Ready, Set, Budget

How much money do you need to have in order to cover your expenses? The goal of creating a budget is to make sure that your income can cover your school expenses and living costs. Follow this step by step guide to find out if you have enough.

Click to download a Budget Worksheet

Download the budget worksheet (Excel file)

Step 1: Honesty

Input the number of months you are hoping to create a budget for in the top right-hand corner of the budget sheet (4 months= 1 semester, 8 months= 1 school year). Note that the number of months you indicate in this section is considered a "year". Therefore, your "yearly" income and expenses refer to the number of months you indicate, not a full calendar year (Jan 1-Dec 1).

1a) Input Values

Be honest with yourself and where you are right now. Input the values listed below as accurately as possible. Some may be harder than others. For example, although you may not go shopping every month, or you may spend different amounts each time you go, in cases like this, simply estimate to the best of your ability.

  • Education Expenses Section - under Yearly.
  • Living Expenses Section- under Initial Monthly; yearly will adjust accordingly.
  • Income Section (sources of money) - under Yearly; monthly will adjust accordingly (except for part-time work- input Monthly and yearly will adjust accordingly).

1b) Check your Bottom Line

  • Look at SURPLUS/DEFICIT (ignore the REVISED SUR/DEF values for now). Is there a negative or positive number? Are you spending more than you have or are you making more than you spend?

Step 2: Re-Evaluation

Re-evaluate your input and output of money. There are 3 ways to do this:

  • Add income
  • Cut expenses

Or a combination of both.


Fixed Expenses

Variable Expenses


    • Generally the same amount each month and they are not easily changed.
    • Usually the largest part of the budget. Reducing these expenses will have the biggest impact.
    • Saving becomes easy once these are cut because changes are automatic. For example, if you switch to a cheaper phone plan, an automatic bill of that new plan is billed to you thereafter.
    • Typically change from month to month and are often thought of as discretionary, but they can be necessities like food.
    • Often the hardest to change because they are usually things we want, not things we need.
    • They also require a daily commitment, unlike fixed expenses
    • Any money source that is coming in.
      • Rent
      • Cellphone
      • Internet
      • Insurance
      • Food
      • Gifts
      • Entertainment
      • Job
      • Scholarships
      • Bursaries
      • Gifts of money
        • Research alternate phone plans.
        • Add another roommate to decrease your rent, or consider living elsewhere.
        • Work more hours, try to obtain a higher paying job, or a job with bonuses such as tips or commission on top of pay.
        • Visit our Paying for School page and check out Awards as well as Job Hunting resources!

        Step 3: Revision

        Put your re-evaluation to the test!

        3a) Input Revisions

        • Living Expenses (Revised) - Even if you have decided not to change an expense, still input the cost within the (monthly) “revised” column; not doing so will affect the accuracy of the results. Yearly revisions will adjust accordingly.
        • Income Revised - If you decide to change the amount of income you will have, adjust the Yearly value(s); monthly will adjust accordingly (except for part-time work- input Monthly and yearly will adjust accordingly).

        3b) Look at Savings

        • Give yourself a pat on the back! The monthly and yearly savings columns will show you how much is being saved (or not being saved) from the initial monthly budget you created to the revised budget.

        3c) Revisit your Bottom Line

        • Look at REVISED SURPLUS/DEFICIT. If you are still in a deficit, go back to Step 2 and re-evaluate your budget. If you are in surplus, move on to Step 4.

        Step 4: Maintenance

        Good job! You have built your new budget for the school year. Now the hard part, you have to maintain it. Get creative!

        You can use the “Make Budget Work” on sheet two of the downloadable excel worksheet to help you organize your monthly cash flow.

        Here are a couple of other suggestions to help keep you on track;

        If any of this is difficult or causing you stress, stop by or make an appointment. Remember all services provided by the Mo’ Money Resource Centre are strictly confidential.

        • Fixed costs can be dealt with using post-dated cheques and/or setting up automatic payments through your bank. This will ensure that these costs are always paid on time. No one wants to pay late fees.
        • Try taking out cash for your budgeted variable costs on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, depending on how much money you want available to you at any given time. Only you know how much self-control you have. Remember, do not take out more than is allocated for variable costs, otherwise, there will not be enough for your fixed costs.
          • If you are short in one area but have extra cash in another category, feel free to move the cash around – just don’t go spending more than the total cash allotted for that time period.
          • You can keep cash in envelopes or jars allocated to specific expenses: clothes, transportation, gifts, entertainment etc. When the jars are empty, spending stops until it is time to refill the cash again.
        • You can use a budget tracker software program if you don’t want to use cash. Research different apps you can download for free if this method is for you!
        • Sometimes you may have lump sums of money coming into your account at certain times throughout the year. This may lead you to spend that extra money, instead of saving it for following months. Solution? Get 2 accounts. Income is deposited in your “holding” account (account 1). Take out only what you need for the month according to your budget and transfer the money to your “expenses” account (account 2). Your “expenses” account covers all of your expenses and your “holding” account is used as a buffer for following months.
        • Click here to visit our Paying for School page and view our Awards section. Take advantage of scholarships and bursaries because they will alleviate your budget. If the deadlines for applications have passed, mark them on your calendar and apply next year!