Let’s be honest – Getting a post secondary degree can be a pretty costly decision. If you’re like me, balancing a serving tray on weekends at a local café pinching the tips I’d earned was my way of “paying for school”. In my spare time, I’d be applying for numerous scholarships and bursaries in hopes that one might slash some dollars off my tuition. Eventually, I paid it off. It wasn’t easy, and it’s not getting any easier it seems.
The start of the school year means many things – tuition payments, reuniting with friends, textbook shopping and a lot of paperwork. From registering for your student card to wrangling your OSAP applications, before you know it your backpack is full of paper.
So, how can a piece of paper be more valuable than your expensive new laptop, smartphone or engineering textbook? Because in the wrong hands, the right piece of paper can lead to identity theft, potentially costing you more in the future.
I’ve racked my brain and tried to remember some of the ways I saved when I was in school and thought I would share them with you. Also be sure to check out our posts on budgeting, textbooks and more here. Got your own money-saving tips? Feel free to share in the comments.
1. Share everything.
Taking a class with a friend? Consider sharing the textbook. Want to order pizza – see who will chip in. Driving home for the holidays? Make room in the backseat and score a little gas money. All it takes is a quick Facebook status update or a text and you could be on your way to a less expensive school year.
2. Beg, Borrow and Buy Used
Buy used whenever you can – from textbooks to dishes, clothing to couches, spending less on all these items can save you major money. When you’re on a time crunch, it may seem easier to buy brand-new instead of comparison shopping but a month from now would you rather have a brand new textbook or an extra $50+ in your pocket?
Out of all the costs you can predict when heading back to school, unfortunately textbooks isn’t one of them. Until you know your book list, it can be difficult to budget for this back-to-school essential. I can recall one semester where a single class alone ate up almost $700 of my savings. It seemed almost hard to fork over that kind of cash when I approached the counter to pay – but it’s a reality. Some students are even going as far as illegally downloading textbooks and risking being charged with copyright infringement– yikes. .
The good news is, if you think a little outside the box there’s lots of options that may help you reduce the financial burden of buying books and keep you on the right side of the law.
A brave new year of college and university starts in September, and that means many of you will get to live in a house of your own for the first time. If you’re renting an apartment, you’ve probably already started looking online for options. Once you find that perfect fit, all that will stand between you and your very own pad will be rent cheques and a lease agreement. But wait, what’s a lease agreement? Great question – let’s cover that.
A lease agreement is simple: it’s a contract outlining your living situation and expenses paid to your landlord for a specified period of time – usually a year. Everything from your monthly rent, utilities, apartment upgrades and pet specifications will be outlined in your lease agreement. If you want a pleasant living situation, you can’t control your landlord, but you can control what you agree to, and expect, from your lease.
For first time renters, the excitement that comes with moving out of home can sometimes mean that important details are often overlooked. Never seen a lease agreement? Here are some examples, and here are some leasing tips to get you started.
Common terms you’ll be agreeing to include:
- The length of your tenancy (typically year-to-year)
- Rent and amenities
- Subletting restrictions
- The terms of rent increases, according to government guidelines
- Restrictions on your living situation, such as pets, parties, etc.
- What will happen if things go wrong (e.g., you miss a monthly payment, lease termination, eviction!)
- Payment options
Here are a few guidelines to prepare you to sign that lease with confidence.
Know your rights and stay organized
- The rules outlined in landlord and tenant acts differ by province. Become familiar with yours here.
- There are many helpful online legal resources and guides for renters. Check out Community Legal Education Ontario. The CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) also offers this helpful guide for newcomers to Canada.
- Make sure everything that needs to be addressed is included in your lease agreement.
- Look into your landlord’s history, and ask for references from former renters.
- Remember that negotiations are two-sided.
- Keep records of your agreements, cheques, letters, and all contact between you and your landlord. In the case a dispute needs to be settled, you’ll have proof.
Respect your agreement and communicate often
- Contracts are legal, but landlords are human: they may forget to honour part of your lease agreement, or problems may occur in their lives. That’s why it’s important to communicate with your landlord on a semi-regular basis. If they don’t live in the building, make sure you have their contact information and availability on file.
- Your landlord is responsible for general apartment upkeep, like heating and (sometimes) snow removal. Be clear about heating/air conditioning, supplies and waste removal options early on. You shouldn’t have to wait until July to get that air conditioning unit humming.
If things go wrong….
- If things aren’t working out, clearly outline your problem with proof and in writing, and if your landlord is being non-compliant with agreed terms, contact your province’s Landlord and Tenant Board, or seek legal aid. If the situation is irreparable, give notice and move out.
- Let others know about your situation. It’s always great to get a second opinion.
Now that you’re educated about lease agreements, you’re well on your way to becoming a responsible tenant. Remember, this may also be a great first step to show you what it might be like owning your own home some day. In the meantime, enjoy your newfound freedom! Just don’t forget to call mom and dad.
Woohoo! Some good news! The Hamilton Spectator reported Canadians are becoming more optimistic about the economy! Hopefully that means this year will shape up to be a good year for fresh starts, getting your financials on track and #winning overall!
But for now, the job market is still slim pickings for the overeducated and underemployed. With youth unemployment in Hamilton hovering around 13-14% (about double the national average), nearly half of Canadian youth (ages 16-24) work in food service, retail or clerical jobs, according to Statistics Canada. That’s a huge issue because these sorts of jobs aren’t known for middle-class wages that help you pay off your student debt, put a down payment on a home or save for retirement.