Student using ruler to plan out their productive study schedule.

5 Unproductive Things Students Do During Exams (That Don’t Involve Netflix)

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi

Ah exam season. That time of year when students everywhere teach themselves a semester’s worth of material in two weeks. It’s a testament to laziness and resourcefulness all at the same time. But there are a few especially unproductive activities students participate in while studying for exams that don’t get them anywhere. This exam season, take a good look at some of the behaviours listed below, consider the solutions, and then cut them out!

1. Obsessively Calculating What Mark You Need To Pass

It makes sense to do this – once! If you had a less than admirable semester, and you are relying on the final to turn things around it makes sense to crunch the numbers quickly to figure out if it’s even worth showing up to the exam. But once you’ve received that confirmation, ditch the calculator. (Unless you’re studying for calculus or something.)

Solution: Why do students spend so much of their study time calculating their possible marks? It’s because when they do it the first time, they calculate the best possible scenario. For example a student may think, If I get 100% on the exam, I can get an 80% in the course. While it’s great to set your sights high, it can be counter-productive this late in the game. Once the sheer magnitude of the work you have to catch up on sinks in you will keep minimizing your expectations by intervals and turning to your calculator to see how low you can go.

Cut to the chase. If you’re in a tight marks situation like this, calculate the MINIMUM mark you need in order to pass the course and then forget the number crunching entirely. Dedicate the rest of your energy to studying. You’ve already got an idea of how much work you need to put in to pass and hopefully will study enough that you earn a higher grade than that.

2. Doing Something Else While a Textbook is Open and Convincing Yourself That That’s Studying

Since we’re on the topic of exams, here’s a quick test for you.

Which of the following is an effective way to study?

a) Texting your friends that you can’t come out to study and then texting them throughout the evening about how much you have to study (with a textbook nearby)

b) Refreshing Facebook every fifteen minutes to check how many people liked your status about how you’re just gonna drop out and open a dog petting shop (with your lecture slides minimized)

c) Meeting up with a classmate at Starbucks to make study notes, post a picture on Instagram, and then decide it’s too noisy in there and postpone

d) None of the above

Answer: d) None of the above

Ditch the picture-perfect notions of studying and do not fall into the trap of thinking you’re studying just because you didn’t go out.

Solution: If you know that you will spend twelve hours at home to study on Saturday only to focus for ten minutes each hour, then be realistic. Work rewards into your study routine, and enjoy ten minutes of scrolling through Instagram guilt-free. Even if it’s mindless, it’s scheduled in and is not eating into your study time.

3. Studying With Friends Before Obtaining a Basic Understanding of the Material

Students forming a study group.
Study groups can be useful, but be careful that they don’t become an excuse to socialize with open textbooks. (Image via Pexels)

Studying with classmates is a fantastic way to discuss the material so that it is learned instead of memorized. But studying in a group can be a disaster, especially with friends. It won’t feel like a disaster at first, because you’re having so much fun. But once it’s 9pm, and you’re all tired the panic will start to set in when you think of how little you’ve absorbed for your 8am exam.

Solution: Do not assign a disproportionate amount of your study prep to a meet-up. Familiarize yourself with readings and concepts beforehand. That way, you won’t feel the temptation to get distracted during the group study session. You’ll be eager to discuss what you’ve learned and have an intelligent conversation about the material.

Bonus solution: If you really want a study session where you actually learn the material as a group – for bio or history majors that are memorizing a lot of dates or Latin names – assign chapters and come up with an activity. It could be as simple as each person coming up with 20 questions for a specific topic. As a result, each individual becomes familiar with one area and the rest can quickly learn through a quiz bowl style study session.

4. Waiting Until You Feel Like Studying

Here’s the thing: you’re never gonna feel like studying. Studying sucks. Reading’s fantastic; absorbing materials on a deadline is a pain in the ass. If you don’t feel like studying, buying nicer supplies or toting your laptop to Starbucks won’t make you feel any more disciplined. Simply recognize that it’s gonna be hard work and remember the goals that put you on this path of academia in the first place.

Solution: Commit to making notes for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen. Tell yourself you can do whatever you want after fifteen minutes – go shopping, get drunk, watch a movie – and put your phone in a drawer. Guarantee you that after the first fifteen minutes are up you won’t care to get up. And if after an hour of work you start feeling restless again, make the same “I can do whatever I want in fifteen minutes” deal. This has helped me with cleaning, exercise, dull freelance assignments, and everything in between.

5. Missing Out On Sleep

Student sleeping after studying for exam.
Get some rest. Your brain and your body will thank you. (Image via Pexels)

We live in a society that admires exhaustion. How tired you are is an indication of how hard working you are and the number of coffees you throw back is a sign that you’re busy and have shit to do. But sleep is unbelievably valuable, and like many simple solutions people just don’t want to hear, it solves A LOT of problems.

Mild anxiety about all the studying you have to do? An earsplitting headache? Hell, feeling nauseous? These are all possibly exam-related symptoms that can be addressed by getting eight hours of sleep or fitting in a quick cat nap.

Solution: If you do not usually get eight hours of sleep, you’re likely the kind of person who will go all the way down to no hours of sleep during exam season. So implement a habit of getting those full eight hours at the beginning of the exam season, instead of staying up to watch TV or go out. That way it’s a habit when things really start to pick up towards the middle and the end of exam season.

