Having a budget can help you know how you are spending your money, set priorities, and plan for the future (e.g., how much money will you have left after the end of the school year?). It does not mean only spending the bare minimum or "being cheap". Budgets can be flexible: if you spend less than you budgeted, you may decide to spend more the next month or save your extra money.


1. Download our budget spreadheet. You can input your funds and expenses and all the calculations will be done for you.


More information: The document includes two spreadsheets (see the tabs on the bottom of the spreadsheets), one for your long-term budget and one for your monthly budget.


Long-term budget: Estimate your funds and expenses over several months.

Monthly budget: Keep track of your actual funds and expenses month-to-month. Your totals for each category will automatically show up in your long-term budget spreadsheet to allow comparison.


Tips: Customize the budget worksheet.

Months: The default starting month is September, change it to whenever you are starting your budget.  


Categories: You can change the names of categories in your long-term budget and your monthly budget will be updated automatically.


Rows: You can delete rows without affecting calculations. However, you will have to delete them in both your long-term and monthly budget sheets.


Formulas: When you need to add values together in a single box, use the following formula: =V1+V2 (e.g., =5.5+10.2)


For more information about using Microsoft Excel, visit the Microsoft Office website.


2. Approximate your expected income and expenses for all categories in your long-term budget.


For help, see How to Plan your Funding and How to Plan your Expenses and Save (below).


3. Keep track of your actual income and expenses in your monthly budget.


Collect all your receipts, credit card bills, statements of income, etc. About once every week, go through your records and input the numbers into your budget. This could take about 20 minutes every week. Alternatively, remember to update your budget as you receive income and spend money.


♦ You can also use the envelope system if you want to physically keep track of your spending. After you have created your budget, fill envelopes with the amount of money you can spend in each category. For practical purposes, only do so for categories you are most at risk of over-spending in (e.g., buying groceries). Learn more about the pros and cons of this system here.


4. Compare planned and actual funds and expenses.


Adjust as needed: decrease expenses, increase your funding, and/or modify your planned budget in order to have a more accurate long-term plan.



Your funding includes your initial funds and your future funds. Your initial funds are the amount you actually have at the beginning of your chosen budget period. Your bank balance and cash will change over time, but your initial funds will not change. Changes will be tracked through your monthly future funds and expenses, divided by topic below.

Employment income

School year earnings: According to a 2010 Statistics Canada Report, just under 50% of full-time Canadian students were employed during the 2009/2010 school year. On average, these students worked about 16 hours a week with average hourly earnings of $11.80 (average earnings of $­6,300 from September to April, without deductions or vacation pay).


Summer earnings: According to a 2010 Statistics Canada Report, 66% of full-time post-secondary Canadian students aged 20 to 24 were employed in the summer of 2010. The average weekly hours of employed students was about 28 hours and the average hourly earnings were $12.80 (average earnings of $6,500 from May to August, without deductions or vacation pay).


♦ Earnings vary significantly by individual, depending on how many courses you are taking, job opportunities, experience, and more. Vacation pay will add to your earnings and deductions such as income tax will reduce your earnings. Find out more about how much money you will earn here.


Estimating Earnings: If you are not sure of your wage yet or the hours you will work, make an estimate on the low side to avoid having an unexpected lack of funds. Update your long-term budget when you have concrete numbers from your paycheques.


♦ View minimum wage across Canada here.


Taxes: If your employer is deducting more taxes than you will actually owe, you can fill out TD1 Personal Tax Credits Return forms (one federal and one provincial) declaring your personal tax credits (e.g., tuition, education and textbook amounts) and submit them to the payroll office. This way the appropriate amount of income tax will be deducted from your pay and you do not have to wait to receive a refund when you file your taxes.


Raises: You may receive raises at work automatically (such as for the length of time you have been there). However, if you have been working somewhere for a long time and/or your responsibilities have increased significantly without a raise, talk to your employer about the requirements to be considered for a raise.


Non-financial benefits: Do not just think about your hourly wage when choosing a job. Experience relevant to your future career and networking will benefit you financially in the long-run.


Finding work: Learn more about finding employment as a student.

Family contributions

Parents: Find out if your parents have any post-secondary savings for you, exactly how much there is, and when you will be able to access the funds.


♦ Discuss with your parents their expectations for how you will use these funds. They may expect them to be used in a certain way (e.g., for a particular type of program, for certain types of expenses).


◊ To better discuss your financial needs, create a budget. If you want an idea of how much your entire program will cost, this Student Budget Calculator can help. See information below for help on how to plan your expenses.


♦ If your parents have a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for you, make sure you are/will be enrolled in a qualifying PSE program and that you meet any other requirements to withdraw funds. Find out more.


◊ RESPs are usually the best way for your paernts to save if you are 17 or under because you can receive money from the government for contributing. 


♦ The Parental Contribution Calculator provides an estimate of how much the government expects parents to contribute to their child’s education (based on income and other factors).


Direct your parents or family members here for more information on their role in funding post-secondary education.


Spouse: Discuss with your spouse how you will be paying for your education and how you may be able to coordiinate your finances to cover the costs.


♦ Student tax credits can be transferred to your spouse which may allow you to take advantage of the tax savings earlier. Learn more about income tax here.


♦ You may want to consider withdrawing funds from your or your spouse’s RRSPs with the The Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) to finance full-time training or education.


