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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crock Pot Meals-Mac and Cheese

So I recently became obsessed with crock pot recipes. I'm sure you're wondering, what does this have to do with Cheap Students? And it's one of those things that indirectly relates to the theme here, which is, making food in a crock pot is easy, and can be made in large quantities which will lead to you spending less at fast-food restaurants and the meals can be frozen and heated up another day. What could students not like about cheap and easy meals?

Pinterest has been the source of most of my inspiration when it comes to interesting food ideas. Some looked absolutely disgusting and I stayed far far away from those.

Here's the first recipe I tried. It was actually pretty good, I'm not usually a fan of homemade mac and cheese but this one was good.

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese
Makes 4-6 Servings
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 eggs (I omitted the eggs)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in water for six minutes. Drain.
In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.
In slow cooker, combine cheese mixture and add the eggs (I omitted the eggs), sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper. Add the drained macaroni and stir again.
Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

 So I mostly followed this recipe except for a few things
  • Cooked noodles (I used rice pasta instead) for 6minutes and then drained
  • Sprayed the pot lightly with spray oil
  • Turned my 3-qt Crock Pot on High & melted the butter &cheese 
  • Was not completely melted when other ingredients were added
  • Turned the pot to Low. 
  • Whisked all the other ingredients in a separate bowl first before adding them to the pot. 
  • In this order: 1 beaten egg, sour cream, spices (mustard, salt, pepper), cheddar soup, 1% milk. 
  • Added the noodles last.
  • Was definitely ready to eat in 1 1/2 hours. 
  • Stirred it often. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Free Starbucks Blonde Roast

So I'm sure a lot of you are Starbucks fans.
Check out this link and "name" the Starbucks Blonde roast.
Print out the coupon and you receive a FREE Tall Blonde Roast from Starbucks.

*Note-The coupon expires next day so make sure to redeem it quick!

Check out my article on how to make your own Greek yogurt. Save on something else that's overpriced. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Cost of A Failed Course

When you think of budgeting, and saving money (I hope you do anyways) the first thing that comes to mind is not whether or not you successfully pass all of your courses at school. Unfortunately though it is something to consider when picking elective's (those can be killers sometimes), and your course load for the semester. Tuition is normally considered a fixed cost that doesn't change dramatically over the 4 years (or 5 or 6..) that you are completing your undergrad. But if you fail a course or take a lighter course load there may be a bigger hit on your budget than you would have thought.

These examples use the Ontario averages for tuition across all majors from 2009-2013
(4-year undergraduate degree)

An individual who takes a full course load every semester and passes all of their classes.

2009/2010-$5,985 per year (10 courses)
2010/2011-$6,316 per year (10 courses)
2011/2012-$6,815 per year (10 courses)
2012/2013-$7,180 per year (10 courses)

In tuition alone this student would pay about $26,296.

An individual who takes a full course load each semester but failed 1 course in first year

Based on the first calculation lets just assume that 1 course costs about $600 by dividing the total tuition for year 1 by 10.

2009/2010-$5,985 per year (10 courses) Add failed course here= extra $600. $6,585
2010/2011-$6,316 per year (10 courses)
2011/2012-$6,815 per year (10 courses)
2012/2013-$7,180 per year (10 courses)

Ideally the student would take the course during the summer to avoid pushing graduation further and would pay an extra $600 over the course of their undergraduate degree. Totally approximately $26,896
Essentially paying for the course twice to pass it once.

You can see how this can start to add up especially if the student fails more than 4 courses. That's an extra $2,400 and not a single summer free of school.

If you don't take a full course load

In addition if you don't take a full course load, say 4 courses a semester most schools will charge you the full tuition rate. The breakdown would be as follows if you took 4 courses a semester instead of 5.

2009/2010-$5,985 per year (8 courses)
2010/2011-$6,316 per year (8 courses)
2011/2012-$6,815 per year (8 courses)
2012/2013-$7,180 per year (8 courses)
2013/2014-$7,180 per year (i'll be kind and assume that tuition didn't rise but I'm sure it will)

By not taking a full course load you essentially have to pay a full years tuition or about $7,180 and you also run the risk of further extending your undergrad or taking summer courses for another $600 a course if you don't pass all of your courses.

