Think Forward | My budget

This is the exact content found in the ‘Think Forward | My Budget’ activity within the Pre-Arrival Program.

Hand tapping a phone, with images of shopping carts, credit cards and shopping bags coming out

University can come with a lot of expenses, from tuition and books to rent, food and entertainment. In order to ensure you end each month and the term with at least a little bit of money in your account, it’s important to understand how much you have to spend each month. This is where a budget can be useful.

A budget is basically a plan for your money that will help you spend your money intentionally and wisely. Creating and sticking to a budget can help you ensure that you always have enough money for your required expenses.

In this activity, we’ll walk you through the process of creating a budget for one term. Whether you’ve never created a budget before or need to create a new budget now that your expenses and income may be changing, we hope this activity will give you a good start and a foundation to return to throughout your time at UVic.

We’ll start by taking a look at a few budgets from current students and what they’ve learned from the process.


Lily

Cartoon image of a female with white skin and long black hair, wearing a purple toque.

 

Faculty: Science
Year: 5
Hometown: Cranbrook, B.C.
Living situation: Renting off-campus with roommates

 

 

What is your biggest financial struggle?

Budgeting on food. I meal prep a lot but some weeks get really busy with school work and I’ll end up having to buy food on campus. Those expenses add up.

Beyond housing, food and tuition, what are your largest expenses?

Recreational activities, such as surfing, skiing and camping, as well as cosmetics and clothing.

What strategies do you use to save money and/or stick to a budget?

I only buy the things I need when I actually need them and I keep track of every dollar I spend.

What is one financial tip you would give to a first-year student?

Find a job. There are many on-campus jobs that are flexible to student’s classes and have great pay. It’s also a great way to get to know people and have some experience outside of academics.

Lily’s budget for one term

Education expenses  
Tuition and fees (one term) $3035
Books $300
Supplies $20
Total $3355
Monthly expenses  
Housing (rent/mortgage) $800*
Food $300
Cell phone and internet $20*
Household chores $5*
Transportation $76
Entertainment $320
Medical/dental/optical $35
Miscellaneous $250
Total per month $1806
Total per term $7224

Total expenses per term = $10,579

*Utilities are included in the cost of rent
*Internet costs are shared with roommates, and Lily is on her parents’ family plan
*Costs associated with household chores are shared with roommates

Education resources  
Awards (scholarships and bursaries) $2500
Student loans $3000
Total $5500
Monthly income  
Part-time earnings $500
Parent/family contribution $800
Total per month $1300
Total per term $5200

Total income and resources per term = $10,600

At the end of the term, Lily has $121 left.

 

Tyrone

Cartoon image of a male with brown skin and dark brown hair cut short.

Faculty: Education
Year: 3
Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
Living situation: In residence

 

 

 

What is your biggest financial struggle?

Paying for university while only working in the summer. Additionally, I sometimes struggle with balancing what I need with what I want, and knowing when it is okay to treat myself and when I need to draw the line.

Beyond housing, food and tuition, what are your largest expenses?

Hanging out with friends.

What strategies do you use to save money and/or stick to a budget?

I write out every month the list of items that I would need to purchase on top of the ones that stay the same every month, such as rent. It’s important to keep in mind to save some money for emergencies and free time. I try not to carry a lot of cash with me because if I carry too much, I’ll accidentally spend too much.

What is one financial tip you would give to a first-year student?

Eat on campus. You’ve already paid for the meal plan, so don’t go out often because you’ll end up with a ton of money left on the meal plan.

Tyrone’s budget for one term

Education expenses  
Tuition and fees (one term) $3333
Books $325
Supplies $130
Total $3788
Residence expenses  
Residence fees (including meal plan) $5304
Total $5304
Monthly expenses  
Food $20*
Cell phone and internet $0*
Household chores $8
Transportation $26
Entertainment $25
Miscellaneous $25
Total per month $104
Total per term $416

Total expenses per term = $9508

*Food is mostly covered by the meal plan, although I order Skip the Dishes about once per month.
*Internet is included in residence fees and I’m on my parents’ family plan

Education resources  
Personal savings $9500
Parent/family contribution $1200
Total $10,700
Monthly income  
Part-time earnings $99
Total per month $99
Total per term $396

Total income and resources per term = $11,096

At the end of the term, Tyrone has $1588 left. He will use this money to help pay his tuition fees for the following term. 

 

Isabella

Faculty: Social Sciences
Year: 2
Hometown: Freeport, Bahamas
Living situation: Renting off-campus with roommates

 

 

 

 

What is your biggest financial struggle?

I think it was at the beginning of the first year. I needed to buy lots of necessities and textbooks as well. Basically, I needed to buy everything because I had nothing in Canada.

Beyond housing, food and tuition, what are your largest expenses?

Dining out is often one of my largest monthly expenses.

What strategies do you use to save money and/or stick to a budget?

As much as possible, I use my debit card when spending money and only using credit when I absolutely need to.

What is one financial tip you would give to a first-year student?

Keep track of your spending, as you spend it. You could use a monthly budget google sheet template, but the best way to keep track is the way that works for you. Use a method you will stick with!

Isabella’s budget for one term

Education expenses  
Tuition and fees (one term) $11,704
Books $300
Supplies $100
Total $12,104
Monthly expenses  
Housing (rent/mortgage) $600
Food $500
Utilities $20
Cell phone and internet $55
Household chores $20
Transportation $100
Entertainment $75
Medical/dental/optical $50
Miscellaneous $50
Total per month $1450
Total per term $5800

Total expenses per term = $17,904

 

Education resources  
Personal savings $2500
Parent/family contribution $10,000
Total $12,500
Monthly income  
Parent/family contribution $1500
Total per month   $1500
Total per term $6000

Total income and resources per term = $18,500

At the end of the term, Isabella has $596 left.  

 

Building Your Budget

Computer screen with a pie chart and bar chart on the screen.

Now that you’ve reviewed our budget personas, it’s your turn! Download the budget spreadsheet below, save it to your computer and take some time to fill it out.

As you build your budget, keep these three guidelines in mind:

    • Keep it real. Don’t build a budget for the ideal you- build it for the real you. This means that if you know you are likely to eat out several times a week or grab lunch on the go, budget for it instead of pretending you will prepare all your own meals in order to save money.
    • Remember that budgets are all about choices. If you choose to spend more on rent so that you can live in a certain area or live on your own, that’s fine. But it may mean you have less to spend in other areas, such as entertainment.
    • Do as much research as possible. When determining fixed costs, such as cell phone or some utilities, figure out actual costs instead of guessing. Talk to family and friends about how much they typically spend in categories such as household chores, food or entertainment (and review our budget personas!) in order to create an accurate estimate for yourself.

Poll | Building my budget

Building a budget is a great start to financial wellness, but the budget doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a plan to stick to it.

What are three key strategies that you think would be effective at helping you manage your finances and ensuring you are spending responsibly?

  • Use cash and only spend what you have
  • Avoid impulse purchases
  • Use a budgeting app such as mint.com
  • Revisit your budget regularly to keep on track
  • Set up automatic payments to avoid extra fees
  • Plan and prep meals in advance to avoid extra costs
  • Plan for anticipated social costs (birthdays, etc.)
  • Don’t use a credit card to buy items you can’t pay off
  • Use coupons, rebates, discounts and gift cards

>> Return to the overview of the Finances topic