Monetary gifts may be a source of extra funds during the year, though you should probably avoid counting on them. You may want to let your family members know you are trying to save up for your education (such as through an RESP) and ask for contributions instead of gifts for birthdays and other occasions.

Scholarships, bursaries and grants


Many non-repayable funding opportunities are available for post-secondary students. Criteria for awards include academic merit, community involvement, area of study, and application materials (such as an essay). Visit the scholarships, bursaries and grants page to learn more about available funding and how to apply.


Applying: Many awards go unclaimed, so it is well worth it to apply for as many as you can. Set aside time to apply for funding weekly or monthly.


♦ Applying early will help you plan your funding sooner, however you may have to update this section of your budget throughout the year as opportunities become available and decisions are made.


♦ Interest payments on your savings will be reported on your bank statement and/or online banking account.


♦ Compare interest rates for different accounts at your financial institution and at other banks/credit unions. You can find student accounts at most financial institutions. 


♦ When approximating your average monthly interest, keep in mind that your savings will probably be decreasing over the course of the year.


♦ If you open a Tax-Free Savings Account, you will not be taxed on the interest you earn.


♦ Having a budget can help you figure out if you can invest a certain amount of money in a long-term account.


♦ Learn more about all the savings topics above here.

Tax credits and other tax benefits


♦ A tax credit which benefits many students is the GST/HST tax credit. This credit depends on your income and is paid out four times a year.


♦ With education and textbook tax credits, university students can save from 31% to 43% of their average tuition fees and college students can save at least 60% of their tuition fees. These non-refundable tax credits depend on your employment income, therefore you may only benefit in future years.


♦ In some provinces, graduates can receive a tuition rebate for living in a province after graduation.

♦ Find out more about the tax credits, deductions and rebates available to you. You will need to hold on to the necessary receipts and documents to claim your credits. You can also learn how to filed your taxes on your own instead of paying for the service.


♦ Creating a budget can help you figure out if you will need to borrow money during your studies. Save money using the tips below (How to plan your expenses and save) in order to keep loans to a minimum and reduce your debt payments in the future.


♦ Provincial and federal governments across Canada have loan programs that allow you to borrow money based on financial need that is interest-free until you graduate (and longer in some provinces). Find out more here.


♦ The CanLearn website has a Student Financial Assistance Estimator for federal student loans.


♦ Some non-repayable government grants are only available to students who apply for government loans (learn about Canada Student Grants here). If you think you may have financial need, consider applying for a loan and you may receive free money instead of, or in addition to, a loan.


♦ For students who have maximized their government loans or do not qualify, loans are available through financial institutions (however, interest is charged and must be paid throughout your studies). Learn more about private student loans here.


In 2012, RateSupermarket.ca calculated the average cost of education in Canada, including the interest on average debt:


♦ A 4-year university degree was $35,435 for students living at home and $78,817 for students living away from home. That is approximately $11,000 less per year for students living at home.


♦ A 2-year college diploma was $11,360 for students living at home and $30,107 for students living away from home. That is approximately $9,500 less per year for students living at home. The lower amount for college students is likely due to the pricier residence accommodations of some university students.


♦ These values are averages based on one study and should not be used to plan your personal budget. Costs will greatly differ between provinces and programs. However, the amounts give you an idea of just how essential financial planning is.


The information provided below will help you figure out what your personal expenses will be and help you find ways to decrease your costs.

School expenses


Often, students discover the cost of post-secondary education is more (or sometimes less) than they expected. It is possible to figure out the cost of your education if you know what expenses to look for and how to calculate them.



University and College: The cost of tuition can be found on your registrar’s office website or program website. Contact office support staff if you cannot find this information online. Tuition will probably be given per course/credit hour(s), therefore you will need to know about the program requirements and how many courses you are taking.


♦ The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has an interactive application to explore tuition for undergraduate degrees across Canada, you can search by province and degree.


◊ To view tables instead, Statistics Canada provides average undergraduate tuitition fees by province and discipline.


♦ Universities Canada provides tuition fee ranges for arts and humanities programs at major universities and colleges across Canada for both Canadian and International students.


Apprenticeships: The cost of tuition can be found on your provincial/territorial apprenticeship website or your post-secondary institution’s website.


Increases in fees: If tuition fees are listed from previous years, expect an approximate increase per year of 3 to 5%.


Student Account: Your final assessed tuition fees will be listed on your online institutional account.


♦ Some scholarships, grants, bursaries, and awards are deposited directly into your student account. Check your account to make sure the funding is deposited before your tuition and fees are due.


Late fees: Avoid late fees by making payments early, give your bank a few days to process the payment.


♦ To challenge a late fee (e.g., you made a late payment because of a miscommunication or error), find out the appeal process at your post-secondary institution.


Dropping courses: Find out the registration/revision period during which you can change or drop out of courses without financial penalty. The dates will be listed in your institution’s academic calendar.


♦ Withdrawing from courses after the registration/revision period can significantly increase the cost of your degree. In some circumstances, this may be necessary (for medical or other reasons), however you should always consider your options carefully. Before withdrawing from courses, speak with an academic advisor and consider the following questions:


◊ Will you receive any refund for the tuition and fees you paid?

