To Live On-Campus Or Not? A Budget Breakdown For NS Student Housing Options

Debt-Free University

If you’re not able to stay at home throughout your education, one of the largest financial costs of university is housing. In order to help you out I’ve made this breakdown of rental costs for students studying in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While my calculations have been made based on this locality, the trends below appear to be congruent with most Canadian cities (exact prices vary).

Average cost of a single room per term (8 months)

  • Dalhousie University                            $7,533.75
  • Mount Saint Vincent University      $6,177.75
  • Saint Mary’s University                      $6,810.00

Average cost of one bedroom in an apartment in downtown Halifax per term (8 months)

  • One Bedroom                                            $7,432.00
  • Two Bedroom                                            $4,916.00
  • Three Bedroom                                         $4,805.33

Average cost of one bedroom in an apartment outside of downtown Halifax per term (8 months)

  • One Bedroom                                             $6,064.00
  • Two Bedroom                                             $3,572.00
  • Three Bedroom                                         $3,410.00

The verdict: overall, having a one bedroom apartment in Halifax is among the most expensive options, however, if you are able to live with one or more roommates renting off campus is the cheapest option.

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Extra Considerations

The calculations above do not include additional costs like internet or cable which can add up over time and are often provided as flat fees, meaning that they will cost less each month as more roommates are factored in.

If you are living away from home for the first time it is also important to consider whether or not your rental includes utilities such as hydro, heat and power. Depending on the condition of the apartment and your lifestyle these bills can pile up: ask to see copies of old monthly bills or for a statement of the average bill cost before committing to a lease (the landlord may have this information on hand or you may have to contact power and water corporations).

There are pros and cons to both living on residence and living on your own:

Pros of Living on Residence

  • Good way to meet new people and make friends
  • Close to class and university buildings
  • No dealing with bad landlords
  • Utilities included
  • Easy access to university support networks
  • Residence period corresponds with school year (good if you’re going home for the summer)

Cons of Living on Residence 

  • Shared bathrooms and common areas
  • Limited space (no living room)
  • Intermixing of work and play (you never really leave school)
  • Thin walls
  • Residence period corresponds with school year (bad if you want to stay year round)

Pros of Renting

  • More spacious and more storage
  • Kitchen + food storage
  • Can be way cheaper
  • Option to pick your area of town
  • Not as many ‘roommates’
  • Share the bathroom with one or two people
  • Roomie bonding
  • You can have pets
  • Plenty of parking

Cons of Renting 

  • Dealing with landlords
  • Stuck on a lease
  • Dealing with sublets
  • Potential financial burden if roommates are flaky
  • You have to get used to cooking, cleaning and potentially property maintenance for yourself
  • Damage deposit woes (upwards of half a month’s rent)

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On Missing Out On a Full Ride Scholarship

Debt-Free University

According to Statistics Canada, university tuition averaged $6,191 in 2015. Given the hefty financial burden of this fundamental educational cost it comes as no surprise that whenever I tell people about my debt-free university experience they almost always assume that I was able to do so because I received a full ride scholarship.

I didn’t.

In truth, I was offered a full ride scholarship to Trent University for a business program in my senior year of high school but I never took it.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be a bright shining savings guru… how could I pass up over $24,000 worth of free courses, right? Well, like many 17 and 18 year old students I thought I had a better plan than I actually did.

I was all set to go to Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). In all fairness, this was a pretty good plan if I had continued to study business. NSCC has a great articulation agreement with several local universities for business students, in which students complete a two-year college degree program at the former and then transfer their courses for the equivalent of two years of course work at the latter, ultimately completing two years of college and then two years of university (plus a few extra courses) in order to obtain a four year bachelor of business degree.

As I saw it, by going to school in my home province I was able to live with friends off-campus and save a whole bunch of money on rent and food. I would also be free from outrageous holiday flight expenses and the hassle of moving to another province. Additionally, if I needed money I would also be able to enter the workforce after my diploma and save for my degree. To be perfectly honest, I was also young and nervous about being too far away from home. Having easy access to a large support network of friends and family seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.

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Anyway, I ended up forgoing the full ride scholarship at Trent and going to NSCC only to decide that I wasn’t happy pursuing a degree in business. I left the college after my first semester and enrolled in a bachelor of arts at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) for fall of the following year, sans full ride entrance scholarship (entrance scholarships typically require university application to take place directly out of high school, a gap year may be permitted but scholarships often articulate that the applicant must not have attended another post-secondary institution).

At MSVU I was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA, and received several prizes and merit scholarships for my academic work and performance, but I never was able to receive full tuition coverage.

