Skip to main content

Building a Budget: Helpful Tips

Why should you build a budget?

Building a budget helps you manage how you spend your money. When you control your spending, it’s much easier to achieve your financial goals, whether that is to save, pay off debts or simply live within your means.

Build a budget that works for you

The secret to building a budget that works is knowing your income and expenses. Being specific about your income and expenses gives you a solid foundation to create your own personal budget that reflects what you can afford and your lifestyle. Having an honest and complete understanding of your income and expenses also allows you to separate your needs from your wants.

Below is an example of expenditures for two semesters (based on 2023/24 costs). Please note this is an example and expenditures may vary:

Budget Tips Table
Expense Item At Home Cost On-Campus Living Cost Off-Campus Living Cost
Tuition & Fees (BASC) Domestic Ontario:
$ 7,173
Domestic Ontario: $ 7,173
Domestic Non-Ontario: $ 7,797
International: $ 33,335
Domestic Ontario: $ 7,173
Domestic Non-Ontario: $ 7,797
International: $ 33,335
Books & Supplies $ 1,500 $ 1,500 $ 1,500
Residence - Single 0 $ 7,840 0
Meal Plan (Large) 0 $ 4,000 0
Rent ($875/month including utilities) 0 0 $ 7,000
Food ($375/month) 0 0 $ 3,000
Personal (Clothing, Entertainment, Laundry, etc.) $ 2,350 $ 2,350 $ 2,350
TOTAL Domestic Ontario: $ 11,023 Domestic Ontario:
$ 22,863
Domestic Non-Ontario: $ 23,487
International: $ 49,025
Domestic Ontario:
$ 21,023
Domestic Non-Ontario: $ 21,647
International: $ 47,185

Budgeting tips

These tips will help you build a solid budget and, more importantly, stick to it!

  • Include all realistic resources.  These can include savings, employment earnings, family support, scholarships and bursaries.
  • Be realistic with your expenses. List your expenses.  Be realistic, accurate and budget for the unexpected.  If you don’t think you can live by the budget you made, it won’t last long. Try to figure out a reasonable spending allowance and stick with it.
  • Plan your budget before the start of your academic year. This way, if you need to apply for financial assistance (e.g., government student assistance such as OSAP), you still have plenty of time to do so before classes begin.
  • Keep track of your spending habits for at least one month and keep an accurate record of your savings and chequing accounts. If you have credit card balances, don’t forget to keep track of your monthly payments.
  • Review your budget regularly and adjust for changes in your circumstances.
  • Avoid paying with credit cards on a regular basis. If you find you’re turning to credit cards frequently, it’s time to review your budget and either decrease your spending or try to increase your income.

Plan for government student assistance payments

When building your budget, consider that government student assistance is paid in two installments: 60% of your entitlement in the fall and the remaining 40% in January. You must prepare a financial plan to make sure you budget these lump sum payments carefully.

Still a little short?

You have followed the steps and created your financial plan and you may need a bit more money, consider these options:


A bursary is money given to a student to help with finances and does not require repayment.

Apply for a bursary by completing a Financial Need Assessment Form.  Academic achievement is not a consideration when evaluating a student's eligibility for bursary assistance; however students must be registered in an academic term to receive a bursary.

The required Needs Assessment Form can be found on the Student Financial Services website in the Forms and Documents section. Visit Awards and Bursaries for In-Course Students to review eligible bursaries and scholarships.

Work Study

Work study is a financial aid program that funds on-campus part-time jobs to assist students with financial need to meet their educational and living costs. The program offers opportunity for both financial benefits and skill development.

Visit Work-Study Program for more information on the Work-Study Program and eligibility requirements.


Having a successful year at university includes managing your financial situation and budgeting for success. It is a great life skill to learn to live within your means!

A budgeting app is a great tool to track your expenses and resources. Some financial institutions offer free budgeting apps that connect to your bank account, debit and/or credit cards to make tracking your spending easier. Check your bank and/or financial institution to review free budgeting tools offered.

Using Money Wisely - a few helpful tips

  • Buy used textbooks and sell your text books back at the end of semester.
  • Make a list when shopping for groceries and stick to it. Find a friend to share the cost of bulk items and don't shop at a convenience store, items are usually more expensive.
  • Enjoy free activities on campus or in the community. Borrow movies and magazines from the local library.
  • Plan to bring your lunch, brown bagging saves money.
  • Plan to treat yourself once a week and make sure you include this in your financial plan/budget.
  • Bring a reusable mug with your first coffee already made, it is good for the environment and your wallet.
  • Avoid impulse purchases, stop and ask yourself "do I need this or do I want this", there is a significant difference. If you think you need the item ask them to put it on hold for 24 hours and then return if you find you really do need it.
  • Save each day's loose change to make a weekend fun fund or ask your bank about "bank the rest" accounts.
  • Use credit with caution.

More financial planning tips can be found at these websites: