When it comes to budgeting for your child’s university expenses, most parents stop at tuition.  While tuition varies from school to school, there are a lot of other costs beyond tuition that you need to consider before setting your yearly budget.

Let’s break down the costs your freshman can expect and guidance points for budgeting for them.


In Canada, the average cost of tuition for 2019/2020 is $6,463.  Again, this amount will vary according to the university or college program your freshman has chosen.

Living Expenses

Beyond tuition, the next largest expense is room and board.  If your freshman is going to be living on campus, your university will roll the cost onto your bill.  However, living expenses aren’t the only thing to consider.  Most freshmen choose dormitory life and will also need to purchase a meal plan.  In addition to the university meal plan, you will need to plan on extra money for things like snacks, toiletries, entertainment, etc.

School supplies and books

A typical requirement for university and other post-secondary programs are books and supplies, which can be expensive.  Research conducted by Macleans found books at the university level can range in price up to $900 per year on average.  Further, parents can’t ignore other school supplies, such as expensive laptops and/or software, a well as basic school supplies like binders and pens.  If your freshman doesn’t use the library, you’ll also have to consider purchasing an internet plan.  All of these extra expenses add up over the course of a year.


Even if your child lives on campus, they will need to get around, probably via public transit.  Additionally, if they live a far distance from home, you will need to consider adding plane tickets to your yearly budget. 

Where will the money come from?

Registered education savings plans from providers like Children’s Education Funds Inc. (CEFI) can allow you to set money aside for your freshman’s post secondary education from day one.  CEFI also provides a user friendly subscriber access portal so that parents can keep up to date on their RESPs at all times.

Additional money may come from the following areas:

     parental money

     student savings

     student loans and/or grants

     scholarships and bursaries

     money from summer jobs, gifts, etc.

Student calculators are available with a quick internet search and will help you understand how much money you will need for the first year of college or university at a Canadian post-secondary school.  Putting a budget in place will give you a clear picture of your financial needs and also help your student avoid unnecessary debt and stress, setting them up for a secure financial future.