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8 tips for managing a budget your freshman year

8 tips for managing a budget your freshman year

You’re about to embark on an exciting chapter in your life – it’s your first year of college or university! There are so many changes to look forward to: expanding your knowledge in a field that interests you, gaining more independence and freedom, developing friendships and virtual connections, and having new experiences.

Learning how to manage your finances is all part of the deal. There’s a strong possibility that building up the money that’s been set aside for your education took several years to save, so put some extra thought into your budget. At the end of the day, a big part of adulthood is taking on more responsibility.

These 8 financial tips can help you prep for the school year

Calculate the money you have available to you

Work through the numbers and add up all the money you have at your disposal, anything you earned from summer employment, your registered education savings plan (RESP), family contributions, grants, a student loan or line of credit.

Set up a realistic budget

There are so many free or inexpensive online tools or budgeting apps to help you with this. Put limits on recreational spending and set up categories for essential expenses like rent, transportation, food, toiletries and tuition payments. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Do your homework before getting your first credit card

Owning a credit card is a good idea because it helps build your credit history. Before choosing the right credit card for you, talk to your parents, do research online and maybe even get the advice of your bank manager. Try to look for a card with a low rate and no annual fee. Credit cards with the word “student” built into the name typically offer better rates and added discounts. You’re going to want to pay your bill in full every month to maintain a healthy credit score.

Make changes to everyday spending habits

Take a good look at your daily routine and find ways to reduce recurring expenses. Quite often, changing simple behaviours could save you a lot; like cooking meals instead of eating out, brewing your morning coffee at home vs. getting takeout, cutting down on monthly digital subscriptions or waiting for a sale to buy anything nonessential.

Look into student tax deductions or tax credits

As a student, you may be eligible for non-refundable tax credits on expenses like tuition fees, books, public transit, interest paid on student loans, moving costs and childcare. This could really impact your annual tax return.

Take advantage of student discounts

Many businesses, stores and restaurants offer student discounts and deals, so don’t forget to ask before purchasing items such as electronics, groceries, clothing, phone plans and public transit passes. Even places with unadvertised discounts or no formal policy often give students a break, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Get a part-time job that works around your schedule

If you can find a place of employment that gives you an opportunity to manage class and study time responsibly, it’s a great way to earn extra money. Many colleges and universities offer part-time positions that are often very accommodating to class schedules so consider looking into on-campus employment or remote job programs affiliated with your school.

Keep future financial goals in mind

If it’s possible to set something aside, think about making an added investment in your future with a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). It’s never too early to get started.