This I wish I could tell…..

Grade School Me

  1. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. As a wise SNL character once said: you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggonnit, people like you.
  2. You don’t have to pick one genre of anything to solely like. Want to listen to Pantera, and Bjork, and New Kids on the Block, and Love Inc., all in the same evening? Go for it. Want to take out Stephen King, and Judy Blume, and William Gibson from the library in one go? Then just do it.
  3. When you audition for a school play, and the director/teacher says you can either stay and watch the other auditions or go back to class, stay. Sit around, watch the auditions, relax. It’ll pay off.
  4. When you feel the need to tell off your basketball coach, don’t. If there’s a serious issue, go tell mum and the principal. And if you do tell him off, and he says he’ll pretend he didn’t hear you, don’t take out the sheet of paper you’ve been rehearsing from and say “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it!”.  This isn’t going to end well if you do.
  5. Write. It doesn’t matter if no one else reads it right now, or if someone else doesn’t like your writing. You’re not writing for them, you’re writing for you. Just keep at it.
  6. When you go to cross country practice, actually run.  Don’t walk the course. Trust me, actually running during practice makes a big difference when you get to the meets.
  7. You don’t need to follow every piece of advice you see in fashion magazines. You will have your own style if you just let yourself be you. You don’t need to try and become some sort of carbon copy of an ad in a magazine.
  8. Don’t wear second-hand makeup. Just because grandma liked that one concealer stick for a while before getting rid of it doesn’t mean it will look good on you. She tossed it because it looked orange. You’ll have orange dots on top of your zits. Just don’t.
  9. Don’t bother worrying about what the cool kids are doing, or trying to impress them. Just because they’re cool right now, this very moment, in your grade school, does NOT mean they’re going to be cool everywhere you go. And who knows, someday when you’re in your late 20’s you may just open up the paper to see surveillance video images of one of those cool kids, with an article saying they’re wanted in relation to a string of small robberies and dealing meth to high school kids.
  10. Don’t keep a diary. Your sister and cousin will find it and read it and mock you for months about it. Keep a journal of creative writing instead. At least if they try to mock you about that, they won’t have any personal information to try and use against you, like the name of your crush while he’s standing right there next to you.

Myself in High School

  1. You know that kid with the bleached yellow hair on your bus that creeps you out and makes fun of you as soon as you move to that school? He doesn’t matter. So what if he doesn’t like you. You don’t like him anyway, so why the hell should his opinion of you matter? You think his friends are pretty cool, so don’t let him push you to be an outcast. You’ll find out much later in life that a lot of the things he tells you, and a lot of the things he says other people think and say about you, are complete lies.
  2. When you meet that cute weird guy who randomly sings to himself in class and is a total goofball, the one you wind up with a crush on for four freaking years, just talk to him. Anything. Try “hi, I’m new here”, or “what are you singing” maybe. Just say anything.
  3. And when you that boy comes to talk to you after an embarrassing drama presentation, let the boy talk! It doesn’t matter if you’re upset and crying, find out what he has to say! Otherwise, you’re just going to hear more lies from that damn yellow-haired boy and you’ll just admire the adorable goofball from afar for the rest of high school.
  4. Just because a guy likes you, doesn’t mean you have to date him. And if you do choose to date someone, the second he tries to tell you what you’re “allowed” to do as his girlfriend and who you’re “allowed” to be friends with, suddenly remember that you’re not “allowed” to date a controlling, manipulative jerk and leave. You don’t need that in your life.
  5. Just because you get picked on doesn’t give you carte blanche to pick on others. You don’t get some special “get out of jail free” card that lets you make fun of other people and be a general asshole to them just because you get picked on too. You’re better than that.
  6. You want to play the guitar, then practice! It doesn’t matter if you’re family laughs at you, or your boyfriend says you suck. If you like it, do it.
  7. Keep writing. Every chance you get, write. Challenge yourself to become better.
  8. You’re really smart, and that’s a good thing. Don’t get pressured into dumbing yourself down. Don’t take lower level classes just because they seem easier, or you won’t have to study as much. Work your ass off, get good grades, join a club or a team. Don’t let others pressure you into being less than you really are.
  9. When adults give you advice based on where they see the world going because of the introduction of the internet, nod and smile politely and just keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll tell you right now, the entirety of world news is not being handled by a few dozen journalists for only three newspapers worldwide. People still buy books and magazines, and now there are blogs and social media you can look forward to. Throw yourself into your writing, throw yourself into all new social media as it emerges. The internet is going to open up opportunities for you, not destroy them like you’re being told. Just keep going with the flow, stay true to you, and keep doing what makes you happy.
  10. You have a lot of passions building inside you that you are completely allowed to immerse yourself in, even if your ideals and interests are nothing like those of the people around you. Learn about politics, even if yours are different than your parents. Dabble in vegetarianism on your own terms. Chop off your hair, dye it, pierce your nose and your ears and wear black eyeliner every day if that’s what makes you happy. Read and write as much as possible, even if it’s all nothing like what everyone thinks you should be reading and writing. You have a heart and a voice that need to develop, and they will be yours and yours alone. Don’t let the people around you tell you that your mind is wrong because it’s not like theirs. Variety is the spice of life, and you’re more “cayenne pepper and cilantro” than the “salt and pepper” you’re being fed. Stay true to you.
  11. When it comes to choosing what to do after high school, look at ALL of your options. You’re going to have some people with very strong opinions, people who think they know what’s best for you, and you will pressure you into doing what they think is right for you. You don’t have to listen to them. You will have the money to apply to school and programs you want when others refuse to pay your application fees unless you do what they think is best for you. You can look at other universities, other cities, other countries. Look at college, look at taking a year off if you’re unsure. Look at scholarships and bursaries so you have some degree of financial independence. Don’t just look at what you feel you’re supposed to look at because that’s what you’re told you’re supposed to do. There is a huge world out there, with endless opportunities at your age. No choice is completely right or wrong, as long as it’s your choice and you make it for yourself.