Tip: If you have trouble falling asleep, try avoiding all screens (yes, that includes your phone) a half hour to an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Make some chamomile tea to get calm and drowsy, and read a book, preferably one not related to your studies.

Here’s to a healthy and productive exam season!

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Student sits on bed and makes a budget on her laptop.

Students Can Create a Budget In Less Than 10 Minutes

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

Budgeting is the simplest proactive measure we can take to guarantee our financial security, but we don’t take it as seriously as we should.

A big reason for this is the lack of personal financial education in schools. Many of us simply aren’t taught how to handle our money by our parents. Unfortunately, our parents may not know what they’re doing either – the average Canadian has $21,348 in consumer debt, according to TransUnion. And about 56 percent of Canadians say they have less than $10,000 stored away in an emergency fund. Forty-four percent have less than $5,000 and 21 percent have less than a grand. Financial experts recommend having at least three months of expenses (the ideal is six months) tucked away to touch only in an emergency.

Making a budget doesn’t just allow you to save up for a trip; it allows you to save up for the unexpected as well. So why are a lot of us hesitant to create one?

It’s Not As Complicated As You Think

For people I’ve spoken to, the biggest reason they don’t make a budget is because they simply don’t know where to start. They don’t know whether they should be aggressively paying down their debt, stockpiling money to paying off their student loans, or living on only bread and water. So they abandon the process before they’ve even started. If you’re just starting out, here are two key pieces of advice:

  1. Don’t be extreme.
  2. Just get started.

Your budget is a flexible tool that you can adjust periodically to meet your financial changes. Create a budget that gives you room to buy the things you like and do what you enjoy. Your budget shouldn’t be a financial straitjacket. Prioritize so that you are giving up things you care less about in order to spend on the things that you enjoy.

On that note, just get started! Your first budget will not be perfect, and it will likely be a reflection of how idealistic and ambitious you are about saving money. Following a budget takes practice, so just start off simple.

Implement the 50/30/20 Rule to Quickly Make Your Budget

Uncertain about:

  • What to start saving for?
  • Whether you should tackle your debt first?
  • How much you should put towards discretionary expenses or “fun money”?

Start off with the 50/30/20 rule. It’s the budgeting rule of thumb. Only 50 percent of your income should be spent on needs (this includes rent, hydro, metropass), 30 percent on your wants, and 20 percent should go towards savings and debt repayment.

If you do not have to worry about rent because you live at home, then throw a couple of fixed “wants” in there like your phone bill. If you have the extra money, maybe start contributing a couple hundred dollars a month to your parents just to get into the habit of paying “rent”. But try not to consider your fortunate situation a free for all to allocate 80% towards wants instead of just 30%. You can even put some of that leftover money towards your savings.

It’s as simple as striking two lines across your paper and making three categories: Wants, Needs, Future. And then fill in the sectons accordingly. It’s a quick and simple process.

If you are spending too much on your needs, moving may not be an immediate option, so see where else you can shift your budget. The 50/30/20 rule serves as a no-brainer starting point that you can organically adjust to fit your personal situation.

Should I Pay Down My Debt or Build Up An Emergency Savings?

This depends on your current situation.

If you can only depend on yourself in case of an emergency (you can’t pay rent one month, you need a repair) work on building your emergency fund up first and once you have about three months, start chipping away at your debt.

If your basic needs are met and you don’t have to worry about your food or shelter, prioritize paying off your credit card debt. Interest rates on credit cards are very high and whatever interest you earn in a savings account will never outpace the money you lose paying interest on your credit card. Beat that down as soon as you can, and allocate a smaller portion towards savings.

Whichever option you choose make sure you ALWAYS MAKE YOUR CREDIT CARD MINIMUM PAYMENTS ON TIME!!! You can live with carrying a balance, but missing your minimum payments can very negatively impact your credit score.

Respect the Effort It Took To Make Your Money – You Earned It!

Setting aside a specific amount of money for eating out or shopping quickly teaches you the value of a dollar. You’ll quickly learn the price of that pre-made salad you casually buy and wonder whether it’s worth it when you can put a bit towards that dress you wanted to buy. And you’ll become much more aware of the hard work that went into earning that cash and be less willing to give it away.

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The Power of Positive Affirmations for a Happy, Successful Week

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

It pays to be positive. It’s been said that positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes, and a large part of changing your circumstances is about changing your attitude towards those circumstances.

Instead of waiting for productive change to happen overnight or for a supportive somebody to fall into your life, you can act as your own catalyst and your own cheerleader. Say affirmations out loud to yourself while you’re getting dressed in the morning or repeat them in your mind if you’re in a social situation where you feel less than adequate.

The great thing about affirmations is that they are unapologetic. They make no qualifications. We have a tendency to tack on exceptions to all of our positive thoughts or statements.

“I’m a great, funny person even though I’m a little annoying…”

“I’m gonna get a lot done this week, unless I wind up being lazy as usual and do nothing.”

Thanks in large part to their simplicity and straightforwardness, positive affirmations can be terrific for:

Boosting self-confidence.

Repeat as needed: “My high self esteem enables me to respect others and beget respect in turn.

We would never let others speak to us the way we sometimes speak to ourselves. If anyone ever told us we were a fraud, not beautiful, or not good enough, we would instantly become defensive.

