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Once school starts it's going to get busy fast. That's why it's worth taking the time to make sure you've got your financial plan for the year covered. Start by making sure you've covered these simple basics.

Figure out What It’s Really Going to Cost

Budget planning may not seem like a fun summer activity – but it’s something that can make all the difference once the school year starts. And it doesn’t have to be that difficult or complicated.

1. Start by Figuring out What All Your Costs Are Going to Be

Don’t just think about the big things like tuition and books. Think about all the little things that you have maybe never had to pay for before. Like that morning coffee, or public transportation, or clothing and entertainment. It all adds up fast if you aren’t prepared for it.

2. Then Add up All Your Sources of Money Coming In

This includes money you’ve saved, money from your parents/family, income from any jobs, and money from things like scholarships and student loans. Sort it into two categories: “sure thing” and “maybe.” Be conservative and underestimate it.

Where will you live?

If you’re planning to live in residence, find out what is covered and what isn’t.

If you’re living at home make sure you know exactly what transportation costs you’ll encounter.

3. Now Decide If You Need to Make Any Adjustments

If you have more money than you expect to spend – great. We would recommend setting up a savings account to keep the difference as a reserve fund for any emergencies or unexpected expenses.

If you have less money than you plan to spend – it’s time to take a look at what is a “need to have” vs. what is a “nice to have” and what cuts you can make. Or you can look at how to make up the shortfall on the revenue side.

Either way – it’s better to go into the school year with a very clear picture of exactly what it’s going to cost.

Get Your Banking Needs Dealt with Now

Don’t run around in the fall trying to set things up at the last minute – make sure your needs are covered before the school year starts. A few things you’ll want to consider are:

  • A Chequing (Everyday Banking) accountIf you don’t have one – get one. Look at student account options – which can come with a fixed number of free debit transactions, or unlimited accounts for a nominal monthly fee. Pick the option that best matches your needs – if you like to use debit regularly that “free” account could cost you more than one with a fixed monthly fee.
  • A separate Savings accountWhen it comes to bank accounts – two is better than one. An account like a high interest savings account lets you separate your savings from your spending. It’s a great place to keep your money for things you don’t need to pay for right away, and earn interest as well. So when you need to pay for those second semester books, or that trip home for the holidays, the money is there.
  • A credit cardUsed wisely, credit cards can be very handy for helping to manage unexpected purchases and emergencies, as well as a convenience for online purchases. And, since your credit card statement keeps track of all your purchases, you can check it against your budget at the end of the month. This can be a big help when you are trying to see how much money you actually spend each month. If you are over the age of majority in your province, you can apply for a credit card online. If you aren’t yet old enough, note that many banks offer Virtual Visa Debit as a convenient alternative for using your bank account to make purchases online.
  • Online/Mobile BankingTake the time to set up and start using online and mobile banking. It’s an easy way to monitor your accounts, transfer money and pay your bills.

By getting these basics dealt with ahead of time, you’ll start the school year in control of your finances. Then you’ll be able to relax and focus on getting the most out of your school experience.