Perfecting being perpetually poor; Time to get a job?

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With a new year, for many, comes New Year’s resolutions. Whether you’re looking to live a more healthy lifestyle, do better in school or manage your time more effectively, the key to New Year’s resolutions is to consider them more as personal goals than just as your mandatory annual look into the things you’d like to change about yourself. Take action and create a long-term plan to achieve your goals.

For students, keeping your budget on track can often be a struggle when you rely on your parents, OSAP, or other student loans as a primary income. A part-time job with just a few hours a week can truly be the difference between racking up credit card bills during school or paying them off – and believe me, you should be paying them off.

If you haven’t created a budget yet, now is the time to do it. Figure out how much extra money you could use each month; consider even talking to a financial advisor and then job search accordingly. Of course make sure that your job won’t be cutting in to your studies too much, as your grades are of the utmost importance.

When job searching, keep in mind that you want to get job experience as closely related to your desired career as possible. For many students, this is not possible without the degree they are working towards, so consider jobs that will provide you with the skills necessary for your dream career. When it comes to making money in university, it’s 50 per cent about what the job can do for you now and 50 per cent about what it will do for you when you’re done. If you have to take a lower wage for a job that may pay off in the long run, it might be worth considering.

Ultimately, you’re the only one who knows about your financial situation, so you’re the only one who can decide whether a part-time job while you’re in school is the right move for you as you continue to be perpetually poor.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published January 8, 2015.
http://www.theontarion.com/2015/01/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-17/

Perfecting being perpetually poor; Prepare for a weekend of sales

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Often, the holidays bring on additional spending whether you prepare a budget or not. When you have friends and family to purchase gifts for, it’s understandable that you want to get them nice gifts to show them how much you love and appreciate them. As the upcoming weekend features Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, it’s a great time to get your holiday shopping done – but there are risks associated with shopping when these sales are going on. If you’re planning on making these purchases anyway, it’s a good way to save some money, but it can also be an issue when it comes to impulse purchases. Some of the “sales” that companies feature are not as good as they seem. There are some ways to manage risks associated with purchases made during this weekend of deals.

Avoiding risks: Impulse purchases. Be honest with yourself. Do you have the money right now for some shopping? If you’ve budgeted your Christmas money, it’s a good time to withdraw it from your savings and get the deals before they’re gone. However, if you are relying on end-of-the-year bonuses from work, or maybe you’re someone who uses Christmas money to buy other presents, buying presents this weekend might not be in your best interest. If you’re throwing these purchases on your Visa and have no idea of when you’ll able to pay it off, you may end up spending more on interest than you’re saving with the sales. Avoiding risk also means shopping around. When you see a deal at a certain store, make sure it’s a good deal by checking to see what other stores are offering. Avoid impulse purchases at all costs.

Tranfering risks: Insurance. When you buy a big ticket item such, as a laptop or a tablet, the sales person will often ask you to purchase insurance (such as Apple Care) on this product. However, when you purchase an item on your Visa, the item is already insured through your card. While it may not be the same insurance plan, this is an adequate way to transfer the risk associated with an issue with your new purchase, while still avoiding substantial upfront costs that may never be necessary. If you’re planning on making a big purchase like this, look into different insurance plans before you head to the store or hit the checkout button online. You can also transfer risk by choosing to ask whomever gets your gifts for some of the items you see and want for yourself. If you see something for a really good price, tell the person who is getting you a gift, and hopefully they can take advantage of that deal.

Mitigating Risks: Overspending. Associated risks this weekend can include a lot of things. Overspending can be a main issue for everyone, including students. Often when we see a good deal, it seems like a hard thing to pass up. The thing to keep in mind is whether or not you would have made this purchase if it wasn’t a deal. If you’re buying a product just because it’s on sale and you’ve kind of wanted it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Consider making a list of Christmas gifts or personal splurges before you check out Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. This will give you an outline of what you can allow yourself to buy, and what you can view as a frivolous expenditure.