If there is truth to a negative statement, repeatedly telling yourself that “you’re not good enough” is not doing anything to make you better. Identifying where you think you’re lacking and actively working towards bettering yourself (whether it’s as a student, friend, or employee) is the proactive (and preferred) approach to take. The beauty of affirmations about self-confidence is that you eventually try to live up to the positive things you’re saying about yourself.

Improving your work ethic and self-discipline.

Repeat as needed: “I’m the kind of person who just doesn’t stop until I reach my goal.

Student have a terrible habit of repeatedly saying that they are lazy, that they procrastinate, and that they are full of shit. I have been guilty of this, too. What’s the result? You end up in a situation where you constantly allow yourself to be lazy, a procrastinator, and full of shit.

Start telling yourself that you’re a hard worker, that you get things done, and that you follow through by finishing what you’ve started. Eventually, you’ll be compelled to make reality match your thoughts.

Letting go of debilitating emotions like jealousy and resentment. 

Repeat as needed: “I release and remove my envious thoughts.

You’ve heard the expression, “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Resentment, jealousy, and all their relatives are not helpful emotions. They hold us back and convince us there’s something to make us upset even when we’re feeling mostly satisfied and fulfilled. Most people know this, and want to shake this, but find it difficult to let go of injustices they feel they’ve suffered or disadvantages they’ve had to contend with.

In cases like this, affirmations are like a salve you can apply to an irritating rash. Whenever you feel the green-eyed monster creeping up behind you or the burning fire of resentment, repeat a few positive affirmations to push them out of your mind.

Helps You Recognize Your Self-Worth and Right To Be Present.

Repeat as needed: “I am a well loved and well respected person.

How many times have you been in a class where you were convinced everyone was smarter than you? At a conference or networking event where it seemed everyone was more interesting and more outgoing? These are not helpful attitudes, and they can prevent you from demonstrating your worth and brilliance.

In instances like this, whenever the cold grip of anxiety starts grabbing hold inside your chest or you feel yourself tempted to run away out of fear that you are a fraud, take a deep breath and repeat a few of these affirmations in your mind.

And if you just need an affirmation to get you though this week you can always go for the all-inclusive:

“This week I will work hard, be happy, and forgive myself for any shortcomings.”

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Featured image via Pexels

10 Acts of Self-Care For Your Extra Hour on Sunday

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi 

We often put jobs, school, and even friends ahead of taking care of ourselves. Presumably under the assumption that those other things will pay off towards our happiness in the end. But small personal sacrifices in the name of a happy boss or a perfect grade can add up, and even have a detrimental effect on our life goals. Embracing your Sunday by performing these ten acts of self-care can help set the tone for a relaxed, healthy, and fulfilling week.

1. Prepare Healthy, Delicious Meals for the Week

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Eating healthy is so much easier when you cook your meals in advance. Do all of your shopping and cooking Sunday afternoon to prepare simple, grab-and-go meals during the week. In fact, you can limit the amount of energy you put into meal prep and planning. Think about which foods you enjoy eating most and then decide to eat the same meals every day. You’d be surprised how much time this saves, and the amount of energy it allows you to put towards things you care more about.

2. Put on a Hair Mask or Conditioner (Especially If You Have Curly Hair!)

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It’s not the case for everyone, but Sundays are traditionally the laziest day of the week. Put either a store bought or homemade conditioning mask in your hair so it can soak up some essential moisture. Leave it in for as long as you think your hair needs while you do other things like prep meals or clean your room. Making sure your hair is moisturized and conditioned is especially important for keeping your locks shiny and luscious if you have curly hair.

3. Read a Non-School Related Book to Unwind

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When you’re a student and you have hundreds of pages of dense academic articles to read each week, it can be easy to forget that once upon a time you adored books. Find a book that you enjoy simply for the sake of the story and dedicate an hour to reading it. Even if it takes you a month of Sundays to finish one book, you have a weekly reminder that books don’t have to be a stressful word count you’re obligated to plow through, but an enjoyable afternoon as well.

4. Get Your Nails Done

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Nails are an underserved part of our personal appearance that others often judge us by. You could have an entire outfit perfectly pulled together, but if there is dirt under your nails or they are chipped and peeling you run the risk of failing to make a good impression on that date or interviewer. Quality nail care doesn’t require a trip to the salon and a tip. Simply keep them neat, trimmed, and filed. If you don’t care for coloured polish, put on some nail strengthening formula or a clear topcoat.

5. Do Some Stream of Consciousness Writing

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We can get so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities that it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. You may be stressing over an assignment that is worth 10 percent when there are bigger academic fish to fry. And at times we carry around a lot of anxiety without getting to the root problem of what is causing our distress. Dedicating a few minutes at the start of your week to writing your thoughts without worrying about sense, sentence structure, or punctuation, can help you get all your plans and worries down on paper where you can tackle each issue head on.

6. Take a Walk Around the Block

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Fresh air plus physical exercise is a terrific combo and a tremendous way to clear your mind. It’s also a fantastic way to explore your neighbourhood. You’d be surprised at how little you know about your community, especially if you often zoom in and out of the area to work or school. A half hour walk around the block can help you discover little local treasures and maybe even say hello to a neighbour for some much needed community connection.

