How to Stick to Your Student Budget

Posted by York & U on August 24, 2017

Finances | Student Life

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It goes without saying that your university years are full of learning opportunities. Not only are we developing valuable career skills and expertise in our chosen fields, but we’re also learning from new life experiences. Some of these lessons are fun and exciting, but learning to stick to a budget can be tricky. Although developing financial skills takes practice, this is one lesson that will help us throughout our lives! If you missed the #YUBlog’s previous post “Financing University 101: Creating a Budget” you might need a refresher. Follow these four steps to create a fail-safe student budget and learn about the financial resources that are available to York U students.

Students working together to create a budget

Step 1: Determine Your Yearly Income

The first step to creating a successful budget is tallying up the total amount of money you will have to spend during the academic year. Most of us use a combination of personal savings, financial aid, scholarships or a part-time job to fund our studies. When you’re determining how to pay for school, all York U students should visit the Student Financial Services (SFS) website to learn more about the available funding options. For example, the SFS website is home to York U’s Award Search page where you can review all scholarships, prizes, awards and bursaries at York University. You can also visit the site to review your eligibility for different forms of financial aid. If you’re interested in gaining valuable work experience as a York U student, you may want to visit the SFS Employment page to learn more about York’s unique Work/Study positions. You can also check the York U Career Centre website for more on-campus jobs.

In order to be eligible for many forms of student financial aid at York U, including Work/Study positions, students must complete the Student Financial Profile (SFP). The SFP deadline for Fall/Winter 2017-2018 scholarships and bursaries is October 15, 2017, so take the time to complete it! There are other deadlines you should be aware of as well: to learn more about the Student Financial Profile, read our previous blog post “Submitting Your Student Financial Profile“.

If you need to speak with someone from Student Financial Services about your specific needs, visit or phone Registrarial Services during business hours. If it’s not urgent, you might want to wait until later in September.

Learning to stick to a budget is an important life skill

Step 2: Outline the Costs of Student Life

When it comes to your school fees, you may have to budget for supplementary fees after you’ve paid tuition, including textbooks, school supplies and health and dental costs. As a York U student, you’re automatically included in the York Federation of Students Health and Dental Plan. For more information about your coverage, visit the York Federation of Students website. If you missed our previous post “Getting Your Textbooks on a Student Budget“, take a look for easy ways to save.

Now that you know your budget for the year, create a simple spreadsheet of your monthly living expenses. Outline the basic amount you’ll be spending on transit, groceries, rent or residence fees, monthly bills and other miscellaneous costs. When you’re creating a budget, it’s important to be realistic: set aside money each week to have fun with friends! You’ll also want to save some extra cash for unforeseen costs, like a broken bike chain or laptop repairs. To outline your expenses and start preparing a budget, you can have a look at the estimated costs and budgeting worksheet in the Financial Planning To Get You Ready for School brochure on the Financial Advising web page.

Step 3: Manage Your Spending and Learn How to Save

Congratulations! If you’ve reached this step, it means that you know how you’re going to pay for your education and have estimated your expenses. You have a budget in place: now you just have to stick to it. Luckily, there are several ways to save money as a student. Remember to always ask yourself the one question that is essential to budgeting: Can I get this for free? As a York U student, we have access to plenty of free entertainment. For example, admission to regular season York U Lions athletic events is free for York students, and York U’s Sound and Moving Image Library is a great source for free movies, DVDs and music. For more fun activities that you can enjoy on a student budget, read our previous #YUBlog post “8 Fun Things To Do This Summer on the York U Campus“.

Check which of your local grocery stores offer student discounts

As a student with limited funds, make sure that you take full advantage of student discounts. Your local grocery store may have a discount day if you have a student card. Additionally, places like the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto Transit Commission and many retailers offer student discounts. It never hurts to ask at the checkout, so don’t be shy!

Another great way to save money as a student? Cook at home and bring your lunch every day. It will amaze you how much time and money you’ll save without your daily coffee run. If you’ll be grocery shopping, prepare an itemized list before you leave the house to avoid impulse purchases. A king-sized box of Skittles might seem like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect, granola bars would have been better.

Check the York U library system for free movie rentals

Step 4: Keep Tabs on Your Spending and Update Your Budget

Budgeting is incredibly personal, and it will take you awhile to figure out how you really spend your money. In the first few months of managing your own finances, it’s a good idea to record your daily purchases. Not only will tracking your spending help you think twice before buying something you might not need, but it will also give you a more realistic sense of your personal expenses. You may spend more on groceries than your friend, for example, but may find that you save money by eating out less often. After a few months and a little practice, you can develop the student budget that works best for you.

What are your best budgeting tips? Comment below or tweet us on Twitter @YorkUstudents to share your money-saving strategies!