Getting a Job After University: Where to Begin

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of graduation? Check out this blog post where Cheap Students covers how to beef up your resume, and better prepare yourself for graduation.

Grocery Shopping Basics

An introduction on how to grocery shop better, save money and cut down on grocery bills in the future. Contains links to Canadian grocery flyers as well as prices to look for.

Textbooks: A How to Guide

A post covering how to purchase and sell textbooks at the beginning of each semester. Textbooks often cost quite a lot purchased brand new, use these tips to save money on your next textbook purchases.

Learning Tab

Check out the learning tab to view free online resources where you can learn new languages, develop your computer skills and find ways to further develop your resume.

Job Hunting

Check out the job hunting section, filled with resume, cover letter and job interview tips and resources all to help throughout the job hunting process.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are Student Loans Immoral?

Recently a professor at NYU wrote an article on student loans while covering a wide variety of issues related to these loans. Whether or not loans could be technically classified as immoral is another story but student loans and debt are definitely crushing and a burden for many years. Are they immoral? I don't think so, but the hikes in tuition and the astronomically large debts students face after university/college are a handicap when trying to start off a life after completing school. Also the current generation faces a lot of factors, but the most important thing to do is to keep track of your debts and be responsible with the money you do have  during your time at university.

"I have concluded that it is immoral to expect young people to privately debt-finance a basic social good like education, especially if we are telling them that a college degree is their passport to a livelihood that is increasingly thin on the ground." -Andrew Ross, NYU Professor

Differences between Canada and the United States
Most often I find that a lot of articles are written about the student loan/debt crisis in the United States and this is often reflective of their astronomically expensive tuition fees. In Canada we are slightly blessed because of our government run institutions in that there aren't any for-profit universities with the main goal of getting your money versus educating you. Certain provincial governments to provide relief in terms of student loans and many students do benefit from them, which helps to pay for quite a bit of tuition and room and board. Just to compare tuition fees in the US versus the University of Guelph this may provide a bit of perspective on the differences between the United States and Canada right now. Some state run universities have lower tuition than NYU, this was just the school that the professor who wrote the original article taught at.

University of Guelph
Tuition for 1 Semester (Arts & Full-Time Canadian)
4-Year program (without inflation and not including any other fees)

NYU, In-State-Fall 2012
4-Year program (without inflation and not including any other fees)

Just by calculating that, I can fully understand why students in the United States are struggling especially in situations where they come from families that aren't completely loaded. The debt can add up, but it is the same case with university students in Canada and student loans are still something that Canadian students struggle with as well.

Check out Debt-ridden and unemployed: We are the class of 2012 for a more Canadian perspective

  • Nearly 60 per cent of the class of 2012 will graduate with student debt, 26,480 in Ontario on average
  • More than 10% of people enrolling in Canadian college's will have previously completed a bachelor's degree
  • Half of Canadian's in their 20's live at home, 73% between the ages of 20-24

Rising Tuition Costs in Canada
In terms of tuition fees across the country and for Canada as a whole you can view these statistics here for the 2011/2012 school year (last year)

There are a few trends occurring, and as a University of Guelph student I quickly noticed the huge increase once again in Ontario's tuition rates (approximately 5%) which is higher than Canada's overall change for the year, lucky us. Throughout the last 4 years that I have attended university I have seen a fairly significant increase in my tuition fees and most often I get to find out my new tuition fee when I check in August, it isn't significant but it is increasing.

Starting Tuition (Fall 2009)
Current Tuition (Fall 2012)

% Change= 9.23% and I still haven't even finished my degree

On a year by year basis it doesn't seem significant but I'm losing about $800 this year, funny how the OSAP 30% credit is that amount...At least the provincial government has stepped in and provided some relief for students.

Unfortunately for most career fields that students want to head into, the expectation is that you at least have a bachelors degree which could leave you at least $30,000 in the hole before you head out. OSAP helps students in Ontario but we are still forced to pay it back and pay a pretty hefty interest rate after graduation.

My tips for those who have been required to take out OSAP loans and other loans on top of that;
-Keep track of all that you owe the banks, the government, parents etc. you are going to have to pay them all back at some point but certain loans will have much higher interest than others, and those are what you should most likely focus on first and keep track of.
-Search in all ways possible to get some sort of scholarship, bursary etc. If you apply to OSAP you are likely to qualify for OSAP related bursaries.
-Don't be ashamed of your debts, its highly likely that everyone else you know is in a similar situation, talking about it with others may help you strategize better in paying them off
-And on top of that, be thankful you don't go to NYU :)


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Starting the School Year Off Right