For a long time I was upset about missing out on a full ride scholarship; if I could go back in time now and choose my post-secondary schooling over again I wouldn’t change a thing. Going to NSCC enabled me to get a practical look at my career trajectory: I was quickly and easily able to determine that I had chosen an area of study that wasn’t a perfect fit, which I may not have been able to do in the abstract realm of university education. At MSVU I was able to work with engaging and intelligent faculty members, I was awarded many opportunities for employment and received a humbling amount of recognition for my work, I also met my long-term partner and made some wonderful friends and solid contacts who I never would have had the chance to get to know if I didn’t go to MSVU when I did.

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The moral of this story is that sometimes in life you’re going to make mistakes that will cost you both time and money, but even a really big $24,000 mistake isn’t impossible to come back from if you continue to work hard and keep a positive frame of mind; there is more than one solution to most problems.

Going Gluten-Free Without Breaking Your Budget

Debt-Free Dining

From the time I was in middle school until I was in my second year of university I was sick all the time and, as a result, systemically tested for a whole series of digestive issues and disorders. In my final year of high school and into my first year of college I went through a period of eliminating gluten as part of being tested for celiac disease: thus began my adventure into the deep dark depths of doing restricted diets on a budget.

This all happened slightly before g-free became a trendy foodie hashtag and restaurants everywhere touted a gluten free menu, and so I was tossed into the abyss of learning how to eat gluten-free on a student budget without the option of relying on restaurants. Although it was pretty stressful at the time, in reflection being forced to learn and cook for myself totally saved my budget.

Before I begin I feel like I should add one thing: the notion that gluten-free automatically means healthy is a total lie (unless of course you’re part of the 1% of people who actually has celiac disease or a gluten allergy). Processed gluten-free products are often higher in calories and fat, and lower in nutrients than whole grain alternatives. You could literally just eat potato chips and wash them down with a ‘smoothie’ made out of butter, egg yolk, lard, sugar and salt for every meal, all day every day, and technically have a gluten-free (although super gross) diet.

Anyway, if you do have to bite the wheat-free bullet and give up gluten here are a few ways that you can stick to your savings plan:

1. Buy These Gluten-Free Staples
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Rice, corn, beans, potatoes and gluten-free oats are cheap naturally-occurring gluten-free starches. These foods make great healthy staples that can help round out your diet and make meal time a snap. You can still have mashed or baked potatoes, fried rice, rice and beans, and many of your other favourite budget friendly sides.

Please note: unless you have a specific reason for going on a low-carb diet, simply cutting out carbs is not really the healthiest, cheapest, or easiest way to go g-free. If you do want to go low-carb do plenty of research first; like most diets, low-carb diets can be very dangerous if not properly implemented. Be aware that low-carb and g-free are not synonymous.

2. Load Up On Fruits, Veggies, Milk Alternatives and Lean Protein

Don’t forget to continue to eat a well-balanced diet. If your grocery list is normally full of processed foods like ramen noodles, microwave dinners and pizza pockets, switching to gluten-free can seem daunting. On the other hand, you can continue to pick up your favourite cheap whole foods (think eggs, fish, carrots, onions, bananas, milk), minimizing the changes that you have to make to your grocery budget and to your recipe binder.

One of my acquaintances is unable to eat lactose, gluten, onion or garlic. When I asked him what he eats on an average day he responded: “bacon and eggs or meat and potatoes.”
I was actually really surprised by how many of my recipes didn’t have gluten in them in the first place once I pulled myself away from the endless lists of fanciful gluten-free ingredients on the internet.

Don’t believe me? Go to your own recipe book and check it out. I’m confident that you can find recipes for soup, chili, chowder, seared or grilled fish and meat, omelettes and rice dishes that either already are, or easily can be made gluten-free.

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3. Avoid Processed Foods

Processed gluten-free foods tend to be very expensive (think $5-$6 just for a loaf of bread), and by my standards, often very sub-par in taste and texture. For those beginning to switch to a gluten-free diet, I would suggest only buying one or two processed gluten-free items at a time to see if you like the taste and texture of these alternatives before seriously investing in a g-free pantry. Making your own meals from naturally gluten-free foods is way tastier and less expensive.
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4. Get Crafty With Substitutions

So here’s the deal- as I’ve already told you, most recipes can actually become gluten-free with a few small changes or substitutions. In fact, going gluten-free will pretty much turn you into a gourmet Macgyver.

Lettuce and cabbage leaves, nori, egg, and rice paper (read the package for cross-contamination) all make great, fairly cheap bread substitutions for making homemade wraps. I’ve also made some great sandwich-type things inside of hollowed out cucumbers and tomatoes,and between thick slices of grilled zucchini and eggplant.