7. Remind Yourself of Your Goals and Dreams

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You may have gone into Environmental Science with a dream to change the world by starting an NGO, but now you’re up to your ears in course work that it’s grown difficult to see the forest for the trees. Each Sunday, take a moment to reflect on your higher level macro goals. Taking a step back to remind yourself of what fuels your curiosity can help re-motivate you to tackle your week of part time jobs and essay writing.

8. Take a Free Class at Your Gym

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If you have a gym membership at a place like GoodLife there are a number of classes that come included in your membership. If you’re someone who doesn’t like directing their own workouts or has no clue how to use any of the equipment, find a Zumba class or a group cycling workout to get those endorphins flowing.

9. Prepare a Weekly Budget

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This is especially important if you just got paid. Decide how much you are going to spend that week before the week really starts. If you are at a complete loss as to how to allocate your money, use the budgeting rule of thumb: the 50-30-20 rule.

50 percent of your income goes to fixed, necessary expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries (although groceries can be a variable, necessary expense)

30 percent of your income goes to variable expenses like unnecessary groceries, eating out, entertainment, your cell phone

20 percent goes towards saving for your future or towards debt repayment

Doing this on Sunday can help ensure you go into the week with a more mindful, purposeful approach to your money that honours the hard work you put in to earning it.

10. Spend Some Time With Your Family

Whether we live at home or on our own, it’s amazing how little time we actually get to spend time with our families. They may drive us crazy, make us laugh, or give us a hard time, but at the end of the day they are the people we come home to (even if we don’t live with them). You can even combine quality time with your family with some of the other items on this list. Do a deep conditioning treatment with your mom. Some meal prep with your dad. Or even choose something as simple as watching a show on Netflix. It may seem small, but these cumulative moments of bonding will mean a lot later on.

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10 Solid Strategies for Beating Study-Stress

By: Francesca Kennedy | @FrancescaK_GL

With the beautiful fall colours inevitably arrives the dreaded midterm season. It’s overwhelming, and always comes much sooner that you think it will. However, there are ways to manage and even overcome this pressure. With a little practice, this stressful season gets easier.

Sleep

Late night study sessions tear deeply into important sleep time. It may seem like the assignment is your first priority, but your health should always come first.

Train yourself to put down assignments at a cut off time like midnight, and set a morning alarm to start working again. If worse comes to worse, look at the late penalties and weigh it against the quality of your writing. Is it worth getting no sleep and handing in an average paper on time, or a solid sleep and a great mark with a minimal late penalty?

Eat (mostly) Right

Keeping on the health theme, eating right will also help you manage that study stress. Eating high-protein meals will help boost your energy levels. For snacking, turn to fruits and vegetables. Preparation in advance is key to making sure you don’t slip and order pizza for the third night in a row.

That being said, everyone deserves motivational awards, so keep a box of your favourite cookies on hand for those pick-me-up moments.

Take Study Breaks

Some people follow the 50 minute work, 10 minute break rule. Others the 10 minute work 50 minute break rule. While the latter may not be so productive, study breaks are essential to keeping yourself sane and de-stressed. Walk your dog, go out to your local Tim Hortons for a coffee. Anything to get a change of scenery.

Be Visual

Different planning tools work for different people, but having a clear visual reminder of the work you need to do helps you plan your time and avoid procrastination. Calendars hung over your desk or to-do lists posted on your fridge are something physical to remind yourself to work. I would also avoid using electronic to-do lists or calendars in this case. Even though you can set alerts and reminders, it is easy to click “ignore” or simply not open the app.

Prioritize

The key to surviving midterm season is prioritization. Look at your list of assignments, and deconstruct them. Factors you may want to consider are:

Due dates: Which assignment is due first?

Assignment length: A 15 page paper may need an early start date more than a 5 page paper.

Assignment content: Is it research-based? A report? Opinion-based? Certain types of work require more or less time. Plan accordingly.

Group work: Group assignments inevitably take longer than planned.

Don’t forget to always allow for more time than you need!

Stay Active

Sitting at a desk writing all day is not good for you. Even if you don’t go to the gym or enjoy running, take five minutes every now and then to go for a walk. Wander around the neighbourhood or even pace around the house to alleviate writer’s block and avoid that stiff neck you’ll get tomorrow.

Get Social

Midterm season often translates to students locking themselves in their rooms, pouring over a pile of textbooks. Humans aren’t meant to be away from others for long periods of time. If you have group projects, try to meet up rather than use group chat, go visit a friend, or even phone your parents and talk about non-school related topics.

Find Space

This one is hard if you’re living in residence or a bachelor apartment, but well worth the effort. Try to separate your study space from your social or sleep space. Don’t work in or next to your bed because your stress will seep into other aspects of your life. Go to the library, use a study room, or even try a coffee shop for some distance.

Be Health-Proactive

Check in with yourself. Learn to recognize destructive stress patterns and find solutions that work for you. Mood-monitoring apps are a great way to do this, but so is simply having some “down-time”. Buy a book that is completely unrelated to your courses, download a new album, and dedicate some time each day to relaxing.

Celebrate

Midterm season is long and overwhelming, so don’t forget to celebrate each little accomplishment! Each step is a progression towards your success. Met your reading goal? Page goal? Assignment complete? Take a moment to give yourself the praise you deserve, and maybe one of those cookies you bought earlier.

How to Cheer for Toronto Teams on a Budget

If there’s one thing the last year has shown us, it’s that Toronto teams are working hard to make their fans proud.

