How Facebook Can Be Your Friend

What is a friend? The first dictionary definition is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. The second is a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter. It is using this definition that you are a friend of Facebook. I am personifying a website but the idea remains the same. You support Facebook’s business by using it, then Facebook can put small ads on the side of your screen to make money for them self. Soon they will also make money by selling stock, a lot of money. But Facebook has almost one billion friends, so you are but a single speck of sand on the beach that is Facebook. They do not need you. You do not need them either, but they make a lot of things easier.

The few people I know who do not have a Facebook account often claim that it is just a waste of time, that they are not productive because of it. I can attest to this. While writing this I will probably check the news feed twice, and I am not really sure why. I may see a funny status, or a cool quote, but it really won’t add much value to my life. It does allow me to keep tabs on people I otherwise wouldn’t, but anybody that was really important to me would not require Facebook to stay in touch. I do not know the business proposition of Facebook or anything. I just know that lots of people including myself use it. That is good enough to me, so I do not question it.

But Facebook is not your friend. There are no feelings of affection there. There is a way though, if used properly that Facebook can give you assistance and support you. I mentioned earlier the ads on the sidebar of Facebook. Have you noticed these? If you are like me, most of the ads are for stupid games. I always click on a little x on these ads, which over time will hopefully make game ads stop appearing. I do see more ads about sports now, they get ad ideas from things that you like. So if say, you like Poor Student (hint) you may get more ads about student credit cards, or debt forgiveness,just examples. I have liked a few sports teams, a few personal finance things, a few fitness things. One ad I see a lot is “8 Muscle Foods For Men”, another is “Earn From Home”.

Facebook is starting to learn that I like making and keeping money. I see ads about coupons or deals, about contests, etc. But once I saw an ad for some paid surveys. I think the ad said “$35+ for taking our survey”, or something to that effect. Skeptical, I clicked on it. it was a University of New Brunswick research survey offering exactly what it said it would. I was paid $35 for taking a half hour survey or so. And it included invitations to be surveyed again every six months for increasing compensation each time.

The ads on the side can be lucrative like this if you keep your eyes open. An open mind lets opportunities in. This is just one way Facebook can reward you.

In Canada a new company has just started that connects businesses to people with social networks. Likenet rewards users for liking businesses on Facebook, or following on Twitter, etc. It works through your Facebook account so it is a good way to have Facebook working for you.

I also try to double up my benefits by being rewarded just for getting to the site. Every time I go to Facebook I search for it with Swagbucks, a search engine that rewards you for using it. So simply by going to Facebook I can earn some money.

Facebook does not have to be just a time killer, although that is what it is best for.  I have benefited from it. Although my number of friends did not go up, just by thinking differently, I can now say that my relationship with Facebook is mutually beneficial and Facebook is now my friend as well.

Student Budgeting

When most students (and everybody I am guessing) hear the word budget, I am guessing it is considered a chore, or a much stronger word if you are thinking it and not saying it, or if they are alone. But there is no need for a student budget to consist of every little expense they may have, it does not have to take more than 5 minutes.

I personally do almost all my banking online. The only reason I ever go into a branch is to make deposits, which is why I like going to the bank, or if for some reason I need cash and do not have any. So I can log into my bank’s website and see how much money I have, 24/7. If you do not have online banking this method may not be the best for you. Side note, online banking is awesome and makes lots of things easier.

Now, here is the way to quickly budget.

1) After you work all summer and are preparing to go back to school, check how much money is in your account. I am hoping it is a big number, I am not one for schadenfreude.

2) Subtract any money that you would like to keep in your account. This could be money needed to maintain a minimum balance in your account like some banks require, it could be money you are saving for a trip on Christmas, spring break, or in the summer, or it can just be the amount of money you need to have to be comfortable with your finances.

3) Add any money you expect to earn from a part-time job. Use the rough calculation of: number of hours per week X (minimum wage – $3 for taxes and deductions). The $3 is a conservative number so that hopefully you end up with more money than you guessed.

