Monthly Archives

August 2012

How I Saved Money in College

August 28, 2012

This time next week, Canadian students of all ages will be heading back to school. New backpacks will be filled with empty notebooks and sharpened pencils, pulled onto the shoulders of boys and girls clothed in new outfits and ready with open minds.

I get a bit nostalgic every September, as back-to-school was always one of my favourite times of the year. For any student, it’s perhaps even more meaningful than New Year’s Eve, as the school year rules the calendar and each September is an opportunity to start over.

This is the first semester I won’t be in school, in more than two years. I don’t need a new backpack or school supplies and I also don’t technically need any new clothes (although my smaller waistline would beg to differ). But that doesn’t mean I can’t share some of the things I learned in my final years as a student. Most importantly, here are a few of the ways I saved money in college:

1. Choose Free Banking
I am a long-time and loyal member of Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, where all of my bank accounts are free (and some are high-interest). When I first became a student, the average student chequing account cost around $6 per month and came with a limited number of transactions. While many banks now offer students “free” banking services, there are always fees for overages, statements, etc. that you need to watch out for. I avoided all of that by only using accounts that offered free unlimited transactions.

2. Say No to Cable
Before moving this year, and getting a great deal on a bundle from Shaw, I had cancelled my cable. And, trust me, I’m a huge fan of television. But $50+ per month is not chump change to a student. $50 is a week’s worth of groceries. Or a cell phone bill. Or a tank of gas. Or half a bus pass. It could even be a student loan interest payment. And with so many other ways to watch or download shows, I knew it was a “want” and not a “need”. (If you really can’t part ways with it, find out if your provider offers any deals to students!)

3. Buy Cheap(er) Textbooks
One of the best lessons I learned in school did not come from a textbook; it was about when and how to buy them. In my program, I learned pretty quickly that I could get through some classes without ever needing to crack open a textbook. So, even if it pushed my first week of participation back by a few days, I waited until reading through the entire syllabus before purchasing the “required” textbook. Then I either bought a used copy on Amazon or I rented an eTextbook through CourseSmart.

4. Sell Textbooks Immediately
The minute I submitted my final assignment for a class, I listed the textbook for sale on Amazon. In total, I did keep 4 or 5 from my program that I would like to either re-read (social media stuff, mostly) or keep for a future Master’s program (Communication theories are probably important there). But the rest of my books were gone before the program ended and I happily pocketed a few hundred dollars as I packaged them up and shipped them off.

What is/was your favourite way to save money in college?

My Secret SMART Goals Revealed

August 24, 2012

It’s no surprise that I share almost everything about my life here. Treating this blog more like a diary, at times, there’s almost nothing you all don’t know about me. But I have a secret object in my apartment that nobody has seen… it’s almost too dorky to admit to… but here goes: I have somewhat of a vision board. *Covers eyes to avoid your judging stares*

In all seriousness, I have always thought vision boards were lame. But, after piecing together this financial vision board for LearnVest, and writing a post about SMART goals, I decided to try coming up with a few goals for myself. At first, I wrote down things that read more like bucket list items. While I’d love to travel to Ireland and volunteer with elephants in Thailand, neither of those were going to happen in 2012.

The difference between my “vision” board and a typical one is there are no pictures on it. First, I wrote out 10 specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound goals on post-it notes and pinned them onto a cork board. Then, I surrounded my goals with a few of my favourite quotes (including “Have Less Debt. Do More. Be More.”). It’s not pretty but it is a great reminder of what I’m working towards.

Want to know which goals made the board?

  1. Pay Off All Credit Card Debt – Done! It was interesting re-reading my original post about SMART goals because, back then, I didn’t think I was going to accomplish this until August 31st of this year. But I kicked my credit card debt’s butt to the curb in April!
  2. Pay Off Another $10,000 of Debt – In Progress. In 2011, I paid off just over $10,000 of my original debt. My goal for 2012 was to do that again and, since I’m already at ~$8,500, there is no doubt I will reach this goal before the end of this year.
  3. Save $1,300 in RRSPs – In Progress. So far this year, I’ve gone from putting $50 monthly to $100 bi-weekly into my RRSPs. Not only will I reach this goal, I will surpass it before the end of the year.
  4. Save $1,600 in Emergency Fund – In Progress. I’ve been putting $50 into a savings account, every two weeks since October. While $1,600 may not sound like a lot of money, it’s important for me to have a least a little something set aside throughout my debt repayment progress.
  5. Save/Buy a New Bed – In Progress. I have $500 saved so far and am planning on buying a new bed in either January or February.
  6. Start Dog Walking Again – Fail. Before going back to school, I volunteered as a dog walker at the Victoria BC SPCA at least a couple times each week. I still plan on going back this year but not until I’m home from Toronto.
  7. Weigh 175 lbs. – In Progress. I’m still 12 lbs. away from making this goal a reality but, with a couple extra pushes, I’m sure I will get there.
  8. #FinCon12 – Booked! I’ll be in Denver September 5-9.
  9. New York City – Fail. This goal is mostly led by the fact that I’m dying to meet everyone at LearnVest but is unfortunately not something I can budget for this year. Maybe in 2013!
  10. Toronto – Booked! I’ll be in Toronto September 13-24.

Wow. None are those were huge secrets, eh? ;)

What are some goals you’re still working towards this year?

Entering Unknown Territory: Quadruple Digits

August 17, 2012

A few months ago, my good friend Laura and I were talking about my debt and this blog. In passing, she asked me how great it would feel when I finally had less than $10,000 of debt. I agreed it would feel great but, the truth is, that was a fairly empty response. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel. Maybe because the last time I had less than $10,000 of debt was in 2008. Or 2007. It’s been so long, I can’t remember.

I accumulated some of my old debt very slowly. I paid for too many dinners out with my ex. I treated myself to new books, purses, etc. whenever I wanted. And I never felt bad about it, because the majority of my purchases were in the $20-40 range. But they added up. In April 2009, just a few weeks after I financed my brand new car, I consolidated more than $12,000 of debt into a 5-year loan.

You would think that consolidating your debt into a loan would teach you a lesson, but I hadn’t learned a thing. At the time, the only thing I had learned was that I couldn’t have very much fun making what I made while also trying to pay off all my debt. So, instead of lowering my credit limits, I racked up my cards again. To the tune of $6,500. Add that to my car loan and consolidation loan and I was in way over my head.

june 2011 chart

In June of last year, I had more than $28,000 of debt and, with my assets, was worth -$14,000. As of today, I’ve paid off 65.6% of that debt and am officially in the quadruple digits.

chart 2

Ok, so pie graphs aren’t really my thing. I just love that the amount of debt I’ve paid off now closely resembles Pac-Man and he’s hungry for the remaining!

I still can’t say I know what it feels like to have less than $10,000 of debt, because it all feels the same at this point. Every penny of it is bad debt and I am sick of feeling weighed down by it all. While I’m now two-thirds of the way to a life without consumer debt, I know I am still months away from getting where I want to be: looking at the numbers on the sidebar menu and seeing “$0” beside “Current Debt.”

The one 4-digit number I am starting to feel positive about is my net worth. Even with a measly total of +$3,500, I feel proud. That number might sound small, even insignificant… but my goal for this year was to be worth +$1. That’s it. I think I’m moving in the right direction fast. Maybe being in the quadruple digits will push me to race towards the finish line even faster…