Accepting Risks: You’re going to buy it anyways. In no way is this advisable, but the reality of the situation is that you may end up putting something on your credit card that you’re not going to pay off right away, regardless of my advice above. You might see a PS4 for a great deal, or maybe a Michael Kors purse at a price you just can’t ignore. You might put it on your credit card and hope someone gives you money for Christmas, or that you can pick up some extra hours at work to pay it off. Just keep in mind that you do want to pay off that credit card. Try to cut down on entertainment or other expenses for a while, so that you can balance out the costs.

We all splurge sometimes, but it’s important to take the necessary steps to manage the risk associated with your spending. It’s just another way you can perfect being perpetually poor.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published November 27, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/11/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-16/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Making It To Your Next Paycheque

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As students, a lot of us change jobs a few times over our university career. While the idea of not quitting your job before you have a new one is a good rule of thumb, sometimes you’ll have a gap between jobs, or the pay structures don’t match up flawlessly. For students living paycheque-to-paycheque, there can be an awkward period between pays where you just don’t have the right amount of money to make it to the next pay.

Amy A., a grad student in the first year of her Masters recalls what it was like to live when she didn’t receive the money she was expecting: “Having my scholarship payments delayed was incredibly frustrating. I was lucky to have some savings put aside to cover my expenses, but I hadn’t expected to dip into them so soon into grad school. I had to stop spending on things I didn’t absolutely need, like eating out or getting those new boots I wanted. I also found myself worrying about money more than I had been before, which was an added stress I had to learn to live with while also being a grad student.”

At this time, you should slow your spending until you receive your money. Don’t spend money you don’t have (with the help of your credit card), and avoid spending what money you have on reserve. Think of your savings as emergency money. It’s like when your parents gave you a credit card that you were supposed to use only for emergencies, except this time you’re not going to go out and buy Starbucks with it.Sometimes, like Amy, you might not be aware that you aren’t getting money right away. So many students have issues with OSAP payments that were just non-existent in their bank accounts; sometimes the paperwork you sent to your bank doesn’t get processed on time, and all of a sudden, you’re unable to access your student line of credit, and you’re paralyzed with the inability to pay for life.

Emergencies in the situation of a poor student typically include food, rent, and transportation to-and-from school and/or work. At this time, it’s important to utilize the resources made available to you on campus. We have an on-campus food bank for you to make sure you are able to eat – if you’re suffering financially, it’s there to help you, so don’t be afraid to use it.

If you’re aware that you’ll be pausing your income, (i.e. leaving your job), it’s a good idea to start saving as much as you can immediately. Think of yourself as an animal that is about to hibernate over the winter. Hoard as much of your money as you can so that, in case of an unforeseen gap in between getting paid from your old job and your new job, you’re prepared with some extra funds to help get you through.

When getting a new job, it’s time to revamp your budget. Take another look at your Excel file (or create one if you’ve been living without one), and update your expenses. Make sure you have a good idea of all of the money you’ll be needing until your next pay, and check your balance to make sure you have enough. Find out how much you have in your savings and act accordingly.

Remember that a lot of students have problems making it through transition periods, so save, budget accordingly, and freeze your spending. Do the best you can to give yourself an advantage, but also remember that there are resources available to help you during rough periods – it’s up to you to seek them out and do your part to perfect being perpetually poor.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published November 13, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/11/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-15/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Lending and Borrowing Money From Friends

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It happens to the best of us: ‘Hey, can you spot me a twenty?’ Lending money to your friends is a situation that many students get into. Whether it be intentional because you’re out at the bar and your buddy wants a few more drinks, or unintentional because you went to pay the by-law fine from last weekend’s party before collecting the cash from your roommates, lending money to your friends can become a sticky situation if they don’t pay you back.

Whether you’re the lender or the lendee, it can get awkward really quickly if the money isn’t paid back ASAP – and that can be rough because the two of you may have different ideas of what ASAP means.

