students putting away textbooks
August 13, 2019
3 mins read

Saving money: Tips for first years

Starting out as a first-year student is all about grabbing opportunities and experiencing life…but that can get really pricey, really fast.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to save money on student essentials (and not-so-essentials)! You can totally enjoy student life without breaking the bank. Here’s how:

Buy books on a budget

One of the biggest expenses students deal with right off the bat is books. Textbooks can be expensive, but there are still ways to save!

When you’re at the UBC Bookstore (or when you’re ordering online), check to see if your course texts are available used. It’s also sometimes possible to rent them and return them at the end of the term. Either option can save you up to 55% of the cost. Learn more on the Bookstore's FAQs page.

You can also check to see if your assigned texts are available at Discount Textbooks in the University Village, or join one of the many UBC textbook marketplace groups on Facebook (simply search “ubc textbooks”), where students sell their old books to each other.

(P.S. When you’re done a course, you can always make back some cash by selling your texts!)

Stock up on snacks

Take a trip to a nearby grocery store (Save-On Foods in Wesbrook Village and No Frills at West 4th Ave and Alma are both good options) and stock up on non-perishable or long-lasting staples that you can keep in your room or carry around with you during the day.

Store-bought pastries or other grab-and-go items usually have a pretty high mark up. Think of the cost of one of those plastic containers of cut-up fruit or even a Starbucks muffin compared with bringing, say, an apple or some cheese and crackers from home.

In first year, I always had a supply of peanut butter, apples, popcorn, and instant oatmeal on hand. Easy and healthy, especially when rushing off to an early morning class!

Kick caffeine

...or at least try to cut back.

My morning latte habit ended up costing me almost $500 in the first term of first year. Five. Hundred. Dollars. Think of all the things I could have used that money for!

If you just can’t go caffeine-free, invest in a coffee maker or french press and make it at home (that means you’ll get it faster after you wake up, anyway). Even instant can be pretty good in a pinch!

Consider cooking

If you don’t live in first-year residence, cooking at home is a great way to save. It’s cheaper and often healthier than eating out...and it’s easier than you think!

Budget Bytes is a great resource for beginners on a budget. Her recipes are simple and offer a lot of variety, plus she breaks everything down by cost per serving.

If you do live in residence, there's a surprising number of meals that can be made in the microwave in your floor lounge. See what you can create!

Pile up the perks

Being a student has its perks—especially when it comes to discounts! Your UBCcard dollars can be used to get 5-12% off at tons of eateries on campus, so make sure you use it to pay when you can.

There are also lots of businesses around Vancouver that will give you a student discount if you show them your UBCcard, including:

Honestly, it’s almost always worth it to at least ask if there’s a discount available—you never know what you might be able to save on!

Keep it creative

Trying to save money doesn’t have to be a drag! Use it as an opportunity to be creative.

Make it into a competition with friends to see who can spend the least in a month. Make a bet with your significant other to see who can plan the best cheap date. Use your weekends to spend time outdoors instead of spending money on expensive drinks or activities.

Learning to be frugal is just a part of life, especially when you’re just starting out. Get good at it now and make it fun—you’ll thank us later!