Myself after high school (19 years old and my early 20s)

  1. “Ninja” is not an occupation. No one in this country gets paid to be a “ninja”. You really shouldn’t be impressed that a guy claims to be a “ninja”.
  2. No one owns you. No one has total and complete say over what you do except for you. Don’t let someone convince you that they know entirely what’s best for you. Yes, you can listen to opinions, but you have the final say.
  3. The second a man lifts his hand to you, leave. You’re not going to calm him down by staying with him. He’s not hitting you because he loves you and you screwed up somehow. He’s only going to get worse.
  4. Save some damn money! There’s no shame in working retail or food services. But don’t go blowing your measly paychecks eating out and hitting the bars. When your car breaks down, gas prices go up, you want a tattoo (which you never did get because you had no money, btw), and you walk through the soles of your favourite boots, you’ll be glad you had money saved in the bank.
  5. Go get your Smart Serve and apply for bartending jobs. If not, people will be telling you for years that with your personality, you would’ve made a great bartender. So just do it, find out if they’re right. Bartenders make great tips, and you don’t have to work in one of those sleazy clubs downtown either. There are great places and restaurants all over this town, despite what people will try to tell you.
  6. If your parents are offering to pay for schooling for you, take them up on it. You don’t have to commit yourself to full-time classes, and you don’t have to plan out your entire future this very second. Take the classes you want to take. Work part-time. Study hard. Learn more about yourself without the student loans you would otherwise have to take out. Even if you don’t wind up in a career in that field, or you change your major a few times, you’ll learn more about yourself and open your mind to new ideas and experiences.
  7. Keep writing. Find others who write. Learn from each other. Ask for help. Challenge yourself. Embrace your position at a local magazine, find a mentor there. Enter contests. Get rejected. Learn to deal with the rejection. And then write some more.
  8. Don’t settle. Doesn’t matter if it’s guys or jobs or school, don’t settle. Explore the world, go for the jobs you want, and never date any guy who isn’t worth your time.
  9. If you still haven’t decided on schooling yet, do some damn research. Don’t just pick a program because your parents want you to take it, or it’s only one year to get a certificate, or your friends are looking at it. Look at the schools, look at the programs. Figure out which ones interest you. And for the love of all things sacred, do some damn research into how the hell you’re going to pay for all this too! Don’t just rely on student loans.
  10. You parents aren’t going to like every guy you bring home. But if they really, truly seem to hate a guy, hear them out. There may be something about him that you can’t see at the time. As outsiders to the relationship you know you pretty well, they may pick up on certain behaviours from him early on that can turn into something major later. Basically, if your parents don’t like a guy because when he snaps you jump, they’re worried about what will happen that one time he snaps and you don’t jump. And that time does happen, it’s not pretty, and it’s damn painful.

