Online Back To School Essentials For Frugal Students

I was really annoyed by all the back-to-school BS surrounding me lately until I realized school starts next week. To celebrate, I overpaid my tuition by $150. Oops! I expect they’ll apply that to Winter term or send me a cheque 6-8 weeks from now. In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to make up my $150 self-induced deficit. This is my last year (I swear) of studenthood, thank god, and I’ll make a frugal one in the spirit of Money After Graduation.

All of the following I’ve blogged about before, some sorta recently, so if you skim over and see something you’ve already seen before, please skip over — there’s a $0 Weekend post coming for you this Friday! If you’re like me and going back to school, and you don’t want it to cost an arm and a leg and your first born, read on.

Online Back To School Essentials For Frugal Students

A no-fee chequing and high-interest savings account with Tangerine

Giving up your summer job to go part-time or no-time as a full-time student sucks, but you can soften the blow by banking with Tangerine. Most banks offer no-fee chequing accounts for students, but Tangerine offers them to everybody, which means even when you graduate, you’re not going to have to pay a monthly fee to access your own money. Additionally, you will be paid interest, albeit a small amount, to money in your chequing account — 0.25%, but if you’re depositing a large sum to pay your tuition bill at the end of September, this might net you a few dollars, and something is better than nothing! Of course, Tangerine gives you more than something: sign up with my Orange Key (32251507S1) and receive a $25 bonus for opening a new account plus $10 every Friday for the next 4 weeks.

A scholarship search on StudentAwards.com

StudentAwards.com is a perfect aggregator site of many scholarships and bursaries available. They say a bajillion dollars of scholarships go unclaimed every year, and one of the reasons is because when you’re studying you don’t have 600 hours per week to devote to scouring the web for money. Thankfully, StudentAwards.com puts them all in one place, selects ones you’re most likely to be eligible for based on your field of study, hobbies, and other data you put in. It will even sort them based on application due date. This is where I’ve found some extra money for my MBA, though there is more scholarships available for undergraduate students then grad.

A CourseSmart account

CourseSmart was popular in my MBA program last year. With tuition for the year over $20,000 the price of a textbook almost seems insignificant by comparison, but truthfully, once you’re down tens of thousands of dollars, you’re first goal is not to let go of any more money. CourseSmart offers online versions and ebooks of required textbooks, often at half the cost of the paperbound version. Given the weight of your conventional textbook, and e-version is infinitely better anyway because who wants to carry a backpack of books from which you will maybe read 40 pages? No one, that’s who.

A Campus Book Rentals account

If you are one that likes to have a physical version of your required textbook (I was just kidding before, I am actually one of these people) the next best option is Campus Book Rentals. As many of you know, I try to adhere to the 45 minute rule: if you are not going to use something for at least 45 minutes every day, you do not need to own it. I’ve probably never read 45 minutes of any textbook in seven years of post-secondary education, so obviously there is no reason for me to buy textbooks ever. Enter Campus Book Rentals which lets you RENT YOUR TEXTBOOKS. Free shipping both ways and you’re allowed to mark that baby up with a highlighter to your heart’s delight.

amazon-student-logoAn Amazon Student Prime membership

I blogged about Amazon Student before, and now that I have it for myself I’m even more pleased with the service. I’ve been using Amazon Prime for a year, which gives me free 2-day shipping on my orders plus a whack of other great features that I don’t utilize because FREE TWO-DAY SHIPPING. The Amazon Student membership is FREE for your first 6 months then only $39 per year after that. I’m all over Amazon because I order almost everything online. Now that Amazon carries way more than just books, it’s my go-to before I make any purchase — because I know I can find it cheaper on Amazon. Most recent purchases? Protein shaker bottle, screen protector for my boyfriend’s phone, and a jar of PB2. Amazing.

An eBates account

eBates is another service I’ve blogged about before, and now I’m using it more than ever. It’s free and you get cash-back (usually 1%, but as high as 7%) for shopping online. Amazon is one of the vendors you get cash back with, so I always click through via eBates and then I get it shipped for free, in 2 days, and I get cash back. Win, win, win. Seriously I love eBates. There is just no downside to eBates.

A plan to pay off your student loans and other debts with ReadyForZero

ReadyForZero is an online resource to help you tackle your debt. It provides beautiful charts to track your progress, reminders & notifications to keep up with upcoming due dates, and all together an overall plan and strategy to pay off what you owe and begin building wealth. ReadyForZero is a great tool to organize an often overwhelming burden and help you achieve your financial goals.

Any other online resources for students?

Results of the Money After Graduation reader survey

First a quick thanks to all of you that took the time to answer my 3-question reader survey earlier this week! This was the first time I’ve conducted a reader survey, and it was really fun to hear from you — many of which are self-described “lurkers” who don’t normally comment ;) I really appreciate hearing your voice!