It's easy for spending to get really out of control within the first weeks of school. You need to buy a gym membership, stock up your house with groceries, want a new desk and several other purchases to get you off and running. Make sure to think about these points and keep thinking about them throughout the semester.
Make a Budget
  • The most important thing that you can do right now is plan and make a budget for your month by month spending. It's also very important for this budget to be realistic, so you can stick to it. If you are an avid spender don't set completely unrealistic spending goals for yourself.
  • Based on the money you made during the summer or the money you still have left make sure you have enough for the essentials; food, rent, and utilities. After you have figured out that you have enough funds to cover these expenses that's when you can figure out the rest; clothing, alcohol, money for going out, trips, additional food that you don't actually need etc.
Some Tips
Make sure to take into account increased utility bills in the winter months when the weather is colder and heating will increase.
Stick & Follow Through with the Budget
  • Making the budget itself may seem challenging, but the most difficult part is actually following through with the budget. Throughout the first month especially, it is crucial that you write down and record your spending in order to be able to tally it all up at the end of the month.
  • At the very least make sure to do a bi-weekly (half way through the month) check of your budget and see if you are on track. Are you spending too much on groceries? Scope out better sales and make better use of your grocery dollars and even try finding some coupons online.
  • At month's end, tally up all of your purchases and check to see if you met your goals. Were they realistic? Do some numbers need to be decreased? Do some numbers need to increased? Don't do this every month, but the first month is your trial run make changes after this month that make the most sense financially and based on your spending habits, then the budget for later months should be more concrete.
Keep Up to Date on Your OSAP Loans & Other Student Loans
  • Since you probably just received more loans or additional student loans to pay for tuition this semester, make sure to check the amounts owing to either OSAP, banks, your parents etc. Keeping that in mind may also keep spending in perspective, if you owe $15,000 in OSAP does that extra pair of heels make sense if you don't really need them?
  • Additionally make sure to check if you qualify for the tuition rebate of $800 a semester through OSAP. I remember seeing somewhere that over 80% of students that could qualify for the rebate didn't even apply. You don't have to pay this money back unlike OSAP, it's a bursary that requires no repayment, it's free money that can help take a load off tuition or rent. Make sure to take advantage of this.
  • If you are no longer receiving OSAP loans, make sure you go an fill out a form to keep interest free status (and avoid paying interest until after you graduate). This can probably be done at Student Financial services at your university.
Hopefully this gets you thinking about your finances and how you can better keep track of them over the Fall semester and beyond. Remember, you're a student, it's very unlikely you have a ton of money so please don't spend like you do.
Source: Image

Monday, September 3, 2012

How to Save Money Using eBay

eBay to some people seems like a scary place of fraud, possible fake products and a place requiring a credit card. I'm not going to say there isn't any fraud because there is, there are fake products and yes you do need a credit card, but there are ways to make sure you can avoid this problems. It all depends on what you are buying, how much you know about the product and understanding how eBay works. These are tips that you can transfer over to purchases made through kijiji, craigslist and other classified websites as well.

eBay is where I find certain products I need (and sometimes just want) for a lot cheaper than in the stores. If it isn't a deal on eBay you might as well just buy it in a store and save yourself the hassle of shipping and waiting for the product to arrive.

What is eBay?
At it's core eBay can be defined as;
  1. eBay sellers pay a small flat fee plus a 1.5% percentage fee to eBay in order to market their wares;
  2. eBay buyers visit and use the marketplace without any surcharges;
  3. Any parties that abuse the system or each other will be disciplined or ejected

eBay is like a flea market but a bit different;
  1. The eBay marketplace is international, and crosses language and national boundaries;

  2. The massive choice of goods is awe-inspiring;

  3. Sales can either be auction format (competitions between bidders), or traditional fixed price format. The sellers choose whichever format they prefer;

  4. The buyers and sellers will likely never meet in person;

  5. The buyers do not get to see the product in person before purchase, but are given various post-purchase guarantees to ensure satisfaction;

  6. Very sophisticated computer measures are implemented to minimize electronic dishonesty on all sides;

  7. Fulltime staff are employed to enforce safety and fairness across the system;

  8. An honesty incentive model called 'positive feedback' is used to motivate buyers and sellers to trade with integrity;

  9. Professional third parties payment services, like Paypal, Bidpay, and, are brought in to ensure safe and trusted payment between eBayers;

  10. eBay is easier to use than a flea market.
In order to purchase goods on eBay you need to register, supply a credit card number, and I suggest creating an account on PayPal to make purchases online. You can register a credit card and/or a debit card.

Check out this excellent guide on how to use eBay.

Here are some of my tips on how to be safe, make smart purchases and get the best deals you can.
  • Always check the sellers feedback score. I usually go with 100% or nothing. Even if a sellers feedback score says 99%, they are often high volume sellers and that can mean that they still have a lot of negative reviews. Read through their comment's section and check for patterns, are people constantly complaining about shipping? or items not as described? If those show up, it's a red flag. Don't buy from that seller.
  • Check the location that the product is coming from (this may help determine shipping times/costs and/or product quality). Even if the currency is listed as US dollars or Australian dollars it may not be coming from that country. I have come across a lot of listings that say Australian dollars when in fact that product is coming from Hong Kong. 
  • ALWAYS check how much the product will cost to ship, if it doesnt say in the listing make sure to message the seller to get a quote. Don't ever bid if you don't know the shipping cost, it could more than double what you spend depending on the product you're buying.
  • Go with Canadian sellers whenever you can, shipping is usually cheaper and quicker. Also if there is an option to pick up an item do it, sometimes they charge you, but you can pick up your item on your own terms and not have to rely on good old Canada Post.
Best Products to Buy on eBay
  • Razor Blades- Don't enjoy paying $20 for 4 blades at Shoppers Drug Mart? You can usually get double that for the same price or more on eBay. Check, but most often if you are purchasing from a Canadian seller shipping is free as well. 
  • Clothing-Certain brands of clothing are everywhere on eBay and often cheaper. You can find anything from Lulu Lemon to Abercrombie and more. 
  • Shoes- Be careful with shoes, some can be fakes. Determine the price you want to spend, try on the shoes in store some where and figure out if it makes sense to purchase them online. 
Tips to Buying Clothes and Shoes
  • Try on products you are interested in, in store and determine your correct sizing. You dont want to have to return things to sellers on eBay unless you really have to.
  • Buying multiple products from the same seller can save you a ton on shipping
  • If you aren't against buying used clothing/shoes, you can find great deals on used designer clothing and shoes on eBay.
Also you may be able to get a deal by using one of these websites. Type in the product you are searching for and both sites will generate typo's for these products. These products wont come up in a normal eBay search because of their incorrect spelling, which can help you snag a great deal
eBay is a great place to find deals, if you do your research and are careful when making purchases. Make sure to check out sellers feedback scores, the location the product is coming from and the shipping costs. Also be aware of the sellers return policies.