Taxes don’t need to be taxing.
The Humber Students’ Federation is hosting its free annual tax clinic where certified Canada Revenue Agency volunteers prepare and file students’ tax returns.
But when it comes to managing finances, ignorance is not bliss, according to HSF’s accounting coordinator Laura Goldhaber.
Goldhaber said there needs to be a level of planning and awareness in money matters and that’s where many students falter.
“It’s really important to be realistic and it’s really important to know how much money you have to spend. You just need to be aware. It’s very easy to turn a blind eye to your finances and where your money is going,” she said.
TD Bank Financial Group consultant Sean Pereira echoes Goldhaber’s words, saying students need to hold themselves accountable. Additionally, he cautions against high interest rates, especially for those borrowing money outside of government loans.
“If you have to get loans for student debt, make sure the interest rates are as low as possible and that you have some sort of payment-free period after you’ve taken your loan,” said Pereira.
Students may have a rude awakening once they graduate and have to manage their own money.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about any of that stuff. I’m a lazy guy, I just let my parents do everything,” said Brandon Indardeo, 21, a first-year Computer Network Support Technician student.
Goldhaber recommends arming oneself with knowledge, particularly when it comes to income taxes, and says the more one knows, the less daunting the tax return process becomes.
“I would say do your research,” said Goldhaber.
“A lot of people are intimidated by taxes and the CRA, which is understandable when you’re not exposed to it, but once you start to understand the system, it’s really not hard, it’s really not complicated, and the CRA is not out to get you.”
That’s where HSF can help.
In addition to the annual tax clinic, students can book a free budget consultation online year-round. The goal of the consultation is to look at the student’s income and expenditures to come up with a budget that will allow them to live within their means and avoid consumer debt.
“A lot of students are graduating with large amounts of OSAP debt and the last thing you want on top of that is credit card debt,” said Goldhaber.
For some students, finances are strained not only from tuition but the cost of supplies. This is the primary concern for Devon Ross, 20, a second-year student in Humber’s Visual and Digital Arts program.
“Constantly buying new supplies is the biggest strain on my budget,” said Ross.
Pereira says the most common and detrimental financial mistake he sees by young people is spending beyond their means.
“You want to try to have the least amount of debt or monthly expense as possible. It’s not really about how much you make, it’s about how much you spend,” said Pereira.
But it’s not all financial gloom.
“I think it’s important for students to understand that this is a temporary time in your life where you’re going to have to be strict about your money. You work hard, you get a job and you can pamper yourself later on,” said Goldhaber.
HSF’s tax clinic runs from March 16 to 27 on an appointment and drop-in basis.