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Financial Literacy

What are your financial plans?

When the decision was made to begin your post-secondary education, the thought of finances and budgeting may not have been on your list of priorities.  Seeing as though money plays a large role in the life of a student, it is important to know that good financial planning can help you avoid a financial crisis that may hinder your studies.  You should not wait until you are living away from home, paying for rent for the first time, a meal plan, as well as your tuition, to start thinking about your financial obligations.  This page contains information that may help you break down your finances as well as develop a plan that can help you get through your years in post-secondary studies with as little debt as possible.

 

Creating a realistic budget

List all of your monthly income: make a list of all of the income that you plan to receive during each specific month during your study period.  This amount could include money from employment, any savings that you may have, Registered Education Savings Plan, Government Income, OSAP, Bursaries, and Scholarships, money given to you from your parents, spouse, family and friends. 

 

List all of your monthly expenses: make a list of your expenses in order of priority.  This process will help you make a true budget and will also help you manage your spending.  Here are some items that should be added to your expenses:

  • Tuition Fees/Incidental Fees: make sure that you are aware of the cost of your tuition and incidental fees as well as their due dates.
  • Books and supplies: be sure to take this expense into consideration at the beginning of each term of study seeing as though you will be required to purchase textbooks.  Used books are always more cost efficient.
  • Computer/Laptop: evaluate whether or not you are required to purchase a laptop or computer for your studies.  There are many computer laboratories on campus as well as a laptop rental service at the library.
  • Rent/Residence: it is important to consider how much your rent amount is and if it is changing.  If you are living in residence, be aware of your payment’s due date.  You may want to consider sharing your rental expense with a roommate.
  • Utilities: within this expense, you should consider hydro, gas and electricity, tenant insurance, home or cellular telephone services, internet and television.  This would also allow you evaluate these expenses to see if there is any way to decrease their monthly amounts.
  • Food/Meal Plan: it is important to make a monthly budget for groceries so that you do not overspend.  If you have purchased a meal plan, you will need to know the payment’s due date.
  • Transportation: if you are a full-times student, your student card also serves as a bus pass (U-Pass) for Sudbury Transit.
  • Entertainment:  You should allow yourself a small month amount for entertainment to make sure that you do not over-spend.
  • Medical/Dental: if you are a full-time student, you should have health care benefits through your student association.  Do not hesitate to ask your student association for any information regarding your health benefits since you are paying for this service.
  • Clothing: it is important to set a budget for new clothing during your study period.  If you are trying to reduce some of your costs, there are many used clothing stores that offer great prices for lightly used clothing.

 

It is sometimes helpful to list your expenses in order of priority to make sure that the most important bills are paid first.  Once your budget has been created, do not forget to go back to your budget on a weekly basis to make sure that you are staying on track.  Remember that your expenses must never exceed your income, and you should never be left with a deficit at the end of each month

As time progresses, make sure to change the amounts in your budget to the actual amounts of your income and expenses.  There are many templates available online for budgeting.  Below is the link to a free student budget worksheet.

Setting your goals

Setting a financial goal does not only help you stay focused, but also creates a sense of optimism as well as security.  By doing this, you are more likely to succeed in being able to control your spending.  It is important to take the time to write down your goals and keep them somewhere where you will see them on a daily basis.

Examples of financial goals are:

  • I will make my coffee at home in the morning instead of purchasing a cup.
  • I will only spend money on fast food for one meal every week.
  • I will not incur more than X amount of debt per month.
  • I will save X amount of dollars during the summer months to pay down my student debt.
  • I will contribute X amount of dollars towards paying my tuition each month.

Make the most out of your spending dollars

By making the most out of your spending dollars, you can try to focus on attaining your goals to make them a reality at the end of the academic year.

  • Discounts: Many companies offer various student discounts.  Always carry your student card in your wallet and ask vendors whether or not they might offer a student discount.  Some restaurants offer discounts on particular days of the week.  You could even get free access to certain exhibits or museums at different times of the year.
  • Travelling: Make use of your bus pass!  For any travelling around the city, you have free access to the Sudbury Transit transportation.  Laurentian also offers a bus home program which is available to all students.  This provides students with a very affordable way to travel home a few times each year.
  • Extracurricular: The University has a fitness centre as well as various fitness programs which are offered throughout different times of the year.  We also have intramural leagues as well as a swimming pool available to students on specific days of the week.  There are also many clubs and groups that you could be a member of which would not be of any cost.  If you don’t find what you are looking for, your student association is there to help you!
  • Cooking: If you have purchased a meal plan, make sure that you use your dollars wisely so that you don’t run out funds.  It is important to track your balance at the end of each month to make sure that you are not over-spending your meal plan dollars.  Cooking your own meals could also save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Learning to cook can save you many meals at the restaurant and can also be a great learning experience.
  • Textbooks: When purchasing textbooks, always verify if a used version is available as they are always listed at a more affordable price.  If you have friends that have taken the same program as you are entering, you could inquire whether or not they are willing to lend the textbooks to you for the duration of the course, or even sell them to you at a discounted rate.  When you complete a course, you could sell your lightly used books to other students who are looking for used textbooks online.

Preventing a financial crisis

Since you will be on your own for the first time, it is common to need many items in your first year such as cleaning supplies, furniture, cookware or dishes.  To save some of that cost, you could include these items in your holiday or graduation wish list.  If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have a financial emergency and you do not have a fund that is available to you, you might need to reach out to family or friends to lend you some money.  It is important not to wait until the situation is out of control to seek help from your loved ones.

How can I prevent a financial crisis?

  • Do not spend all of your summer earnings.  In order to keep some of your summer income for an emergency fund, you must not spend all of your earnings on unnecessary items such as expensive clothing, vehicles and more.
  • Avoid carrying debt.
  • Be sure to read your credit card agreements carefully and be aware of the interest charges that occur on a monthly basis.
  • Track your monthly income and expenses by making a thorough budget.
  • Do not charge anything to your credit card if you do not have the means to re-pay it.
  • Keep track of your wallet at all times to ensure that you do not become a victim of fraud or theft.
  • Do not share your debit or credit card pin with anyone.
  •  Be sure to apply for any Bursaries that become available throughout the academic year.

 

What are some solutions if you were to fall into a financial crisis?

  • Explore some campus services such as the Free Store and the Campus Food Bank.
  • Verify with your student association as well as any clubs that you might be a member of to see if they have any resources available to you.
  • As a very last option, you could request an emergency loan.  Certain conditions apply.