What is a Budget?

A budget is a record of the money that flows in and out of your possession every month. It can be considered a process of creating a plan to spend your money, and controlling your spending makes saving effortless! Ultimately, a budget compares your financial resources to your expenses, and allows for easier financial planning in the long run.

Why use a Budget?

Using a budget allows you to know where your money is going, and plan for your financial future. A budget can allow you to make a strategic plan about your spending, and will help to ensure that your expenses will be covered. In addition, it will empower you to save for things that you want, such as big ticket purchases like trips, vehicles, etc!

First Steps to Budgeting

Determining your Resources and Expenses
  • Expenses: Money that you spend (e.g. food, housing/rent/, tuition, entertainment, etc.)
    • When identifying your expenses, consider which expenses are "needs" and which ones are "wants". For example, you need food and shelter, but you might not need the newest version of the iPhone or to grab a Starbucks coffee every morning! Identifying "needs" versus "wants" will help you later in the budgeting process if you find you need to cut your expenses down.
  • Resources: Money that you earn or are given (e.g. employment income, scholarships, loans, family support, etc.)


  • When starting your budget, list all expenses, starting with fixed expenses that don't fluctuate month to month (e.g. rent), and then add variable expenses (e.g. gas, food) that can be adjusted to fit the budget.
Cost of Living = Expenses - Resources

What if I spend more money than I Earn?

If you spend more money than you earn (i.e. your expenses are higher than your resources), you will need to find a way to even those values out. To do this, there are three options:

  1. Make more resources: Look for employment or potentially a second job, apply for scholarships and bursaries, look into government student financial aid (e.g. OSAP)
  2. Reduce your expenses: Cut back on some unnecessary expenses (e.g. your daily coffee from Starbucks, or going to the bar every weekend), looks for deals when shopping, consider finding a place with cheaper rent or living with roommates
  3. Have a plan for debt repayment: Although the two options above are a better option to start with, if you will not be able to make more resources or reduce your expenses, it is important that you have a plan in place to repay your debts as soon as possible. For example, with government student loans, many offer interest free and payment free status during full-time studies, and there are other assistance plans in paying off dept following your studies (such as the Repayment Assistance Program).

What is the Best Type of Budget for Me?

Budgets are different for everyone, and it's important to tailor your budget to your specific situation.

  • Budgets can be for a certain time period (e.g. yearly, monthly, weekly, or even daily)
  • Budgets can be for a specific event (e.g. a party, a holiday, a vacation)
  • Budgets can be as simple or as complex as you link
The best budget is a budget that makes sense and works for you!

How to Stick to a Budget?

Below are some great tips for sticking to a budget:

  • Review and update your budget regularly
  • If you are spending money with others, make sure you're on the same page
  • Avoid planes of temptation (like that store in the mall you love!)
  • Don't forget to budget some money for fun!

On-Campus Support

Be sure to make use of the supports and services available to you on campus:

  • Don't forget to fill out your myAwards portal - there are hundreds of scholarships, bursaries, and awards, and in most cases, applications can be completed in a matter of minutes!
  • Use the mySuccess job board to look for on and off campus employment (including the Lakehead University Work Study Program)
  • Utilize the free entertainment and recreation opportunities on campus!

Living Like a Student

Budgeting is a personal matter. Therefore, you need to find a system that works best for you, whether it be a detailed budget plan or a few simple techniques.

Here are some tips to help stretch your dollars:

Books and Supplies

  • Buy used books whenever possible
  • Only buy books you absolutely need (suggested readings can usually be found on reserve in the library)
  • Look for electronic versions of books, many of these versions can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a paper copy.
  • Purchase your supplies at discount or large department stores for the best price.
  • If you need a computer for your program, shop and compare; buy what you need at the best price. (Campus Tech may be able to provide students with a discount and save you money!)

Living Accommodations

  • If living on-campus, make good use of the meal plan
  • If living off-campus, find roommates to help share your costs
  • Make sure you know what's included in your rent-heat, hydro, and water may be extra
  • Ensure you bring your student card and proof of enrolment when hooking up Internet, Food and Cable as many businesses offer discounts to students.
  • Remember that some costs will be higher during the winter months
  • Turn off lights and turn down heat when you are not at home or have a programmable thermostat installed.
  • Kijiji and yard sales may provide a less expensive alternative to furnishing your apartment or room.

Grocery Shopping

  • Never shop on an empty stomach!
  • Check grocery store flyers for bargains or download the latest grocery flyer app to keep you up to date on weekly sales.
  • Clip coupons or become points members to receive discounts.
  • Buy non-perishables (canned goods, noodles, etc.) in bulk when on sale
  • Buy no-name brands as most are cheaper and still taste great
  • If possible, plan meals ahead
  • Make a shopping list and try to stick to it
  • Compare prices between grocery stores, the differences will save you tremendously.
  • Avoid shopping at convenience stores, which tend to be more expensive

Keeping Track

  • Try and keep track of what you buy and what you spend, continually review your purchases to assess your needs.
  • Know that you tend to spend the most at the beginning of the school year.
  • Make adjustments to balance your budget if required but ensure to review your budget on a monthly basis.
  • Try to put some money aside to handle those unexpected costs - telephone connection, cable, internet, emergency dental and other medical expenses