◊ Will it affect the completion of your degree? For example, will it impact graduation requirements or increase the length of your program?


◊ Will the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? You will lose the money and the time you already invested in the course, but you may gain more time to focus on your other courses or personal matters.


◊ Will it reflect negatively on my academic capabilities? Generally, withdrawals after the revision period are recorded on your transcript. Multiple recorded withdrawals (without a specified reason) may be a red flag if you apply to programs in the future.


◊ Will it affect your loan or award eligibility? If your course load is decreased below a certain level, financial aid you have received may be affected. You must contact the provider if your eligibility criteria changes.


◊ Are there alternatives to withdrawing? There may be opportunities to extend deadlines or make up grades if you speak to your course instructor. You can also look for tutoring or study skills help offered by student services at your institution.


Other Fees


Application fees: You will have to pay an application fee for each program you apply to, typically around $60 to $90 for Canadian students and $100 to $130 for international students. Check application fees at your institution for your particular program.


♦ Avoid paper applications, they often cost more than online applications


Deposits: If you are applying to multiple programs and you receive offers of admission at different times, you may have to pay deposits at multiple schools. The amount will go towards your tuition at the school you decide to attend, but you will lose the deposit(s) at the school(s) you choose not to attend. Deposits vary widely by program.


♦ To reduce application fees and deposits, think carefully about how many institutions/programs you should apply to.     


Student Fees: Many students are unaware of the extra student fees they will be charged on top of tuition (see MacLean’s article).


♦ Mandatory fees: This includes student organization fees, student services fees, lab fees, co-op fees, registration fees, library fees, technology fees, endowment fees, and more. On average, Canadian undergraduate students paid $817 in 2013-2014 on these compulsory fees. However, fees depend on your institution and program. You should be able to find exact fees on your student union website, registrar’s office website, and program website. If not, contact your student union, registrar’s office or administrative staff in your program.


♦ Additional fees: There may be some fees that are not fully compulsory (i.e., students can opt-out of them if they meet certain criteria), such as health & dental insurance fees and transit pass fees (if applicable). If you can opt-out, make sure to do so before the deadline.


♦ Student fees will increase every year (nationally, average fees increased about 5% in 2013-2014 compared to the previous year) and may change every year for students depending on the courses they are taking.


♦ College tuition is often lower than university tuition, however colleges can have similar (or even higher) student fees.


♦ Apprenticeship fees can be found on your provincial/territorial apprenticeship website or your post-secondary institution’s website.


♦ Here are examples of fees at the University of Manitoba and Red River College:


University of Manitoba student fees (2014-15)

University of Manitoba Student’s Union (UMSU) has a breakdown of costs that add up to about $73 to $93 (depending on faculty of study) in student fees per semester at the Fort Garry Campus and about $250 for a health and dental plan for the year.


The registrar’s office lists a $39.60 registration fee, $39.60 library fee, $34.00 student services fee, $5.65 tech fee per credit hour, and lab fees for some courses.


Approximate Minimum Yearly Fees: $540*

*full-time student registered in the fall and winter terms for 9 credit hours per term with a health & dental plan, without lab fees.


Red River College student fees (2014-2015)


The RRC Admissions website lists $51 in endowment fees for some programs, $103 to $266 in lab fees, $73 to $1226 material fees, co-op fees of $144 to $162 per month, varied amounts per term in student association fees, $255 for a health and dental plan, $168 per year for student services, varied amounts in technology fees, and other applicable fees.


Approximate yearly fees vary significantly by program.


♦ Your final assessed student fees will be listed on your online institutional account, along with your tuition.


Make the most of your fees: Find out what your student fees pay for and take advantage of services, programs, discounts, and activities available through your student association and/or post-secondary institution. This may include:


♦ A free International Student Identity Card if your student union/association is a member of the Canadian Federation of Students. If you have this card you can receive discounts in your city, across Canada, and around the world. It also provides student identification that you can use internationally. Visit your student union/association website or office to find out the process for receiving your card.


♦ Opportunities to apply for funding for conferences, scholarships, bursaries, and grants.

♦ Student advocacy if you are experiencing academic problems.

♦ Student groups

♦ Counselling programs

♦ On-campus events

♦ Health and dental coverage (learn more below)

♦ Public transit (if applicable)



A new textbook will typically cost $100 to $200. If you are taking 5 courses per term, each with a $150 textbook, that will be $1500 per year.


There are lots of possibilities to save money on textbooks, which are described below. It will take some extra work and the amount of your savings will depend on your program (e.g., some used textbooks are easier to find than others).


Buy used books: Check your campus bookstore, consignment shops, and the internet.


♦ Look for a textbook exchange database in your region that allows students to connect with each other to buy and sell used books (e.g., the Manitoba Universities Textbook Exchange).


♦ Post a request to buy used book(s) on a course website, a student association Facebook page, or other webpage.


Borrow from the library: Some instructors put a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library that you can check out for a few hours at a time. You can also search your library’s database to find a copy to borrow for a longer period.      


Rent: Some student associations and campus bookstores offer textbooks for rent, as well as some websites:


♦ bookmob.ca also offers textbooks for rent.


Get an older version: Ask your instructors if you can use an older version of the assigned textbook. If a few chapters/sections are different, you might be able to find a way to access them, such as borrowing a friend’s textbook and or finding out if your instructor puts a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library.