In total the survey was open for 36 hours and received 186 responses, including 68 comments!

I was hoping to get at least 100 and thought that would be a stretch, so special thanks to the 86 extras who totally made my day 86 times over! Wow there are too many exclamation marks in this post!

I wanted to share some of the results since they will be directing some of my posts going forward. First up, posting frequency:

I’m currently publishing posts 2-3 times per week on Money After Graduation. Am I posting…

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82% of readers feel like my 2 to 3 posts per week schedule is “just right”. This makes me really happy because often I feel I’m not publishing enough content, but at the same time when I start to load up 4+ posts per week, the content takes a major dive because I burn out in both creativity and content. I’ll be sticking to my current posting schedule since it seems to be what’s working for everyone!

What topics/content would you like to see more of on MAG?

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Can I just say I’m SO GLAD I asked you guys this or I would be headed fast down a road of writing things you don’t want to read! I knew Investing would be an in-demand topic but I never thought BUDGETING would be the number one most wanted! I don’t do budgeting posts very often because my budget isn’t very interesting, but in doing that I’ve neglected the painfully obvious fact that a good budget is the foundation to financial success! I’m sorry for leaving you guys high and dry!!! I will remedy this situation immediately!

In third place was the demand for more “Personal” posts about my day-to-day life. I know as I’ve grown as a blogger, my blog has steered away from my life and included more general content, often just from a “my opinion” standpoint instead of a “this is what I do”. One of the many comments I received clamouring for more personal content pointed out, “I read your blog for YOU”. A valuable reminder for bloggers everywhere! I’ll make an effort to share more about my life where it fits on the site without overloading you with dull minutae of my daily existence.

In fourth place I am THRILLED to see Fitness (though not super excited that was ahead of Retirement planning…) because as many of you know, I have been working on a side blog at FitChakra.com. After years of yoga and completing the Insanity challenge earlier this year, I’m now weightlifting 3-4x per week and eating better than I ever have in my life. With my 29th birthday coming up in November, my body was NOT tolerating my abuse of it the way it did in my early and mid-20′s. Going back to the student lifestyle was an extra burden, and after my first year in the MBA program, I was more out-of-shape and FATTER than ever! Thankfully, I got off the train of laziness and diabetes in hurry, and within a matter of months have the body I had at 18… only this time around I have to work at it every damn day. I can’t even tell you how freaking annoying it is to not be able to eat poutine and cupcakes for every meal without consequences, because I miss those days with all my heart. Alas, looking fit requires actually being fit now, which is why I created FitChakra where I will be sharing:

  1. my weightlifting goals
  2. my every attempt to make cupcakes, brownies, and donuts into healthy protein-packed macro-meeting foods
  3. my slow and steady journey towards enlightenment… via beautiful backbends
  4. cool gym gear which swallows 1/3 of my paycheques now
  5. fitness/workout routines that turned my legs from seas of cellulite to quads of steel
  6. more mindless meanderings much like Money After Graduation except now on the topic of health/fitness instead of cash

At this point I can’t promise FitChakra will turn into anything substantial, or even make a lot of sense, so don’t set your expectations too high, but if you want more personal posts + fitness posts on a sporadic schedule, that blog will deliver!!

OTHER INFORMATION

By popular demand, I will be bringing back The $0 Weekend series. I’m sorry I ever took it away, I miss it too!

I modified some advertisements because they were overlapping content. I will also be looking at the mobile version of my blog to make it more friendly to visitors using a phone or tablet.

I will be working on some better navigation and ways to share old posts. At this point there is almost 3 years (omg!!) of posts on Money After Graduation and I know that I basically never use tags, categories aren’t the greatest organizer, the suggested posts are pretty limited, etc. I’m working hard at linking within posts to past content, but I’m going to need to get better with some of the other tools available.

There are no more staff writer or guest posts! Both Erin and Gillian got snapped up by other businesses a few months ago, and I have since run out of their content they had previously submitted to me. I’ve always found guest and staff bloggers a great way to relieve the writing demand on me without disrupting my posting schedule, but judging from the survey responses, you guys would be happier if I simply post less during super busy times rather than fill space with other writers.  You’ll be getting all Bridge, all the time now — be ready.

Twitter reposts will be slowing down — originally I was trying to share older content this way but I think my twitter followers aren’t all new readers so apologies for bombarding you with articles you read two years ago. I’ve reduced the daily twitter sharing by 50%.

No more spreadsheets. This one actually makes me sad because I really liked making them.. but me liking making something is not the same as you liking reading it!

MY FAVORITE COMMENTS:

“I really enjoy your blog! You seem very conversational and friendly. I especially love when people tell you that you cannot do xyz and you sass them and bring out the math on why surely you can complete xyz.”

