Managing Money


Learning how to manage money is a valuable skill that’s especially needed while attending university. Knowing the cost of your education will help you to better prepare and organize your finances. With good planning, you’ll understand where you spend your money, what your fixed expenses are and how to manage your cash flow.

Once you’re on campus, take advantage of any financial planning or advice services that might be offered to you through places such as the Office of the Registrar or Student Financial Services.

Here are some strategies you can use to enhance your financial wellness

  • Limit or avoid credit card debt while attending university by using your debit card, rather than a credit card, for making purchases.
  • Take the time to seek out scholarships and bursaries, both university-based and external.
  • Set a financial limit for yourself for entertainment each week.
  • Eat nutritiously on a budget:
    • take your lunch, snacks and drinks with you to school or work; and
    • shop wisely for groceries.

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What kind of costs can I expect?

Your costs will generally fall within 3 major categories:

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees depend on the program and school you choose. In 2017-2018, the average cost of a year’s tuition at a Canadian university was $6,618 before taking into account scholarships, bursaries and the 30% Ontario tuition grant.

If you know the program you want to study, visit the websites of the universities that offer it to find out current tuition costs. If you don’t know what you want to study, look at tuition costs for a few different programs and then make a reasonable estimate.

Books and Other Course Materials

For many undergraduate university programs, the typical cost of books and other materials range from $800 to $1,000 per year, although costs vary by program. To reduce these costs you might consider:

  • buying used books or their electronic version;
  • borrowing from the university’s library; and
  • sharing books with roommates or friends in the same program.

Living Expenses

If you plan on living in residence, check out the website of the university you plan to attend to learn more about the costs of residence and meal plans.

If you plan to live off campus, you’ll being paying for rent and groceries. You might also need public transportation, so you should investigate the cost of a public transit pass (if it’s not already included in your student fees) or, if you have a car, calculate the cost of gas and parking.

Whatever your living arrangements, there will be other costs to consider, such as clothing, computers, cell phones and entertainment.

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How do I make a budget?

Making a budget means not only keeping track of where you spend your money, but also planning ahead for fixed payments such as rent, tuition and bills, as well as future expenses. One way to start the process is by filling out a sample budget, so you know how much money is coming in, compared to your expenses. You can also check out a sample budget developed by uOttawa.

Some universities include budget calculators or provide sample budgets to help students identify their expenses. Often these kinds of tools are also available through the university’s financial services website. Many of these offices also offer workshops on how to manage your finances while attending university.

Information from this page was developed using information on the Western University and York University work study websites, the website of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, York University Student Financial Services website, the University of Alberta’s Native Studies website, and the University of Ottawa Financial Aid and Support website.

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