4) Take the number acquired by the first three steps and divide it by 12.

This is the amount of money that you can spend each month simply from the money you earn. If you are lucky or hard-working this number will be generous and you won’t need to spend that much. If you are unlucky or among the majority this number will seem low and it may take some scrimping to keep to the budget.

When I make approximations I always try to err on the side of caution. This way any surprise will be a joyous one. As you can see the budget above is very rudimentary. This is deliberate so that hopefully you live below your means and that you end up with more money than you bargained for after the year is over. The calculations do not include your tax return, any gifts, etc.

Unfortunately this also does not include large one time costs such as tuition or any other costs associated with school. This is the downfall of such a simple solution to a difficult problem.

Then once the year is over, because you allocated all your money over 12 months, you theoretically should be able to save every penny you make during the summer. Then you can repeat the process the following September. Ideally the next monthly budget you have should be higher than your first one. That is the plan anyway.

You can make sure you are sticking to the budget by checking your balance online. There is no need to hold on to receipts. Just go online and subtract your monthly total from the amount of money you figured you could spend. Your balance should not be lower than that number.

There is no need to spend all that you allotted to a month. Learn to stop spending money needlessly just because you budgeted it. If you are having a good month it is even better to save the money you didn’t spend for that month. Any extra money you have will do much better for you if invested. In a perfect world you would also subtract an amount of money that you want to invest from your money at the start of September. But I know that can be tough. So for the time being just save any money that you have leftover.

There you have it. Very simple, very imperfect but I feel like this is a pretty good solution to something which otherwise would be very unpleasant. Even this may be unpleasant, but for the whole year it should not take more than 90 minutes assuming five minutes at the end of the month to check your balance and 30 minutes to do the original calculations.

A budget is a very agreed upon way to make sure you do not spend more money than you have. Spending less than you can is an agreed upon way to have money. So a budget should help you have money.

Avoid Student Debt To Do What You Want

There are likely more reasons to avoid student debt than Warren Buffett has dollars, or a mole has atoms, but this one to me is very important.

The Student Debt Problem

Students graduate now with over $25,000 of student debt. In Canada that is rough, but in the States there are horror stories of people graduating with over $200,000 of debt. No matter what there is a lot of debt moving into the work force.

These loans need to be paid back, luckily you will be working full-time and cashing those lottery style giant cheques every two weeks. Those payments don’t stand a chance and you will be free of them in no time! Right?

A $25,000 loan with a 4% interest rate will have $83 in interest every month plus whatever principal amount gets paid in the monthly payment. So about $100 every month. That is not so bad but save that for a year and you could have a pretty nice new laptop.

The average debt seems manageable, but any more than that and the payments can start creeping upwards. And the thing is that the more debt you have, the more money you need to make in order to pay it back. That is the point of all this.

Knowing What you Want to Do

I do not entirely know what I want to do after I graduate. Like a lot of people my aspirations have shifted many times over the years. I can remember wanting to be a professional wrestler, an NHL player, a pro football player (when I watch the CFL sometimes I insist that pro football player is still a possibility), an accountant, a personal trainer, and now I think physiotherapist. Really all I am certain about is that I am not certain about anything.

I still know that I would love to be a personal trainer. But I also really like having enough money to not worry about money. Part of the appeal of physiotherapy is that it would be a higher, more stable pay cheque. It is the more lucrative job financially. I have these thoughts without any debt. Add $25,000 debt and a dream job could be potentially ruled out.

The Debt/Income Expectation

Many go to university expecting that the years of earnings they give up will be replaced by higher earning years after graduating. I have held labour jobs and could be working one of them full-time right now, but I am in school hoping that the job I get with my degree will pay more than them. But if I had a huge debt to pay off I may be forced into a job I don’t want just to pay the bills. Beggars can’t be choosers.

I want to have no debt and even considerable savings when I graduate so that I can afford to be a bit picky, which with my degree I think I deserve. If I couldn’t get the job I trained for in a year, I want to have the choice of picking a lesser job or continuing my search for the dream job without having bills mounting up and swaying my decision.

