A UBC expert offers tips and tools to help first-year students get a solid grip on their finances
No matter what their field of study, first-year students will be getting a crash course in personal finance this fall. The life lessons can be especially harsh for students who are on their own for the very first time. Darran Fernandez, UBC’s associate director of Enrolment Services, has some useful tips on managing money at university.
What advice do you have for new students who are planning a budget for the first time?
First-year students tend to underestimate how much things will actually cost—things like going to the movies or eating out or buying textbooks. Assume you will be more social because you’ll make new friends and will want to go out a few times a month, so make sure you include that in your budget.
We strongly suggest students use the UBC Cost Calculator to help them plan their finances. Our common advice is to plan at the high end of things. The numbers may be scary at first, but if you create a plan that accounts for everything within reason, it should prepare you for the reality of first year.
What are some items first-year students forget to budget for?
Students often forget about basic necessities like school supplies. Do you need a laptop or a tablet? Do you require particular software for any of your classes? Those costs can add up if not planned for.
What are some tools students can use to manage their finances?
Look into external scholarships before you arrive on campus. Scholarshipscanada.com is the site we advise students to visit–it’s an aggregator that brings together scholarships from a multitude of organizations. If you could supplement your budget with some of these awards, it could alleviate a lot of financial stress.
Once you’re on campus, we suggest you look into Work Learn Program positions. These are on-campus jobs requiring a commitment of up to 10 hours per week. This is a great opportunity for students to work with professionals and gain experience at a reasonable rate.
Another tip is to quickly find out where all the best deals are on and around campus. For instance, Sprouts is a great resource for healthy, delicious meals at a low cost.
UBC students should also set up a financial advising appointment with their Enrolment Service Professional (ESP). If you don’t have an ESP, you can book an appointment in Brock Hall.
First-year students are often inundated with credit card offers. What should they consider before applying for one of them?
With credit cards, it’s important to be responsible and understand what your limits are. Used properly, they can help you build a solid credit reputation, but used excessively they can create debt. Credit cards can also be helpful for purchasing items online or booking flights home.
Before taking on a credit card, you should build a budget and understand how much money is coming in and how much is going out. Some credit cards offer great benefits–for example, I have a credit card that lets me accrue points that I can use to buy groceries. That’s a positive. So choose carefully.
Student finance by the numbers
- Over their careers, university graduates typically earn 50 per cent more than other full-time workers without a university degree. Source: Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey
- 40 per cent of students in Canada graduate debt-free. Of those with debt, 30 per cent owe less than $12,000. Source: Canadian University Survey Consortium, Graduating Student Survey, 2012
- Average student debt has not increased since 2000, in real dollars. Source: Canadian University Survey Consortium, Graduating Student Survey, 2012
- For a list of awards, scholarships and bursaries available at UBC, please visit the financial awards page