I feel like I’ve fallen in between the cracks of “groupings” – I don’t live at home (most of the time) but I’m not a “young professional” or in a “young couple” either. I’m just a young confused.
Over the last few years I’ve seen so many ideas online for stuff I’d love to do at some point – recipes, house ideas, finance plans, career choices…but I always look at it as for “someday”. Which is very open-ended. So I decided to start a blog for the young confused among us who want some of those sweet plans that can be applied now. Recipes you can make in a tiny apartment, finance plans for people without a stable career, and mostly, a lot of other confused people.
I called this Wash on Monday from the chore schedule rhyme Ma Ingalls has in Little House on the Prairie. She does one chore every day in the week, and Monday is wash day. It also is coincidentally my laundry day. I thought it would be appropriate because I like arbitrary systems and am always trying to remember to do my laundry.
Are you also a young confused person trying to figure out what the hell is going on and how to do it? Are you not young but still pretty confused? Are you young and somehow not confused, and here to help the rest of us?
I am notoriously terrible at keeping track of schoolwork for a long time. Lots of assignments just kind of melt into a black hole and I never do them – but this is the year I’m improving! I switched to the Happy Planner about a year and a half ago and I really enjoy it. I find being able to switch out pages and only add a couple weeks’ worth of pages at a time makes it easier for me to switch systems, since I don’t feel guilty for “wasting” half a planner.
I’ve been using a grade tracker in my happy planner for the last few months and I’ve found it to be super helpful. It does a couple things for me that might be really helpful to other college students as well:
Reduces the chance of grade surprises. You will never again have the end-of-term panic when you didn’t realize your grade was that low.
It makes it easier to set and understand goals related to your marks. You can get a better sense of how far you have left to go.
It makes it easier to correct mistakes. Sometimes profs calculate your grade wrong – and it’s much easier to challenge it if you catch it right away.
So…..I made a free printable! Because I love printables.
These are sized for the mini, classic, and large happy planners. The classic and large have space for four classes, so you can print off multiple if you have more courses than that. The mini only has space for one class – four classes was really cramped and would’ve been nearly impossible to write.
These are primarily aimed at university classes because they only have space for 6 assignments each, which is around where most of my classes were. For high school you’re likely to have many more assignments, so you can use two boxes for one class – just write the same course name at the top so it’s clear.
Here are the download links for the PDFs – Happy planning!
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the most diligent planner-user. A lot of my planner weeks only have a couple things in them and then a week later, my weekly spread is spilling over with chicken-scratch notes and to-dos.
I’m more of a cram-planner than a glam-planner.
But planning is planning! And ultimately, whether you decorate it or not is much less important than making it a system that actually helps you be more organized. If it doesn’t help you do that, then it’s just a waste of your time.
Since I have a terrible memory, I like to write down EVERYTHING or it simply will not get done. If on Monday I decide I want to drink more water, but I don’t write it down, by Thursday that goal will be completely gone. So I write everything down. This is a list of 50 things you might not have thought of tracking – I don’t personally track all of these things, but pick the ones that make sense for your life.
Monthly cycle – What day it starts, and any symptoms (e.g. when your cramps start.) Helps you better predict next month.
Any medical symptoms you keep track of to tell your doctor – it’s very helpful to actually have a clear answer when your doctor asks when your pain started!
Mood Tracker. Especially helpful if you track it a couple times a day (like mood at breakfast, dinner, bedtime…) because otherwise we tend to skew our view of the whole day based on how the last bit was.
Best thing and Worst thing that happened that day
Calorie count – I’ve been trying to get better at this one since I have a really bad habit of forgetting to eat.
Weight – probably not daily, but weekly or monthly. Useful whether you’re trying to gain, lose, or maintain.
Amount eaten of one particular nutrient – i.e. if you’re trying to eat less sugar, or more protein, or more Vitamin C.
Medication – did you take it? On time? Did you experience any side effects?
Any over-the-counter meds you took. I always write this one down, even if it’s just a Tylenol or Gravol. The reason is that a lot of the OTC things I occasionally take can’t be mixed with alcohol, and so I write it down to remember oh yeah, I took headache pills this morning, no wine. Those interactions can be a really serious deal, even for non-prescription drugs.