If you’re lending money to a friend, make sure the terms are explicit. Before you lend them your money, you should make sure they’re able to pay you back. Do they have a job? A birthday coming up? Do their parents give them an allowance? At the very least, have an idea of when they’re getting paid, so you know when to expect your cash. A friend of mine has a system where he has people build up credit. He starts with lending friends the cost of a coffee, then moves up to a pizza and so on and so forth. At first, it may seem like a bit of an extreme way to go about lending cash to friends, but it certainly minimizes the risk you take.

The easiest way to go about ensuring you get your money back is to talk about it. If your friend was drinking when they borrowed it, remind them the next day, or send them a text that they’ll see in the morning. You can be super casual about it with “Just get the money back to me by your next paycheque.” In a lot of the scenarios I’ve seen where friends get mad at each other about not getting paid back, it’s because one friend completely forgot they owe the other money. Sometimes people feel like it’s an awkward subject to talk about, but your friend may just need a reminder. Let your friend know your expectations from the get-go for a smooth lending experience.

Some friends can unintentionally be taken advantage of by saying “Just get it back to me whenever you can.” If you’re the one borrowing the money, this can be a tight spot to get yourself into. When you hear “whenever you can,” you should think ‘as soon as you possibly can.’ Having that debt paid off can feel like a weight off your shoulders, as many people find that owing money to friends can be much more stressful than owing money to banks or other creditors. While your credit isn’t necessarily on the line, your relationship is. With that being said, it’s best to pay them back as soon as you can. Just go to the bank and get the money, or grab some cash back next time you’re at the grocery store/LCBO. In the case that you just don’t have the cash available in the bank account, take a look at your next pay and allocate the sum you owe into your budget. If it’s a substantial amount, ask your friend if you can do a payment plan.

Remember that owing money to friends is no different than owing money to a bank. While they may waive the interest, you want to make sure that you have the funds available to pay them back – if not don’t borrow the money in the first place. Living within your means is necessary to perfecting being perpetually poor.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published October 23, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/10/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-14/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Managing the Debt You’ve Accrued

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For so many of us, student debt is unavoidable. There will come a time (or a number of times) in every student’s life where we just feel weighed down, even suffocated by the debt we need to put ourselves in just to obtain our degree and get the education we need for our future careers.

But aside from tuition and legitimate living costs, a lot of students’ debts come from irresponsible spending. I sat down with Alex B to talk about his debt crisis – a story I’ve heard many times in my years at Guelph. For Alex, it’s not just about OSAP piling up. For him, he found that the government just wasn’t giving him enough money to live, so he did what many students do and asked his parents to co-sign for a line of credit. He accumulated this along with two credit cards totaling $2000. He said his low point was when one of the cards was deactivated due to months of missed payments.

For many students, it’s not an obvious “I’m incredibly poor” situation. Getting OSAP disbursements or credit cards and lines of credit can often be looked at as ‘getting paid,’ when in reality you’re just accruing debt. For Alex, his parents bailed him out on many occasions when he just couldn’t make his payments, so instead of sitting down and creating a budget, he just kept going to his parents for money.

This can be the situation for a lot of students. It’s tough for us, and it’s tough for our parents as well, because they just don’t know when to say no. Do you really need the money, or are you just going out for another night downtown? Often these tough financial times take a toll on the relationship we have with our parents. They can get frustrated with our spending habits, and in Alex’s case, instead of sitting down and creating a budget with him, his parents would often resort to yelling at him and telling him he needed to keep his debt down.

Well that’s easier said than done when you have no experience of creating a budget, or of sticking to it. Being financially responsible is something you need to learn to do – and it’s a process – not something that can happen overnight.

Controlling your debt level is so important. It gets really tricky when you have a credit card (or multiple cards), OSAP, and a line of credit with your bank. Like Alex, you might find it unmanageable to pay the minimum payment on your credit card each month, but if this is your financial situation, it’s going to be much harder after graduation than what you’re dealing with now. Many students are even finding a job after school is a hard enough task to complete.