By not having debt from school it gives the student options that otherwise are closed off. Freedom from debt leads to freedom elsewhere.

How To Save Money On Textbooks

I read a lot of advice about how to save money on textbooks. People told me to buy used, and there were likely a lot of students offering their old books, and there were ways to buy used books. People told me to buy on Amazon or at Chapters, but I could not find my particular books at any online retailer or book store. Some people told me to not buy textbooks at all, that I could get by without them, but I had illusions of reading my textbooks every night and doing all assigned homework (didn’t work out as I planned). There are a lot of theories because every single person at every single school knows that textbooks gouge you and your wallet.

I thought I was pretty wise when I went to school and I thought I knew a way that nobody had considered before. I truly thought that I was going to be the best student a university could ask for so I knew I wanted to buy all the books. I bought one book off a friend who had it and I bought the rest of my books new. I would like to not have but what happened was three of my classes required an online code that could only be obtained from a freshly new book. Any used book you bought would not have a valid code so you would be forfeiting up to 10% of the course mark. So I got screwed over into buying new books no different from books half the price.

But even though I went through this I though I still figured out a way to lessen the price. I thought I could read the books but keep them in immaculate shape and would be able to recover a lot of the price when I could sell them back for more than anybody else. I didn’t highlight one thing, I tried not to take them anywhere. But over Christmas I thought I would get ahead by studying a little extra. Simply putting my biology book in my backpack and hauling it home managed to scratch it more than I was happy with. The books are all in good shape still but I do not know what I will be able to get for them.

The Plan

Now I have told you everything I did wrong. But I do think I know a decent way to manage the price. Buy used. If the book is the same as the year before then buy it from a student a year older (you will find plenty). In Canada it is illegal to make marks exclusively available through buying a new book so you will be able to complain to the professor or administrators that you are not required to buy a new book to get a percentage of your mark. In some classes the deal was a harder assignment was weighted heavier if you did not have the online code. The online assignments the code was for were incredibly easy so you need to weigh the price of the new book over the marks it may entitle you to. But there legally has to be an alternative to marks from buying a new textbook.

Ask people from your high school where they are going. Maybe there is somebody going to your school who will be taking the courses you did, or even in your program. I was lucky to have a friend in a science program who could have sold me three books if I hadn’t needed to of them new. If you can’t find one from your old school start advertising your book early, even just after your exams finish. Post something on Kijiji or Craigslist, put up flyers at the school. Do something.You can always sell your books back to the bookstore but they will almost never give you the best offer.

Also consider sharing a book if your roommate or somebody on your floor or in your residence if you trust them. This cuts the price in half, and also gives you a study partner which will come in handy. I did not live with anybody in my program so I couldn’t try this but I think it could save a lot of money and not many people consider it. This would work especially well in second year and up if you know you will be living with somebody in your classes.

For lots of classes you can buy the older editions with no ramifications. I used a sixth edition calculus book when the rest of the class used the seventh and I managed to pass the course. Calculus hasn’t changed in thousands of years. The books get revised as a money grab. Books like math, history, music, maybe chemistry,  maybe geology, won’t change a lot in a year so older editions of the same book company should be okay. It would be good to ask your professor if this would work.

Do not highlight the book or mark it in any way. I would leave bookmarks to mark important pages and I have also seen coloured sticky notes. Different colours for dates, definitions, etc. People say highlighting helps the next person but really it is just colouring in a book. If you cover a car with graffiti you will not be able to sell it for the same price even if the graffiti is inspirational or artistic. Mark important places in the book in a way that you can remove before selling it.

And try to read the book once in a while. I found that the textbook always helped my understanding. My studying usually consisted of going through my notes and reading all the chapters on the test the day before the test. While books are expensive they do have a help.

In the end I think that my method of buying books turned out alright. I am going to try my new methods next year and logically they should work better. Knowing that textbooks are expensive is half the battle. Think of your own way to save money on them and you should be fine.