DEBT-FREE ME!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very PROUD to announce that after 3 years of student loan repayments, I am finally DEBT-FREE today! 😀 All before turning 25 as planned!

It hadn’t been easy and at times, it was truly depressing, but I’ve come out of this a more financially stable and happy person.  I would like to share my tips and lessons I’ve learned from my 7 years with student loans.

I started uni in autumn 2006 and not long after, I received my student loans from the national and provincial student loan centres. What I should have done is transferred a lump sum of the money to my parents to cover the tuition fees they had paid for and save some for other necessary expenditures (books, student fees, extracurriculars, food, etc.). Unfortunately, I was a foolish girl and went shopping like a shopaholic. I felt like money was no issue and spent on whatever I desired (namely, beauty products and clothing). To be fair, my clothing purchases were long-term, though some of these were later donated or swapped in recent years.

It wasn’t long before I started panicking when I realised that the numbers in my bank account were dwindling. I still had some for 2nd year, but it wouldn’t be enough to last me. I believe I was approved for another loan in my 2nd year but sadly, that would not last very long either. Thank goodness for all the scholarships I could get that would cover part of my tuition, as well as the bursaries (student work programmes) that would help me get by. Thank goodness too that I could receive a scholarship from the student loan bureaus, lowering the total amount I would have to pay back. I am happy to say, at least the total amount of student loans was considerably less than what others had to pay.

As I’d wanted to spend my final semester in Vancouver for the Winter Games, I made sure that I took an extra semester between 2nd and 3rd year. I received a nasty surprise halfway through my 4th year when I realised that I would have to start paying back my student loans, now that I was a part-time student. Suddenly, life became hell on earth. I was juggling a very difficult online course (on a subject I knew very little of) and an onerous financial debt. Very well, the monthly amount was not awful but the minimum payment of C$89 every month was too much for a starving student* with no income.  (*I was not a starving student. I lived at Hotel Mamma & Pappa with free room and board.) Luckily, after I sent a desperate request to NSLSC, I was offered a 6 month grace period. Thus, I was able to finish the rest of my semester in relative peace and to find some temp work.

I wonder now if I would have finished paying off my student loans earlier had I found a full-time job in Vancouver instead of spend a year in Munich. Probably. However, I do not regret my year abroad in Munich, gaining some international work experience though barely surviving on very little income. Furthermore, I spent the following year (after Munich) just temping every now and then, sometimes going bankrupt, sometimes barely afloat. When I started my first full-time job last August, I decided it was time to start paying more. I raised the monthly payment to $200 but discovered, to my dismay, that it would still take 6-8 years to pay back all of my student loans. That is terribly depressing!

Last year, I finally paid off my provincial student loans. It was a fraction of my national student loans but one less burden sitting on my shoulders.

Not too long ago, I decided I would take the risk and raise the amount to $450/month. That would be nearly a quarter of my monthly income. I would have to prepare myself to live very frugally but at least I would be done by the end of the 2013 year. I opened a new bank account at ING for their no-monthly-fees and $25 bonus in your bank account (for your first $100 deposit) was far too tempting to resist. ING gave me peace of mind, I tell you. When tax season came around, I was elated that I would be receiving more than I’d expected (forgotten about the tuition credits we could get back). Some people put their tax money into their savings account or RRSP. As I did not have the latter and I was desperate to be done with my student loans as soon as possible, I gave it all back to the government (as in the national student loan bureau), shortening the end date by at least 2-3 months.

Originally, I was going to ask the NSLSC to withdraw the final amount in its entirety on the last day of the month (as usual). When I learned that it would then be $2 more, I was surprised.

“I’m quite certain it was $454.79 the last time I checked (on Sunday),” I said.

Today, it was $454.99. I wasn’t going to risk waiting until pay day Friday to find that I have to pay $455 or more. Yes, call me a Scrooge. That one penny will make a difference to me!

So if you are paying back your student loans, I suggest you pay back as much as you can afford and as soon as you can. Then, when you’re done, CELEBRATE! 😀

Tips

  1. Avoid asking for too much loan money. If you do receive a lot for your 1st year, make sure you can use it for at least 2 years.
  2. When you receive your student loans, pay back the tuition fee to your parents (whatever they paid for).
  3. Budget wisely. Set aside an amount for rent, food, extracurriculars, flight/ride home, etc. Then you’ll know how much entertainment money you have.
  4. Every month, put some money in your savings account. That’s money you don’t touch! (Unless it really is an emergency!)
  5. Keep yourself so busy that you have little time to shop.
  6. Eat at home or bring a lunchbox to work. Eating out can be quite costly and turned out to be the biggest culprit on my credit card bills!
  7. Pay back your student loans as soon as possible, as much (as you can afford) as possible!

Important info

  1. As soon as you stop becoming a full-time student, you have to start repaying your loans. I was shocked to learn that as a part-time student, I would have to start paying back my student loans. How cruel. As if part-time students have the money!
  2. Interest is not your best friend when you have to pay back. The earlier you pay, the lower you keep your interest.
  3. When you are done, the student loans bureau will send you a letter confirming that all is paid. Yay!

To show my gratitude for education, I will be:

What’s next?

I’m currently saving up for a master’s degree, as well as all the expenditures for living abroad.