But team pride and coming together means a lot of bars and, you guessed it, high bar tabs. And when you have an entire city getting hammered with you in the name of team spirit, blowing money on drinks somehow seems justified.

But it really isn’t, and your bank does not offer city pride rebates. Being smart with your money while supporting Toronto teams doesn’t mean you have to sit at home with a meal of bread and water while you wait for updates on the radio. You can definitely feel the team spirit without forcing your wallet to feel it, too.

Read the Drink Specials and Spend Accordingly

Even if you are not a big sports fan, any bar when a Toronto team is in the playoffs is infectious. Some might say this is being a bandwagoner. I call it having a good time. But that doesn’t mean you have to order the most expensive items. Take a moment to read over the drink specials. Hell, you might find you like something different (and cheap!) And even if you insist on getting your usual, you can search for drink specials based on day and drink online. 

Sip Slowly – Your Drink Isn’t Going Anywhere

If you are somebody who feels anxious about the server coming over and asking you if you want another drink, sip slowly. They are busy, and they are about their tips. So long as your glass isn’t empty they have nothing to say to you aside from a routine quality check to “see how everything’s going”. Nurse your drink. That way you won’t feel tempted to order multiple rounds just to have something in front of you throughout the evening.

Order Appetizers and See If Anyone Else Just Wants Something To Nibble On

Do a quick survey of your friends to see if people are actually hungry. Most of the time people just want something to nibble on, but convince themselves they should order a full meal. If your appetite is not feeling up to a $15 burger, ask if anyone wants to split an appetizer. Apps are less expensive, and if you are splitting it with someone it will be even cheaper.

Pick a Few Evenings to Be a Teetotaler

You are a hard core “Toronto til the death of me” sports fan who needs to watch virtually every game in a bar surrounded by your people. It’s cool. So choose a few nights to be a temporary teetotaler. Pick a few games where you just don’t drink. Even if you grab some food, your bill will still be significantly lower than a bill that includes several rounds. Your liver thanks you.

Find That Friend With Cable and Parents Who Don’t Give a Damn

I don’t think anyone with their own apartment who is under the age of 25 has cable, but this is Toronto, people. That means a large number of your friends or classmates are from the city or the suburbs and are commuters. You know what this means: houses owned by old people (love you, parents!) with cable. Now, most of those people will have parents who do not want a bunch of rowdy sports fans tearing up their living room, but there is always one with parents cool about it – or at least a friend who is willing to risk a cussing from their parents.

Buy some stuff from the grocery store, make an LCBO run, and watch the game without paying restaurant premiums. Thank their mom on the way out. Don’t spill anything.

Order a Pitcher

Go out with people who like the same drinks as you, and then order a pitcher. If you’re gonna spend money drinking, might as well be in bulk.

AND REMEMBER: Don’t drive drunk. Better passed out on the TTC than dead or a murderer. Cheers xo

Why Students Should Eat The Same Lunch Every Day

By: Neya Abdi | @neyaabdi

Everyone loves lunch. It’s a teasing taste of the freedom that’s gonna come at the end of our shift or after a long day of lectures. But there’s something to be said for deciding to eat the same thing for lunch…every day.

It Makes Packing Lunches and Eating Healthier Easier

Once you’ve created a meal – with all the food groups! – that you like and enjoy eating regularly, packing lunches and eating healthy becomes easier. You gain an increased awareness of the foods you’re consuming since you’re throwing the bare ingredients together yourself. By knowing exactly what to grab from the grocery store each week and developing a quick and easy method for preparing your food either the night before or the morning of, the process will become as automatic as brushing your teeth or hopping into the shower. (Assuming you do those things…hopefully.)

Working Over Lunch Becomes Much More Efficient

If you have a go go go mentality and like to get readings done during your lunch, you will appreciate this reason. First of all, keeping yourself fed and energized is an important part of being productive, so skipping lunch to squeeze in an extra hour of studying is not a sustainable strategy. The most productive students know this and respect their body’s needs. That being said, you can still make your lunch hour as streamlined as possible by cutting down on the amount of time you spend thinking about what you’re going to eat.

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, told Lifehacker that she eats the same thing for lunch every single day (and breakfast too for that matter!)

I try to automate all tasks that truly do not require energy. For instance, I basically eat the same breakfast and lunch every day (dinner is my fun meal). Why waste time on figuring out what I want to pick up for lunch? I know what I like, and I stick to it.

The 32 year old multimillionaire is a Harvard grad, entrepreneur, CEO, and New York Times Bestselling Author – you’d better believe she knows something about using your time wisely.

You Can Spend Less Time Thinking About What To Eat and Enjoy Your Lunch Break Instead

Remember when someone took that intense scene from The Notebook (where Noah repeatedly asks Allie, “What do you want?”) and captioned it, “Every time I ask my girl what she wants to eat…“? Whoever made that video was speaking the truth – for both girls and boys. Figuring out what you want to eat can take forever, especially when you are presented with a lot of options. And by the time you’re done making your selection (likely one of two meals you always get) and have made your way through the long line you’re only left with a little time to scarf down your food before getting back to your classes feeling like you only had a ten minute break. Spend less time staring at lunch specials and more time doing what you want with your break.

