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How to save money while studying at UBC

Getting a higher education can be expensive, and if you’re cheap like me, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save money (and not be broke). Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:


  • Bring your own travel mug and get 10-15% off coffee and other hot drinks at most locations at UBC. Be sure to make your own coffee/tea/hot chocolate before you leave home in the morning; you may not need a refill later!
  • Go vegetarian. It’s healthier, better for the environment, and cheaper. Bulk foods are your friends: brown rice, quinoa, beans and lentils. Support the UBC farm and get your fresh veggies locally.
  • DIY TV dinners: Do some bulk cooking over the weekend – save food into meal-sized portions, put into ziplock contains and freeze until ready to eat. Meal ideas: lasagna (make a huge tray, freeze into portions), soups, stews, rice stir-frys. Re-heat by microwaving at the SUB or your faculty’s building. Will keep in the freezer for awhile.
  • Pack snacks if you’re the snacking type, and avoid those moment-of-weakness vending machine purchases they lead you to pay way more for an item. If you’re the candy bar type, stock up on them at the dollar store. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives, consider packing crackers, nuts, fruit, carrot sticks, granola bars and/or trail mix.
  • Walk to the UBC village food court (exercise + saving money = win!) instead of eating at more central areas around campus. In my experience, the food is both better and cheaper.
  • Eat a free lunch every Friday. Bring your own container to school and visit Sprouts (in the basement of the SUB) for a delicious vegetarian meal between 11:30-1:30. For more info: Sprouts Community Eats.
  • Follow free food UBC on twitter. Someone is always giving out something free on campus. Get the details sent directly to your phone.
  • Never pay for hot or cold water again. There is no reason to buy bottled water on campus when UBC offers free filtered water. For cold water, look for the big blue stations in the SUB, in the Buchanan A building, in Swing and in many other locations across campus. For hot water, the Arts lounge in Buchanan D has a water dispenser that dispenses both hot and cold water (use the red tap for hot), and I’m told that Abdul Ladha has a couple kettles in their lounge as well.


  • Do your research and shop online. Is your textbook mandatory? Is it available online (pdf)? Do websites like AbeBooks and carry it for way cheaper than the UBC bookstore? Ordering online has saved me anywhere from 10-40 dollars on textbooks in the past and can definitely be worth it. Everything adds up!
  • Have you checked the UBC used book store yet? They carry a lot of textbooks at discount prices. In my experience, their textbook prices have not been as good as online prices elsewhere, but they’re unbeatable in terms of lab coats and goggles!
  • Are your textbooks available in course reserves? If you spend a lot of time studying in the library, consider just using the library’s copy of your textbook instead of buying it. This method has literally saved me over $500 in textbooks over the years.
  • Buy used in “excellent condition”. This means no marks, dents, highlights or writing. If you buy used in excellent condition, you can often resell the textbook at the same price you bought it for. Check craigstlist and SaveOnBook.


  • Take the bus. You’d think this would be a given, but a lot of people drive to school even though they’re paying $120/semester for the UPass. Unless you live far away, it may not be worth it to drive. Aside from gas prices and parking, it’s also a loss of time – when you bus, you’re free to spend your commute studying for your classes or doing assigned reading instead of focusing on the road.
  • If you must drive, park smart. Parking at UBC is astronomical and often, you end up far from the majority of your classes anyways. Try parking anywhere just outside the UBC campus and taking the next bus in. It’s usually only a quick 15 min bus ride in, and the parking is free.
  • Carpool to school. If you know people in your area who also go to UBC and have similar class schedules, it can be worth it to carpool to school if you really don’t want to bus the whole way. Bonus points if you guys carpool + park just outside campus!

Do you have any tips for saving money while studying at UBC?


1 Josella Tan { 03.08.13 at 3:07 pm }

Your posts are THE best things ever. This is incredibly helpful and I honestly think everyone is UBC should read this.

2 yt { 03.13.13 at 9:54 pm }

Wow I never knew about the library course reserves, thx! Hopefully I can find something there. =)
The free food is cool too!

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