Me in my late 20s.

  1. Seriously, I know you didn’t look into all your options when it comes to financial aid, and you’re going to finally go back to school. Before you apply for those loans, look at ALL your options. Yes, you can still get the loans, but you need more than that so that you don’t wind up $59,000 in debt by the time your degree is done.
  2. While you’re at it, look at scholarships and bursaries again. There’s always new stuff out there, and now that you’re a mature student you qualify for a bunch of new ones.
  3. You should still be writing. It doesn’t matter if other people think it’s a waste of time, or if you’ve never had anything published before. It’s what makes you happy. Start a blog, sign up to write reviews for websites, anything to keep you busy. Enter contests. You could make a bit of money off of it too, which could help pay for school.
  4. Keep up with new social media. Take classes in it, if you can. As much as people groan and complain about it, and think it’s just some silly fad, there are going to be people paid decent money to manage the social media for companies and corporations soon enough.
  5. If it saves you money, there’s no shame in living with your parents while you’re a student. This goes doubly true if you’re getting student loans, so that loan money doesn’t get eaten up by rent.
  6. While we’re talking about your loans (yeah, this is a huge thing for you later in life), don’t spend them all! Every time you get a loan, put some away in savings. If you’re working while you’re in school, put a little bit of each paycheck down on your loans. Start paying them back while you’re still in school.
  7. Make a damn plan. Then a backup plan. Then a backup plan for your backup plan.
  8. Build your resume. You don’t need 7 volunteer position in two years that you barely show up for. One or two that you’re really committed to, that shows you have the dedication and a good work ethic, and prove that you’re willing to go above and beyond (by volunteering outside of paid work, in this case) go a long way on a resume.
  9. You only need one credit card. And pay it off! Don’t carry a balance. Debt just builds and builds and builds until suddenly it feels like it’s smothering you. You don’t need that on top of your student loans. Use your credit card for emergencies and online shopping only.
  10. Ok, if you’re going to go back to school as a “mature student”, then take it seriously dammit! You’re not there to live that student life and blow off class to go to frat parties. Yes, you can have fun. But you’re paying a tonne of money to be there, and you need to do well. At some point, you’re going to have to think about graduation and grad school and your future. There’s so many more option open for you if you just do your damn job as a student and work your ass off. You’re good at it, so freakin do it.

Me in my 30’s (now)

  1. Save your money. Save up as much as you can. Just start stashing it away and don’t spend it. You’ll need it soon.
  2. Do whatever you can to pay off those credit cards. If it means moving back in with your parents for a while to save on rent, then just do it. Swallow your pride and do what you have to do.
  3. Retail is not a bad job. Stop thinking to apply for that job at the liquor store is beneath you. You wind up loving it and you’re damn good at it. Just because you have degrees doesn’t mean you’re going to find another job anytime soon.
  4. You’re going to get rejected for a lot of jobs. Like, a tonne. Some of them are going to damn near destroy you. Learn to handle the rejection and just keep applying.
  5. You still need to write. Even if everyone else thinks it’s a stupid waste of time, a hobby you should’ve grown out of years ago, keep at it. Find websites to write for. Write reviews. Write short stories. Blog. Whatever keeps you writing, do it.
  6. Spoiler alert: you hate living with roommates! Seriously, it drives you insane. All you want in life is to get a place where you can walk from the bathroom to the bedroom naked after your shower, and not have to talk to random people every time you want to use the microwave. All that money you should’ve been saving would make a great downpayment on a little house in the area right about now, wouldn’t it?
  7. You are going to fall madly, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love. He will be perfect for you in every single possible way. He knows when you’re sad and cuddles up to you to cheer you up. He loves to curl up on the couch to watch tv or while you read a good book. Yes, he will do things to piss you off sometimes. Yes, you two will fight. But there is literally nothing in the world you wouldn’t do for your one true love, your Bowser Kitten. From the moment you bring him home, he has your heart. You will spend the rest of his life trying to better yourself to provide a better life for him. And yes, he will eventually learn to love curling up in your lap while you’re on the computer. Just give him time.
  8. You’re going to lose grandma. You’ll almost lose mum. Your brother is going to move to another continent for a while. You’ll lose one fuzzy brother but gain two new fur siblings. You’re going to be faced with the people you love and the heart disease, and cancer, and depression, and addictions, and mood swings. A lot of shit is going to happen in a very short time, and it’s going to feel like you can’t handle it all. Hang in there, you’ll get through it.
  9. Speaking of all that heart disease and cancer: take care of yourself better! Once you quit smoking, don’t start again! Cut back on the drinking. Get up off your ass and exercise. Make smoothies and fresh muffins. Learn to eat better and move more. You’re already going to spend a lot of time sitting down while you write. Throwing in a bunch of soda, junk food, and red wine in the mix isn’t going to help much. In fact, it will only serve to exacerbate the genetic betrayal that is your legacy. So get up, right now, and take a walk. Do some yoga.
  10. Seriously, you and your Work BFF have a tonne of material in your heads. Be goofy. Make Vines. Make YouTube videos. Do stand-up.




Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.


Student Loans: Don’t Let Them Ruin You

So it’s no secret that I’ve financially screwed myself over in the last few years. I’m sitting here watching people all around me pay off their debts, or even graduate with hardly any debt at all, while I feel like I’m sitting in the corner with a huge dunce cap covered in dollar signs.

What infuriates me, though, is when these same people talk to me about how they did that. So many of them were there with me when I was screwing myself royally, and not a single one offered any useful advice! Now they’re all like, “Well I mean I OBVIOUSLY paid the interest off every semester. Doesn’t everyone?”

No! We don’t! Because we didn’t know that was a thing that we should be doing! Those of us who are in the financial sinking ship I’m trapped in had no idea how bad things would be. I mean, I knew the basics about spending and saving and such. I read The Wealthy Barber in college, and got my obligatory copy of The Debt Free Graduate at orientation. I had the knowledge. I just had no clue how bad things could get after school was done.

Like so many others, I had the “I’ll have a degree and that will get me a job” fallacy stuck in my head. I thought that once I was working, I’d make enough money to get a dinky little apartment and start paying off my loans pretty quickly. I didn’t think that I’d be making $100K right out of the gate or anything, but I at least thought that I’d have a full-time job in something related to my degree that paid me enough to live AND treat myself sometimes AND pay off my debts.

**queue laughter**

I know, I know: I was so naive!! Looking back, I should’ve done so much more research into my finances, my financial options, and financial obligations. Obviously I didn’t, and instead relied on the horrible advice I was so prone to taking from well-meaning friends. So what were some of the things I didn’t know back in the day?


I blissfully collected my student loans (OSAP, where I’m from) for 5 whole years. When I had a bit of money left over at the end of the semester, I’d think, “Gee, isn’t this great!  A few hundred bucks I didn’t manage to blow on energy drinks and 7-11 hotdogs! I’d better spend it now before the next loans come out.”

Dumbest. Idea. Ever.

It doesn’t matter how big or how small the payment you can make: if you have ANY money you can put towards your loans before you absolutely have to pay them back, put it towards your loans! It doesn’t matter if it’s a government loan, line of credit, or private loan. If, for whatever reason, you know you absolutely CANNOT put money towards your loan a bit early (penalties, contract terms, etc), put what you COULD put towards it into a savings account. Then, that very first payment you can make will be a bigger one with all of that extra money put towards this.

Why does this help? I mean, what’s the point of paying back money if they’re just going to give you more money anyways, right? Well, because of INTEREST, my darlings. If you get a $1,000 loan, and can pay $150 towards it right away, that leave only $850 collecting interest. Interest which you will have to pay back later. Every little bit counts when you’re trying to pay things back.


Ok, so this goes back to the first point a little. I didn’t need my splurges. Yes, everyone needs to treat themselves sometimes. And I honestly thought I was doing very good with the budgeting. Every semester I would divide up my money, and only give myself access to what I had budgeted each month. I’d have enough for rent, phone, credit card bills (mostly), and other little things like groceries and transportation. I thought managing my money like this made me a Real Grown-Up.

