A #YUBlog Guide to University Budgeting, Part 2: How to Save Money

Posted by Sophie Morgan on June 12, 2018


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Welcome back to Part Two of the #YUBlog’s series about university budgeting! If you haven’t seen Part One, be sure to check out our previous post, “Knowing the Costs and Funding“. Now that we understand the costs and expenses of university, we can focus on managing our finances. If you require more specific guidance with managing your finances, please visit York U’s Student Financial Services webpage.

How to Create a Budget

You certainly don’t need to be a financial expert to create a good budget. While budgeting, there are two main factors you need to consider:

  • Your income: this includes your available funding or “money in”. This can involve York University scholarships, funds from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), savings and employment income.
  • Your expenses: these are your costs or “money out”. Tuition, textbooks and supplies, residence fees and food costs all fall under this category.

Success Tip: If you’re an international student, York International has fantastic resources for budgeting for your education and understanding personal finances in Canada!

As an example of how to plan your own budget, I have created the following full-term budget for the average Liberal Arts and Professional Studies first-year student who lives at home. It’s important to note that I estimated how much an average student might spend or receive in each category. This exact budget will not apply to everyone, but it offers you an idea of what a completed budget could look like.

A screenshot of a sample student budget that includes estimated income, estimated education expenses and estimated living expenses. By York.
Be prepared for your budget building to take a while – it’s all about finding a balance that works for you!

Successfully creating your own budget is as easy as following these simple steps:

1) Track your income and expenses

It’s important that you are aware of your income and expenses to properly create and follow your budget. To do this, you can:

  • Hang on to receipts and transaction records. Your Student Account is a great resource that allows you to monitor your tuition fees.
  • Allocate a certain amount of money for monthly expenditures.
  • Use York U’s Construct a Budget guide to better understand your financial situation.

2) Calculate your income

The next step is to calculate your income. This is the total amount of money you receive from savings, employment, scholarships, OSAP or family.

A screenshot of the "Estimated Income" section of the budget. Photo by York.
In this example, the estimated income includes a salary, scholarships and additional funding.

3) Calculate your expenses

When you allocate for expenses, it’s important to be realistic and recognize where you usually spend money. This kind of acknowledgement will prevent you from breaking your budget. Be sure to account for all relevant costs, including transit, tuition, textbooks and supplies and personal needs.

A screen shot of a full budget with income and expenses. The "Estimated Living Expenses" and "Estimated Education Expenses" are encircled by a black oval to emphasize them. Photo by York.
When you input your expenses, it’s useful to try different amounts for each expense until you find something that’s suitable for you. But be honest with your budget and make sure it’s doable!

4) Calculate your balance

The last step is to calculate your final balance. To do this, subtract your income from your education and living expenses. Ideally, your final balance should be equal to or greater than zero. However, you may find that you have a negative balance on your first try. If this happens, try reducing some of your expenses or seek additional sources of income. Everyone’s situation differs, so it’s important to work out a budget that works for you!

A screenshot of a sample student budget that includes estimated income, estimated education expenses and estimated living expenses. By York.
Make sure to recalculate your subtotals if you alter your expenses. This will make sure your budget is mathematically correct.

You’ll notice that this budget does not balance. You can try to reduce your living expenses, seek additional funding or maintain a savings account.

Finding summer employment also provides an excellent opportunity to balance your budget. In fact, if you work 30 hours a week at $14 an hour for 12 weeks you could earn up to $5,040 – that could be enough to rebalance your budget and save for the next year!

Success Tip: Although having a job through the term is a great opportunity to earn money, be sure to balance work with your studies! For tips about managing your time, visit #YUBlog’s post, “Time Management Tips for York U Students“!

If you’re still having trouble working out your budget, seek expert advice from Financial Advising at York U’s Registrarial Services. A Budget Calculator and Student Budget Worksheet may also be useful when creating your financial plan. Be sure to check out #YUBlog’s post, “Financing University 101: Creating a Budget” for even more tips!

Success Tip: Having trouble sticking to your budget? Check out our previous #YUBlog post, “How to Stick to Your Student Budget” to learn how!

Tips for Saving Money

Photo of a person swiping their credit card. Photo by AhmadArdity.
Once you are aware of your spending habits, you’ll be saving money in no time!

Regardless of our budget balance, we all want to save money as university students – food, textbooks, transportation and living expenses definitely add up! Here are some of #YUBlog’s tried-and-true tips for saving money:

  • If possible, sell your old textbooks and buy used textbooks. Keep an eye out for a future #YUBlog post this summer about how to do that!
  • Save on transportation costs with monthly passes and student discounts with these transportation providers:
  • Carry your student card with you when you travel around the city. Most downtown locations offer great student discounts.
  • When you’re paying for your next meal or coffee in cash, set aside any spare change in a jar. It may seem silly at first, but if you set aside a couple of dimes, nickels, loonies and toonies every week for a year, you could have over $100 saved up!
  • Familiarize yourself with the York Federation of Students (YFS) website. The YFS offers great student discounts from everything to festivals and sports games to transportation.
  • If you’re looking for a great gym membership for only $15, look no further than York U’s Tait McKenzie Gym’s Student Fitness Membership!
  • Bookstore Rewards and Scholar Dollars: A great way to save on student supplies and textbooks is to shop at the York University Bookstore with your YU-Card using “Flex Dollars”, which are personal funds that you load onto your YU-Card. For each purchase from the YU Bookstore, you can earn 5% back in Scholar Dollars – 1 Scholar Dollar is equivalent to $1 cash. Your Scholar Dollars can be redeemed for any item in store and if you save up, you can earn a $100 Bookstore gift card!

This #YUBlog guide to budgeting and saving money will help you have control over your finances. There are great student deals and resources across campus that will enhance your (and your wallet’s) university experience!

If you have any money-saving tips or questions about student finances, comment below or tweet us at @YorkUStudents!

Sophie Morgan
Sophie Morgan

Sophie Morgan is a second-year Professional Writing and French Studies double major at York U. She is an avid writer, a baking enthusiast and a full-time cat-sitter. She hopes that her posts will inform and inspire both prospective and current York U students!

See other posts by Sophie Morgan

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