Buy e-books: Sometimes electronic versions are offered as a cheaper option, however some students prefer to have a physical copy.      


Borrow or share: If you know people currently or previously in the same course(s), consider sharing or borrowing books.


Compare prices: Check different bookstores and the internet. Don’t forget to consider shipping costs if you buy online.


♦ Find your book at Amazon.ca, chapters.ca, Textbookexchange.ca, and bookmob.ca

♦ BookFinder.com, bigwords.com, and DealOz.com let you search the web for different prices for your textbook, including shipping costs

♦ If you find a book listed for a cheaper price online, find out if your campus bookstore has a price-matching policy.


Think ahead: Getting good deals may mean buying early, however beware of ending up with a book that you don’t need and can’t return. Always know the return policies and save your receipts. Be careful about buying non-returnable books in case you decide to drop your class or you do not end up needing the textbook.


Get it for free: If the book you need is a non-protected work, try to find it at gutenberg.org


Re-sell: Instead of keeping textbooks you will never use again, sell them back to the bookstore, put them up for consignment at a used bookstore, or sell them to your friends. You may also be able to post textbooks you are selling on a webpage (such as a student association Facebook page or a textbook exchange website such as the Manitoba Universities Textbook Exchange).

Other course material


♦ Check your program's website or recent course outlines for required or recommended additional supplies. In some programs, additional materials may include lab equipment, online educational resources, and clothing for practicums.


♦ Apprenticeship programs will often require the purchase of equipment and materials. In some cases, tax breaks are available for apprentices. Learn more about tax benefits here.      


♦ To save money, consider buying used materials, renting (e.g., iClickers), borrowing, or sharing with others.

Accommodation expenses


Accommodation expenses can vary widely for students and is easily underestimated. Below are tips on estimating and saving on your living costs.

Rent, residence fees, mortgage

Living at home: Possibly free, find out ahead of time if you need to pay rent or other living costs.


♦ Some research estimates that the average Canadian student saves $44,000 over a 4-year university degree by living at home.



Residence: Check your institution's website for annual fees. Be sure to consider what is included (e.g., meal plan, internet). You will need to pay an application fee and apply early to get a space.


♦ Usually living in residence is more expensive than renting a bedroom in an apartment or house. Weigh the costs against the potential advantages. including fewer transportation costs, less time travelling, and more socializing opportunities with other students. Additionally, your residence contract will be for the academic year. If you have other arrangements during the summer, you will not have to worry about subletting your place.


♦ If you live in residence for multiple years, think about becoming a residence advisor or fellow. You will receive benefits such as a free room for the year and it will be a good addition to your resume.         


Other accommodations: Start looking online early (e.g., CanadianResidentialRentals.com, gottarent.com, kijiji.ca) for a sense of what’s available and what you can expect to pay.


♦ Living with roommates is a common way to save money.


♦ Find places that are not advertised, through friends, family, and acquaintances.


♦ Your student association may have a housing registry which is tailored specifically for students. For example, www.rentingspaces.ca has listings for students in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.  If your student union participates in this housing registry, you will be able to sign up for special tools and services with your institutional e-mail address.


♦ If you have a child, you may want to utilize a housing registry offered by their school division. For example, the Winnipeg School Division Housing Registry.

Renting costs and considerations

Deposits: You will have to pay a security/damage deposit before you move in. The landlord will hold onto this money and it can be claimed by the landlord if rent is not paid, there are damages to the unit, and more. If you decide not to move in, you may lose this deposit.


♦ Security deposit regulations are specific to each province (e.g., see regulations in Manitoba).


♦ Complete a prior-damage report when you move in. Carefully inspect your new residence for damages and record it on paper (ask for a form from your landlord or make one yourself). You may also want to take pictures of any damages. Make copies and get the landlord’s signature. This will ensure you won’t be penalized for damages made by prior tenants when you move out.             


Subletting: Be sure to consider the length of your contract. If you have a 12-month contract but you are going away during the summer, subletting your place to another tenant is a great way to cover your costs.


♦ Start thinking about this early so you are not stuck paying rent for a place you are not living in.          

♦ You will need approval from your landlord.

♦ Find someone trustworthy to live in your place. In the end, you are still responsible for the lease.

♦ Make sure you have a written and signed document with the terms of the sublease agreement.



Know your rights: Be aware of the provincial housing regulations and laws to make sure you and your landlord are both fulfilling your responsibilities.


♦ For example, the Winnipeg Rental Guide website is a great resource for Manitobans. They have a summary of the Residential Tenancies Act and other information for renters (and landlords). The Government of Manitoba offers a Rent 101 guide.



Tenant's Insurance: Your landlord’s insurance may cover the building, including walls, floors, doors and appliances. Tenant’s insurance covers the loss of your personal belongings, such as clothing and furniture. It can also protect you from financial responsibility (liability) for injuries sustained by visitors or other tenants and damage to other units in your building.


♦ Take pictures of your valuables and record serial numbers and descriptions

♦ Find out if your parents’ home insurance covers you while you are a student

♦ Shop around for different offers from insurance companies


♦ Find out if your policy covers the cash value of items or the replacement cost (how much it will cost you to buy new items)

♦ Find out more



This may include electricity, gas and water. Ask your landlord or roommates for details about how utilities are billed, some or all may be included in your rent.


