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Financial literacy or bust

As the summer approaches and graduation is on the horizon, a sense of dread grows for many students: it’s time to start repaying all those student loans.

According to Darran Fernandez, the associate registrar and director of student support and advising, a loan is a reality for 9,600 students at UBC. It varies largely from person to person — the average loan for an undergraduate student is around $9,000, and the average loan for a graduate student is just over $12,000.

In response, financially literacy and wellness are promoted throughout the university as aspects to improve wellbeing amongst students. But these aspects also encompass far more than just how well students deal with their student loans or tuition — there is also the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, especially when it comes to housing.

“I think that may be one of the biggest misconceptions [about financial literacy is] that people sometimes, when they plan a budget, only think about tuition and housing,” said Fernandez. “Our approach to financial wellbeing and wellness is to ensure that when we support students through budgeting processes or through workshops or webinars, we talk about financial wellness in the most holistic sense possible.”

Tapping into this support, The Ubyssey has put together a set of simple tips and resources for financial literacy, with many of them accessible right here on campus.

Seek inside help

At UBC, students are encouraged to discuss their finances with their enrolment services professional (ESP), who is the go-to person from the moment they walk into university for all things finance-related. Your ESP can guide you through the steps of building a budget, managing your student loan and much more.

There are also numerous financial workshops and webinars offered year-round on-campus and online, which cover everything from planning a budget to faculty-specific finances to paying back your student loan. Keep an eye out for notifications in the UBCfyi monthly emails as well, which include key dates for upcoming workshops.

Also, don’t forget about scholarships, awards and bursaries — the application process can sometimes be long and tedious, but it could mean free money and something fancy on your resume. You should research them before a semester starts and use their requirements as motivation as well.

Explore outside resources

Check out websites such as yconic.com, scholarshipscanada.ca and universitystudy.ca as alternative avenues to help fund your education and reduce your student loan.

Also apply for the BC Medical Services Plan, which is available to everyone — including international students — living in BC for six months or longer. Health insurance is a surefire way to avoid accumulating crippling debt if you were to find yourself in an accident.

Your ESP is there to help with all things finance-related.
Your ESP is there to help with all things finance-related. File Josh Curran

Budget, budget, budget

Learn how to maintain a balanced budget, whether it be with the help of your ESP or through the following tips.

A good first step is to track all your expenses. Start by keeping all your receipts and constructing a weekly spreadsheet of your purchases. This is helpful in becoming familiar with your spending habits and knowing where to set your limits. It is easy to lose track of the amount of cash in your wallet, so being aware of what you invest in and on what frequency is always a good start.

Be realistic with what you can do, and set goals for yourself that make you a smarter spender. Check out various sources like Mint — a great website/app for keeping track of your finances, creating a budget and setting goals all in one place — and see what works for you. One tip is to watch what you spend on food and drinks, whether it be through investing in a slow cooker or coffee machine instead of eating out every day with friends or buying a cup of coffee every morning. Also beware of the exorbitant markup on alcohol when you are not buying it at a liquor store.

If you don’t yet possess a credit card, put a lot of thoughts into getting one for the long run, provided you know you are responsible enough. Credit cards cater to the consumer, allowing for increased protections and benefits accompanying your purchases.

But for all its advantages, the careless possession of a credit card and even one missed bill payment can be disastrous. Credit card debt is a fate best avoided at all costs, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with your payments, make sure to build up your sense of financial and moral obligations first before taking the leap. Once you do have a card on hand, never carry a balance and make frequent small purchases that you know you can pay off.

Spend money, but don’t waste it.

Not all debt!

Finally, recognize that not all debt is bad — certain investments are more than worth it in the long run, whether it be the mortgage for your first house or your pursuit of higher education.

And don’t be afraid of debt or of discussing your debt with others. Everyone comes from different circumstances, and no matter how you emerge from strenuous battles with your wallet, someone will always be available to lend you an ear.

Beyond this list, there are obviously a lot more tips and techniques on how to improve your financial literacy and wallet. Sometimes, it could be as passive as saving 20 per cent of your income every month or as active as downsizing and selling most of your wardrobe through Facebook groups or consignment stores. Take time to find what works best for you and make it rain.

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