Financial smarts for your teens headed for post-secondary education

#Family and finance

Help your young adults budget effectively for venturing out on their own

Budgeting isn’t something teenagers often think of but, before they know it, they’re applying to schools, sorting through admission offers and packing their bags.

Accepting a university or college offer marks one of the largest financial commitments they’ll make in their lifetime.

As parents to teens preparing to take the leap into higher education, it’s crucial you start the money management process early.

Do your homework

A great way to learn the value of money and the importance of saving is to talk with your teen and break down the costs associated with attending university or college. If they have an understanding of where their money is going, they’ll gain a new perspective on their spending and saving habitsOpens in a new window.

In the early stages of planning, it’s also important to look for financial assistance opportunities. With your teen, search for scholarships, grants or bursaries they can apply for. This is an easy way to get a head start on saving.

Creating a student budget

If your teen is just beginning their post-secondary education, take time to help them learn how to manage their monthly expenses by creating a budget to fit their new lifestyle. Consider these things when creating a budget with them:

Evaluate sources of income

  • Will they be working during the school year? If so, be sure to incorporate their income into their budget. Have them look for jobs on campus – these positions generally have flexible hours and can work around a class schedule.
  • If you’re helping your teen financially, create a clear arrangement to send funds at set intervals to help them avoid running out of money

Determine variable and fixed expenses.

  • Ensure they have a firm understanding of variable and fixed expenses – what expenses are set in stone, versus expenses that can change on a monthly basis? This will help them budget their spending effectively.
  • Have them continually monitor their expenses and, when necessary, cut back on things such as shopping, entertainment and data and Internet plans.

Set financial goals.

  • Is your teen planning to take a spring break trip? Don’t forget to factor that into their budget.
  • Are they planning to take a course over the summer? Encourage them to continue to apply for scholarships and bursaries throughout university to help pay for their school costs.

Be smart.

  • Your teen should be looking for money-saving ideas. Encourage them to suggest useful gift cards (i.e. grocery stores and bookstores), instead of gifts for birthdays and holidays.
  • Have them explore student discount options available to them.
  • Tell them to be wary of credit card promotions on campus, as they typically come with high interest costs if not used smartly.
A great way to learn the value of money and the importance of saving is to talk with your teen and break down the costs associated with attending university or college.
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A learning experience

Teaching your children to budgetOpens in a new window is a valuable tool that will aide them throughout university or college and into adulthood. Throughout their school career, you’ll have opportunities to teach your teens how to re-evaluate their financial goals – an important part of financial planning. You should also remind them that things may not go as planned, no matter how much financial planning they do. Take any and all opportunities to show them how to better prepare themselves for life outside the nest.

The information provided is based on current laws, regulations and other rules applicable to Canadian residents. It is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the date of publication. Rules and their interpretation may change, affecting the accuracy of the information. The information provided is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for advice in any specific situation. For specific situations, advice should be obtained from the appropriate legal, accounting, tax or other professional advisors.


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