Do you see where this all starts adding up?

A 4-year undergraduate program with all courses passed would cost around $26,296 (if they started in the 2009/2010 school year)

A 4-year undergraduate program where a student failed 1 course would cost around $26,896 (if they started in the 2009/2010 school year)

Technically a 5-year undergraduate stay where a student took 4 courses a semester would cost over $34,000 (if they started in the 2009/2010 school year)

I believe some schools as least only charge you on a per course basis when you are taking 3 courses and under (this makes you a part-times student. Thus it will save you some money here and there.

It's important to be careful when you pick courses and keep track of the courses you failed. It may make more sense for you take a full course load especially if money is tight. I believe it's something that most people don't think about so I hope this post has opened some eyes.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Buy Online to Save: Books

If you are actually willing to purchase books at all, the best way to do so is by buying online. There are a few online retailers out there that offer prices here and there as well as different perks in terms of shipping, rewards points etc.

Rewards program: Plum Rewards 
Shipping: Free Shipping on orders $25 or more
Pricing: Reasonable (compared to the cover prices they charge in store anyways)
Tips: Make sure to check out the bargain books section on the site as well as in-store and online deals.
Verdict: Use plum rewards for the discount and the free wi-fi, unless you buy a lot of books the accumulated points system really isn't work your time. Returns are easier since you can return products in store anywhere in Canada. 

Rewards program: Rewards Visa (I'm not even going provide a link, you don't need an Amazon Visa)
Shipping: Free Shipping on orders $25 or more (can't be from a seller on Amazon, must be a product sold directly from Amazon Canada)
Pricing: For books, usually a bit better than Chapters
Tips: Check out the Bestseller deals here
Verdict: Amazon provides a lot of selection (aside from books as well) and slightly better prices than Chapters. They don't offer a rewards program but the discounts themselves are worth it to go shop online. Better/more reviews are on Amazon simply because there are more users. 

Both websites are great in terms of well priced books compared to buying in-store where you often will pay full price for books (unless they are best sellers). The Plum rewards program often has offers and deals and once you gather at least 2,500 points you can get $5 off (you have to be buying a lot of books). Both work well and often for books you are highly unlikely to return them so return policies aren't as vital. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Keurig K-Cup Facebook Contest

Here are the details for the Keurig K-Cup contest.

Up for grabs is 1 box of Green Mountain Medium Roast Nantucket blend coffee. It's an 18 pack that retails for about $13-14. 

So here's what you need to do to win it.

Its all about SHARING and it's a Facebook only contest.
Click on the button that looks like a gear close to the message button. Then click on share.
Below are some super handy photos to help you on your way (and yes you can click on them to make them bigger)

Once you click share the following will show up.

Type the following in the text area before pressing share page.

"Check out the @Cheap Students Facebook page here, where students can find tips on how to make the most of your money. All you need to do is LIKE the page."

And make sure to tag @Cheap Students.
Send a message to me through the Cheap Students page listing your friends that have liked the page. 

Send messages to your friends, write on their walls and get them to like Cheap Students. And then send a message to me through the Cheap Students page listing your friends that have liked the page.

You will be entered into the draw if you manage to get 3 people to like the Cheap Students page on Facebook. The more the better, each 3 friends you get to like the page you get an entry. 6 friends=2 entries, 9=3 entries etc.

Contest begins at 8pm on January 21st and ends January 24th at 12 noon.

Any questions, leave a comment here or message me through the Cheap Students page which you can do by clicking the message button.

Winterlicious-Toronto Meals Cheap

Winterlicious January 25 to February 7, 2013

So for all of my readers that live in Toronto you definitely need to make sure you check out Winterlicious. Running between January 25-February 7th 2013 there are a variety of restaurants that take part and provide most often a relatively inexpensive meal.

How does Winterlicious work?
Basically an assortment of restaurants within the city of Toronto develop prix fixe menu's for Lunch, Dinner or both between $15-$25 for Lunch and $25-$45 for Dinner. Choose the restaurant you want to go to, make sure to make a reservation and then your good to go.