Reducing your energy use is good for the environment and can reduce your living expenses.


Moving expenses

♦ If you can get help from family and friends, you may be able to move yourself. It may be worthwhile to rent a moving truck, depending on how much and how far you are moving. If you are hiring movers, contact a few companies and get a quote (do an internet search for moving services in your city). You want to make sure the company is licenced, bonded and insured. Think about what services you need; moving companies often offer packing, loading, delivering and unpacking services.         

◊ Many moving companies offer useful moving tips on their website: cheapestwaytomove.com, moving.ca, budgetmoving.ca

◊ Canada Post offers a moving checklist, some items may apply to you.

◊ If you moved at least 40 km closer to a new school or work location, moving expenses can be claimed on your income tax. If you moved for post-secondary studies, your expenses can only be deducted from any taxable portion of your scholarships, fellowships, bursaries, certain prizes, and research grants. If you moved to work, including summer employment, you can deduct your expenses from the income earned at the new work location. Find out more.


♦ If you are moving by plane, find out the cost of checked luggage, the size limitations and the weight restrictions. Pack carefully and consider buying a luggage scale to avoid going over your luggage allowance. You may want to ship some of your belongings to your new location.


Furnishings:  If you're moving out on your own for the first time or getting a new place, you may need to buy some furniture, household supplies and décor. An advantage of living in residence or renting other furnished accommodation is that these costs are decreased.               


◊ Minimize costs by getting free or cheap furniture/supplies/décor from friends, family, and second-hand stores.

Internet, cable, phone

Internet: In 2013, the average price per month for internet in Canada was $39 for the lowest speed and $83 for the highest.


♦ Prices vary significantly by region, with the highest in the Maritimes and PEI and the lowest in Western Canada.


♦ To save money, shop around for prices. Take advantage of low rates for new customers and let competitors know if you can get a better rate elsewhere. Here are some more tips on saving money on internet service.

Cable: If you have limited funds, this is an expense you can cut. Many shows can be streamed on network websites for free or on Netflix for a much cheaper price.



Phone: This is an expense you can cut if you have a cell phone. You can also make free long-distance video and voice calls using Skype (to others on Skype; calling mobiles and landlines has a monthly fee).


♦ If you do want to have cable and/or a landline phone, shop around for prices and try to bundle all your services (including internet).

Food and drink expenses



The cost of groceries varies from person to person, but expect around $200 to $300 per month. Keep track of your expenses over a month to create a budget.


♦ Do large shopping trips to cheaper grocery stores rather than making smaller trips to whatever is close by.                    


♦ Grocery shopping and taking the bus can be challenging. Try to borrow a vehicle or arrange a carpool. Some post-secondary institutions offer a shuttle for students (e.g., the University of Manitoba offers a free shuttle for students between University Centre and Superstore).

♦ Compare prices, take advantage of sales, and use coupons (see How to find deals and discounts below). Small differences can really add up on your grocery bill.

♦ Avoid waste and plan on having leftovers. If you buy more perishable food than you can use in time, split it with your roommates or your family.

♦ If you are living with roommates, you will want to set rules about food and beverages (will they be strictly separated or not?).



Meals out/take-out


Track your spending on eating out in a month. If you’re spending more than you would like, set a lower limit and use the saving tips below.


♦ Set a limit on how many times you will buy lunch at school in a week and bring food from home instead.


♦ Eat out strategically. Take advantage of special deals at restaurants, including student discounts (see How to find deals and discounts below).



Meal plan


If you are living in residence and have a meal plan, find out the annual fee on your institution's website.                               


♦ Be fully aware of what it includes and use it to its fullest. Know how flexible it is and which spots on campus you can eat.

♦ Meal plan prices tend to be inflated. Everyone is being charged the same, regardless of their appetites, so someone who eats less will be overpaying.

♦ If you have access to a kitchen (or fridge) at all, consider getting a smaller meal plan and supplementing with groceries.



Coffee, Alcohol, etc.


♦ Track your spending for a month on beverages. If you’re spending more than you would like, set a lower limit and use the saving tips below. If you drink coffee and/or alcohol frequently, you may want to make these two separate categories.


♦ The cost of drinking alcohol can add up in other categories, including more money on cabs, generally being more likely to spend money, losing possessions (such as cell phones) and even fines for illegal behaviour.


♦ If you want to limit how much you spend at a coffee shop or elsewhere, consider getting a card that you can load with money. You will know you’ve reached your limit when it runs out. You can do this on a monthly basis.


♦ When you go out to a bar, bring a limited amount of cash with you and do not use debit or credit cards.

Transportation expenses


Which mode(s) of transportation should I choose?


When you are choosing a place to live, remember to take into account transportation costs. Living close to campus may be more expensive, but if you don’t have to spend much money on transportation it may be worth it. It can also save you time.


There are costs associated with each type of transportation. Details on different types of transportation expense can be found below.

Public Transit

♦ Check your local transit website for the cost of public transit for post-secondary students.


♦ If your institution has a universal transit pass, then all students covered by the plan will pay an automatic (much smaller) fee.                  


◊ If you are eligible to opt-out of a universal transit pass offered at your institution, be sure to do so by the deadline.


♦ Save your transit passes and receipts that are eligible for a tax credit and claim the amounts on your tax return.  


