Stepping onto a post-secondary campus opens a world of opportunity and growth, but it also comes with its own set of financial challenges. As a First Nations, Inuit, or Métis student, you carry the potential to shape your financial future starting right from your post-secondary years. At the heart of this journey is the art and science of budgeting.

1) Understand Your Financial Picture

The first step in successful budgeting is to fully understand your financial situation. This means assessing all your sources of income, such as scholarships, part-time jobs, family contributions, savings, or other funds. It’s also essential to map out your expenses. These may include tuition, books, rent or dorm fees, utilities, groceries, childcare, personal expenses, and transportation costs. By understanding what is coming in and going out, you can make informed decisions about where your money should go.

2) Separate Needs from Wants

When you start living on your own, it’s easy to confuse needs with wants. Needs are the absolute essentials: tuition, housing, food, transportation, etc. Wants, on the other hand, are the extras: eating out, entertainment, new clothes, etc. It’s important to know the difference and prioritize your spending accordingly. While it’s certainly okay to spend on wants occasionally, needs must always come first.

3) Use Budgeting Tools and Apps

Technology can make budgeting easier and more accessible. Numerous budgeting apps and online tools can help you track your spending, set budget goals, and even provide alerts when you’re close to overspending in a category. Popular tools include Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), and PocketGuard, all of which can be tailored to your specific needs. The federal government has a free online series of financial literacy modules that you can access whenever you want.

4) Plan for Emergencies

An essential part of any budget is an emergency fund. Unexpected expenses can arise at any time, from a laptop crash in the middle of the semester to a sudden health issue. Having a small emergency fund can be a financial lifeline when these unexpected situations occur.

5) Start Saving Early

Even if you can only save a small amount each month, start the habit early. Thanks to the power of compound interest, even small savings can grow significantly over time. You can save for short-term goals (like a spring break trip), mid-term goals (like a post-graduation vacation), or long-term goals (like a down payment on a house).

6) Apply for Scholarships, Grants, and Bursaries

There are numerous scholarships, grants, and bursaries available specifically for Indigenous students. These can significantly reduce your financial burden, so it’s worth investing time in searching and applying for these opportunities. Your university’s financial aid office or Indigenous student centre can be excellent starting points.

7) Regularly Review and Adjust Your Budget

A budget isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it plan. It needs to be regularly reviewed and adjusted as your income, expenses, and financial goals change. This might mean increasing your food budget because grocery prices have gone up or reducing your entertainment budget because you got a subscription to a streaming service.

Budgeting is a learned skill, and it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes along the way. The most important thing is to stay committed, make necessary adjustments, and keep learning. By embracing the power of budgeting, you’re taking control of your finances and stepping confidently towards a secure financial future.

Chelsea Reid Headshot

Paige Hill

Mentorship Advocate, Indspire

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