Check out of few of these more popular places that you have heard of.
Bier Market- $20 Lunch & $35 Dinner
Drake Hotel- $20 Lunch & $35 Dinner
Spice Route- $15 Lunch & $25 Dinner 

If those don't interest you, you can check out the other 188 restaurants available here

Before booking make sure to check out to make sure the restaurants have good ratings.
Also make sure to book early since spots often fill up quickly.

Overall it's a great idea for a possible cheap date, or a great night out with friends instead of going to your standard chain restaurant. All of the prix fixe menu's come with an appetizer, entree and dessert as well which is always nice, because I know as a student I usually opt out of dessert and an app because I know I can't afford it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Greek Yogurt: Cheap Students style

So I'm sure a lot of people that read this blog are aware of Greek yogurt, but like me may buy it as more of a treat since it costs almost double or triple the price of regular yogurt. It's definitely a product that doesn't fit within the Cheap Student lifestyle.

When you aren't able to snag a container on sale or with a coupon try to make some yourself for a lot less.

Here's a recipe I have used before, and if strained enough can also be used as a yogurt cheese type spread. A tip. Warn your roommates what your contraption in the fridge is, one of my roommates may have gotten a really nasty yogurt drippings surprise one time, it didn't end well..


What you need;

  • A small strainer
  • A container of plain yogurt, for healthier options choose organic or fat free versions
  • Cheesecloth, or for broke students a few sheets length of paper towel. (you may be able to find cheesecloths from Dollarama though)
  • A decent size bowl (to catch the drippings, yeah I know its nasty, but its just moisture so don't be scared)

What to do.

  1. Line your strainer with the doubled or tripled paper towel sheet. 
  2. Place the strainer so it can drain into the bowl (you don't want your straining yogurt sitting inside the liquid that dripped out of it).
  3. Once the strainer is set up and ready to go in the bowl, scoop a large amount of plain yogurt so it sits in the middle of the paper towel within the strainer.
  4. Cover the strainer with some paper towel

Now put the contraption into the fridge and let the magic happen. The longer you wait the more moisture drains from the yogurt and the thicker it gets. About every 8 hours or so squeeze the "ball" of yogurt to remove moisture and replace the paper towel, and empty the bowl filled with moisture.

For some added flavour you can add spices (maybe some cinnamon?), or garlic powder and herbs (if you want to make it into a spread). I'm going to try a few combinations and will definitely post photo's and reviews when I do.

Once its at your desired thickness. Add honey, berries or anything else you normally eat greek yogurt with.

It will literally cost you the container of plain yogurt and maybe the paper towel and a new small strainer from Dollarama if you don't have one already.

Plain yogurt is usually on sale and about 2 dollars for a large tub (or less). The amount of "Greek" yogurt you can get out of it is worth your money and even if it takes a little bit of time and effort.

Hope this helps!

If you have any other great cheap recipes feel free to send them to and they could be featured on the blog.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Simple and Easy Ways to Save on Food