Now, I had some friends who blew through their money fast on big ticket items. They bought crappy used cars that barely ran, a brand new mattress (when they had a perfectly good one already), state-of-the-art computers, and Texas Mickeys (those comically large  bottle of booze at the liquor store that come with a pump because they’re too big to pour from, for those who don’t know). Compared to them, I was a flippin financial genius.

But just because I seemed financially savvy compared to them didn’t mean I actually WAS. I blew money on the stupidest things sometimes. I mean, just the amount I blew on energy drinks, over-priced take-out food, over-priced lattes, and bottles of wine that were outside of my price-range……. well, I think I might just cry right now thinking about that. And all of that money still needs to be paid back!

I used to tell myself, “Well, the money is there. I’ll be able to pay it back later. I may as well enjoy myself now before I end up some corporate shrill who forgets what fun is.” Yeah, that doesn’t happen. On graduation day, you are still the same person you always were, with the same ideas of fun, but now you have that debt hanging over your head. Would I still like to splurge on a nice bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel and a pair of Doc Martens’? Oh hell yes! Can I afford that now, after racking up all that debt which was partially made up of things like that? Not a freakin chance!


I was one of the many who lived under the delusion that having my BA(H) would mean companies would be falling all over themselves to hire me. I mean, I have a degree! An honours degree! I should be making the big bucks here!

Yeah, I’m a Customer Service Representative at a government -owned specialty store. And I’m not the only one with a degree working here! I lost track of the number of other CSR’s I’ve met just in my city who are educated people, with degrees (PLURAL, EACH!!!!!) who are still working behind a cash register. Not that it’s a horrible job or anything…….. but we were under the assumption that we would be a bit higher up the food chain once we shelled out all that money for a degree. At least, that’s what we were constantly told anyway.

At my current job, I make under the provincially mandated minimum annual wage to be forced into making payments on my loan. This means I make so little money, the government basically says, “Here, you need this more than we do. Keep your change for now.” I have been out of school 3 1/2 years and have not yet had to make a payment (not that I haven’t, but that’s a whole other post).  I keep a roof over my head, food in my belly, and nip on my cat’s scratching post. But not much more than that.

Even with two degrees, a college certificate, and advanced Microsoft training, the competition is so fierce for jobs that I can’t find a better paying job at the moment. I know that will change. I know that someday (soon, hopefully) I will be making enough to not only be FORCED to make payments on my loan, but to AFFORD to make them. But it’s going on 4 years now of job hunting. I know people who are 5 and 6 years in, still working retail or call centers. It sucks, especially after shelling out all the (borrowed) money. But it’s reality, Sunshine.


Well, it’s getting late. Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend is passed out in bed (he has to be up in 6 hours for yet another 10 hour day at work), and my baby Bowser kitten is right by his side. I’d better finish up this post, and this glass of Cab Sauv, and curl up with them while there’s still some bed left to sleep on. I know this post seems a little depressing, but it’s meant as a warning. Don’t make the same mistakes I did: let me be the terrible warning for you! You just do your thing, keep on keeping on, and try to do life the very best you can. Until next time, keep on smiling Sunshine.


The Goal Setting Challenge

Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has quite a bit of debt. Not as much as me (thanks Student Loans!!), but still quite a bit. When he moved in with me the beginning of the month, we agreed that I would handle all of the finances. Because you know, Criminology majors are known for their fancial prowress??

Considering how much debt I have (but how much effort I’ve put into making all my bill payments and paying some things off in the last few years), this is pretty much like the extremely near sighted leading the blind.  So, I’ve started to do what any responsible failed grown up would do: I’m marathoning Princess and anything else Gail Vaz Oxlade has put out on TV. I’ve got my little pad of paper here, taking notes on things she recommends to help people realize how much debt they’re in, and how they can get out of it.

A lot of it is simple: make a budget, get your credit report, have a resume. I’m good at these things. I’ve been working on a budget with AAB, and am pulling out old resume templates to show him the info I need to put a resume together for him. I even found where we can get our credit reports and scores, and am working on that for both of us.