The answer isn’t a quick fix. Asking your parents for money is not a sustainable solution. It takes serious spending control and lifestyle changes. Talk to a financial advisor at your bank or visit the third floor of the UC to find out what can be done about your personal financial situation. The truth of the matter is that it’s your responsibility, not your parents, to get in control of your finances. You really need to sit down and get a payment plan on track for any credit cards that still have balances, even if you don’t have the money – especially if you think you don’t have the money.

What you need to remember though, is that there are so many people in the same situation. There are so many people with incredibly high student loans and credit cards that were maxed with unnecessary purchases and nights at the bar that cost far more than what was allocated in their budget.

Being perpetually poor means managing the debt you’ve accrued while attending university with the tools made available and gaining cognizance of your spending habits. You can’t beat yourself up over past poor spending; you can only deal with the future. Minimizing unnecessary expenditures is step one to managing your finances.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published October 9, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/10/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-13/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Sustainable Financial Decision Making

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Has a friend ever asked you to do something and you’ve had to say no because you just couldn’t afford it? Sometimes, it’s an obvious situation: “No, I can’t go to Europe with you, because I simply don’t have the money for it.” But other times, we make poor financial decisions because the answer isn’t so cut-and-dry.

How many times have you been with friends who all wanted to go see a movie, or go grab a meal, or even go to the bar when you just couldn’t afford it? Some people will opt out of going, but often, we’ll put it on our credit cards or withdraw from our savings. The problem is that overspending is a legitimate issue that we’re masking by telling ourselves that it’s just this one instance, or that we maybe have money coming that will pay for the movie, or the meal, or our drinks for the night.

As students, we need to use our limited funds in a financially savvy and proactive way, so that the end of the semester or the end of the pay period isn’t a time to be scrambling, but rather a time to be continuing with the lifestyle you can afford. The way we learn to spend our money now will carry forward into our future lives when we have real jobs and families and mortgages. It’s important that we have spending habits that keep us out of the red (habits which do not include ignoring student debts that may accumulate).

Making the decision to say no to overspending comes with lifestyle changes that you just cannot avoid. Recognize the difference between necessity and luxury. For many students, eating out is a regular occurrence. It’s a way to be social with friends, and at the same time it provides you with the nutrition that you need to carry on with your day. It’s easy to say, “Well, I need to eat anyways, so we might as well go out,” or, “I don’t have groceries, so I’d have to grab something anyways.” But eating out isn’t a necessity. It’s a luxury that many students are so used to that it becomes second nature to grab something at school rather than bring a lunch, or order a pizza when you’re studying instead of having something in the crock-pot ready for you when you need it. The reality of the situation is that this could have been avoided if you had taken some proactive steps to changing your lifestyle.

Next time you make plans with a friend, decide what you’re going to do. A lot of the time, we’ll make plans with someone and say, “Are you free Friday? Great, well let’s do something.” Define something. Plan ahead. If you’re going to be together over a meal time, consider entertaining one another at your houses – and for this, make sure you take turns entertaining, as it’s not fair to have the same person always pay – or go on a grocery store trip together to get ingredients so you can make something together. It’s a less expensive alternative, and making something together is always a great bonding experience.

When you’re planning your hang out, consider other options. If you two normally go to the theatre to see a movie, consider renting something or opt for a Netflix date. Also, don’t forget to explore one another’s DVD collections, as it’s a great way to showcase some of your favourite movies.

In terms of exciting things to do in Guelph, there are plenty of free and really inexpensive options (especially on weekends). Check online for events in the area, or even go through the Ontarion’s list of 101 things to do before you graduate. Opt for creating your fun instead of buying it.