Paycheck. When you got it, and how much.
How many hours you worked. At my job once I hand in my timesheet I never really see it again, so if I don’t write down the hours I worked, I might not notice if I got paid incorrectly. If I work 12 hours, I write it in the corner of the weekly spread, and once I get the paycheck for those hours, I cross it off.
When bills are due – if they’re recurring, just do it for a few months ahead.
When bills were paid – I usually write the bill and amount on the date it’s due, and then under that I write paid on (date).
Any upcoming financial deadlines – tuition payments, tax dates, contribution deadlines, etc.
Money spent on each budget category. Everyone budgets differently so this isn’t an easy thing to nail down, but basically, you should be writing down how much you spent per month on the “variable” stuff. For me I track how much I spend on groceries and “fun” money. Everything else is pretty fixed.
Savings goals and current amounts. Write out a cute chart for whatever it is you’re saving for, and write down how much you have towards that goal at the end of every month.
ANY money you’ve borrowed from a friend or relative. WRITE IT DOWN and PAY IT BACK ASAP! Be considerate if people loan you money and keep on top of it.
Any expensive events coming up. Write ’em in a few months/weeks ahead and set aside money for them. This might include birthdays, back-to-school, holidays, whatever.
Long-term spending goals. I keep a little list of “nice” things I want to buy for myself so if I’m thinking about spending money on dumb stuff, I look at the list and go “no, I actually want to keep that $30 to put towards those things.”
Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Don’t forget them!
Gift ideas lists. I’m TERRIBLE at giving gifts, so if I have an idea, it gets written down. Then six months later when I have NO idea what to get that person, I already have an idea.
Friends’ and relatives’ contact info. Especially if you’re going to be one of their emergency contacts or if they’re yours. (By the way, who are your emergency contacts? If it’s still your mom, and she now lives in Florida, maybe change that.)
A list of fun things to do with friends/date night ideas. Lots of people get stuck in a rut of uh….wanna see a movie again? and there’s lots of unique things you can do!
Network contact info – if you meet people who might be good career connections later on, keep their email addresses, names, and a two-sentence summary of who they are in a section in your planner.
Upcoming meeting dates.
Deadlines (and intermittent deadlines, like “I want to have the draft done by Tuesday.”)
Work events – especially if you have to plan a few days in advance for an outfit/etc.)
A little summary of one thing you did well at work this week, and one thing to improve.
Dates of when you started a new job, got a promotion, did a project, etc. Especially useful if you’re job searching and need to fill out forms.
List of possible references and their contact info. That way you can access them quickly and don’t have to keep checking old email threads.
Business cards. Keeping them with a paper clip in the back might be a convenient place if you already carry your planner.
A little summary of what you accomplished each day or week at work – so when your boss asks what your priorities were this week, you know right away. This is especially true if you’re working remotely now, because a lot of employers are asking their employees to self-report their work.
Substance intake (days you drank, how much, progress if you’re trying to quit smoking, etc.)
Daily or weekly mantras
Meditation or mindfulness exercises
Days designated for family time – either you can write down the days you had good family time, or you can play ahead of time which days you want to.
Household tasks or chores that need to be done on a specific day – laundry day, batch cooking, cleaning for guests, etc.
Meal planning for the week, and grocery lists.
Don’t let this list of “structured” tracking get you into the trap of thinking everything in your planner has to be systematic and well-documented. It’s totally okay to track things for just a few days at a time and not every day, if that makes more sense with the way your actual life plays out. Planners are meant to be customizable, so don’t feel bound to the way anyone else planned – including the way your former self planned.
I’ve always been a person that gets very attached to physical places. Whether it’s a city, a neighbourhood, or a house, I really need to feel that sense of familiarity that every corner, every lightpost, every flowerbox will always be the same.
Before university, I had only ever lived in one house, and my neighbourhood hadn’t changed much in the time I’d lived there. It was a very homey environment because, well, it was where I lived. Even though I didn’t move cities to go to university, I moved to a new neighbourhood that was very different in terms of city planning. Plus, a new dorm room in a new building is always going to be a big adjustment.
Feeling comfortable and happy in your housing arrangement, whatever it is, will inevitably make you a happier, and more successful, student. Here are a couple ways to do that.
