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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Odd Jobs

Odd jobs are the type of jobs that may really help you with your budget.  Why? They are NOT regular, so you can’t count of them very well.  However, they are more flexible, can work around YOUR schedule, and pay more per hour.  You also avoid paying into unemployment insurance, union, etc.  You still have to pay income tax on the income, but your income is most likely low enough that you won’t pay any income tax anyway.  Here are a few odd jobs you may like, as well as their pros and cons.

Lessons & Tutoring: giving private lessons (in music, for example) and tutoring (to high school students or other university students) often pays $20+/hour.  That’s because it’s a ‘qualified’ job that not anyone can do.  I cannot teach piano because my level is roughly 3rd year of the Royal Conservatory, which is very low.  However, if you play an instrument well, you can often give private lessons in your or your students’ home.  Parents often look for young, enthusiastic teachers for their children so that the children enjoy learning music.  Music lessons are paid more per hour than tutoring because you are not simply helping someone with a specific problem and specific questions about a subject, but creating a program for a student (even if you are using a commercial methods found in books).  You decide how fast to move the student along, choose fun activities, etc.  As long as you are majoring in something taught in high school or elementary school (and you have a fun and kid-loving personality), you can tutor.  If you are an upper-year student, you can most likely tutor students taking a course you aced.  As well, if you speak a language other than English, you can most likely tutor that language to students (although, ok, a French tutor at the Université de Montréal may not get you many clients).  Advertise on the internet (Kijiji, Craigslist, Facebook, etc.) and make a few posters for poster boards on campus or in different schools, YMCA, and public libraries.   

Babysitting: even if most post-secondary students like to think that they have left the days of underpaid babysitting behind, childminding is a great way to increase your budget with little effort.  Rates for babysitting change considerably throughout the country and vary from under the minimum wage to $15-20/hr.  Advertising for babysittig is easy (Kijiji, posters) and similar to lessons and tutoring, but remember that you need to target the parents, not the children.  Public libraries, grocery stores, children clothing stores and the like are good places to advertise.  The beauty of babysitting is that you can refuse a ‘gig’ if you had plans you don’t want to change (you need some availability though, otherwise the parents will know you are typically too busy to work) and the later you work, the easier the job is because the children will be asleep.  If you can find a regular babysitting job, such as every night after 5pm (assuming you have not late classes), regular money will be coming your way.

Housesitting: if you are a responsible student who gets to know professors well, housitting may be in your future.  This isn’t the best paid job, but in fact, it’s not much of a job: simply staying at someone else’s house while they are away and feeding a pet or two (people without pets tend to leave their home empty when they travel).  However, on top of some low pay, you get to enjoy living in a nice place for a few nights.

Petsitting: similar to housesitting, pet sitting involves taking care of the pets by visiting them in their home, but not living there – better to convince the owner that staying at their home will increase the company for the pets and that they will be happier.  If that’s a no-go, insure that you are paid well to make up for the transportation time of going there on a regular basis.

Laundry: I have a friend who every weekend, went to a senior living complex and did the laundry of a few tenants.  She picked up the laundry of one, started his wash, collected from the next client, started hers, etc, etc.  After a few hours, all the laundry was done, she had had time to study, do her own laundry, and make money.  This is possible if the laundry facilities are on-site, which they typically are for senior living.  If you have to cancel on your laundry ‘day’, try to make it up on another day so that your clients know you are reliable.  If you get too many clients, ask a friend to join you.

Cleaning: Commercial and residential cleaning can be done on the weekend, evenings or half-day when you do not have classes.  One cleaning a week can earn you up to $75-100 for about 3-4 hours.  My husband pays $125 a week for his commercial cleaning – it takes one person about 3-4 hours to do the job, and it’s done Friday night.  Because it’s commercial, the cleaner does not have to deal with anything personal or clean a shower!

Salesperson: If you are studying marketing, an Avon type job may be a good fit for you; you visit people outside of regular hours and keep the profits.  Avon (makeup) is not the only company with which you can start: there are cooking accessories; health and nutrition supplements; plastic containers; candles; etc.  Yes, they are mostly aimed at women 25+, but this is where your marketing skills are needed!

Website design: as you can see, I was too frugal to hire someone to design a website for me, BUT, if you are handy with webpage design, you can be hired to design websites for small businesses.  These can most likely be worked on in your free time, with a few meetings with the client during regular business hours.

Car driving: if you have a car and are driving somewhere far for the weekend or reading week, advertise it – you can offer someone a ride for a price.  For example, I once drove to Boston from Southern Ontario for a few days during reading week.  I advertise the ride for $80 each way (it’s a good 7 hrs drive) and told my passenger that at the border crossing, they had to get out of the car with their suitcase and walk across (in case they had drugs in their suitcase, I did not want to be charged as an accomplice).  I had two passengers each way (the same) and offered them a deal of $150 for the return trip and made $300 on a trip I was already making.