“You are awesome! Great combo/variety of posts – love the personal touches – it makes you miles ahead of other blogs. Keep up the great work.”

“I love the variety – thanks for writing for us internet people!”

“Bridget, I absolutely love your blog and think that you are do a great job by encouraging college grads that they too can get out of debt and enjoy life by carefully budgeting to save money. I am doing the same thing and you motivate me more to reach my savings goals every time I visit your website. Keep up the good work!”

“I love your blog and recommend it to all of my friends who are looking for budgeting advice! You do such a great job of breaking things down and making them not only easy to understand, but also exciting. I helped my husband pay down his debt using your recommended strategies, and then we paid for our entire engagement, wedding, and honeymoon in cash. It felt great! Thank you for all of the inspiration.”

“Love the blog! Keep the gifs and cultural references coming. Great to read another young professional’s thoughts on money.”

“I just found your blog, oh, probably a month ago and I loved it! I haven’t followed a blog about money before, but yours was perfect to jump into. It got me thinking about my fianances and I especially like that we are at similar places in our lives. I am mid/late twenties, developing a career, and looking for ways to save money and make more money for the things I really want in life. You are awesome!!”

“LOVE the blog! This is my favourite – though I know you normally post every other/every third day, I check in daily :) Keep up the AMAZING work. Your tips and posts have helped to keep me on track and motivated in my debt reduction, always with a smile and laughing. THANK YOU!”

Of 68 comments, 66 of them were variations of “you rock” and only 2 were “this annoys me about you”, so I also want to take a moment to thank MAG’s resident trolls for not participating in the reader survey (or if they did, for offering constructive criticism for once).

IN SHORT, YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST EVER.

Thank you for all the direction going forward, I am so looking forward to producing more fun, engaging, and informative content =)

Ten Things I Will Love No Matter How Much Money I Make

I’ve started throwing money at September’s MBA tuition bill and it’s putting a serious dent in my disposable income. As a result, I’m not getting as freely spendy as I typically do. I can’t help but think “oh I wish I could buy that, if only I had more money!”. However, I found there were plenty of cheap/free things that I still get to enjoy, and as I thought about it, I realized I would love these things and choose to enjoy them even if I had a million dollars in the bank. I can’t wait until I earn more money (and don’t have to spend any more of it on school!) but in the meantime I’ll remind myself that somethings will stay the same regardless of my income or financial obligations.

Ten Things I Will Love No Matter How Much Money I Make

mini-donuts-by-taminator1. Mini Donuts I’m not sure how or why this has become an obsession this year, but mini donuts have officially become my all-time favorite food. There’s just something about a sugar-coated, deep-fried bag of goodness. I will confess that at least 60% of my enthusiasm for fitness is so that I can fit the occasional bag (ok, bucket) of mini donuts into my diet. At $6 for a bag (or $11 for 2 bags or $13 for a bucket), this is an affordable treat on any budget, and it’s unlikely that even if I’m bringing in oodles of money I’ll spend it on more mini donuts…. well, probably not.

300.ramsay.hellskitchen.0708082. Chef Ramsay Ramsay’s unruly temper and British accent just delight me. I can’t get enough Master Chef or Hotel Hell. No amount of riches would make me want to do anything else on Monday nights than watch the latest episode of Master Chef. I need nothing in the world except a connection to the Food Network.

3. Leg Day I’ve been diligently weightlifting for the past few weeks and my gains have been so extraordinary I’m totally addicted. Leg day is my favorite because you get SUCH a good workout! Your legs contain your largest muscle groups, so squats & lunges are my favorite way to sweat. The sense of satisfaction is just something money can’t buy.

4. My boyfriend’s interpretation of pop music. In addition to my boyfriend being the most handsome and charming being on earth, he is also a talented lyricist when it comes to singing along with the radio. Whenever we’re in the car, he’ll breakout into sing-along with whatever is playing on the radio, but with his own words. It is h i l a r i o u s. I die every time.

5572384138_a60dd8207d_z5. A good book & big cup of coffee Ok, maybe everyone loves this but that doesn’t mean I should skip it in this list. This is amazing. It might be the most amazing thing on earth. I’d rather curl up with coffee and a book than do most things.

6. Maroon 5 With the exception of album purchases and that one time I spent $350 on a concert ticket to see them live, Maroon 5 is a pretty frugal source of happiness in my life. No matter how much money I earn, I will still shuffle their albums on repeat while I get ready in the mornings. You can’t buy love!

7. Being able to buy something I want with points or free gift cards. Will the delightful sensation of getting something for free wane with riches? Or will I always love to redeem my free Starbucks reward or cash-in Swagbucks for an Amazon gift card? I am thisclose to using my Airmiles for an iTunes gift card. It’s only $10 and it feels like $100 because it just takes SO LONG TO GET. I already know what Mac game app I’m going to buy with it, the longing is unbearably sweet.

unfolded-sheet8. The smell of clean laundry. No amount of money can make laundry detergent smell any better. Towels hot from the dryer with that over-perfumed scent of manufactured clean are heaven on earth, I don’t know why. This isn’t meant to sound sarcastic, I really mean it!