Get acquainted with your surroundings.
Obviously you should take a look at what things are around your new dorm, because otherwise you’ll get lost. As you move in, the RA’s will likely give you a quick rundown of where there’s a grocery store, post office, bank, etc. But something you might not think to do is make new traditions and habits in your new place.
At home, you probably have a favourite place to get breakfast, you know which tea shop has the best chai lattes, you have a favourite spot at the park…and if you’ve just moved somewhere new, you likely have none of those things there. So find them! Find places in the neighbourhood you can go to over and over again, so you don’t end up in the cycle of constantly feeling like you’re in a new place. This will help you settle in and you’ll feel like you’ve lived there your whole life.
2. If you have friends from the new city, ask to visit their favourite places.
As someone who goes to school in my home city, in the first weeks lots of my friends asked me navigational questions. Where’s the nearest pharmacy? Where the hell is Dundas street? How do you buy bus fare??? Why is everyone in Toronto so mean? (I don’t know the answer to the last one. I wish I did.)
However, they quickly realized that I actually have no idea where anything is in this city because I have a terrible sense of direction. What I CAN do, though, is show people why I love this city. Because spoiler alert, it’s not the Math Building or the vaccine clinic.
Sometimes feeling like a city is more than just the campus will make it feel like somewhere you could actually develop a life. By asking friends who are from the city, you can find out which neighbourhoods are the best for shopping, hidden food destinations, local tourist attractions, day trips you might not have thought of, and more. Yes, you’re here to study, but you’re also here to live!
3. Keep in touch with friends and family you’ve moved away from.
It’s not easy to move away from friends and family, especially if you’ve lived with them your entire life. But it isn’t easy for them either. Lots of students get caught up in the idea that their far-away friends are living an idyllic college experience while they’re struggling a little to get settled down. The truth is that most students aren’t living an idyllic experience – every first year is a little rough at first.
Try to keep in touch with people you’ve moved away from. Keeping those relationships healthy will help your support system remain strong, and will give you a little bit of consistency when everything else feels like it’s changing. If you’re close enough, go visit your friends’ schools. Most college towns are pretty accessible by bus or train, which tends to be less expensive and more sustainable than other transportation.
4. Join cultural groups and make connections.
Moving away from family also means moving away from cultural traditions and groups you’ve probably grown up with. Although some college towns aren’t super diverse (and that can DEFINITELY make it harder for students from cultural or religious minorities to find their footing), lots have at least small groups/clubs/societies for various cultural and religious groups.
Even if you aren’t super involved in these groups, it can at least help you find some friends that share similar experiences to yours. It might help you a lot to find people who speak your language or who attend the same places or worship.
Also, these groups likely have local students in them. Those students probably know where cultural centres, events, restaurants, etc. are in the city.
5. Get involved in local cultural and recreation events, off campus.
Campus events are great, but if you don’t explore the other events and scenes in the city you might feel a little bit isolated. Check out your city’s events and recreation programs. Some types that are great are local tradition days, like the local fair or parade; volunteering days and charity events; free or cheap rec programming and workshops at community centres; and free public lectures and exhibits at museums or libraries.
You can google “stuff to do in ___” and you’ll find a bunch. You can also check out your city’s website or social feeds, or get on your city councillor’s mailing list.
Speaking of city councillors….
6. Make your voice heard in local politics.
Depending on where you’re from and where you’re moving, you might or might not be allowed to vote in city elections. Find out if you can, and then DO IT! As well, find out if you’re supposed to register to vote in your home district or your dorm’s district. It varies by country. If you can vote locally, DO IT. Campuses are a huge number of people housed in a pretty small area, and they often have VERY different demographics than the rest of the city. That means it can sway an entire local election or congress seat. And yet, it often doesn’t. Why? Because students don’t vote as often as they should.
Students often don’t have a lot of money or free time, and they almost never own their own houses. All of these are factors that make people less likely to vote, because campaigns often don’t prioritize fighting for these votes. But you have every right to be represented in the place you’re now living. Think about it – you’re going to eat, live, rent, shop, work, pay taxes, get healthcare, and look for a job in this city. Local politics have a huge impact on how that will look for you.