You Will Save A Lot of Money Eating The Same Thing Every Day

If you care nothing about productivity or even healthy eating, perhaps a plea from your wallet will have you seeing things differently. Instead of running to the cafeteria or going out for lunch in between classes, you can satisfy your hunger with the easy meal you put together. We spend A LOT of money eating out. A 2012 study by Visa found that Canadians who buy their lunch three times a week at an average cost of $8.80 per meal spend $1,500 a year.

That’s tuition for two classes, a round trip ticket to Europe, or at least a bad ass wardrobe. Pack a lunch.

Your Cooking Skills Will Improve

It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? If you’re making the exact same thing for lunch every single day, shouldn’t your cooking skills get worse or plateau? On the contrary, witnessing the positive results of eating the same meal every day – on your finances, on your health, and on your productivity – will make you more curious about how you can make additions or alterations to your meal. The success you’ve already experienced provides more incentive to try.

Eating the same thing for lunch every day sounds like a bland way to live, but you’d be surprised at how much time we waste deciding to eat the same three things we always do. Your life is way more exciting than what you eat at 12 o’clock and the benefits of grabbing the same salad and chicken each day may leave you wondering why you didn’t try this sooner.

Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash

A Q&A on money management with financial educator Aly Hirji

We’re more than halfway through January, and that means many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside. But a few impulse purchases are no reason to forget about your goals. In fact, they should be even more reason to get up and get back on track.

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Photo credit: Aly Hirji

Aly Hirji is a Toronto educator who focuses on Financial Literacy and Digital Technologies. Hirji is a proactive and motivated collaborator, teacher, and mentor who has implemented numerous initiatives to foster students’ academic success. He is actively involved in financial literacy workshops, career counselling, guidance on post-secondary pathways for youth and their parents, and much more. He kindly took the time to share his knowledge and advice for readers looking for ways to get serious about saving, set financial goals, and effectively manage their money.

A lot of financial advice is geared towards serious investors or families. Rarely do you see helpful articles about students and money that go beyond “buy your textbooks used”. It appears as though there isn’t a lot students can do to get serious about saving and investing aside from spending wisely. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?

I can pretty much agree that many articles – and much exposure and attention – are focused on youth, young professionals, and adults (middle age and elderly). Post-secondary students tend to be overlooked due to many factors from not fully partaking in the work force to not being a target market for financial institutions and certain products and services.

What are the biggest financial mistakes you’ve noticed that students make?

Many students do not take advantage of various funding mechanisms such as scholarships, bursaries, and grants that are easily accessible to fund post-secondary education. There is also the mismanagement of OSAP monies that students have access to after paying their tuition and fees, and feeling as if they’ve received a small lottery to enjoy and spend. I can speak from experience. I needed to ask my parents for assistance after my first few years of university. I learned that I needed to manage my money effectively and ensure that it would last for the school year. Any monies that I didn’t have to manage my loans, fees, costs of food, transportation, and clothing, came from taking on a part-time job and taking on a lighter course load of four instead of five credits per semester. This allowed me to balance my grades and effectively manage my money and that in turn enabled me to save some for the following year for any future increases in the cost of tuition, transportation, food, and school-related expenditures.

For many students or new graduates with loans – OSAP or otherwise – saving is something they believe they can only start doing after they’ve paid off their loans completely. On the other hand, tackling such a large amount of debt can leave one feeling overwhelmed or simply passive about actively paying off their balance. Do you think it is smarter to work on multiple financial goals concurrently when you are young and if so, how does one go about achieving this?

It is always good for students to manage multiple financial goals concurrently along with their other expenditures while in school. To start, a student should adjust their lifestyle and their budgeting. Start by looking at how you spend your cash and income for the month. Record all of your expenditures such as coffees, drinks, eating out, apps for your phone, etc. Then begin to determine which of these are your Needs and which are your Wants. You’ll quickly notice that many of those Wants (such as coffees, eating out) can be removed from your life. These habits will become a part of a student’s lifestyle and allow them to make more informed decisions when they make other important financial decisions regarding mortgages, car payments, managing credit card debt, and more.

Students need to understand that making good financial choices along with being disciplined about their expenditures is not only a short-term goal, but a long-term goal as well and one with impactful consequences. It’s very common for many young professionals (after undergrad and post-grad) to complain about making rent or saving for a home or car, while making poor everyday financial choices that add up.

There’s this perception that financial responsibility comes at the expense of an enjoyable life. What are some concrete strategies students and young adults can employ to strike a healthy balance between planning for the future and living in the moment?

Financial responsibility comes with making good choices and decisions. Buying a brand new car, without knowing that it will depreciate after it’s driven off the lot to purchasing a new cell phone plan with a new phone without understanding that the plan and cost of the phone is built into the cellphone plan. The same goes for doing research and shopping around for furniture or a rental unit to live in. Look at all the details and be knowledgeable through research. Access the various group benefits you have as a student through associations, parent alumni groups, and work-connected group discounts. You can enjoy life in many ways by going for walks, taking the local transit, partaking in programs offered by various community groups, and networking with alumni and various industry associations. Reading books, participating in art clubs and groups, as well as giving back to the community by volunteering are also good options. Many of these activities are free or have minimal to no costs. Start by seeing what truly makes you happy internally, and what gives you a sense of peace and balance.

I’ve come across a lot of writers online who are critical of the lack of compulsory financial education in schools. A few times a year you see posts on Facebook like, “I can tell you that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but no one ever taught me how to do taxes”. Do you believe it is necessary to incorporate lessons about budgeting and accounting into the elementary or secondary school curriculum, and what are a couple simple concepts people out of school can google or read about to start their own financial education?