The one challenge that always  stumps me, though, is the Goal Setting Challenge. The challenge itself is quite simple. Gail has the girls look at their life, and what they are doing to earn money. Quite a few of them have started and dropped out of a few different college programs, some are working the bare minimum amount of hours they can, and others just have absolutely no direction in their lives. So Gail has them sit down and look at what they want for a career, and how to set goals to achieve this. Some of them get to try out a career, others get a kick in the butt to go out and get a new job, and a few have gone on to get the requirements needed to advance in their current jobs.

That is where I get completely lost.

You see, since my goals and dreams fell apart years ago (THAT’S a long story for another day!) I’ve had one hell of a time trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life. That’s pretty much step one of setting a goal for this challenge: knowing what the hell your goal is!

I’ve been putting myself out there with resumes, but as time goes by since graduation it seems like I’m getting fewer and fewer responses. I have no clue what it is I want to do with my life if I could have a dream job. And even if I could figure that out, I have no clue how I could afford to go out and get qualified for anything. The career I’m in at the moment has absolutely no way for me to work harder towards advancement, because about 95% of all upward mobility is based on seniority (and I’m near the bottom of the bunch for that).

So what the hell do I do?

This is something I’ve been looking at for myself a lot lately, Sunshine. Basically, I’m a Lost Girl. As fun as that title makes it sound, it’s not all rooster crows and Bangarang here. I’m looking at having no career, no direction, and no purpose in life. It’s damn scary!

So, you’ll see a bit more from me about this whole goal setting thing while I try ot figure out how to make it work for me. And maybe soon, I’ll tell you about that whole “I had a career in mind and worked towards it, only for it to completely fall out from under me, leaving me kinda dangling here wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life” story.



Time to Buy Your Textbooks!

Beginning of every semester, the dreaded textbook list comes out. No matter how interesting the class, how interesting the textbook, how interesting the knowledge is, no one wants to shell out hundreds of dollars on books they will barely ever use. I love books. I collect books. I have a big collection of Stephen King and William Gibson books taking up a whole shelf on one of my bookcases. And I have bought textbooks that cost more than what I spent on that entire shelf.

You don’t have to spend hundreds (or into the thousands, for some people) on textbooks every semester. I didn’t know most of this until my final semester of University, but there are a tonne of ways to save money! Here’s some to help you out.

Check Your Library

At my school, the professor always had one copy of the textbook saved at the library. We weren’t allowed to check it out and take it home, but we could use it in the library. I saved so much money once I figured that out! There will always be those textbooks marked “recommended” on the syllabus that you really don’t want to buy, but often times do. I just went to the library, spent a few hours reading and taking notes, and saved myself $180 on two books we barely used. Check with your professors to see if they do this to. From what I’ve been told, many schools do this.

Thrift Books 

I found this site while looking for a cheap place to buy novels online. I found this place to be usually cheaper than Amazon, and they have a tonne of textbooks! While helping a friend look for a cheaper alternative to her $200 Forensics textbook, I found it on here for $35. That’s a savings of $165!

Textbook Revolution

Now this site is doesn’t have a whole tonne of books on it. But the textbooks on there are free, somewhat. Each textbook link takes you to an outside site to download from. Some are free. Some you have to pay a fee for. While I didn’t find any textbooks that I have used in the past, I did just find a bunch of books on presentations, statistics, and conflict resolution that all linked to the same site. That site has a 30 day free trial if you link to them through this site, which means you can just download everything you need without paying the $3.99 monthly subscription fee.


Be careful with what you find on here. WikiBooks, while a great resource, is just like Wikipedia: anyone can create an account and edit its content. There also isn’t a whole tonne of content on here. That being said, this is a great site for those times you don’t understand a concept, and just need extra clarification


This site is almost completely lacking in Arts & Social Science books, but they still have a tonne of great textbooks. Everything in their “Textbook” section is free, thanks to their sponsors. And everything in their “Business” section has a small cost. From what I saw while poking around, they have a monthly fee you can pay to get all the business books you need for less than $5. That might be worth it for some people out there.

