Learning to become financially responsible is a challenging task for many young adults, but moving away from home for college or university is often where many young Canadians begin their first real experiences of managing money. Unfortunately this occurs at the same time they are getting their first real experience in other important areas such as living in the same building as dozens of people of the opposite gender, no parental supervision, and beer pong. This combination of “firsts” is exhilarating, but can also be a little scary if not planned out at least a little.
Back to SchoolThe back to school season instills feelings of excitement as strongly as feelings of anxiety for many students across Canada. Heading off to school allows students to assure their independence, but at the same time forces them to learn how to live within their means. This often means making sacrifices, and accepting to live more modestly than they otherwise would in their parents’ homes. From what I can tell, this reality is often times a hard one for many of today’s young Canadian students to grasp. There is little doubt that well-meaning Baby Boomer parents have done a little too good a job of providing a nice, safe cocoon for their little darlings.
Making It Work
Post-secondary education is expensive as it is, with tuition continuing to rise year-over-year at most institutions across the country. On top of tuition fees, students who move away for school must be responsible for their own bills and expenses. The most common monthly expenditures include rent, food, utilities, cell phones, credit cards, as well as fitting in a social life between classes and work. Students with their own cars are also responsible for making the car payments as well as paying their car insurance bills to legally remain on the road.
Obviously the total cost of maintaining a living adds up very quickly, especially on a very low fixed income. Many students recognize the necessary costs required to take care of themselves, and rely on back to school money saving guides from a variety of resources, such as independent financial comparison websites. These guides offer advice to reduce the monthly cost of rent and other housing expenses, how to use coupons to save money at grocery stores, what are the most affordable cell phone plans, and so on. There are also tips on how to reduce the monthly cost of car insurance, and recommendations for selecting the most affordable student credit cards to help build credit scores without spending into unmanageable amounts of debt.
Related: Student Budget Template
Money In and Money Out
Students can also help themselves by thoroughly tracking their own expenses. Many people create their own expense charts that function similar to balance sheets for any business. These charts track the flow of income into a bank account along with the money spent out of the account, which provides detailed proof of how many expenses are too much. We’ve created a pretty unique resource for this purpose. You can download our free excel spreadsheet that was made specifically for Canadian students. It is the only one we’ve seen that allows student to easily calculate monthly, quarterly, and annual expense all in the same place. Considering the erratic nature of students’ school year and job statuses, this is a valuable addition to the standard format that you can find in a lot of places.
You’re Not the Only One
It is very natural to feel a little overwhelmed when first moving away from home for school, particularly for students who come from small towns and relocate to big cities like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. The cost of living in these cities is expensive, and requires careful tracking of all expenses to maintain a home. Thankfully there are plenty of online sources to educate students about affordable budgets, and there are always resources on campus to provide in-person information when necessary.
Most students spend the first few weeks at school finding their footing as they attempt to begin new lives. The experience can be a little easier by committing to a rigorous policy of managing money responsibly. Any amount of money saved is a security blanket for a rainy day, and that peace of mind is one less distraction from achieving a quality education.