If you can’t vote, you can still get involved. Email or call local politicians if you have a concern (and follow what they’re doing so you know what they’re doing). Lots of them will need help campaigning for elections too – and there are a lot of ways to help that don’t involve a huge time commitment.
Don’t think of it as leaving your home – think of it as starting a second home. Four years is enough time to develop a really great life in a community. Take advantage of it!
There’s a part of me that’s almost hesitant to give a huge amount of university experience-related advice for a few reasons – first, I had a pretty rough first year and I don’t really want to encourage anyone to do all the things I did, but secondly because I think part of the reason your first year is so valuable is that you do have to figure out a lot on your own.
But I realized I actually had a huge amount of advice going into first year, and it was really helpful. As much as you can listen to other people’s experiences and try to plan before you jump into the deep end, you’re still going to have to learn to swim. Sometimes that means learning the hard way that you need to study more. Sometimes that means laughing and running home at 3 am and learning the hard way that the sprinklers turn on at exactly 3:15. True story.
You’re taken much more seriously academically.
In high school, you’re there to learn what the teacher has to tell you and then move on. Some high school classes do have more of an emphasis on discussions and sharing ideas (which is awesome) but in general you will only learn the things that teacher personally knows. In university classes, especially in humanities and social sciences, you’re expected to have something intelligent to say about the topic. You’re expected to not only understand the material, but also be able to help others learn about it. Your opinions are also taken much more seriously as academic ideas.
This is a positive thing and a difficulty. First of all, it feels really good for your profs to take you seriously. It’s a great way to learn the material, but also, you’ll learn how to write, express your ideas, and develop an informed opinion. This is CRUCIAL to you being any kind of academic later, so make the most of this.
This is also something that people have a hard time adapting to. Since your classwork is now considered of real academic value, academic integrity is now taken MUCH more seriously than in high school. Be sure to look really carefully at the list of things your professor has designated as “dishonest” or “illegal” – some of them might not be intuitive. For example, in my labs I wasn’t allowed to write in pencil, to make sure my numbers hadn’t been altered. If I forgot to sign my sheet before I handed it in, or if I rounded my numbers differently on the report and the conclusion, I would get a 0. If you’re unsure about whether something is allowed, CHECK WITH THE PROF OR TA! I promise you it’s worth the hassle.
2. Things you did in high school don’t matter now.
I mean not entirely, but more than you’d expect. First, socially, nobody will care who you were in high school. Even the kids you went to high school with, if you happen to go to the same college, probably won’t give a shit about how cool you were in high school. Everyone’s in a completely new environment. Don’t act entitled to popularity because you were in high school, and if you weren’t cool in high school, this is a fresh start.
On the first day of university we had an orientation event that ended with a party. I’d introduced myself to about 700 people and I couldn’t remember who most of them were an hour later. At one point this guy in a baseball cap and a chain came up to me and pointed to some people next to him and said, “hey, we’re going back to the dining hall to get ice cream, wanna come?” He was somebody I would NEVER have talked to in high school because honestly he looked way cooler than me. But that guy didn’t see that! He just saw that I was someone he recognized who he wanted to get to know. Turns out, I had a lot more in common with him than I thought.
However, the second part of this is that your high school accomplishments mean less and less as you move away from high school. They’re like a train running down a track into the sunset. In your first year, you should aim to do extracurriculars and make connections because by second and third year, anything you did in high school will be irrelevant (mostly. Again, if you have something REALLY impressive, keep it on your resume, but otherwise, nix it.) If you were captain of the debate team in high school and won everything, but never did debate or speech in university, don’t count on that captain position to get you far here. You need to re-earn the accomplishments.
3. Analysis Paralysis!
Analysis Paralysis is when you have so many options and so much to look at and consider that you end up freezing and picking nothing. In high school, most of your decisions are small relative to the choices that are already made for you. In college, you have SO MANY OPTIONS. At my school, there really aren’t a lot of people stopping you from making BAD decisions either. For example, they will let you take a class you’re missing a prerequisite for, and won’t tell you. You just never end up getting a credit for it. Lovely!
