Managing Money

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Learning how to manage money is a valuable skill to have while attending university. With good planning, you will understand:

  • where you spend your money,
  • what your fixed expenses are and
  • how to manage your cash flow.

Once you are on campus, take advantage of financial planning or advice services, such as the office of the registrar or student financial services.

Here are some strategies you can use to help you manage your money:

  • Use your debit card to make purchases. This will  help you limit or avoid credit card debt.
  • Apply to scholarships and bursaries, both within and outside of a university.
  • Set a weekly spending limit for entertainment-related activities.
  • Eat nutritiously on a budget:
    • Take your lunch, snacks and drinks with you to class or work so you don’t have to buy food when you’re out.
    • Shop wisely for groceries – try making a meal plan for the week; check out grocery store flyers for sales and coupons.

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What Kind of Costs Can I Expect?

Your costs will generally fall into 3 main categories:

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees depend on the program and university you choose. In 2022-2023, the average cost of 1 year’s tuition at a Canadian university was $6,834, before taking into account and financial aid or awards.

If you know the program you want to study, visit the websites of the universities that offer it to find out current tuition costs. If you do not know what you want to study, look at tuition costs for a few different programs and then make a reasonable estimate.

Books and Other Course Materials

For many undergraduate university programs, the typical cost of books and other materials ranges from $800 to $1,000 per year, although costs vary by program.

To reduce these costs, you may:

  • buy used books or eBooks,
  • borrow from the university’s library and
  • share books with roommates or friends in the same program.

Living Expenses

If you plan on living in residence, visit the websites of the universities you are interested in attending to learn more about the costs of:

  • Residence
  • Meal plans or groceries

If you plan to live off campus, you will be paying for:

  • Rent
  • Groceries
  • Transportation, if needed
    • public transportation (the cost of a transit pass may be included in your student fees) or
    • gas and parking, if you have a car.

Whatever your living arrangements, there will be other costs to consider, such as clothing, computers, cell phones and entertainment.

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How Do I Make a Budget?

Making a budget means not only keeping track of where you spend your money, but also planning for fixed payments such as rent, tuition, bills and future expenses.

One way to start the process is by filling out a sample budget, so you know how much money is coming in and how much is going out.

View a sample budget developed by the University of Ottawa.

Some universities include budget calculators or provide sample budgets to help students identify their expenses. Often these kinds of tools are also available through the university’s financial services website. Many universities’ financial services also offer workshops on how to manage your finances while attending university.

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