♦ Purchase monthly bus passes early to avoid line-ups and having to pay extra fare.


Vehicle purchase: If you are considering buying a vehicle, visit the CAA website to get an estimate of the costs of owning a vehicle. If you have a modest income and are paying for school, buying a car should not be your priority. When you do graduate, be sure to take advantage of rebates for recent graduates offered by many car dealerships.

Parking: If you are driving to school regularly, check your institution’s website for the cost of a parking pass or metered parking. You may also have to pay for parking where you live and when you drive to different areas.


♦ Carpooling can drastically reduce the cost of parking. Carpool with friends or family, or use a carpool registry (e.g., carpool.ca, pickuppal.com or eRideShare.com).


Gas: Find out how much it costs to fill your tank and track how often you have to fill it in a month. If you use your family car occasionally, you may be expected to chip in for gas.


♦ Here are 10 ways to save money on gas. The best way is to drive less, however there are also negative side effects of letting a vehicle sit without being used for too long.


♦ If you carpool, be sure both the cost of gas and parking are shared.


Car insurance: Your car insurance rate is based on your driving record and other factors (such as your age).

♦ Car insurance may be government-run or run through private companies.

♦ Before buying a vehicle, you can get a quote on your insurance rate.

♦ Using your car to drive to school or work may increase your insurance rate.


♦ Your deductible is the amount you will have to pay before your insurance will cover repairs. Cheaper insurance means a higher deductible.Make sure you can afford the amount of your deductible.


♦ If you are going out of province, find out if you have to change your insurance when you move. For students, this may not be required. 


♦ It may be less expensive for your parents to pay for the car insurance on your vehicle if you live at home (and you can pay them back).


◊ Contact your insurance company for more details and find out if the car must be registered in your parent’s name for this to apply.


Vehicle maintenance and repairs: For maintenance and repairs, estimate costs based on your experience or ask your family members. Unexpected things can happen, so have some money reserved for this.


♦ If you avoid maintenance and repairs because your vehicle seems to be working fine, this may cost you later in the depreciation of your vehicle (it will be worth less).

♦ You probably want to set aside about $100/month.


♦ It may or may not save you money, but it is important to be knowledgeable about how to maintain your vehicle.


◊ People you know (such as your parents) may be a valuable source of information.


CAA has some information on driving, including tips on winter driving.


Be Car Care Awarehas information on maintaining your vehicle.


Driver’s licence fee: You will get a statement in the mail when you have to pay your yearly fee. Traffic tickets and accidents will increase your fees.


CAA membership: For a fee, you will receive Emergency Roadside Service, complete Automotive and Travel Services, Member Savings and comprehensive Insurance Services.


Traffic tickets for speeding, parking, and other violations: Beyond the cost of the ticket, it can also lead to higher costs for your licence and/or insurance or even getting into an accident.


♦ If you do get a ticket, you can try to contest it. You can get tips online about how to do this. In some cases, you may have your ticket waived because it was your first one or you were not aware you were violating the rules.

Biking and other transportation


Biking: Depending on your location, biking is a great alternative to driving and public transit. Compare the costs and benefits of biking vs. driving. Costs include:


♦ The cost of the bike


♦ The cost of a helmet and other equipment (e.g., reflectors, bike lock)


♦ The potential cost of having your bike stolen. Do your research and invest in a good lock.


♦ Bike maintenance


♦ Potentially winterizing your bike


♦ Traffic tickets, cyclists can get them too.


Taxis: The cost of taxis can quickly add up. Try to share taxis when you can, plan ahead of time.


♦ Choosing to be the designated driver can save you money on alcohol and transportation.


Car sharing: If you need to use a car sometimes but do not want or cannot afford to own one, consider car sharing. This is a great way to save money while having the convenience of a vehicle when you need it. Find a car sharing organization in your city and become a member.


♦ Cars are available 24 hours a day at designated locations.

♦ You can reserve a car by internet or phone.

♦ Cars have self-service access by smartcard or key.

♦ You pay by the hour.

♦ Members are not responsible for maintenance, insurance or gas.

Health and dental expenses

Medical and dental insurance

♦ If you take a minimum number of credit hours on campus, fees for health and dental insurance may be automatically added to your student fees. Check your student union/association’s website for the cost per term/year.


♦ If your parents have an insurance plan that covers you, find out exactly what it covers and compare it to your institution’s insurance. If your parent’s plan is sufficient, be sure to opt-out of your institution’s insurance. There will be a deadline to opt-out, usually early in the first semester.


◊ If you decide to keep both plans, you can submit claims that are not covered by you primary plan (institutional) to your secondary plan (parental).


♦ Know exactly what is covered by your plan before you make any health or dental appointments/purchases. You can strategize to maximize your coverage and reduce your costs.


♦ Know the coverage procedures:


◊ Do you have to get something approved beforehand?

◊ Can the claim be processed immediately? This means you don’t have to wait for a refund.

◊ Do you have to submit a claim form? This means you will have to pay in full, then be refunded the amount of your coverage.

◊ You will need your original receipts and documents

◊ Make copies for yourself

◊ Submit all of your claims by the deadline, which will be a certain number of months after the expense date.



