Finances: A 101 Guide for Students

This article was written by Becky Duarte, a Vancouver Island University student.

The other day, I was having dinner with a few friends. As we talked about rent and mortgages, I realized that somewhere between arguing about whether Ronaldo is better than Messi, and whether investing in stocks is better than mutual funds, we grew up.

The sad but true reality is that we’re adulting. And whether we like it or not, finances are a big part of that. We must learn how to deal with our money so we can pay for school and still have money left over for groceries. It can be scary and confusing, but it’s important.

So, here’s your quick guide to the world of finances and navigating through it as a university student. Quick tip: there’s probably more help available than you think.

Give yourself time

Navigating through this world can be overwhelming, especially as a university student. It’s important to recognize that it’s okay not to have all the answers immediately. Give yourself time to learn and know that mistakes are part of the learning process. Nobody expects you to be a financial expert overnight. Take advantage of the many useful articles on your university’s financial aid website, resources provided by the university and ask questions when something is unclear.


Taxes can become less stressful with the right approach. Start by giving yourself ample time to research and seek guidance from experts. For example, Volunteer Nanaimo runs a free tax clinic that students can take advantage of. Taking control of your tax responsibilities early on can save you from unnecessary stress. You can read more about the tax filing process on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Did you know that as a student you may be eligible for tax deductions related to tuition, education and textbook expenses? Whether you’re working or not, being aware of these possibilities are useful and necessary. Read more on Canada Revenue Agency’s “Students” page.


By creating a plan for when, where and how to spend your money, you will ensure you are not spending more than you earn. This helps you distinguish between needs (rent, groceries, utilities) and wants (entertainment, hobbies, vacations). Creating a budget plan helps you calculate your earnings, track your expenses, and make bill payments on time. The Government of Canada has some good tips on managing your budget as a student.


Even with careful saving and planning, the cost of education can be challenging to manage, especially with the rising costs of living. Your university likely has an internal award program to help with the costs of being a student. VIU disbursed more than $5 million to students over the past year through funding made available by generous donors and government funding.

Learn more about how to apply for VIU internal scholarships, awards, and bursaries.

There are also lots of external awards available for university students. Whether you're studying trades, science, arts, a recent high school graduate, considering studying abroad, have a disability or are a graduate student seeking funding, there are lots of awards available that your financial aid office can tell you about. However, exercise caution when dealing with external awards, as they may not offer the same safety measures as university-related processes. Be vigilant about sharing personal information and guard against potential identity fraud.


One of the most effective ways to reduce financial strain as a university student is finding a source of income. Getting a job not only provides financial stability, but also offers valuable experiences and opportunities for personal and professional growth. VIU offers on-campus employment opportunities tailored to students’ schedules and needs. Personally, I can attest to the blessing of being able to work and study in the same environment. It also allows you to be involved in campus life and meet new people, building connections, and actively engaging in networking opportunities.

My journey to finding a job on campus began with a visit to the Career Studio. As someone who had never navigated the process of applying for a professional job before, I was initially overwhelmed by the process of applying, writing resumés and CVs, getting references and, most importantly, interviews.

However, the friendly faces at the Career Studio made the process so much smoother. They provide invaluable assistance and resources for every step. Also, they often have information to share about off-campus businesses seeking to hire students like us. Whether you’re on the lookout for part-time or full-time employment, remote or physical work, they have a variety of opportunities available to suit your needs.

So, remember to take the time to learn and ask questions. While this world of finances can be overwhelming, we’re all in it together and can help one another out. Hopefully these tips will make you feel more confident about your finances while focusing on your studies.

Learn more about Vancouver Island University