This also applies to life skills. When you’re choosing your own food, deciding when to do laundry, and waking up without anyone yelling at you for missing class, you have a lot more tiny decisions to make every day. My best advice is to give yourself a bit of a break and accept that you’re sometimes going to forget to do laundry or eat vegetables for a day or two. It’s fine. Plus, keep checking in with yourself to make sure you aren’t getting too stressed. (I have a post here about when it’s time to get help.)
For making academic choices, find out who you can go to at your school for academic advice. It could be a registrar, academic advisor, or dean of students. If you can, have them check over the courses you plan to take. Make sure you aren’t missing any requirements that you’ll have to make up later on.
4. You’re exposed to WAY more cultures, ideas, and situations.
This depends a lot on where you go to school, but for the most part, getting out of your town or high school is going to expose you to tons of new people. Those people bring new languages, religions, cultures, hobbies, interests, ideas, worldviews, and social dynamics.
And it’s GREAT. There’s a reason universities are often the birthplace of new movements and trends. There’s also little homes for lots of different subcultures, so lots of people get connected with things they were only mildly involved in in high school. Which is also great.
Tip for this is to keep an open mind. You’re going to meet people who think very differently than you do because their experiences are very different. Some of these people might think things that are directly at odds with your or your family’s beliefs. You may or may not agree with these people, and that’s fine. But you CANNOT disrespect someone because their experience or worldview is different. You never know what you might learn outside of the classroom.
5. You’re an adult now, and nobody will magic your problems away.
You’re an adult! Yay! Seriously, it’s scary as hell but it’s also awesome.
One of the things that’s hard about this transition though is that you’re also now an adult in the eyes of your school, the government, and the law. And yes, you do need to take those things seriously.
Depending on who you were in high school, you might or might not have made a lot of mistakes. Things like drinking too much at a party, minor fights or traffic incidents, though dangerous, were likely fixed up pretty quickly by the adults around you. You’re now the adults around you. If you break the law or hurt somebody, you can now be charged as an adult. Lots of people get a criminal record for dumb stuff they did in university.
But more importantly than avoiding arrest, you’re now responsible for being an adult for other people. Our society trusts that at any given time, most people are adults. Those people are responsible for making the world as safe as possible for those who aren’t yet adults (and obviously each other). If you refuse to grow up and get real, you’re putting other people in harm’s way. Drinking and driving, blatant racism, and serious physical fights are all things I’ve seen WAY too many smart students do and openly admit to. I’m not going to tell you not to do this because it’ll follow you forever, even though it will. If the only motivation you have for not hurting other people is that it’ll get you in trouble down the road, you’re not ready to live alone or be unsupervised, ever. Grow up, and be a good person.
Being an adult also means taking care of your friends. Depending on where people live and their family relationships, lots of students get to uni with a weak support system. If you’re lucky enough to have a strong one, step up and help your friends. Call the ambulance if someone’s throwing up too much and you’re worried. Ask your friend if they’re alright if they seem “off”. Be nice, be caring, and be a positive force in your circles. It goes a really, really long way.
6. It’s much easier to fail.
Every student who fails thought it “couldn’t be them”. It can. Aside from working hard, the other thing I’d strongly recommend would be to make sure you self-evaluate where you’re at with the material pretty often. Lots of college classes only have a few assignments per term, which means that if you fail the first essay, you might not have enough assignments left to pick it up. Ask questions, go to office hours, look up practice exams. And if you do fail an assignment or test, talk to the instructor RIGHT AWAY and see what you can do.
7. You get to learn from and with the BEST people in your field.
This is the best part, and really the whole reason university exists. Instead of learning from a high school teacher who knows a little about a lot of things, you can now learn from someone who has dedicated 5+ years of their life to studying ONLY THIS ONE THING. And they STILL only know a tiny percentage of what there is to know.
Even outside of your classes, there are usually lots of free lectures, research presentations, and seminars on campus by grad students and professors in various fields. Take advantage of these! Great way to learn about things that are either right up your alley, or running sort of parallel to your alley.
University isn’t just about doing what it takes to get a degree. It’s about having a huge amount of knowledge at your fingertips and massive academic contributions happening right around you. Take advantage of it!