Food is definitely something that I talk about it a lot, and it's obvious from the variety of  posts that I have already written on the topic. I decided as part of the new way I was going to write on this blog was to make things succinct, to the point and easy for readers to follow. So here are some general things that I think about when I go to the grocery store.
  • Purchase generic brand or private label products instead of name brand foods
    • Yes I know everyone thinks the No Name brand tastes like crap, but that's exactly what they want you to think because of the millions they spend on branding each year. What's often the case is the same company that produces private label/no name food often has their own name brand product or is the name brand product you always buy just minus the flashy packaging. 
  • Purchase full fruit instead of cut up packaged versions
    • Please don't be extremely lazy. You can buy a full pineapple for $1 on sale at No Frills or pre cut pineapple for almost $3-$5. Oh and fruit trays are extremely expensive too, so please don't buy them. 
    • Buy a big bag of regular carrots, peel and cut them. It will turn out to be a lot cheaper than the $2-3 dollar bag of baby carrots.
    • Check out this site on how to cut an avocado, pineapple and mango, because yes I know they are annoying to cut.
  • Buy in Bulk
    • For the most part, buying in bulk will save you money. This is often the case with meat products. Of course your thinking, I don't need 8 chicken breasts. Well eventually you do. Buy ziploc bags and bag up the meat in meal size portions and you have meat for a while and you've saved by buying in bulk and probably getting it on sale as well.
    • You can also buy yourself a really large piece of pork and cut your own pork chops and once again bag them in individual portions. Check out the video here
  • Don't Buy in Bulk
    • Yup I know, I'm contradicting myself, but there are situations where buying in bulk may not be your cheapest option. Costco is one example. It's really important to know your prices when you go to Costco because some products aren't that cheap, it just seems cheap because its a massive box. A few products I have found at Costco that are a great deal is Liberte Greek Yogurt, 2 Tubs for about you $7.50 I believe, or 3kg of Oatmeal for $7 approximately as well. Know your prices and you will be fine
    • Also when using coupons it actually makes more sense to purchase smaller formats of the products and use more coupons. Instead of saving $0.50 on a $4 item, buy the smaller format at $2 and save more if you are using multiple coupons on multiple smaller formats.
  • Don't Go For Variety
    • I've learned this the hard way. I thought I was going to be a gourmet chef and would make a variety of meals all the time. And of course I didn't finish a bunch of food I purchased, it went bad and all the ingredients cost me quite a lot more. If you stick to a few staples and go for less variety you end up spending less and using it up without dumping half of it in the garbage. Your a student not a chef.
Also another tip when you really need to buy something and it's not on sale, make sure to check the unit price of the product which is often in grams or kg.

This is a great way to compare 2 products and determine which is less expensive based on the cost per oz, lb, g or kg. A product that costs. $0.263 per oz is cheaper than a product that costs about $0.5 per oz

How do you save on food?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Subletting a Rental

Some students may never have to worry about subletting their rental, while others especially those that go on exchanges, are in co-op or only take a final part year may have to do so. Here are some tips and tricks on how to sublet your room  in order to save some money when you aren't living in your home. Make sure to also speak with your landlord before you start thinking about posting an ad, your landlord may not want subletters at all which could prevent you from doing so.

Posting your ad
Make sure to choose a classified site that a large proportion of your student body frequents. This could be a school affiliated classified site, or by using kijiji and craigslist. It's also a great option to consider posting a listing within the Facebook group you joined with all the other members of your graduating class.

When posting your ad its really important to include the following information;
  • General location
  • Distance to the school and the closest bus stop
  • Which buses/subways take you to the school
  • Amenities available ie. kitchen, laundry, parking etc.
  • Efficiency of heating etc.
  • Rental price per month
  • Specify if utilities are included
  • How many other rooms are in the house
  • If you have a preference include student, male or female etc.
  • Dates the sublet is available
  • And Contact Information!
Screening potential candidates
An important thing that may slip your mind at first is the compatibility that the candidate has with your current roommates. It's important to ask a few questions like, why are you subletting? Are you a university student?
The more easy going an individual is, the more likely they will fit in with a group of strangers. It's important to choose subletters at your own discretion  and you may even want to request a reference from their previous landlord if you're really unsure. It's also a bad sign when you get an extremely sketchy response to the initial posting, it may be a sign that that individual should just be off the list immediately.

Setting up viewings
Communicate with possible subletters through whatever means necessary and set up viewings of your room. I know I'm a messy person, everyone tells me that, but you need to pretend like your a real estate agent selling a house. Make sure your room looks amazing, it's going to be a much easier sell. Make sure to have information on hand about the type of heating system, the average monthly utility costs etc. These are questions that subletters will ask.

Finalizing the deal
Always make sure you form a contract with a sublet.

You can use a template like the link below

Also it's important to determine a payment plan in terms of both utilities and monthly rent, which should be included within your contract. The safer the better, and in most cases it's a great idea to request post dated cheques as well as the last months rent in order to confirm that the subletter will actually pay you. Make sure to contact your landlord and let them know that an individual has been confirmed as a sublet.
Provide the subletter with e-mails or some other contact information so they can get in touch with their future roommates if need be (this is optional).