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When it comes to post-secondary education, there are valuable life lessons - and financial lessons - to be learned outside the lecture hall.

A recent poll conducted on behalf of RBC finds that students who receive less than one-quarter of their funding from parents feel more confident in their financial decision making and are more likely to make and stick to a budget compared to their peers who receive more financial support from their parents. Despite the boost in confidence, the road to confident money management is a lifelong journey and many post-secondary students would benefit from ongoing practice.

Students whose parents contribute less than 25%

Students whose parents contribute 25% or more

I feel confident in my financial decision making    



I make a budget and stick to it



How are Students Funding Their Education?

Determining where funding for school will come from is a big consideration for many students and it often comes from a variety of sources. Sixty-four per cent of students receive less than one-quarter of their funding from their parents compared to 36 per cent who receive one-quarter or more. The study shows that 61 per cent of students earn money for school through summer employment and 53 per cent depend on scholarships, bursaries and grants. And for almost half (47%), part-time work continues during the year to help cover costs.

“The post-secondary years are an exciting time for young people as they face big life transitions and a number of important decisions. Choosing a school and program and balancing social activities tend to dominate over a less popular topic: finances,” says Laura Plant, director, Student Banking. “What better time to plan for financial wellness and awareness than at a time when students are gaining independence and new experiences? But we know there is still work to be done in helping students graduate with the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to succeed, and it goes far beyond what they’re learning in the classroom.”

Expenses Differ

When it comes to spending, expenses and priorities differ, depending on who is covering the cost of the classroom. After groceries/food/alcohol and eating out, students whose parents chip in less than 25 per cent cite gas/parking (31%), cellphone/data (28%) and utilities (21%) as the biggest line items in their budget. While social outings do not top the list for this group, it’s an important part of the student experience and should be planned for and added to the budget. On the flip side, for students with less financial obligation, social outings/entertainment (30%), clothing/shoes (23%) and cellphone/data (22%) top the list.

Biggest Expenses:

Students whose parents contribute less than 25%    

Students whose parents contribute 25% or more

  • Groceries/Food/Alcohol
  • Eating Out
  • Gas/Parking
  • Cellphone/Data
  • Utilities
  • Groceries/Food/Alcohol
  • Eating Out
  • Social outings/Entertainment
  • Clothes/Shoes
  • Cellphone/Data

Expectations After School

Students receiving more financial support not only have more expectations of parental assistance during school but are twice as likely to expect some help from their parents post-graduation (21% compared to 11%).

“While contributing financially to your child’s education is a wonderful gift, being clear on expectations from both parties is really important. Make sure you discuss the ‘terms’ including when financial support will end,” adds Plant.

Tips for Parents

  1. Have “the talk”: Start talking about budgeting and money management with your child early on. The earlier you get the conversation started, the more prepared everyone will feel when it comes time to start paying for tuition and other expenses. The transition to post-secondary education is significant – reducing money stresses is one way of easing the change.
  2. Start saving early: If you plan on contributing to your child’s education, save early and save often. One way of getting started is by opening up a Registered Education Savings Plan.
  3. Set the expectations: If you plan on contributing to your child’s post-secondary education, set the expectations on what you will contribute and what you expect them to contribute. Getting everyone on the same page is an important first step.

Are you a parent looking for more tips on how to boost your kid’s confidence in financial decision making? Check out these resources.

Tips for Students

  1. Don’t leave free money on the table: No matter how you are funding your education, there are lots of resources out there to help you access free money, including scholarships. Resources such as and will help you on your journey to free money. For more tips on securing free school funding, read this article.
  2. Save, Save, Save: Develop a habit to save on a regular basis. No matter how small the amount, saving can help you achieve your short and long term financial goals – whether it’s paying for tuition, rent or saving up for a reading week vacation. Let your money work harder for you by setting up automatic transfers from your daily chequing account into a separate high-interest savings account or guaranteed investment certificate to be used towards your goals.
  3. Talk to an expert: Let’s face it, as a student (or soon to be student), you have a lot on your plate. Money management is one subject you are not expected to know all of the answers to. Speak with a financial advisor on how to start saving and what options make the most sense for you. This will help set you up for success and let you get back to focusing on what matters most – having an incredible educational experience!

For more student finance tips and information visit RBC's Student Hub.