Procedures, appointments, eyecare, and prescriptions 

You may have to pay for some procedures, appointments, eyecare and prescriptions that are not covered by your insurance. Reading over your insurance policy will help you predict what costs may not be completely covered.


♦ Arrange appointments and make purchases in a way that best fits both your needs and your insurance plan.


♦ Consider buying glasses and contacts online to save money.

Other expenses


Your expenses will add up in many different categories, depending on your personal circumstances. See which categories below apply to you and modify your budget spreadsheet as needed.

Cell phone


♦ Check your bills to find out exactly how much you pay per month with taxes.


♦ In Canada, an average medium-use cell phone plan costs $575 US (about $629 CAD) per year, or about $50 CAD per month (source).


◊ A 5GB data plan costs an average of $65, compared to $45 for a 2GB plan, a difference of $240 per year (source).


♦ Shop around for a phone/plan. Let companies know you are shopping around and negotiate a better deal.


♦ Technology changes fast and new phones will be coming out all the time. Buy an older model or used phone to save money.


◊ A 2014 Globe and Mail article recommends the best free smartphone from every Canadian carrier.


◊ Find out your provider’s policy on replacing lost or broken phones.


◊ Invest in a good case to protect your phone.


♦ Avoid data usage


◊ Use free Wi-Fi whenever you can: at your post-secondary institution, at home, in libraries, in some coffee shops and restaurants.

◊ Use an app to moni­­tor your data usage and help you avoid going over your data allowance. You can see if background apps are using data without your knowledge.

◊ To temporarily disable your data usage, put your phone on airplane mode (especially useful when you’re travelling to avoid roaming fees).


◊ If you need to use your cell phone while travelling, get a local SIM card or contact your provider to pay for a travel plan.


This includes items and services like toothpaste, moisturizer, razors, haircuts, etc. You probably won’t spend the same amount each month, so estimate the average amount and expect fluctuation in this category.


♦ For haircuts, massages, beauty treatments, etc., look for services that are done by students in training. You will get much cheaper rates.


♦ Shop around for products, use free samples, and use coupons (see How to find deals and discounts below).


Keep track of your spending for a month. If you’re spending more than you would like, set a lower limit and use the saving tips below.


 ♦ Find out about discount nights at movie theatres, student specials for plays and other performances, free music nights and free events on campus.

♦ Volunteering or working somewhere may get you connections and perks. For example, volunteer at your local Fringe Festival to see free performances.

♦ Check for student discount and carry your student card with you at all times.

♦ Use discount codes or coupons (see How to find deals and discounts below).



Think about any electronics you will buy over the year, such as a computer, tablet, or mp3 player.

♦ Shop around and negotiate. Ask for discounts or gifts with purchase.


♦ A comparison site such as shopbot.ca can help you compare the price of electronics.

Clothing, shoes, etc.

Set a limit on how much you will spend over the length of your budget period


♦ Look for sales, use discount cards, coupons, and codes (see How to find deals and discounts below), shop at second hand stores.


♦ Ask about return policies before making purchases.


♦ Think about doing a clothing swap event with your friends.


Create a list of all the people you want to buy a gift for during the holidays and for birthdays. Figure out how much you can spend on each person.

♦ Shop around for gifts. Check different stores, look for coupons (see How to find deals and discounts below) and check online before making a final decision. Always know the return policies.


♦ Think about homemade gifts you can give people, such as food and holiday decorations.


♦ If it is holiday time and you cannot buy gifts for all your friends, think about doing a Secret Santa. That way everyone only has to buy one gift, up to a certain monetary limit.


Boogspace.com can help you organize the process.


♦ Buy cards in bulk or make your own.

Debt payments

If you have debt that you are paying off, record how much you are paying each month. If you have credit card debt, learn more about credit cards below. 


♦ A calculator can help you figure out the best way to pay off your debt, especially if you have multiple sources of debt. A downloadable debt reduction calculator can be found here and an online calculator can be found here


♦ Learn more about how to deal with debt here

Child care

♦ Post-Secondary institutions often have daycare facilities on campus.

♦ Find out if you are eligible for a child care subsidy in your province.

♦ The Canada Child Benefit helps families pay for child care in Canada.

Pet care

♦ Costs include food, veterinary care, grooming, and more.

♦ Find a breakdown of the cost of owning a pet here.


♦ If you are travelling back home for the holidays, attending conferences during the year, or going on a trip with your friends, expenses include flights, accommodation, transportation, food, and shopping. It’s a good idea to create an entirely separate budget for your trips.


♦ Find out if travel insurance is included in your insurance plan. Know the terms of your coverage and carry your insurance policy information with you at all times.


◊ You can also buy travel insurance when you purchase your plane ticket, or through a travel agency, bank or other organization.

♦ To save money:


◊ Travel at less popular times: the time of year, day of the week, and time of day makes a difference.


◊ Look for discount codes you can use at checkout (see How to find deals and discounts below).


♦ If you are attending an academic conference, look for funding opportunities through your department, faculty and/or student association.

♦ Find opportunities to travel on a limited budget:


Working Holidays

Teaching English Abroad

◊ Exchange Programs through your post-secondary institution

◊ Find out about more opportunities through your post-secondary institution’s international centre or online searches.

◊ Be sure to sign up for programs through reputable agencies.