Yes, it is very necessary for Financial Literacy to be mandatory in curriculum. Financial Literacy is already in Ontario Curriculum through the Ministry of Education’s Scope and Sequence that has been added to Secondary School Curriculum, but it’s all based on the educator’s comfort level, understanding, and competence to deliver the material to their classes. There are resources available through the Canadian Bankers Association’s Your Money program, The City by the FCAC (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada), Junior Achievement’s Dollars with Sense program, Investor’s Education resources, and much more. There are plenty of resources to access to complement and help deliver Financial Literacy across curriculum. In addition, reading articles by Ellen Roseman and books like The Wealthy Barber and The Intelligent Investor can help start the dialogue between teachers and their students. 

In one or two sentences each what quick advice would you give to:

A student in their last year of high school living at home with a part-time job and planning to attend a post secondary institution the following year.

I would research and apply to as many External Scholarships (prior to acceptance) and Internal Scholarships (after acceptance) to help offset the cost of post-secondary education. Your part-time job may count against your OSAP eligibility so be aware of that. Also, in regards to working a part time job, you may want to take a lighter course load or do night school so that you can better manage the part-time job and the course load and have a smoother transition.

Someone in their second year of university, living in residence, who is on OSAP and working part-time.

Consider Internal and External scholarships to offset the costs of residence and tuition. Since you’re on campus, look for work-study and part-time work on campus to help lessen the travel time between school and work. Any extra monies from the part-time job would be good to use for savings for a rainy day in the future such as paying a good chunk of OSAP upon graduation. Build your experiences related and unrelated to your field so that you can network, develop more skills, and connect with people for future jobs and advancement. Networking is very important at this stage. Also, look into post-graduate studies, but do look at the career and industry trends in the job market.

A new grad working an entry level job.

Network after work through alumni and industry events, build your group of mentors and manage your income so that you’re paying off your high interest debt first and low interest debt last. Also, any extra income from overtime, part-time jobs and so forth should be put towards any debt so that you can be debt free quickly and can save for your future and long term goals. When it comes to your mentors, job shadow, ask for advice, guidance, and any wisdom to help in your journey of life.

What resources or websites would you recommend to our readers who are eager to learn more about handling their money?

Some helpful resources are:

http://www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home-accueil.aspx

http://www.practicalmoneyskills.ca/

https://proliteracy.ca

https://twitter.com/FinanLiteracy

Thank you for your time!

 

10 Things To Finally Get Around To Before the New Year

Set Up the Find My Device Feature on Your Phone

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A lost or stolen phone sucks. A lost or stolen phone with sensitive financial or personal information is awful. If you have an iPhone, activate Find my iPhone so that you can locate your phone or remotely erase everything from another device. It will be expensive replacing a missing smart phone, but it will give you great peace of mind to know your credit card info and nudes are safe. (Unless you’ve been targeted by a malicious tech genius that will mine your device with expert skill. If that’s the case, you have bigger problems.) This service is also available for your Macbook, iPod, or iPad. Google also provides a way to locate Android powered devices.

Back Up Your Phone

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On that note, another stressful part about losing your phone is losing all the valuables it contains like photographs, text messages, and songs. Save yourself the hassle and back up your phone regularly by either using services like the Cloud or manually uploading your phone’s contents to your computer periodically.

 Install A Period Tracker

This isn’t 1998, ladies. Circling the date on your calendar in red marker is cute, but if your alarm clock, mail, and schedule are all on your phone, what makes you think tracking your period with a pen and paper is sustainable – or accurate for that matter? Download a period tracker like Clue (also available on Google Play) and outsource worrying about when to avoid wearing white pants to a handy app.

See Your Doctor About That Thing

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If you have a question about your health or an awkward problem you’ve avoided addressing because you hate uncomfortable situations, go see your family practitioner. That is what they are there for, and I can assure you they’ve either seen or studied worse. I would even suggest writing down your specific concerns because it is natural to feel rushed or silly, and having them on a sheet of paper will help you tackle the issues you came in to address.

Install Software Updates

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Software updates are annoying and we are ungrateful. Their point is to get rid of any bugs, but we keep hitting “Remind Me Tomorrow” because heaven forbid an invitation to improve our computer interrupts us reading “8 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Died”. They will fix issues that you can remain blissfully unaware of and – more relevant to your everyday life – make your computer run faster.

Tidy Up Your Computer Desktop

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Cleaning up your desktop is another easy way to make your computer run faster. All those files you save to your desktop for easy access take up bits of memory and those shortcuts add up! Do yourself a favour and get rid of files you no longer need and move the rest of them to folders for your documents, photos, or downloads. It has the added bonus of leaving you with a filing system that makes it easier to find the items you’re looking for later. Also, it’s much more aesthetically pleasing.

Unsubscribe From All Those Emails

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Sure, at one point you felt proactive about learning a second language or when you were in high school you bought a lot of plaid and sweats, but subscriptions to “One French Word A Day” and Garage’s mailing list are not life sentences. It is time to clean up your inbox – and your life – by unsubscribing to those pesky emails. If it’s too much of a pain to do on your phone, open your computer, click on one of those three thousand emails, scroll to the bottom, and hit unsubscribe. You may be redirected to a second page. Stay focused; they want you to give up. Take a deep breath and click to say, “Yes, I’m sure.”