Free Book Spot

Now, I’m addicted to this site even though I’m not in school any more. The amount of textbooks they have on topics I had wanted to study in school but couldn’t find a class for is just huge! Just clicking on the “Sociology” section brought up three or four books on serial crimes (a major topic of research for) that I couldn’t find in the libraries in my city! This site is fantastic, and is definitely worth looking through if you want to find textbooks online.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg has an online catalogue of more than 50,000 books. Most of them are not textbooks, but this is still a fantastic resource. I used this my final semester when looking for literature in a few English classes. Just bare careful, this site tends to be a huge time suck, trapping you in its clutches for hours while you look through lists of related books. Browse at your own risk!


I find this site bizarre and can’t seem to close the tab it’s in right now. It has a real old-school look and feel to it. I haven’t found any useful textbooks on it yet, but I did find a whole bunch of books that I’ve heard of and possibly wanted to read at some point. This site may take a while to get used to before I can figure out just how useful it is.

Renting Your Textbooks

Now this is one thing I could never bring myself to do. I tended to be quite hard on my textbooks sometimes, and some sites have strict policies on damages and penalties. This is great is you don’t transport your books to class much, can keep them safe, and don’t mind not being able to write or highlight in your books.

  • Textbook Rentals has a huge selection, and categories that make it easier to find what you’re looking for. This is the first site I’ve seen with an easy to find Criminology section, which also had textbooks that I actually used.
  • Cheapest Textbooks is very easy to navigate if you have the book list in front of you. It also has options to buy or sell your books, and FAQ pages to help you figure out if renting or buying is the best option for you.
  • Book Renter seems to have a pretty big selection too, and has the same navigation options as Cheapest Textbooks, letting you search for books my name, author, or ISBN. The browsable categories at the bottom were really weird to move through, and didn’t have all the options I needed.

Second Hand/Used Textbooks

If you don’t want to give out credit card information online, or don’t have a credit card to purchase or rent your books with, then there are other ways you can still buy second hand textbooks.

  • Many schools have a used book store, or certain days when they have used book sales. Just make sure you are getting an edition of your textbook that you can use. Many people get rid of old textbooks after the professor has announced they are switching to a newer edition.
  • Facebook groups are awesome once you find the ones you’re looking for. I found three groups for people looking to buy and sell their textbooks. A lot of times, they even threw in their old notes, or had advice about the class or professor.
  • Online buy and sell sites like Kijiji often have people on them looking to sell their books. For some reason, I’ve always found that the books on there are more expensive than the other Used Textbook options.
  • Check with friends and classmates to see if they’re willing to part with their old books. Again, if they took the class before you, they may have some advice on how to get through it best. And it helps to know who you can go to when you need help understanding something, too.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. Does anyone else have a great resource for saving money on textbooks? I love hearing from you all, sunshine!


Do You Have A Plan?

I mean beside, “Graduate, find a job, make money”.

So many students go into their post-secondary schooling without any sort of plan in place. It’s almost like they’re on autopilot. Going to college or university just seemed like the logical next step after graduating high school, or not finding their dream job after a few years.

There’s also the outside pressure from friends, family, and “experts” to get some sort of degree. It’s like people seem to think that getting some sort of piece of paper will make the job offers come flying in. I’ve even heard the “advice” that it doesn’t matter what your degree is in, as long as you have a degree.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Now, you don’t need to have a concrete plan, set in stone, laying out every educational and career move you plan to make in the next five years. You should have some sort of idea of what you’re getting yourself into. You can’t go into this whole “planning the rest of your life” thing blind.

Do you have an idea of what career you want after graduation? If so, that’s great! Make sure you’re on the right track to get there. (I’ll have a whole post next week about how to do this) Not so much? That’s ok too.  Not everyone knows exactly what they want out of life. The main things to focus on are to not panic, and to not pigeon hole yourself into such a small niche that you have no options to look to.

Do you have a major topic of study? Many students spend a year or two as an “undeclared” major, or in a “general arts/science” program. And that’s perfectly fine. If you’re not sure of what you want, then don’t rush into something you could totally regret. It’s perfectly fine to take a variety of courses in order to find out what it is that really gets you going. You may find that you have an undiscovered love of statistics, or geology, or quantitative research. Taking a little time to explore could help you discover your true passions.