Spiralized veggies like sweet potato and zucchini make for a quick and easy substitute for pasta. Also, if you aren’t addicted to spaghetti squash yet you will be soon since it’s so amazingly filling and versatile.

If you’re used to using flour to thicken soups or sauces, switch to cornstarch. Simply use half as much cornstarch as you would flour (1 tbsp of cornstarch instead of 2 tbsp of flour), and enjoy your gluten-free craftiness.
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5. Avoid Eating Out

Restaurants will totally break the bank. Trust me. It won’t take very long to get sick of how almost every menu will say something along the lines of *substitute with gluten-free crust/bread/ chips for an extra $3,* and it will take even less time to get sick of forking over an extra fistful of dollars with every meal only to worry excessively that the back of house isn’t set up in a way that prevents cross contamination.

Save yourself the stress and the money and prep your meals in advance.

6. Try Eating A Geographically Diverse Diet

There’s no two ways about it, the western diet is centered around all things wheat. Fortunately there are plenty of delicious dishes from all over the world that do not rely on glutenous mainstays.

 

  • Latin American cuisine tends to center around rice, beans, meat, fish, veggies, tubers and corn (maize).
  • Asia is also rich with gluten-free options from curries to kimchi.
  • Africa offers a variety of soups and dishes that are or can be made gluten-free as well. The traditional Ethiopian recipe for injera provides an awesome gluten-free base for many delectable dishes when served with a variety of stewed meats, vegetables and legumes (some modern versions use glutenous flour).

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Breaking News: FREE MOVIES AT CINEPLEX THIS SATURDAY

Debt Free Deals

Hey everyone!

So I literally just finished publishing a post on Ten Fabulously Frugal Fall Date Ideas that included ‘The Zero Dollar Movie Date’. You probably haven’t read it yet and it may be a little soon to publish a new post but my roommate just dropped a forthcoming (and relevant) savings bomb on me and I simply must pass this on:

This Saturday (October 20, 2016) Cineplex Theatres across Canada are screening free movies and offering $2 drinks, popcorn and candy as part of their Community Day fundraiser

All proceeds of the event go to Cineplex’s charitable partner foundation We.

Free films include:

Zootopia
The Good Dinosaur
Finest Hours
Inside Out
The Jungle Book

I know that I could have added this tidbit to my list as an edit but this is such an awesome deal that it defiantly deserves its own post. You can thank me on Saturday when you have a belly full of delicious two dollar popcorn!

Ten Fabulously Frugal Fall Date Ideas- Halifax Edition

Debt-Free Dating

Hello Halifax!

Leaves are on the ground, sweaters are in the store windows, and pumpkin spice is on the menu at almost every cafe in the city- it’s safe to say that fall is here! As things get cooler outside warming up with a sweetheart starts to seem like the perfect way to spend your down time. Dating can get really expensive but it definitely doesn’t have to be; here are ten fabulously frugal fall date ideas that won’t break your bank!

  1. The Zero Dollar Movie Date

    This can be arranged in any number of ways, the most obvious being ‘Netflix and Chill.’ If you’re into fall fear try out Shudder, which is basically a super spooky Netflix for all things horror. Both of these streaming companies offer free trials if you don’t have an account and are tight on cash.

    Want to do something more for you hubby? Check out PWYC movies presented by The Thrillema which specializes in “bringing the best in horror, sci-fi, and cult movies to the big screen” at the Museum of Natural History. Looking for deals on wheels? The Halifax Cycling Coalition has been known to host Bike-in Movie Screenings at Good Robot Brewing Company.

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  2. The Walk it Out

    Grab your snuggly sweaters and fluffy scarves and head out on a walking tour of the city. Halifax Free Tours offers no cost walking tours by email appointment from September through to November. For bonus points, woo them with your expert knowledge of the city. Use GPS My City and become your own tour guide.

  3. The Play-er

    Looking for a more refined evening? Take your fall fling to a pay what you can play at Neptune Theatre. Check out their website for PWYC play nights. Make sure to head down early and dress warm: these popular shows fill up quick!

  4. The Oh!-pen Mic

    Halifax has no shortage of awesome local talent.

    Students should check out the open mic at Saint Mary’s University’s Gorsebrook Lounge (923 Robie Street) every Wednesday night. Dal’s Grad House (1252 Lemarchant St.) also hosts an open mic on Thursdays.

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    If coffee and music is your thing check out the Friday night open mic at Humani-T Cafe or the open mic at Coburg Coffee, held every Wednesday from 6-9 pm.