Ultimately, to cut back on your spending you need to include your friends in lifestyle changes. If you are feeling the pinch financially, there’s a chance your friends will want or need to cut back on their spending as well. There is power in numbers, so saying no to a group of friends is always a lot easier if there are more of you who are being financially responsible.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published September 25, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/09/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-12/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Dealing With Your Credit Card Debt

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Credit card debt is an overwhelming concern for many students. While banks hand out $500 + credit cards to students to help build up credit while we’re in school, often the exact opposite happens. Banks don’t act judiciously when they give you access to credit. It’s in their favour for you not to be able to pay off your credit card bill each month, as they can collect interest payments from you. These payments are often upwards of 19 per cent annual compound interest. This means next month, if you don’t pay off your bill, you’ll be paying interest on the interest you accrued this month. As a student, you may not have a job, or your job may just provide supplementary income, and it may seem like it’s impossible to pay off your debt, but the truth is now is the best time to pay off your credit card(s).

Recently, 4th year student Richard C. finally paid off his credit card bill. Initially, Rich felt bogged down by his credit card debt, but he had this to say about the experience: “Paying off my credit card feels great. I finally feel like I have some control over my life again. Paying off my credit card was an uphill battle. There were many times I wanted to give up and forget about it but I stuck to my [repayment] plan and it paid off!”

It’s important to decide on a repayment plan and stick to it. Often credit card debt is a result of living beyond your means, and so it really takes lifestyle changes to not only live within your means, but below them, so that you can use some of your income to pay off past expenses. For Richard, that repayment plan included paying off at least $100 of his credit card bill with each paycheque he received. While he didn’t have a financial advisor, he understood the importance of being debt free so he could start saving for his future.

Richard asked me if he should lower the limit on his card. After racking up a credit card bill that took a lot of time, commitment, and lifestyle changes to pay off, it can be difficult to trust yourself enough to continue to use it. You may be wondering if you should just cancel it. What you should know before making this jump is that your credit score can be negatively affected by you cancelling or lowering your limit. The banks can see this as a sign that you don’t trust yourself with the available credit, and in turn, your credit score takes a hit. Make sure to consult a financial advisor before you make any big moves with your finances. The financial advisors on the third floor in the University Centre can provide you with a lot of assistance in times like this.

I suggested to Richard that he use his credit card for regular purchases, starting with things like groceries. If necessary, he could leave the card at home and only take it with him when he goes to the store. Having a budget in mind is always a good idea – know how much you’re prepared and willing to spend – and make sure you have the money in your chequing account to pay the bill. When you first start using the card again, consider paying the balance immediately when you get home, or from your phone if you use online banking. It’s an excellent way to build credit and at the same time know that you’ve already paid the bill so you don’t have to worry about having the money at the end of the month.

After you’ve paid off your credit card, it’s a great time to start your savings. You’ve already adjusted to a new lifestyle where you’re living off of less money than you make, and that is something a lot of people struggle with. This is a great time to start a savings account, or start putting in regular deposits. You can ask your bank to have the money deposited directly into your savings account each payday.

If you’re living with credit card debt, talk to a finance professional as soon as you can. Even if you don’t have an income, there may be ways to lower your interest payments, such as replacing your credit card with a line of credit, or changing the credit card type that you have to lower the interest rate you’re paying. Take the steps towards getting your finances sorted out so you can start saving for your future.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published September 11, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/09/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-11/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Create Your Budget

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What needs to be acknowledged first and foremost is that students’ financial situations vary significantly.  There will be people who read this column who have tuition paid for, along with a car, rent, and spending money; there will also be students who use services like the CSA food bank and really struggle to make it from fall to winter OSAP disbursement; there will also be a bunch of you whose financial situations lie somewhere in between these two extremes.

This column will not provide the financial advise that should be sought out by a professional financial planner.  There are resources available to you free of charge both through financial services at the university and your bank that you can take advantage of if you feel the need.  What this column does provide is insight into the world of being a student from a financial perspective.  A lot of the time students’ can feel overwhelmed in what can feel like a sea of debt, there may be situations where we can feel like we’re not able to do the things we want to or buy the things we want to because we simply just don’t have the money.  That is what perfecting being perpetually poor is all about – learning that you’re not alone.  That although it can seem like many of your friends are financially stable enough to go to the bars three days a week, or go out for dinner regularly or even take cabs home instead of hopping on the drunk bus, there are still so many people in a similar financial situation as you.