This is just a very small sample of odd jobs you can find around your schedule and city.  These are not steady streams of income, but if you find that a part-time job is too much, or that you want to find additional funds to a part-time job, these can be very useful.  Please comment with additional ideas!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Save $5 from Your Food Budget

Food is one category of spending where you have some wiggle room – tuition fees are fixed, and so is rent (once you sign onto a lease).  However food is pretty flexible: eat at home and spend little or eat out and spend lots.

For people with very tight budgets, one concern is how to buy multiple of on-sale items if there is only enough money for this week’s groceries.  The trick is to spend $5 less than your weekly budget (so if your weekly budget is $50, only spend $45); this extra $5 is to be used when there is a great sale of something that 1. you use and 2. you can store and won’t go bad quickly.  For example, if you eat cereal for breakfast most mornings, buy a box or two when the type you like goes on sale, whether you have some left or not; chances are they won’t be on sale when you NEED some.  The same goes for most of your ‘staples’: cereal, rice, oatmeal, cans (soup, tuna, spaghetti sauce, fruit), salsa, pasta, granola bars, cake mixes, cookies, shampoo and toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues and other bathroom products, women’s sanitary products, etc.   Most produce are fantastic buys when they are low-prices, but you cannot store too much of them because they will not keep.  Meats can be purchased when on sale and frozen, but you need to eat them within 6 months or so, so buying 30 lbs of ground beef and completely filling up the freezer is typically not a good option.

Without that extra $5 saved for on-sale items, it’s difficult to take advantage of the sales because you can only buy for the week.  This happens often to people on a very tight budget: they cannot take advantage of sales because then it means not eating vegetables in order to stock pile toilet paper.

In my family, there are some food items we ALWAYS buy on sale: we stock pile when they are on sale, and we never have to go without: peanut butter; butter (we freeze it); cereal (there is always one type on sale so we never run out); shampoo and conditioner; soap; soft drinks; pasta sauce; salsa; and English muffins.  It’s easier for us because we are not on a tight budget; we can afford to spend an extra $10 in order to stockpile when items are on sale.

So save the $5/week; and save in the long run!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Free Stuff

There is not a lot of stuff you can get for free these days – and when there are, they are worth their price… almost nothing!  However, I have found a few things that are free and worth keeping.
- the plastic basket from berries: those small green cube-shaped baskets are perfect little colanders; I have two in my kitchen drawer and I use them 3-4 times a week when I need to rinse berries, veggies, or a small amount of pasta.
- rags: really who wants to buy rags to clean? not me.  I use my (and my family’s) T-shirts that are about to be discarded.  I cut them in pieces and use them to clean the bathroom, toilets, etc.  If they are very dirty after, I throw them out!
- bottles: I often need a plastic bottle for taking juice or salad dressing with my lunch.  Used plastic bottles that contained water or juice before are food-safe and if they were washed, good to use again – and most likely, they do not leak!  Do NOT heat them up though, the plastic is most likely not stable enough not to leach into your food.
- small brushes to clean around the sink, toilet, etc.  Yes, your old toothbrush is perfect for the job, AFTER it has given its life for your teeth.  Do not throw it out: rather, give it a good clean (you can disinfect it with rubbing alcohol and letting it dry after), and it’s perfect for lots of small cleaning jobs, including cleaning your suede shoes, boots, or bag.  Just label it so you do not mix it up with the brush for your teeth!
- condoms: these may not be the brand name you like best, but most student health centers offer free condoms, no questions asked.  If you do not like the ones they offer, take a few anyway and store them away in case of ‘emergency’ – when you run out of your usual ones.  And remember, they prevent unplanned pregnancies AND sexually transmitted diseases.
- food containers (for freezing, storing or lunches): once you have purchased margarine, yogurt, pasta sauce, peanut butter and jam a couple of times (and used them up), you have plastic and glass containers that you can use for storage and lunches.  I like to use glass ones (such as the ones from spaghetti sauce) for storing dried fruit from the bulk food store (where most food comes in bags), plastic ones for freezing left-overs and for lunches.  Yes, you may find that a square plastic container works better for a sandwich, but overall, your containers should be free (cream cheese containers are great for snacks).
- counselling: whereas the rest of the population has to pay to consult with psychologists and career advisers, for students they are free at your college or university – use them!!  Not only can they guide you with your feelings, anxiety, obsessions and choices of career, they specialize in your age group and stage of life (others outside education institutions can specialize in anything from depression in the elderly to toddlers with excessive aggression).
- public transportation: many universities and colleges have built-in bus passes – if you have one of these mandatory bus passes, use it!  Visit your town, go further to get a discount, etc.  Enjoy.
- banking: yes, most banks charge fees to hold on to your money and give you the service of debit and online banking.  However, as a student, you should not pay any of these!  Most of the large banks in Canada offer free student bank accounts.  Yes, there is a limit on the free services they include, but since you are not running a business, your number of monthly transactions is limited and therefore a free student account should be perfect.  Your bank does not offer this? Change banks!  There is no fee to closing or opening a chequing account so move.
So although not many things in life are free, a few are!