If you’ve been preparing to go to college or university in September, or even if you’re still in the application process, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a lot of buzz about student mental health. When I was applying, some schools heavily advertised that they had great student mental health. Part of this is just because there’s been more focus lately on student experience instead of just academics and ratings, but it’s also because in the last few years, several high-profile Canadian schools have been getting a really, really bad rap for the way they handle mental health issues among students.
In the last 3 years, there have been several really tragic on-campus suicides, and various student groups have been trying to get schools to wake up a bit about the reality of the situation. Although there are absolutely some systemic issues related to access to mental health support that exacerbate this problem, anybody can become overwhelmed in university and have their mental health suffer. In this post I’m going to try to outline some of the common reasons students struggle with their mental health in college, particularly in their first year, as well as how to deal with it.
Increased Stress and Expectations
It isn’t nice to hear, but for 99% of students, the college experience is much, much more stressful than the high school experience. It doesn’t mean you can’t handle it, but you should go into university expecting that it will be harder than high school. That means you need to take a good look at where your mental health is now, and evaluate how you’re likely to respond to a higher-stress environment.
Try to predict what things will change during the transition. Guaranteed, your classes will be harder and your profs will be more intimidating than your high school teachers. But also take into account how things like social life, work, and finances will change. If you don’t know anybody at your school, chances are you’re going to be at least a little bit stressed about meeting new friends. If you’re taking out loans or picking up a job, you’ll most likely have to devote more mental energy to thinking about money than you did before. For a list of other things you should consider both when choosing a university and preparing to go, check out my post here.
This isn’t to try to scare you, but to prepare you. As I’m going to discuss later in this post, there are absolutely things you can do to help your mental health in university, but the longer you wait the harder the problem is to deal with. Not all stress is cause for concern, but knowing how your feelings are likely to change will help you differentiate “normal” stress from a more serious problem.
If you are entering college or university with any kind of mental illness or ongoing mental health problem, you should figure out as early as possible, preferably the summer before you start, how you can get connected to Accessibility Services. While this varies a lot from school to school, most major universities have a department dedicated to getting accommodations for students with disabilities or mental illnesses.
The reason you should see if you’re eligible is that in many schools, a professor or registrar DOESN’T have the power to give you mental health-related accommodation without documentation from an accessibility advisor. For example, at my school if you go to a prof and say “hey, I was having a really hard time last week because of my depression and I didn’t get a chance to finish that essay. Could I have another two days?” the prof doesn’t have the authority to give that to you. If you are registered with accessibility as having depression, however, they can help you.
Another useful accommodation is a reduced course load. In general, being considered a full-time student gets you additional opportunities that part time students don’t have. For example, certain financial aid benefits or housing options are only available to full-time students. My school has an on-campus job program that is only open to full-time students, meaning if I drop a course, I can’t keep my job. However, some schools will let students registered with accessibility to be considered “full-time” even if they’re taking less than a full course load.
How stressed is too stressed?
Stress, especially in a competitive, high-pressure environment like university, isn’t necessarily a sign of a mental health problem. It’s very normal to feel stressed before a big test or about a hard class. However, if it’s getting extreme, you should absolutely address it as soon as possible. If your stress is leading you to any of the following, you should seek help.
Changes in overall mood: lethargy, depression, sadness, hopelessness
Difficulty sleeping or difficulty waking up
Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, lack of motivation
Increased use of alcohol, drugs
Inability to maintain relationships the way you would like to (lack of motivation to see friends, irritability that affects relationships, etc.)
Too stressed/depressed/overwhelmed to take advantage of opportunities (e.g. no energy to go to events, hopelessness about jobs/opportunities, constantly feeling overwhelmed)
Affecting academic performance (e.g. missing or skipping class, inability to pay attention, not submitting work)
It’s important to note that you should seek help for these things regardless of whether they affect you for a week or a year. If these problems are persisting long-term, you should definitely seek a different KIND of help than you would if they were short-term, but even short-term problems are important to address. Even if you know what’s causing it and you’re pretty sure you can power through it, you don’t have to. Resources available CAN help you, and they’re there for you. You aren’t wasting space or time just because it’s a short-term problem. Mental health is mental health, and yours is important.
The following are resources you can use if you have short-term stress problems:
Your school medical services. Even if you’re happy with your family doctor, I’d recommend at least taking the card of the campus clinic. It’s close and convenient, and you never know when your family doctor won’t have an opening.
