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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Buying books vs. borrowing from the library

I have an acquaintance who swears that a book worth reading is a book worth buying.  When he told me this, I pondered about it for a while, and then decided against it.  Many books I have started reading I did not like so I never finished.  Other books I enjoyed, but would not read again.  So the percentage of books that I ‘need’ to have on hand, at home, is not that high.  And of these, some are so popular that I’ll be able to find them in the library for years to come.  All and all, the number of books I want to own is pretty low.  Many people like to own books, have them in their house.  I don’t.  Here’s why.
1. For me, reading a book is an experience, just like visiting a museum or seeing a movie.  It’s unlikely I will do it again and again. 
2. Buying a book is expensive and I can read it for free if I borrow it.  Like a large pool – I can buy one or get a membership at a local one.
3. Books clutter my house; yes, they are nice and I do have all my favorites (including some that are out of print and would be too hard to find in a library); but extra books make it harder to clean, collect dust (I hate dusting) and I need to pack them and move them when I move (which I did quite a bit as a student).
4. The environment does better if fewer copies of paper books are printed and sold.  Readership is important, but libraries are good customers of authors.
5. If I buy a book, it’s often second-hand; much cheaper and because it’s been previously owned/loved/read, I’m actually helping the environment by promoting the second-hand goods market.
6. After reading a book that I own (purchased most likely used), if nobody in my family wants to read it and I’m not likely to read it again, I give it away or sell it.  This way, I send it back to make more happy readers while again encouraging the second-hand goods market.
7. When I use my public library, I’m sending a very strong message to my province to continue funding public libraries because it is a valuable service; this means that the more people use libraries, the better services are offered in libraries.  Public libraries are essential to many school children whose families cannot afford all the books they need or want to read.
For all these reasons, I read a lot but choose NOT to own many books.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Have a Plan

It’s a good idea to have a plan of what you will do after university or college before you go.  Not that this plan is set in stone, but going to university to ‘hang out’ is an expensive way to hang out – you can hang out working as a store clerk while making and saving money.

Deciding to pursue a degree in a certain department because you like the subject is nice, but it may not get you to where you want.  Dragon’s Den’s Kevin O’Leary explains in his book ‘Men, Women, and Money’ that there is a passion, and a money-making career.  You can decide that you want to be a visual artist and paint beautiful landscape.  This is a very fulfilling occupation and you will most likely be very happy doing this for hours a day.  However, this is unlikely to pay the bills, at least at the beginning.  So, training for a job, to be employable, is a better financial investment in your education; painting is a fantastic side-occupation and you may want to train for a job that frees you in the evenings and weekends so you can paint, or that is flexible enough that you can eventually work part-time and pursue your love of painting more intently if you have the means.

So, in investing thousands of dollars in education should pay off at the end.  Studying marketing and finances so you can work in a bank is a good plan.  Studying biology because you like animals… not so good.  It’s very important to research what type of paying job (or business you can start) you would like to have, and work backwards from there: you want to work at an animal hospital? Animal Technicians, Receptionists, and Veterinarians are all work there and require specific training.  You want to cuddle animals and play with them? Look into animal training and animal grooming; horseback riding instructor could also be a possibility.

There is an excellent USA-sponsored site that helps you determine what your interests are, as well as defining your skills: .  You can there fill out free questionnaires to determine what sort you career you may want to launch yourself into.  For some people, it’s difficult to choose.  For others, the interests are well –defined and they know what type of work they want to do.

Some careers require a plan ‘B’.  This is the plan where if plan ‘A’ does not turn out as successful as planned (or completely fails), there is an alternative route to follow.  For example, deciding to obtain an undergraduate in biochemistry and then go to medical school to become a cardiac surgeon is a fantastic plan.  However, not all students who apply to medical school get an offer to join.  In this case, a plan B could be:

- Start a Master’s degree in biochemistry and continue applying.  If the Master’s is completed before acceptance into Medical School, abandon Medical School and apply to Nursing School.

- At the same time as applying to Medical School, apply to Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Dentistry and choose an alternate career based on which program has accepted me.

- Start a Master’s degree in biochemistry and continue applying.  If the Master’s is completed before acceptance into Medical School, start and complete a PhD in biochemistry with the goal of a career in medical-type research.

Of course, as your studies progress, you may change your course; maybe biochemistry and medical school are not so attractive anymore so you are thinking of history.  That’s great – better change now thank to complete a degree you don’t like and have to restart another.  But what is your plan with this history degree? History is fantastic to study, but not so good at finding you a job.  You want to be a history teacher? A tour guide for a city? An educator at a museum? All three options would be fantastic to use your history degree; however, becoming a teacher requires an education degree (and this would be preferred for an educator at a museum too) and a tour guide would do best knowing multiple languages.

So work backwards from your dream job – you’ll get head faster I your career.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Get It for Free

When I wanted to furnish my first apartment, as a university student, I did not have a lot of money.  My mother had given me her (very) old kitchen table and chairs (oh, the feel of plastic cushions under my legs in the summer!), and two very old and low-to-the-ground chairs from a seldom-used office.  We had a few plates, a microwave that weighed almost as much as the fridge and had only one power setting, and the dresser from my bedroom; luckily, I was not moving very far.  We did want, however, a few more pieces to contain our ‘stuff’; a desk, a bookcase, an office chair, etc.
Today’s student has a lot more choices as to where to acquire a few objects to make life more enjoyable.  I just had a look at Kijiji tonight.  In the FREE section, there was a working television offered (not flat screen, but if it works, who cares?), an entertainment center, a couple of couches in decent condition, arm chairs, a couple of beds, a computer desk, two pianos (!), all free for the taking.  In all cases but one, the ‘buyer’ has to pick up the furniture, which of course is difficult for a student without a car.  However, for the price of renting a van for a few hours, you can pick up all of these if you plan it well.    In the same spirit, you can easily give away your old furniture if/when you move away from your college town.
Another, more exclusive, group that exchanges items for free is Freecycle.  Freecycle is a Yahoo group so you have to ask to become a member and the main rule of posting on their site is that everything you offer has to be free – completely free, no trades, no exchange, no conditions.  I have given many items  via Freecycle, but have also received many, many items, such as downhill skis and boots, plants, clothing for myself, an electric kettle, unopened milk (someone had an extra litre from a visitor who drank different fat % milk), and bedsheets.   In my area last night, there were offers for a free single bed (complete with mattress and bedframe), a TV, empty wine bottles (if you make your own wine), a blue vase, and hot chocolate.  You can choose to receive new posting in your email, or check their website throughout the week.
With different methods, such as looking online, checking paper ads on bulletin boards, and driving through the student area right after final exam time in the spring, you should be able to find several free items.  The savings will be more if you get an expensive item for free (assuming you were going to buy it otherwise) like a dresser or a coffee maker.   But even little freebies can be welcome if you do not have to travel too far to obtain them.  I have received clothing via Freecycle (for myself and more recently, my children), a curtain rod (perfect size too!), some books, and some plants.  Unfortunately,  I discovered Freecycle after my home was well-furnished; I still donate quite a bit of stuff through it and through Kijiji though, specifying that picking up the item(s) is necessary. 
Just remember that if you can be a bit patient, you may be able to obtain many of your wish-list items for free.