9. When I publish a really solid blog post that goes moderately viral and reaps many positive comments. This is preferable to posts going excessively viral and getting  a mixed bag of good vibes + hate mail, or spending hours on a post only to have no one on the internet acknowledge it’s existence.

0cc3c8f4601190f82aaf15205bb611ff10. Nailing a particularly challenging yoga pose. There is no sense of achievement quite like that I felt once I got comfortable in crow or scorpion. I know I vanquished nearly $21,000 of student loan debt and am getting MBA, but my real victories are succeeding upside down on my mat. Life is all about priorities.

What are a few things you will love that money will never change?

Money After Graduation Reader Survey

Blogging can often feel like a one-sided interaction, but I’d like to hear more from my readers. Inspired by L Bee & The Money Tree‘s reader survey, I’ve created a super-short survey for YOU. Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 7.21.40 PM

Please click here to answer 3 questions about your Money After Graduation reader experience!

Thank you =)

More Productivity Porn For Get-S@#$-Done Junkies

My last productivity post — 6 Productivity Hacks That Will Change The Way You Do Everything — was such a hit, I know you guys are looking for more solutions to organize your busy lives. Previously I shared productivity tips from the book How To Be A Productivity Ninja by Graham Alcott, but today I’m sharing my favorite apps that I use every day to keep my personal, blog, and work checklists flowing.

 Productivity Apps & Tools To Get Shit Done

Pen & Paper – Surely you didn’t think we’d start off high-tech right from the get-go. I mentioned in my How To Negotiate Your Salary post that the most valuable thing you can do is carry around a small notebook in which you write EVERYTHING. So much of my day-to-day to-dos are completed within a few hours, and therefore do not need to be kept in any formal record. I simply write them down and then cross them off as they’re completed. Why do I bother? Mainly because I have the memory of a goldfish and probably wouldn’t accomplish anything at all if I didn’t write it down, but also because having a running notebook adds structure to my day and provides a tangible gauge of my productivity.

imgresEvernote – I forgot about Evernote when Pinterest came into my life and everything I previously “clipped to Evernote” became “Pinned to Pinterest”. However, now that I’m juggling multiple professional, academic, and personal projects, I find Evernote the most useful tool in my productivity arsenal. I use Evernote as a catchall for ideas and references I want to come back to later. I find it infinitely more useful than Pinterest because of its tags — I know Pinterest has implemented tags, but not nearly as well as Evernote. I love the sync from my desktop app to the web browser to the iPhone app, which means anything I put in Evernote is accessible to me wherever I am. This is like a virtual junkbox, except meticulously organized.

todoist_logoToDoistToDoist is my favorite to-do app (and I’ve tried more than I care to count!), mostly because I love the web interface so much. I use the app regularly on my phone but more often than not, I check in on my browser to see what needs doing in the coming days and weeks. ToDoist is optimized by its simplicity: it’s easy to divide tasks under different project buckets, rescheduling to tomorrow or next week takes a single click, etc. The premium version has even more features, including being able to attach files to your tasks and add tags, but so far I’ve found the free version meets my needs.

pocket-logoPocket – Try to clip all the articles you mean to read later to Evernote and you’ll lose the productivity of the app the same way you would hiding your to-do list in a stack of magazines. Pocket, however, is the perfect “read-later” app that extends beyond RSS feeds for your regular subscriptions. I installed the Pocket button on my Google browser and now whenever I come across something interesting like an article or twitter that someone has shared via twitter or on their blog but I don’t have the time to read it in-depth or want to revisit it later, I put it in Pocket. Pocket holds my to-read list in a beautiful interface, and also permits the use of tags so I can readily find groupings I’ve set up — this is particularly useful when researching for blog posts or school: I can collect a bunch of articles, tag them, and then read later. There are few things I love more on weekend mornings than a big cup of coffee and browsing Pocket.

UFYH152px1UFYH – I’ve been a long-time fan of Unfuck Your Habitat and my affection for the tumblr and the app shows no sign of waning. The app is super simple, but that’s all you need. In addition to being able to create your own to-clean lists, the app provides Random Unfucking Challenges (as well as motivation!) and a 20/10 timer built in (you clean for 20 minutes then rest for 10 minutes). My favorite thing about UFYH is still looking at peoples Before & After pictures on the tumblr, but the app is certainly effective for keeping my house from descending into disarray!

 

Any productivity apps you utilize on a daily basis? What helps keep you organized and motivated to conquer your to-do list?