By Rodney Barnes
After four years packing only a bun for his lunch, Daniel Chow decided that his high school diploma meant he no longer had to starve through classes. So in the first year of his business management degree he started going out for lunch. Every day.
“I spent 20% of my OSAP on food,” he said. And he ran up a $200 bank fee for going over his debit limit.
Student budgeting is a tricky business. University life is often the practice of living to the fullest — a mentality that can quickly lead to steep debt, a burden only fully shouldered after graduation. There are ways to keep this in check before it’s too late, and there’s no better time to start than first year.
“It may sound cliché,” said John Love, director of finance and an accounting instructor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, “but the old saying, ‘Students who run out of cash don’t plan to fail with their finances; they fail to plan’ is as true as ever.”
Prepare a list of income sources and expenses for the academic year, said Love. “If your income is greater than your expenses, stick to your budget and celebrate,” he said. If not, you can increase your income or decrease your expenses. Apply for scholarships, get a part-time job, or just plead for mercy money from your parents.
To staunch your spending, plan your menu a week ahead and do one weekly shop. Making food from scratch and buying fresh is also cheaper. Shop around for the best prices, and don’t make impulsive purchases. Shweta Kothiyal, a financial services representative at TD Bank, encourages online banking to help you track your spending habits. Some banks even offer a free online budgeting service for students.
“Go within your limit,” Kothiyal warned. Especially on your debit card. “Don’t go over transactions.”
Currently in his fourth year studying finances, Chow is back to packing his lunch. He’s not eating out as often anymore, and has traded in buns for homecooked stir-fry.
“I got fed up with spending money,” he said.
Chow’s one tip for first years: “Budget wisely,” he said. “And think very carefully about how you’re going to spend it.”
Responsibly managing your finances makes surviving Ryerson much easier.
“And in the end that gives you more money to spend on other things,” said Chow.
“If I realized this in first year maybe I would have saved myself the hassle.”