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Starting the School Year off Right

Saturday, September 15, 2012

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By Lauren Bernardo

It's easy for spending to get really out of control within the first weeks of school. You need to buy a gym membership, stock up your house with groceries, want a new desk and several other purchases to get you off and running. Make sure to think about these points and keep thinking about them throughout the semester.

Make a Budget

  • The most important thing that you can do right now is plan and make a budget for your month by month spending. It's also very important for this budget to be realistic, so you can stick to it. If you are an avid spender don't set completely unrealistic spending goals for yourself.
  • Based on the money you made during the summer or the money you still have left make sure you have enough for the essentials; food, rent, and utilities. After you have figured out that you have enough funds to cover these expenses that's when you can figure out the rest; clothing, alcohol, money for going out, trips, additional food that you don't actually need etc.

Some Tips

Make sure to take into account increased utility bills in the winter months when the weather is colder and heating will increase.

Stick & Follow Through with the Budget

  • Making the budget itself may seem challenging, but the most difficult part is actually following through with the budget. Throughout the first month especially, it is crucial that you write down and record your spending in order to be able to tally it all up at the end of the month.
  • At the very least make sure to do a bi-weekly (half way through the month) check of your budget and see if you are on track. Are you spending too much on groceries? Scope out better sales and make better use of your grocery dollars and even try finding some coupons online.
  • At month's end, tally up all of your purchases and check to see if you met your goals. Were they realistic? Do some numbers need to be decreased? Do some numbers need to increased? Don't do this every month, but the first month is your trial run make changes after this month that make the most sense financially and based on your spending habits, then the budget for later months should be more concrete.

Keep Up to Date on Your OSAP Loans & Other Student Loans

  • Since you probably just received more loans or additional student loans to pay for tuition this semester, make sure to check the amounts owing to either OSAP, banks, your parents etc. Keeping that in mind may also keep spending in perspective, if you owe $15,000 in OSAP does that extra pair of heels make sense if you don't really need them?
  • Additionally make sure to check if you qualify for the tuition rebate of $800 a semester through OSAP. I remember seeing somewhere that over 80% of students that could qualify for the rebate didn't even apply. You don't have to pay this money back unlike OSAP, it's a bursary that requires no repayment, it's free money that can help take a load off tuition or rent. Make sure to take advantage of this.
  • If you are no longer receiving OSAP loans, make sure you go an fill out a form to keep interest free status (and avoid paying interest until after you graduate). This can be done at Student Financial services in the University Centre.

Hopefully this gets you thinking about your finances and how you can better keep track of them over the Fall semester and beyond. Remember, you're a student, it's very unlikely you have a ton of money so please don't spend like you do.

Lauren Bernardo is a current University of Guelph Commerce student.  Her blog Cheap Students aims to help students save money and keep it. Her writing is inspired by her personal experiences as a student on a budget and by her love for saving money.

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