll spend on living expenses. This will have a big impact on your financial situation when you finish your studies.
Living on campus
If you plan to live on campus, check student residence and meal plan costs on your school’s website. Consider living in a shared residence room because shared rooms often cost less than single rooms.
Living off campus
You may choose to live off campus rather than in residence. This could mean living with roommates, family or living on your own. Sharing costs while you study could cut your living expenses by thousands of dollars each year.
Some school websites provide estimated costs for living off campus. These costs will depend on where you study. For example, rent in a small town in Nova Scotia may be much less than rent in downtown Toronto.
Remember to consider the cost of food, heat, electricity, Internet and tenant’s insurance. Look for grocery stores that offer student deals on certain days of the week.
If you use public transit to get to school, check the price of a public transit pass.
If you have a car, check your school website for the cost of parking. Consider the cost of gas. You may find that taking public transit is much cheaper than driving to school. You may also consider carpooling if you use your car.
If you live away from home, consider the cost of going home for a visit. Most airlines, bus and train companies offer discounts to students.
Sporting events, movie tickets and streaming services are examples of entertainment costs you need to consider. To reduce these costs, focus on what you need instead of what you want.
You may be able to save money on these costs by using student discount cards.
Consider rising costs
Your tuition and living costs may rise each year.
The cost of your expenses may also increase due to inflation. Inflation is the rising cost of consumer goods and services.
Remember to include these increases in costs when making your new student budget each year.
Sources of income
When making your budget for student life, consider where your money will come from. Your income may come from personal savings or from working while going to school. Your income may also come from your parents.
To add to your income, also consider:
- a government student loan
- a student line of credit from your financial institution
Tax deductions and tax credits for students
There are many tax deductions and tax credits available for students. What you’re eligible for depends on if you’re a part-time or full-time student.
A tax deduction reduces your taxable income for the year. For example, as a student you may be eligible for tax deductions for moving expenses and childcare expenses.
A non-refundable tax credit reduces the amount of tax you owe. You may be eligible for non-refundable tax credits for costs such as:
- tuition fees
- public transit
- interest paid on your student loan
Make sure to file your income tax return on time each year to avoid penalties.
Paying back student debt
Canada Student Loans
If you have a Canada Student Loan, you’ll have a 6-month non-repayment period after you:
- finish your final school term
- reduce from full-time to part-time studies
- leave school or take time off school
Provincial student loans
The repayment rules of provincial student loans vary depending on the province or territory where you applied for your loan.
Student lines of credit
You may have a student line of credit with your financial institution. In that case, you'll have to pay the interest on the money you borrow while you’re still in school.
Student credit cards
University and college campuses are popular advertising spots for credit card companies. The annual interest rate for student credit cards in Canada is around 21%.
Credit cards are a very expensive way to borrow if you don’t repay the balance in full each month.
Include your payments in your budget
Build your student debt payments into your budget and try making more than the minimum payments. You can also speak with your financial institution about setting up automatic payments.
When planning your budget and automatic payments, make sure you know when they’re due. If you have more than one loan, card or line of credit, you may have different payment due dates.
How student debt affects your credit score
Student loans and lines of credit form part of your credit history. If you miss or are late with your payments, it can affect your credit score.
Your credit score shows future lenders how risky it can be for them to lend you money. A poor credit score can also affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment or get more credit.
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