Do you have no idea whatsoever what you want to do, but you’re in school anyway because it’s what you’re supposed to do? Then maybe you need to take a little time out here. So many people get pushed into university by well-meaning people and advice, when what they would benefit most from is going into a skilled trade. Or they rush into getting a degree when what they really want is to be a chef. Or they get a job with a company, and would love to just work their way up the chain there, but are pressured to give that up to go to school.

Not everyone needs to run out and get a degree! If you really have no clue what you want to do, or you have a career goal that some seem to see as non-traditional, then maybe you need to take a little time off to figure things out. Some people travel, or take time to explore different career options. I’ve known people who took time off and worked for cruise lines, department stores, garages, fast food restaurants. Some of them found a career path they loved. Others found something they thought they would love, and instead hated with the fiery passion of a thousand supernova-ing suns. Either way, they found something about themselves, and were able to either create or narrow-down their career path.

So do you have a plan? If so, congrats! You’re ahead of myself, and about 3/4 of the people I know. You don’t? That’s ok too. Just make sure not to pigeon hole yourself out of options.


Budgeting Part 2: Student Loan Edition

When you have a steady income (or any income at all), it’s a little easier to make a budget. Basically, you make sure that “money going out” is never more than “money coming in”, and that all your bills are paid. But what about when you get paid only once?

For many students, the lump-sum student loan is their only real source of income for an entire semester. Somehow, these students need to make sure that this money last them for months at a time, while still paying for essentials like rent and food. While it’s difficult to do, it’s entirely possible (just damn near impossible) to do this.

1) Pay off ALL the school things

That money is for your education. Before you drop a dime on anything else, make sure your education is paid up. That means paying your tuition, buying (or renting) your textbooks, paying for any incidental fees (meal plan, residence fees for on-campus living, health plans, etc)…… ANYTHING that would impact your ability to go to classes and then stay in school until your degree/diploma is done. Some schools won’t let you register for the next semester until all your fees are paid up.

And, before you ask, yes you will need textbooks. You can’t (for the most part) just copy down notes from class and learn from there. Depending on your school, you could have a lot of options. Some schools have a used bookstore, or let you rent books. Others keep a copy of every textbook in the library.  Make sure you know all of your options and make a real, possible to follow, plan of action for your semester (ie., don’t just think you can photocopy other people’s books).

2) Now for monthly expenses

Make sure you have money for all those bills you need to pay off every month. Add up your monthly bills, then multiply that number by the number of months your loan has to last you. THAT number is how much you need to set aside, at the very least, to get you paid off each and every month.

3) Divide up what’s left 

Any and all money you have left after taking out the monthly expenses….. THAT is what you have to work with for the rest of the semester.  This is your groceries, your coffees, your shopping, your emergency money, your going out money. So how do you manage this?

With math!

Take the money, and just divide it. You could divide it by the number of months it has to last, or the number of weeks. Hell, divide it by the number of days you need it to last, if you really want to go that far. No matter how you work it, just divide it up and stick with that number. So you get $350 a month? Then that’s it, that’s all you get for each entire month.

Now, divide that number up however you want. Do you want just a set number you can spend each week? Then divide by the number of weeks in the month, and there you go! Another great idea is to divide your money up by what you need it for. Figure out what you’ll need/want to spend money on (food, clothing, going out, emergency fund, etc). Then, figure out how much you need for each of these things. You can always reassess your needs each month and adjust things if you need to (say, you realize you need more than $15 a week for groceries, or you can’t spend $0 on entertainment and not feel like you’re going crazy).


Every time you go over budget this month, that’s less money you have every month for the rest of the term! If you have no other source of income, then you have to steal from your future self to pay off your present self. Want to overspend on this month’s clothing budget? Then it comes out of your clothing budget for next month. Same goes for groceries, entertainment, and every other little thing you spend money on.

Remember, it’s always better to under spend than over spend. If you have extra money left over at the end of the month, you don’t have to run out and spend it right away. Add it to next month’s budget. Stick it in your piggy bank (you’re never too old for a piggy bank). Save it for the end of the semester, to use to blow off some steam after exams. It’s always better to have that little extra left to save for later, than to be scrambling to get by on $75 for your whole last month because you kept over spending.