As we begin the semester, we start with a clean slate.  In some cases, we’re receiving our fall OSAP disbursements, some students are diving into their new lines of credit, some students are finding employment in the city, and some students are being allocated sums of money or allowances from their parents.  Whatever your financial situation is, now is the time to create your budget.  When you’re creating your budget, you need to create an exhaustive list of expenses that will arise over the entirety of the budgeting period.  Consider things more broad than those conventionally thought of (i.e. rent, food, utilities, entertainment, phone bills, line of credit payments), but consider everything you have to pay for before the next time you’ll receive money.  If you receive OSAP, remember to budget January’s rent in.   You don’t receive the second disbursement until after Jan. 1.  Recognize that Christmas, as well as some of your friends’ birthdays may be in this time and that even though they may not expect a gift, they probably expect to spend some time with you which may involve a bar night or a dinner out.

Be realistic with your budget, and more importantly – be realistic with your spending habits.  If you’re someone who is notorious for shopping sprees, if you often check your dwindling bank balance just days after getting paid only to wonder “Where did all that money even go?” you should consider creating a spreadsheet to track your spending.  It’s one thing to be the one spending your money, but it’s another thing to see where it goes.  These days, major banks have resources for you to go online and see where your money goes.  You can assess the results on your own or talk to a personal financial planner to see if you can make cut backs that may be necessary.

Remember to give yourself some wiggle room.  There is nothing worse than having an extravagant night that leaves you penniless and wondering how you’re going to manage to eat until you get some cash.

Find out what works for you.  Some people keep their money allocated in a number of envelopes, some people need different accounts for different budget allocation categories, and some people use their credit cards for everything and pay it off right away.  Just because your friends (or your parents) handle their finances one way that does not mean that it will work for you as well.  Take some time to really figure out a system for yourself and you will appreciate it soon enough.  If you find that you absolutely cannot restrain yourself from spending, ask your parents to give you an allowance versus a lump sum, or open a tax free savings account or another account that doesn’t let you access your money immediately.  Be very strict with yourself until you’re able to trust yourself with your own money.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published August 28, 2014.
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/08/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-10/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Budgeting for Your Getaway

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When we think about getting away, we think about travelling abroad; going to the UK, or Australia, or Thailand. After long, tiring, semesters, it’s natural to want to get away from Guelph and away from your normal routine.  But many people just can’t afford a plane ticket and the associated costs of a big trip.  If you’ve found a full-time job in town for the summer, it can even be hard to get time off to get away.  There is so much to explore within this city, within this province. If you feel like you need a getaway this summer, consider trading the trip abroad for something a little closer to home.

Check out places close to home. Don’t overlook the beauty that exists within Ontario.  Besides Guelph Lake, there are a number of options within a short drive where you can go and check out for a nice weekend away.  The Rockwood Conservation Area is about a 15 minute drive from the university and is great for outdoor sports, whether that be hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, cave exploring, or rock climbing. Even if you’re not into outdoor sports, it’s great to spend some time outside, appreciating what nature has to offer. If you’ve been to Rockwood recently, head over to the Elora Gorge, Belwood Lake Conservation Area, or Hilton Falls Conservation Area – or do a quick Google search for a variety of other options.

Consider camping. While couch surfing and hostels can be an inexpensive way to travel, camping is something that is so often overlooked.  Grab a few friends, rent a campsite, grab your bathing suit, and head out.  If you don’t have a tent, you can rent one from Mountain Equipment Co-op for less than twenty dollars. The more people you have to split the costs with, the lower they are. MEC allows you to rent all kinds of camping gear (sleeping bags included) so you can ensure that your weekend getaway involves minimal spending.

You can have a true cottage experience.  Renting a cottage or trailer for the weekend can be less expensive if you split the costs among a group of friends.  There’s nothing better than going away and spending some time on a lake with late-night campfires, and you can have this experience along with a comfy bed if you’re just not the camping type.  The bonus of renting a cottage is that if you find one in Muskoka or Algonquin, you get the road trip with friends, generally complete with 90’s pop sing-alongs — which is the best way to get away, if you ask me.