60th Anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation

Last year in 2012, we celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. This year – that is, this summer – we [will] celebrate the Queen’s 60th anniversary of her coronation, which took place on 2 June 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of ...

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Coronation portrait, June 1953, London, England. Credit: Library and Archives Canada/K-0000047 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some events and memorabilia to celebrate Her Majesty’s coronation anniversary:

June 2nd: BBC Coronation season (source: bbc.co.uk)

June 4th: Special service at Westminster Abbey (source: Paul Harrison – @SkyNewsRoyal), followed by a lunch (source: Daily Mail)

Related Article:

July 11-14th: 4-day Coronation Festival of ‘innovation, excellence and industry’ in the gardens at Buckingham Palace (source: Daily Mail)

Related Articles: Four day ‘festival’ at Buckingham Palace Gardens and service of celebration at Westminster Abbey to be held for 60th anniversary of Queen’s coronation (dailymail.co.uk)

      Royal gift of design to celebrate Jubilee (flyerzone.co.uk)

  • display stands of the ‘best of British’ – fashion, technology, car design, food, drink, etc.
  • music and dance gala performance on some evenings
  • tickets: daytime (£30), evening (£90)

July 27th – September 29th: Queen’s coronation robes and other royal outfits on display at Buckingham Palace bit.ly/WqsZZu (source: @BritishMonarchy)

Related Article: Queen’s coronation outfit on show for 60th anniversary (itv.com)

More events!

Royal memorabilia:

Other

Coin Collecting: My Oldest Coin Collection

Everyone has hobbies and one of mine is coin collecting.

Yesterday, I finally bought a NUMIS album ($14.95 incl. 5 sheets; extra 5 sheets for $5.95) from the Royal Canadian Mint boutique for my coin collection, which I’d previously stored in a change purse.

These NUMIS albums come in navy, green, and burgundy.

These NUMIS albums come in navy, green, and burgundy.

Until 2011, all the coins in my collection were either found in my change or traded with the RCM, such as coins from the Winter Games 2010 and the War of 1812. Now, I have a mixture of purchased silver coins, found/traded change, and a collection from my Grandpa (including the coin below).

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While this album only holds coins for now, I’m including my discontinued $2 CAD, which my Grandpa had saved for me when I was little.

I regret I had it folded up for so long :(

I regret I had it folded up for so long 😦

Here are some of the neat coins that will go in my album:
1. This is an American ‘Indian head‘ penny dating back to 1909. It is the oldest coin in my possession.

Indian head

  1. Precious pennies that shouldn’t be melted ever in spite of the penny phase out. You can see King George VI (1944), Queen Elizabeth II (1953), and the centennial Canadian Confederation penny, of which I have 4.

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  1. This is my favourite collection: 3 nickels bearing 3 generations of monarchs.
I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I discovered King George V in my coin collection!

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I discovered King George V in my coin collection!

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Our beaver nickel wasn’t always a beaver coin!

Do you collect coins? What are some of your favourite coins in your collection?

Fare thee well, penny!

Today is the start of the penny phase out in Canada.

Coins of the Canadian dollar

Those small copper coins will no longer end up in our change. We won’t even receive American pennies that usually get mixed up with our own because American tourists won’t be able to use them in Canada. (Thank goodness!) That’s that. The end. In 3-4 years, the pennies will be out of circulation.

During the past few months, I’ve been rolling up pennies in 50 cent tubes. As a coin collector, I enjoy saving coins with significant years or special designs on them. I’ve collected a few pennies from 1967 that marked the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation and feature the rock dove in flight. I’ve saved one from my birth year, though it was most likely minted the year before. One thing I haven’t found yet, unfortunately, is one from 2012, the last year new pennies were minted.

How will this affect us?

No more digging around for the pennies you have to pay for that coffee! The Royal Canadian Mint has a visual aide of what the penny phase out would mean when it comes to cash transactions:

Source: Royal Canadian Mint

Secondly, for those who love English, think of all the idioms we grew up with that will no longer be applicable. Will children and those yet to be born/conceived understand these sayings or even use them? Deanna De Ciccio’s End of the penny: an infographic lists all the penny sayings. Here are a few:

  • a penny for your thoughts
  • my two cents
  • a penny saved is a penny earned
  • lucky penny

Well, at least those pennies you find on the pavement will really be lucky! ;D

What’s next?

Recently, I’d read an article on the penny phase out and the author suggested that the nickel might be next. The melodramatic in me cried out, ‘Oh no, it’s too much to bear!’ Yet really, when I do carry change with me, which coins do I keep in my purse? Just the quarters, loonies and toonies. I’ve already rolled up the pennies, nickels and dimes at home. Here’s an article in Maclean’s on getting rid of more coins: So long, penny. Why don’t you take the nickels and dimes with you, too?

What will I do with all my pennies?

I’ve already rolled up 3 rolls of 50 cents each. Initially, I had in mind to take them to the bank and add the change to my bank account. However, now that I know Free The Children is planning a penny coin drive, I’ll drop off the rolls to RBC, where they’re collecting pennies from 4-9 Feb for FTC’s clean water projects around the world.

Free The Children’s clean water projects campaign

This is also my chance to visit the Art Deco RBC on Hastings St. It’s beautiful inside!

What are your plans for the penny retirement?