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Financial planning calculator helps U of T students to easily and accurately predict their living costs

Since its launch in February 2016, the financial calculator has helped more than 14,152 undergraduate students. Now the application is available to all graduate and second-entry students (photo by iStock)

Tuition is just the beginning. Housing, utilities, food, textbooks, transit and recreation costs all add up, and managing expenses can often become an overwhelming task for busy students. But the financial planning calculator, now available to all U of T students, is helping them easily and accurately predict their living costs for a year – setting them up for academic and future success.

“When we interviewed students before developing this application, we discovered that they didn’t know how to budget, how much to budget or didn’t have effective tools, aside from calculating everything manually using a spreadsheet,” says Laura Klamot, a user experience designer with U of T’s Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration department (EASI). “Now students have a simple, customizable tool they can use each year to plan ahead.”

“It’s hard to predict what everything will cost – especially food and recreation,” says Yanna Ding, a first-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “When I graduate I don’t want to have a lot of debt, so I want to manage my finances closely. I’ll also need to develop economic independence, and a tool like this could really help in my future planning.”

Use the financial planning calculator

Tutorial shows how the calculator works

The tool helps students quickly predict how much it will cost to live in Toronto, an often difficult task for those who are unfamiliar with the area. It is also highly customizable for each individual depending on their program, year of study, residency status and campus. The application will suggest specific resources for awards and financial aid to help them save money and manage expenses.

“If you’re spending more money on meals, compared to your peers, then the application will notify you and offer resources such as U of T’s Food Services, and there’s also information about cooking for yourself,” says Michael Clark, manager of user experience and process design at EASI.

The team is planning to solicit feedback and make improvements for future releases.

“I’m happy we’re providing this tool to students as it will help them make informed decisions about their finances,” says Clark. “We’re focused on improving the student experience, and this tool is an example of how we can approach that objective from a different direction and offer value to our community.”