How to Plan Your Finances

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Money Management for College Students


Creating a realistic budget is the key in keeping your spending under control and reducing the debt you will incur while pursuing post-secondary education. Following the simple tips below will help you create a personalized budget made just for you.

Set a timeframe for your budget

Decide how long your budget will be set for (month, semester, or school year).

Record all of your income

Your list should include the following:

  • Savings
  • Student loans
  • Gifts of money or loans from parents or others
  • Scholarships, awards and bursaries
  • Income from part-time job
  • Interest from investments or savings account

Record all of your expenses

To get information on tuition and other fees, call your academic department. Your list should include the following:

  • Tuition
  • Other college fees
  • Books, materials, uniforms
  • Transportation
  • Clothes
  • Housing expenses
  • Living expenses (food, phone, internet, entertainment, gifts, etc.)
  • Utilities (cable, water, electricity, heating costs)
  • Taxes. If you've been working you may face a tax bill.

Set aside funds for emergency

Emergency situations can arise anytime so set aside some funds to be better prepared to face them (i.e. fixing your laptop, buying medication, purchasing a flight ticket home for family emergency, etc.). Do not use these funds for non-academic or other recreational uses.

Be on track with your budget

Know the difference between your wants and needs and when there is a shortfall of income, you may have to sacrifice some of your favorite activities (movies, rentals, eating out, sporting events, etc.). Even the little expenses add up so if you are buying a coffee every day for $2, that adds up to $730 per year! So try to cut down on little indulgences such as coffee whenever possible.

Make sure to balance your income with expenses

Your goal should be to ensure that your expenses do not exceed income.


  • If you need additional money, look for part time jobs, apply for bursaries, awards and scholarships and ask your parents for help
  • Tracking your spending by saving receipts will help you follow your budget
  • Remember to reward yourself when you save more than expected or put it aside to make a big purchase one day or pay off your debt
  • Avoid going out with those who are big spenders as you might get into their spending habit as well
  • Try not to eat out. Cooking at home is not only cheaper, you also have the option of making healthier food
  • When you need to shop, look for stores offering discounts for students or having sales. When in doubt, ask stores if they offer discounts to students
  • If you travel everyday by public transit, buy a monthly pass at a discounted rate for students available at George Brown College. Carpooling and riding bikes are also great ways to save money
  • Save money on long distance phone calls by using Skype to make free calls
  • Avoid signing up for credit cards unless you really need them or otherwise you will end up paying high interests on them. Remember, it is easier to max out on your credit cards but very difficult to pay them off so spend wisely
  • Buy used books and sell yours when you don’t need them
  • Instead of going out to the movies with your friends, watch rentals at home
  • Tutoring is a good way to earn money; depending on the subject and your expertise, you can make anywhere between $15-30 per hour
  • Pitch in money with friends and buy in bulks as you will each save more money that way
  • Get roommates and share your living expenses with them
  • Wear more layers of clothes during winter to keep warm inside your residence instead of turning up the thermostat
  • Try to stay in with your friends instead of going out. Going out can be expensive and you’ll most likely end up spending more than you planned to
  • Make your own coffee at home and take it with you in a travel mug to class instead of purchasing it outside