Actually saving for the trip. While you’re working these long hours and spending even longer hours sipping patio beers outside your favourite bar in Guelph, consider opening a TFSA at your bank and putting some money away.  This account can be for your trip, a new car, or even a future down-payment on your house – it’s your call.  Take a look at how much you’re spending on those patio beers.  When the waitress comes back to ask you if you’d like another and when the idea of one more beer just isn’t as enticing as the last one was, say no thanks.  Take the money you just saved by not buying the beer and throw it in your TFSA.  Sometimes this can add up to $20 per month, sometimes it adds up to $20 per week.  The bonus is cash money in your pocket.  Saving this money means more weekends away and more financial stability for your future.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published June 19, 2014
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/06/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-9/

Perfecting Being Perpetually Poor; Your New Hobby Can Cost Less

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Hobbies are a great way to spend your time. They allow you to learn something new, often develop a skill, and generally become a more interesting person. The summer is an excellent time to pick up a new hobby, especially for students, as we don’t have classes to worry about. Whether you’re interested in gardening, rock climbing, photography, or learning a new instrument, there are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward with your new found passion.

When deciding what you’d like to do, the first step is to do a little research. From a financial point of view, you’re going to want to look at minimum spending. This includes any initial costs. For example, if you were taking a pottery class, you would look at the cost of the class only. You don’t want to bombard yourself with what the costs could be like down the road, because realistically, you haven’t even tried it yet.

After you conclude your research,decide whether or not this hobby is a financially viable option.Consider your budget and be realistic with what you will be spending.

Minimize upfront costs. It’s a classic move to get really excited about your new hobby. No matter your choice of activity, you will be bombarded with things you can buy. When you’re first starting something new, you often don’t know the difference between something you need, something that makes your hobby easier, and just a frivolous purchase. If possible, talk to a friend who also does your new hobby and find out what you truly need to start doing it.

Don’t be extravagant. There will come a time in your life when you have stacks of cash to throw down on your hobbies, but for most students this isn’t that time for you. Remember that you just need to have the basics to do your hobby.

Be thrifty in your purchases. Check online to see if you can pick up the necessary components for less. Often, people who tried something out and didn’t like it will sell the components on Kijiji to get it out of their house. A gently used item can go a long way, especially when you’re just trying out your hobby for the first time.

If your hobby is an activity, check local listings to see if there are any free workshops or promotions going on. Especially over the summer, there are always things going on for free or at a low cost. Take advantage of these opportunities. You can often find them in the newspapers, the Guelph Community Guide, and on social media.

If your hobby has a related store, don’t be afraid to go in and ask questions. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and see if they have an inside scoop on your hobby. Just keep in mind that asking people who own the store what you should buy probably isn’t the best idea, as they’re usually more concerned about selling you things than making you informed.

Get your friends involved. Things are always more fun when you can share them. Often, you can share the costs as well. If you have to travel at all to practice a hobby, having friends do it as well allows you to carpool. If it’s an individual activity, you can share resources. If it’s something like gardening, you can share seeds. Even if you don’t have friends who already do your new hobby, consider talking to people who are interested in the same things. They might have cool tips, tricks or knowledge that you never would have found on your own (or it would have taken a lot of trial and error to figure out).

Over time, you’ll want to minimize ongoing costs. If you decide that you love this hobby and it requires constant purchases, consider buying your items in bulk and storing them, or even ask your friends if they want to split an order. If your hobby is progressing, remember that you don’t need everything as soon as you decide you like it. Continue to avoid those unnecessary purchases.

Ultimately, just make sure that you enjoy what you’re doing. There’s no use spending money on something that you don’t love and sometimes saving money for a rainy day just isn’t as important as living your life. Perfecting being perpetually poor is all about balance; you just have to find yours.

Gabrielle Dickert/The Ontarion
Original article published June 5, 2014
http://www.theontarion.com/2014/06/perfecting-being-perpetually-poor-8/