Put A Deposit On That Experience

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Everyone has something they’d like to do whether it’s to travel, take a music class, or sign up for personal training. Each person’s financial situation is different so this may not be an option for some, but if you have enough money to regularly go out to eat or drink, then you definitely have enough money for these experiences. Sign up for whatever it is you want to try or learn. Think of your phone bill. You don’t need all those features and services, but you want them and you will actively work to ensure you have money to keep them. Financing something you enjoy will quickly fall into the same category as your phone bill. If it’s genuinely something you’re interested in, you’ll be more motivated to go to work to pay for it, and it is sure to bring you more happiness than Canada-wide calling ever did – unless your love interest lives in Iqaluit or something.

Hit Send on “I Miss You”

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I bet most people would rather do everything else on this list twice over than consider this last one, but it’s probably the most important item. What’s the point of all this technology if we can’t use it to communicate with one another? Being vulnerable is terrifying, and it can often end in hurt and disappointment. One thing it shouldn’t be is embarrassing. At the end of your life you’re going to be left with the things you did and didn’t do, and it is easier to deal with rejection than it is to live with coulda, woulda, shoulda. Send a text or an email telling that special person, friend, or family member that you hope all is well and that you miss them. If you like, mention whatever it is that made you think of them. In addition, try to remove any expectations from the act so that the reward lies in your honesty and not their reciprocity. Keep it polite, don’t put them in a position to feel obligated to do anything, and then go on with your life knowing you’re living it truthfully.

5 Daily Habits for an Improved New Year

Two things are inevitable come January: a new year and a landslide of resolutions. For many, a brand new calendar doubles as a clean slate for setting goals for self-improvement. Sadly, most New Year’s resolutions tend to go unfulfilled due to lofty goals with unrealistic timelines. By introducing a few daily habits into your life, you can effectively work towards meeting your 2016 goals.

JUGGLE: Reduce your jiggling by juggling

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A crucial part of losing weight and getting healthy is staying motivated, and it’s difficult to stay committed to a daily routine when the results won’t be visible for a couple of months. Learning to juggle might be your solution. Juggling is no Pilates, but it is a quick thing you can do with any three objects each morning, and it isn’t loaded with results-oriented expectations the way exercise is. It sound silly, but it works in terms of learning to set aside time and consistently perform an activity each day. After a couple weeks of fooling around with apples while waiting on your toast, you’ll be surprised at the new skill you’ve acquired with such minimal daily effort and be curious about what else you can do for five minutes each morning. Doing squats or sit-ups while your coffee brews will feel like a substitution for your juggling and soon dedicating more time towards fitness, little by little, won’t feel like such a chore.

DOCUMENT YOUR SPENDING: Journal by numbers

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This is perfect both for people who want to start saving money and for those who’d like to begin journaling more. Documenting the day can help you decompress, but deciding which details are important is a pain that often causes aspiring diarists to toss their notebook aside. Decide to write a dated, bullet point list of your purchases at the end of each day with whatever ballpark figures you can remember. Not only will you build a daily, albeit nontraditional, diary that you can refer back to in the future, you’ll be more conscious of your spending habits without the guilt and stress associated with flow charts and spreadsheets and start rethinking purchases while out and about.

LEARN THREE WORDS IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE: Home décor brought to you by the UN

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Source: SkipPrichard.com

Speaking a second language is a desirable skill, and it’s on almost everybody’s bucket list. As with anything desirable – like beauty or brains – it either takes an accident of birth or a fair bit of work. A terrific, inexpensive way to acquire a language is to incorporate vocabulary into your daily setting. Each day, look up the name of three items in your home whether it means finding the word for “dress” or the decidedly unglamorous word for “toilet”. Language learning is cumulative, and this is a quick way to build your new vocabulary. As you notice your proficiency-level increasing you’ll be motivated to find ways to expand on your existing knowledge. This exercise can be done mentally while brushing your teeth, but you could take it to “movie about a young woman in a foreign country” level and post colourful sticky notes around your living room as well.

RELAX: Take a chill…breath?

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Source: The Huffington Post

It’s safe to say that we’d all like a healthy and relaxed 2016. It’d be great if we could eliminate bills, deadlines, and incompetent people from our lives, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. Reminding yourself that there are factors outside your control is one good method, but sometimes you need a physical solution short of raiding your bar. A helpful technique for minimizing stress is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. In order to relax, the process involves regulating your breathing by exhaling through the mouth, inhaling through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for seven, and then exhaling for eight seconds. Sounds like a lot of counting, but it’s very soothing – plus focusing on all the counting and inhaling has the helpful side effect of distracting you from whatever’s on your mind.

Fish for compliments. Literally.

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Grab a drink, turn on the TV for background noise, and write down compliments and inspirational words related to beauty, self-worth, hustling, education – whatever makes you feel good – on slips of paper. Find a cute mason jar and stick them in there. Put it on your bedside table or next to your keys and each morning before you leave the house literally fish for compliments. Go fishing before bed too if it’s been one of those days. You may feel self-conscious about the practice at first, but it will contribute to an increasingly positive and productive attitude. If you like, you can even pull a Charlotte York à la Sex and the City and scribble an affirmation across your mirror in lipstick. In the privacy of your bathroom, there’ll be no one to judge you.