    For brews and tunes head to the open mic Rockbottom Brewpub on Friday nights after 9:30, or check out  Durty Nelly’s on Sundays after 8pm.

    Finally, if you’re into hanging out and playing music, check out Halifax’s Open Mic House on Agricola Street.

  5. The History Hottie

    Okay, so admittedly this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but trust me, Halifax has some awesome historical sites. Check out the Prince of Wales Tower at Point Pleasant Park, or historical forts at York Redoubt and Citadel Hill for outdoor dates (Note: Citadel does charge for admission but you can always picnic outside the hill for free).

    For an indoor adventure check out the Maritime Command Museum or the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, both of which offer free admission.

    If you’re willing to drive or to take a bus trip to Cole Harbour, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum is a great spot to connect with historical agricultural roots by donation.

  6. The Starving Artist

    Halifax art fans have no need to fear breaking the bank. Head to the Dalhousie University Art Gallery at 6101 University Avenue, the Anna Leonowens Gallery (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) at 1891 Granville Street, The Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery at 923 Robie Street or the Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery at 166 Bedford Highway to view amazing art for free!

    Seriously guys, I saw Allan Ginsberg’s photography for free at MSVU last year….

  7. The Beach Day with Bae

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    Fall is absolutely the perfect season for a romantic walk on an almost empty beach. Bring some hot chocolate and a blanket, and sit back and watch the waves roll in with your sweetheart.
    No car? No problem! Make it a double date with some car owning friends or check out this map of beaches that you can bus to in HRM. 

  8. The Market Meet Up

    Grab your sweet heart and head down to the Seaport Market. This awesome market offers a wide selection of local arts, crafts and eats, as well as free admission and entertainment. Get a coffee and some divine baked good and head up to the rooftop to take in a spectacular view of the harbor.  A market date is a surefire way to have a wholesome morning with your darling.

  9. The Oh!-val (Sorrynotsorry for the pun repetition)

    In a few months Halifax’s Emera Oval will be coated with a thick sheet of ice and covered with skaters. For the time being, you and your cutie can get your fix of going around and around in a circle by taking advantage of the Oval’s off season rental service. The Emera Oval offers free rentals of roller and inline skates, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and protective gear to anyone with a valid identification.

  10. The Love in the Library
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    If you haven’t been to Halifax Central Library yet you need to go there asap! The results are in and Halifax has one of the most beautiful libraries on earth.

    Head to one of the library’s two cafes and get a coffee, hang out and read together, or take advantage of one of the library’s many great programs.

    Songbirds as well as lovebirds? Book a recording space in Halifax Central’s Media Studio and turn your date into a full on jam session.

Twelve Tips For Minimizing Your Grocery Budget

Debt-Free Dining, Debt-Free University

When I first read about Bif Naked’s $3-A-Day Welfare Food Challenge I was instantly shocked. Three dollars… that’s not even enough to buy a coffee at a relatively nice cafe, am I right?!

I thought about it for a while, crunched the numbers, and was amazed to find that the $21 dollar/week challenge paralleled what I normally spent on weekly groceries as a ‘poor student,’ and still isn’t too far from what I spend now as a young professional. While the $80/month low-end of the average student grocery budget may not seem like a lot, there are several purchasing habits that can help anyone minimize their weekly spending.

Before I continue with these tips I would like to add that above all else it is crucial to find a budget that works for you: you never want to go hungry or unhealthy for the sake of saving money!

1. Ditch No-Nutrient Foods.

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As I mentioned in my post on building a grocery budget (linked above), relying on non-nutritious foods, such as noodles, chips, sugary drinks and sweets, to make  a budget work can have serious health consequences. Eliminating junk foods from your grocery list can help you save money. Simply put, these non-nutritious snacks don’t fill you up, so you’ll end up spending more and eating more without any lasting health benefits.

2. Allow Yourself A ‘Luxury Item.’

I am a huge fan of exceptions/cheats and strongly advise that you put one slightly more expensive item in your basket. Please note, this is not a warrant to buy a whole wheel of ultra-fancy cheese and then complain that I told you to break the bank, but if a little piece of nice cheese or a fancy coffee creamer is you raison d’être, go for it… in moderation. From personal experience, having a little cheat item or a little treat item each week can do wonders to keep your budget on track.

3. Buy Dry and In-Bulk… But Know When to Say No. 

Buying bulk quantities of some foods, such as rice, legumes and canned tomatoes, can help you save money because of decreased packaging costs. In my experience, having large quantities of these foods on hand also makes meal prep way more convenient: having to make the split second decision between running to the store for groceries for one meal or staying in and ordering take-out can totally burst a budget and add up over time for a busy individual.