Expenses for international students

♦ Students moving to Canada for their studies can see the pre-departure guide for international students provided by the EduCanada.
♦ Visit the international centre at your post-secondary institution for information regarding expenses. They may also have information on their website.



The American Cancer Society has a calculator on the past and future costs of smoking based on the cost of a pack of cigarettes and how many cigarettes you smoke each day.


 Student discounts:


♦ Visit your student union/association website or office to learn about student discounts.


♦ If your student union/association is a member of the Canadian Federation of Students, you can apply for a free International Student Identity Card. If you have this card you can receive discounts in your city, across Canada, and around the world. It is also provides student identification that you can use internationally. Visit your student union/association website or office to find out the process for receiving your card.


♦ Information about discounts is often distributed at the beginning of term. Attend orientation days and pick up student agendas, information booklets and other materials.


♦ You can show your institutional student card to receive discounts on admission to museums, events and more.


♦ Student Price Card (SPC) is a student loyalty program. With the card, you can get discounts at many retailers and restaurants (you may be asked to show student ID to receive the discount). There is a fee to buy the card on its own, however it is included with some credit cards. Participating retailers sometimes have signage to indicate that they accept the card, however they will not ask if you have the card.


Coupons and discount codes:


♦ Search the internet: type in “[product or store name] coupon”

♦ Some popular sites for discounts include:


Red Flag Deals: offers deals on almost anything you can think of (restaurants, entertainment, groceries etc.)


Stub Hub: offers deals on concerts, sporting events, etc.


RetailMeNot: lists various coupons and promo codes.


Groupon: offers deals for restaurants, retailers, and services.


LivingSocial: offers large savings on products, activities and more.


Get more information on Canadian sites for deals.


♦ You can find coupons in flyers, discount booklets, and sometimes on receipts.



♦ Credit cards can be useful for online payments and purchases. As a student, you can use a credit card to pay application fees, deposits, ordering textbooks online, and more.  


♦ Having a credit card will help build your credit rating (if you use it properly).


◊ Financial institutions and other lenders use credit ratings (or scores) to determine good candidates for loans, including taking a mortgage out on a house or buying a car. Therefore, building a credit rating is important.


Find out more about credit ratings and how to find out yours (for free).


♦ There are often companies selling students credit cards at post-secondary institutions, particularly at the start of term. However, you may not want to sign up for the first one you are offered. Visit ratesupermarket.ca to compare credit cards before making a choice.


♦ More information about credit cards can be found at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website, including a credit card selector tool.

How do credit card payments work?


You will receive a monthly bill which you have at least 21 days to pay without interest.

♦ Always pay off your monthly bill in full and on time. Credit cards charge high interest rates on unpaid balances.

♦ You can pay your bills easily through online banking. Allow a few days for your payment to be processed.

On every monthly credit card bill, you will have a Minimum Payment amount. You must pay at least this amount by the due date to maintain a good credit rating.

◊ Minimum Payment amounts are normally a very small amount of your total balance. Making only these payments is not a good strategy. Depending on your balance, it can leave you in debt for years and spending hundreds of dollars in interest.

◊ Credit card companies are required to tell you how long it would take to pay off your balance with only minimum payments.

How does interest work on credit cards?


Credit cards charge high interest rates (commonly 19.99%, higher for store credit cards). If you need to borrow money, find another way – such as through government or private loans, or your parents – for much lower interest rates.


♦ New charges on your credit card are interest-free until the due date of each bill.

How much does it cost to have a credit card?


♦ You can easily avoid paying for your credit card. Some credit cards have annual fees which offer benefits such as lower interest rates and rewards programs.


◊ If you are paying off your bills every month having a low interest rate is not necessary.


◊ There are rewards programs offered without a fee.


◊ Rewards programs depend on how much money you charge on your card.


◊ If you are paying a fee for rewards, make sure they are worth more than you are paying.


♦ Before you sign up for a credit card make sure you are not also signing up for insuranceor other extras that will cost you. You will likely be pressured again after you get your credit card to buy insurance, which you probably do not need (especially if you are paying off your bill every month). If you are considering having credit card insurance, make sure you know exactly what it covers and what it costs to make sure it’s worth it.


♦ For pre-paid credit cards, beware of activation, transaction and maintenance fees which will reduce the balance on these cards.

What is a credit limit?


You will have a limit on how much credit you can have on your card. Over the years, this credit limit may be increased for you or you can request an increase. The higher your limit the more potential for getting into debt, so avoid making your limit higher than you need.

Should I get more than one credit card?


Avoid getting drawn in by special offers to get more credit cards. The more credit cards you have, the greater the potential to go into debt.


♦ It will be more difficult to keep track of expenses and payments.


♦ Once you sign up for a credit card, even if you never use it, it will show up on your credit check. Multiple credit cards can be a red flag for lenders because there is a risk you could very quickly go into a lot of debt (even if you use them all responsibly).

What if I currently have credit card debt?


♦ Use a calculator to create a plan for paying off your credit card debt. It will calculate the number of months it will take to pay off a balance or the monthly payments you need to make to be out of debt in a certain period of time.


♦ Consider your options for taking out other forms of credit (e.g., a line of credit at your bank) to pay off your credit card and transfer your debt to a lower interest rate.


♦ You may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate or lower the amount you owe on your card, here are some tips.


♦ Find more information about how to deal with debt here