One of the major changes that many students face during the transition between high school and university is the new expectation of being more financially responsible and independent. You are personally responsible for how much you choose to spend on things like food, clothing etc. At first, this may seem daunting; it can be hard to keep track of how much you are actually spending, and how much you have to spend! A monthly budget is a great way to set some limits and goals. At the end of the month, you can reorganize and adjust your spending habits. I have three sample budgets from three students currently in university!


Monthly budgets don’t have to be complicated, just detailed enough to suit your needs. I’m renting an apartment that includes all utilities along with wifi, so I have grouped all those expenses under “Rent”. Because this is my monthly budget, I tend to only include expenses that occur regularly, and I group my more one-time expenses into “Miscellaneous”.

This monthly budget is simple, and can be adjusted at the beginning of each month based on special occasions, income changes, etc. For example, if it was December, I may want to add a section in my budget for holiday presents, and in September, I will have to consider the amount I can spend on textbooks. The school is within walking distance, so I will not need to take the bus on a day-to-day business, but “Transportation” is always an area to think about for students. I don’t own a car, but that would add expenses such as car payments, gas, insurance etc. This budget has all your basic needs and you can build on to it or expand it as you wish; add some meat to the bones!


DescriptionBudget Amount (CAD)Amount Spent (CAD)
Food $320.00$330.00
Clothing and Accessories $80.00$98.00
Dining and Entertainment $30.00$14.00
Laundry $20.00$16.00

At the end of the month, you can look at how much you actually spent in each category; you can adjust your spending habits, and/or reallocate money between categories. Instead of recording each transaction in the month as they occur, I simply keep all the receipts then organize and total them at the end of the month. As you use keep track of your budget and spending for a few more months, you realize which categories need to be added or taken away from your plan. It’s completely up to you! You can adjust it to how you need it.


My friend’s budget looks very different to mine because she chose to attend a university closer to home. Because she lives with her parents, she has much less financial problems to worry about! Choosing to stay at home is usually the most economical choice, and has the added benefit of enjoying your family’s company every day!


DescriptionBudget Amount (CAD)Amount Spent (CAD)
Dining and Entertainment$110.00$220.00

As stated before, you can adjust your budget monthly to suit your spending habits. If my friend consistently doesn’t spend any money on clothing, she can choose to take away that category, and include any future clothing expenses under miscellaneous. It’s also a great idea to add some colour to your budgets! As simple as making overspending red and underspending green can make your spending habits really clear and visible. By comparing your budget month by month, you can easily see in which sections you consistently overspend or underspend; you can then reallocate your money accordingly.


The following budget really shows how different people allocate money differently. My friend is currently studying fashion design in New York City! The budget also shows the benefits of exploring and knowing the area you live in; you can choose where to shop, where to indulge, and how you will get around! With all the online resources available on cities and lifestyles, you can research ahead of time and prepare for any potential additional expenses. She has chosen not to include rent and tuition in her monthly budget, because those are set and/or paid in advance. She has also provided explanations to each of her budgeting choices.


DescriptionAmount (USD)Explanation
Groceries$140.00I eat pretty much vegan with the occasional frozen seafood, so it’s not that costly.
Dining$160.00I usually go for a meal with friends once a week and maybe an occasional Starbucks. There will also be times when I’m too tired or too busy to cook, so I’ll go across the street to a small café/deli and get a nutritious lunch or dinner at a reasonable price.
Supplies$160.00I always have to buy more markers, which are expensive, and more paper or fabric.
Beauty$200.00I tend to splurge on skincare because I have very sensitive skin. I believe that taking care of your skin is very important,, especially in a heavily polluted city like NYC. I also do use mainly high-end makeup products albeit not often, making this an expensive habit.
Clothing$200.00I really don’t shop that often since I’m lazy and I think I have enough clothing, which is surprising for someone going to fashion school. There will be months when I don’t buy anything at all and others when I splurge. I try not to buy fast fashion or buy a lot in an attempt to be sustainable, so that means that the new garments I do buy tend to be more expensive; a way to get out of that is to thrift.
Miscellaneous House Items$160.00Since I live in an apartment-style room, I have my own kitchen and bathroom that I have to keep stocked and clean. All those little knick-knacks that you don’t really think that you need really add up like toilet paper or dish soap. There are also just things that I would need on occasion like cough drops or command hooks or tape, which add to my expenses
Transportation$40.00I walk most places just because my school is so conveniently located. However, there are times when the I need to go further, when the labour isn’t worth the time, effort, or money.

While these budgets are not sustainable in the long-run (no retirement saving, loan payments, etc.), they are enough to get started as a student and good budget skeletons. Overall, budgeting each month is a great habit to have that can really change your relationship with money! It’s a great way to keep track of your expenses and to plan ahead. This way you can ensure you always have enough money on hand for whatever comes your way!