I literally just added the ‘dry’ part to this point so that I could tell you all about textured vegetable protein (TVP).  My wallet and I are both super obsessed with this unbelievably cheap, ultra nutritious, veggie friendly, meat alternative. I frequently pick up a big bag of this for a couple of dollars at Bulk Barn. TVP lasts for 6-9 months in dry storage, is super lightweight, easy to use and flavor, and amazingly hiking and camping friendly: seriously, check it out.

Pro-Tip: Use common sense; don’t buy a whole bunch of something you don’t really like or can’t use just because it’s on sale. You’re not saving money if you’re throwing out food!

4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Price Cuts

Foods are often marked down between 30-50% off when they are nearing expiration. Note the wording here- ‘nearing expiration not ‘expired.’ Double check the date to see how many days you have to use the food, and if it’s something you can and want to use or make use of in a day or two (like a single serving of fish, vegetables for a soup, or bread that you have room for in the freezer), take advantage of some sweet savings.

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5. Shop Around

All grocery stores are not created equal. Shop around to find the best deals and maximize your savings. You can check out flyers online before heading to the store to make sure that you make the most of your trip without wasting too much time or gas money.

For specials and sales, Wal-Mart offers a price match guarantee on products, which can make one-stop shopping easy. Be aware that like most stores, Wal-Mart’s price matching has a series of limitations and usually only applies to specific brand names and sizes.

If you can’t find the things you need at Wal-Mart, No-Frills is another great chain grocery store that offers price matching.

If you’re trying to avoid the big-box route while still saving money I recommend cutting out the middle man and buying local produce from the community garden or farmer’s market during the harvesting season. I’ve found that local organic vegetables can often be purchased for next to nothing from the gardeners themselves (seriously, I bought a cucumber for 50 cents this summer), but health food stores that specialize in local and organic vegetables often have crazy prices.

6. Throw Nothing Away

‘Waste not, want not.’ You’ve heard it a thousand times for a reason. Throwing away food is basically throwing away money.

The best way to avoid throwing away food is to only buy as much as you can eat. If you’re cooking for one or two people, however, this can be really difficult. It can also be expensive; for instance, a single serving of salad is often more expensive than a full head of lettuce.

Fear not- I have complied a short list of ways to avoid throwing out food that can help you cook for one or two people without committing to a marathon stretch of menu items based off one or two perishables (your taste buds can thank me later).

7. Yes You Can (Eat Canned Foods and Still Reap Nutritious Benefits)

So here’s the deal- you’ve probably heard that canned food is horrible for you… this may be the case for highly processed canned foods (think novelty ‘pasta’ things in a ‘sauce’ that is like ketchup with even more salt and sugar), but as far as canned veggies are concerned it’s kind of a different story.

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The canning process is basically a give and take. As far as veggies, legumes and other whole-food alternatives are concerned, the processing, sealing and heating that takes place in the canning process depletes certain nutrients while fortifying or making other nutrients available. What’s more, since canned foods are often more cost efficient and dense than their fresh or frozen counterparts, you can often expect to stretch your budget a little further and get more nutrients for your money by including  canned foods on your grocery list.

Don’t trust me or feel uncertain? Here’s just one quick list of nutritionist-recommended canned foods to get you started!

8. Try Foreign Foods

Head to your local Asian, Middle Eastern or other foreign grocer or even to the foreign foods section of your local big-box grocery store to scoop up savings. Lots of awesome foods can be found at a fraction of the cost as these distributors tend to stock non-domestic labels. Even basic staples like rice, noodles and legumes can often be found for very competitive prices.

Bonus points: if you’re not familiar with non-domestic grocery shopping and you’re the adventurous type you’re probably about to enter a whole new world of flavour!

9. Meal Prep

Just do it. You will save so much money. Seriously…. so…much..money. Once you master budget grocery shopping you will come to find that even one missed-lunch meal in a restaurant comes at the opportunity cost of a whole bag of delicious, nutritious groceries.

Pick a lazy day, a Sunday if you will, and throw something on the stove, something in the oven and something in the slow-cooker. Freeze left-overs in single serving sized freezer bags for quick on-the-go lunch options or working-late dinners.

If you’re a total cooking newbie check out Budget Bytes or StudentRecipies for some drool worthy, wallet friendly inspiration.

10. Herb and Spice It

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A lot of budget basic staples like flour, rice, legumes and vegetables aren’t super exciting on their own. In order to stick to your budget and avoid screaming in agony every time you have to force down a meal (the horror, the horror!), I suggest getting creative with herbs and spices. (Or even just learning the basics with this chart right here).

