A Student’s Guide to Budgeting

Edited by Avleen Grewal

Saving money can be hard, especially as a student. We generally aren’t making much (if any) money, and what we do end up making is usually put towards next week’s groceries or next month’s rent. Now, I haven’t always been the best about saving money or keeping track of my purchases. But I think my rude awakening happened when I went to buy a box of granola bars at Shoppers and I didn’t have enough in my account (yes, that was me holding up the line in self-check out). After that little incident, I started budgeting and keeping track of my purchases, and I’ve gradually become more conscious of my spending habits. And trust me, if I can do it, you can to. If you’re looking to cut down on your spending and keep that piggy bank well-fed, then take a look at the tips below!

Track Your Spending

In order to create a budget (one you can actually stick to), start tracking your spending. Keep track of how you’re spending money for two or three weeks to see what your typical spending habits are. Write down how much your weekly groceries cost, how many TTC trips you take, and how often you give-in to temptation and order in UberEats. Writing down what a typical week is like for you will give you a better idea of where your money’s going, and will help you to make better estimates of how much money you should allot yourself every week.

 

Create a Budget

Now that you’ve identified your typical spending habits, write out how much you’re able to spend each week. It’s helpful to outline a few categories in your budget to get a better breakdown of your weekly or monthly spending. Some of the categories I typically track are my groceries, transportation costs, and how much I spend eating out. Of course, these categories may differ from person to person. There are also so many awesome apps out there that will do this work for you. Mint actually syncs up to your bank account, and will categorize your purchases automatically. You can enter personalized budgets for different categories, and even get notified when you’re going over budget.

Identify Areas to Reduce Your Spending

Once you’re actually tracking your spending, you can start to notice where you’re spending more than you’d like to on certain things. I must confess I went to Tim Hortons for a bagel far more often than a human probably should (I can’t help it, I really like cream cheese okay!). But, after becoming aware of this habit, I cut it back a bit. I’m sure we’ve all heard that annoying thing about skipping your morning coffee at Starbucks and saving $5 and how quickly it adds up, yada yada yada. Even if you’ve already cut out that habit, there are other areas you can apply this same principle to. Maybe you always buy a box of cookies every time you go grocery shopping (please tell me I’m not the only one), or maybe you always add guac to your Chipotle (is it clear how basic I am yet?) Jokes aside, my point is that cutting out these seemingly small purchases could start saving you lots of money! $5 here and $3 there really adds up fast.

 

Shop on Sale

This one might seem obvious, but it deserves its own section. Channel your inner extreme couponer and start hoarding those flyers. Again, a $1 or $2 savings on one item seems negligible, but think of how much you eat over the course of a year. Start tracking when your favorite items are on sale, and stock up then. Often times, you can get things for almost half price, and over the long run, that might save you a lot of money. I’ll use myself as an example. I may be quite fond of a little invention known as the frozen dinner. And let me tell you, those things go on sale a lot! Guess who just threw five Lean Cuisines in her cart?! You bet I did. Dinner for a week, and under budget, too.

Raise the Stakes

Now, this one may or may not be for you, depending on how seriously you’re taking your new budgeting lifestyle. But something I’ve found to be kind of fun and to keep me honest about sticking to my numbers is to reward myself when I’m under budget. There are a few ways I do this: I either put my extra money towards next month, or I save it and put it towards something else entirely. However, here comes the tough part of this whole component: if I go over budget, I try to deduct that amount from the next month. Now, depending on how much I’ve gone over, obviously this may not be feasible. But if it’s a doable amount, then I find it’s a good exercise, because it reinforces that I am able to spend less than my budget and still be okay. Plus, it works to keep me motivated to actually sticking to my goal instead of letting myself slack off.

 

There are so many ways to start saving money, and these are just a few. I hope these tips help you reach your financial goals and keep that bank account looking happy and healthy this year!

 

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