While herbs and spices can get a little expensive, they’ll save you a lot in the long haul. They tend to be both cheaper and a lot better for you than sodium and sugar loaded pre-made sauces. If you’re not sure if you’ll like a spice, don’t hesitate to buy a recipe’s worth from a bulk store (such as Bulk Barn), and go back for a packet when you’re ready to commit.

11. Go Splits With Roommates 

This is a great way to cut down on the cost of things that you use slowly or infrequently such as vinegar, spices, herbs and baking necessities. Sharing with roommates also frees up valuable space in the pantry and fridge so that you can have a more versatile variety of food. Yay!

12. Host a Potluck Party 

Okay, so this isn’t the first list that I’ve ended with this suggestion, but seriously, cut up a baguette, make a basic bruschetta, sit back and eat a five-course meal. It’s cheap, it’s delightful and it’s also a great opportunity to have a super low-cost night with your friends. What more can you ask for?!

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Nocturne: A Guide to Halifax’s Fabulously Free Arts Night

Debt-Free Dating, Debt-Free Functions, Debt-Free University

It’s the most magical night of the year! For those of you who are new to Halifax or have never been here, for one night the whole city transforms into a series of free art installations, showcasing some of the East Coast’s best theater, film, dance, visual art and circus performance. This is Nocturne: Art at Night!

Picture this: a Ferris wheel on Citadel Hill; thousands of paper planes thrown from high-rises of Halifax, gliding through the carnival-like downtown core and momentarily eclipsing fantastic projections; a series of elaborate, larger than life instillation pieces turning your town into a magnificent sprawling playground; karaoke on a ferry… oh yeah and a whole bunch of free performances, products and insider looks at some of the city’s hottest venues.

While the instillations change every year, one thing remains consistent: Nocturne is one stellar free annual event that you won’t want to miss!

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The Basics

Nocturne is taking place tonight (Saturday, October 15, 2016) from 6 pm until midnight! 

Instillation are set up around Downtown, South End and North End Halifax, as well as in Downtown Dartmouth.

 

Planning Ahead

Even though Nocturne is less than an hour away you still have time to plan ahead. For first timers, this is an essential measure to make sure that you make the most out of this fantastic night. This will be my sixth year of Nocturne, but believe me, I’ve spent more than one arts night going horribly off track or missing key installations because I forgot to map out a route or read up on what was happening. Luckily for you, there are several ways to get the scoop both last minute and on the go thanks to the event’s streamlined mobile and online applications.

Grab an issue of The Coast, Halifax’s award-winning independent news paper, for a hard copy Nocturne guide that list of installations and a map of the city, or read more about The Coast’s take on Nocturne online here.

Use your mobile phone to view an online breakdown of the installations and access a map of Nocturne here.

Download and print a pdf Nocturne 2016 Guide here.

Check out Nocturne on Facebook here.

If you’re really in a pinch, take a peek at CBC’s Nocturne top 5 list here!

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What to Bring

It’s currently a nippy 13 degrees in Halifax and weather forecasts project a drop down to 3 degrees by tonight, so dress warm. Wear a snugly scarf, some cozy mittens, a hat and a jacket to ensure that you can have a comfortable Nocturne.

Bring a bottle of water and a thermos of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Stay hydrated!

Bring snacks! Halifax is a wonderfully walkable little city, but gazing in amazement takes time. Grab a granola bar or two to keep distracting stomach rumbles at bay while you spend a few hours wandering around in awe.

Consider bringing some cash. Some installations may have keepsakes which are usually procured on a pay what you can (PWYC) basis. If you’re wandering around the city for a while you may also want to take advantage of the food and drink pop-ups that take place on this, most glorious of nights.

Getting There

To arrive on the cheap, take advantage of Halifax Metro Transit’s Free Nocturne Shuttle. Core bus stops found on Robie Street, near the commons; on the corner of South and South Park Street; and on the corner of Cogswell and Barrington Street will take you into the heart of the action.

If you’re heading into the city from out of town, avoid expensive parking tickets by taking a peek at Halifax’s Park Smart brochure here.

Finally, if you’re all about going green, walk with friends or take advantage of Nocturne by Bicycle– a free, guided bike ride through Nocturne that begins at he Museum of Natural History at 7pm.

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Where Are The Washrooms??! (PLEASE!)

Relax!

Many of the indoor venues of Nocturne, such as Dalhousie University and Halifax Central Library, have indoor washroom facilities.

For a list of public washrooms on the waterfront click here!

If all hope seems lost, swallow your pride and ask a Nocturne volunteer to point you towards a public washroom. (They don’t bite.)

How Much am I Saving?

It’s impossible to put a price tag on Nocturne, but if you want a little bit of a break down of how much you’re saving by taking in this festival here are a few numbers:

No admission for museums ($11 per adult for Pier 21, $6.30 for the Museum of Natural History)

No admission for Art Gallery of Nova Scotia ($12 per adult)

Free Circus Demos (at Shift Festival, Halifax Circus was about $12 per ticket: there are several acrobatic and circus events at Nocturne so this adds up quick)

Free shuttle ($2.50 for an adult bus fare)

Free instillation by the Fountain School of Performing Arts (usually $10-15 per ticket)

+ lots of other free stuff that I don’t have time to break down because I’m getting ready for Nocturne!

Seriously guys, when you consider that it’s an easy $5-$20 admission to most awesome installations and events in this city, you’re looking at a whole bunch of savings!

 

Waste Not, Want Not: Four Ways To Avoid Throwing Out Food

Debt-Free Dining

So here’s the deal: throwing out food is basically like throwing out money. Here are four ways to avoid this budget-breaking habit.

1. Make a Soup

So, soup is basically the easiest meal to make in the whole world and it can be made from pretty much anything that’s kicking around in your fridge. Carrots that are starting to look less stiff? Throw them in your soup! A half of an onion? Throw it in your soup! Some noodles from last night’s dinner that you ran out of sauce for? That’s right- into the soup!

Once you have some soup making experience this will become like a second nature to you, but if you’re not a seasoned soup chef (pun intended) you can check out recipes like this one above for ‘Clean Out the Fridge Soup.’

Bonus: Save your veggie peels to make the most frugal recipe ever– Vegetable Broth From Kitchen Scraps.

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2. Head To MyFridgeFood

MyFridgeFood is an awesome online tool that gives you recipes based on what you have in your fridge. Just check the boxes next to anything that’s on its last legs, sit back and wait to find a great recipe.

3. Freeze Foods That You’ve Stocked up On

Did you know that you can freeze crackers, chips, bread, milk, hummus, peanut butter, avocado (for use in dips), hummus, eggs (cracked and stored in Ziploc bags), butter, broth, soup, pasta, and herbs?

Buy large quantities of on-sale berries and vegetables to freeze when they are in season. Freeze berries in a single layer on a parchment paper coated metal tray before storing them in Ziploc bags to avoid clumping. Vegetables can be boiled and then frozen for later use.

4. Host a Potluck Party
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Make a giant salad, a super-sized rice dish, or a big pot of soup and invite your friends over for a potluck party. This is a great way to use up a food surplus and get some variety into your kitchen. Sharing food with friends always beats throwing it out!

Tips for Building Your Own Grocery Budget

Debt-Free Dining, Debt-Free Finances
  1. Use a calorie calculator to figure out how many calories you need to consume each day. 

    I’m not an obsessive calorie counter, but knowing how many calories you need each day will give you a great starting point for grocery list planning and daily meal prep.

    Remember, if you’re buying a week’s worth of groceries the total amount of calories in the food that you’ve purchased should be roughly the same as your recommended daily caloric intake multiplied by 7.

  2. Check out Canada’s Food Guide and make sure that your grocery list is well balanced. 

    So here’s the deal: if you don’t have a well rounded diet you will likely end up over-eating. This basically means that you will spend more, eat more, and get less out of your money and your food. Not to sound too preachy, but if you don’t eat nutritious foods you can get seriously sick. Story time: I know a girl who got scurvy in university (that’s right, the pirate disease) because she lived off low-nutrient processed foods… sorry Mr. Noodles, although you’re a delicious quick fix, you’re just not a solid every-meal-every-day food.
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    3. Keep a food diary to make sure that you’re honest with yourself about 1 and 2.

    Food diaries are great. Okay, well actually, they’re pretty tedious, quite annoying and sometimes shameful, but the ability to take an honest look at what you’ve been eating can totally help you pinpoint allergies, nutrient deficiencies and major points of blowing your budget on late night pizza.

    If the idea of literally carrying around a journal full of what you’re eating sounds lame to you, worry not, there are plenty of great high-tech tools and alternatives.

    4. Check grocery flyers to make sure that you have a realistic idea of the cost of food in your area. 

    This one is mostly for first year university students or anyone who has recently relocated. If you’re not use to buying groceries in your area, or buying groceries period, you can set yourself up for budget failure by using outdated or inaccurate item pricing.

    Figuring out the average cost of grocery items that you usually use is also the first step to figuring out when you can take advantage of a wicked sale!
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    5. Figure out your weekly and monthly expenses.

    Set up a budgeting system that doesn’t leave you high and dry when you need to restock a giant bag of flour, a super-sized sack of rice, or any of those other bulk purchases that give you oh so much bang for your buck.

    I usually set a weekly budget (usually about $20) for things that expire quickly or that I use frequently- milk, eggs, produce, canned beans, etc.- and a second monthly budget (usually another $20 will be more than enough) for things that I buy in bulk- oats, rice, dried beans, flour, etc.

    6. Give your budget a trial run and readjust as needed.

    If you find yourself feeling tired or hungry go over your grocery budget again and reconsider your calculations. Staying healthy should always be your number one priority: there’s nothing frugal about missing work or class because of a preventable illness!

Five Ways to Save on Textbooks

Debt-Free University

The start of a new semester is always stressful. You’ve just paid an insane amount of tuition and you’re bracing yourself for an incoming flood of homework. To make matters worse, in order to do that homework you have to drop (yet another) beluga sized wad of cash on textbooks… or do you?

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada states that university students should anticipate spending $800 to $1,000 each year on textbooks and course materials alone. Most textbooks will cost anywhere from $50 to $300 at your campus bookstore and you may need more than one book per course or lab. That quickly adds up to, well, a whole lot of money that you’d rather spend on groceries or a fly new wardrobe (or save… maybe).

Don’t worry! You can have your cake and afford it too with these five ways to save on textbooks.

1. Check Out The Library (Free)

As a great aardvark once said, “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.”What Arthur didn’t tell you is that you can sometimes find course books in the library. Throughout my undergraduate I saved a small fortune on books this way.

Your campus library may have a section for textbooks that you can use to study or complete assignments for free. These textbooks become pretty popular around exam and major assignment periods though, so always plan ahead if you’re going to use them as a primary resource. You should also note that there may be restrictions on signing out textbooks or removing them from the library.

If you’re taking a course that requires the purchase of a literary work or anthology you may be in luck. In Nova Scotia, university libraries fall under a consortium called Novanet, which basically means that you can borrow books from universities all around the province and have them sent to your campus library for free. To access Novanet, go to your university’s website, click on their library page, and conduct a Novanet search for the title that you’re seeking. Novanet deliveries can take a few days to a week or more to arrive, so once again plan ahead.

Your local library may also have the textbooks and resources that you are looking for or be able to request them from other libraries in your region. If you’re pressed for time I would suggest searching the title online to make sure they have it before going there in person.

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2. Find Texts Online (Free)

Project Gutenberg is an online archive that houses thousands of free ebooks. It’s totally legal and also very easy to use.

If you’re stuck on a hard to understand text that is written in ‘weird’ English (think Shakespeare or even Chaucer), check out Sparknotes’ No Fear literature. It offers free line-by-line ‘translations’ of texts written in earlier versions of the English language. Make sure you read both columns though, especially if you’re going to be tested on passage recognition.

I’ve heard that it’s possible to download textbooks online as well but I’ve never had any success with that myself.

3. Thrift It Up ($1 and up)

Try your luck at a local thrift shop to see if you can snag a good deal. Many classic novels can be found in most thrift shops while stores that take local donations may receive old textbooks from university students who downsize.

You can also check out secondhand bookstores. If you’re in Halifax, Nova Scotia I would suggest trying John W. Doull, Bookseller. This secondhand bookshop is well worth the trip to Darthmouth: it’s absolutely loaded with a ton of reasonably priced texts. You can search for a book on their website or message them on Facebook if you’re looking for a specific title.

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4. Check Online Buy and Sell Boards ( Usually at least 30% off)

Search for your school’s ‘campus buy and sell’ or ‘your university + used books’ on Facebook. Most universities have Facebook groups that cater to student life related transactions. You can often find great deals on these sites and get most or all of your books for a course or program in one place. One of the major upsides to finding textbooks this way is that you can potentially find someone who is a year ahead of you and in the same program, meaning that you can have an ongoing customer/client relationship and continue to get secondhand textbooks on the cheap.

You can also try searching on online classifieds such as Kiiji.

Pro-tip: if you’re feeling bold try to haggle for a lower price. Although new textbooks are expensive, many are reprinted after a few years and dramatically drop in value so people with secondhand text books may be willing to negotiate with you instead of risking this depreciation.

5. Purchase Your Textbooks Online (Up to 70% Off)

Hard copies of textbooks can be purchased online with the use of websites such as Ebay or Amazon. Be careful: the cost of shipping can add up if you don’t pay attention and many low-price shipping options may take days or weeks to get to you.

ETextbooks can be purchased online at great discounts at VitalSource. I’ve also purchased eTextbooks from McGraw Hill before with great success.