Your family doctor. Lots of people prefer to go to a doctor that they already know. If you’re moving to a new city, consider getting a check-up from the campus clinic before you have a serious problem you need medical attention for, just because that way you already have a bit of a relationship with that doctor. You’ll feel more comfortable later.
Peer support lines. When you start at university, you’ll likely get about 900 business cards from on-campus services. Take a look at them all. You’ll likely find a peer support line or a help line for mental health. If you don’t find one, find one in the city you’ll be studying in. There are a lot of youth-specific ones. It’s a good idea to have the card somewhere safe because when you’re struggling, you’ll want to know what your first option is.
IF you’re struggling with your mental health for a longer period of time, resources like support lines are less effective. Consider talking to your doctor about the possibility of long-term mental health support. It’s often hard to tell whether you need long-term help, but if you’re often struggling with stress or other mental health problems, the best thing you can do is to get long-term help. Take into account that you will likely struggle with stress again in the future, and if you’re developing a long-term plan of coping skills, therapy, and/or medication, it’ll be easier to deal with in the future. You deserve to be able to do your best, and if you feel terrible, you won’t be able to enjoy this really rewarding experience.
Taking it Easy
College is stressful. It’s incredibly rewarding, but it does take a toll on people. If you’re finding yourself too stressed, it might be time to take a look at what you could do to limit stress. Could you take a semester off as a break? Could you take fewer classes? Could you work fewer hours? There’s no rule that says you have to do things at the same pace as anyone else. A degree is a really huge achievement, whether you do it in four years or take it part-time and it takes seven years. It’s really important for you to balance your goals with what you can realistically handle. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with taking things at the pace you can take them.
If you’ve been following either low-waste blogs or money-saving blogs, I’m sure you’ve read dozens of posts about the merits of bulk shopping. And while it certainly has its merits, it’s certainly not perfect. For starters, many people don’t have access to bulk stores (or to good bulk stores). Luckily more bulk stores are popping up, but they’re still few and far between outside of major cities. Secondly, buying large quantities of food without planning often leads to food waste if you won’t use it up or you don’t have a way to store it. Not to mention, buying 25 pounds of sugar at a time has a substantial upfront cost that may be outside your budget if money is tight. Some items are even more expensive in bulk stores, because they don’t offer store brands and you usually can’t use coupons.
Considering all of those reasons, why am I writing a post extolling the virtues of bulk food? Because if you use them wisely, bulk stores can help you save money AND drastically cut down on your use of disposable packaging (especially now that some chain bulk stores are allowing reusable containers!). Here’s a list of ingredients you should buy at the bulk store if you can, and why.
Spices aren’t necessarily expensive since you typically only use a very small amount, but since you might be using five or six at a time, it’s hard not to have a big upfront cost. If you’re making a recipe with a spice you almost never use, you end up with a package of that spice, still 90% full. Bulk stores will allow you to buy a large amount of food at a time, but they’re also useful because they allow you to buy a very small amount of an ingredient. If you’re using marjoram or allspice or white sage and you’re unlikely to use it again, try buying only a few teaspoons from the bulk store.
2. Loose Leaf Tea
Ever since I’ve started drinking a lot more tea, I’ve been trying to move towards more loose leaf and less bagged tea, since the bags represent a fair amount of preventable waste. Since that’s my main goal, I’ve also been looking to getting tea in reusable containers. I got a couple of David’s Tea gift sets with little jars in it, and I’ve been using them to buy bulk spices. But you can also get tea at the bulk store! What’s nice about this is that you don’t have to commit to a lot of tea if you’re trying a new type, and a lot of the chain stores have a huge selection of tea blends.
3. Soup Stock Powder
If you’re buying commercial soup stock, one of the most affordable ways to do it is to buy the powdered mix at the bulk store. In general liquid soup stock is more expensive, and it goes bad quickly once it’s opened. The powder is great because you can buy a lot at a time, with virtually no waste. Just keep it dry in a jar and it’ll keep for a long time. Chains like Bulk Barn often have a pretty good selection.
Dry cereal is often cheaper in bulk, and it saves you a fair amount of garbage. Even though most cereal boxes are made of recycled cardboard, there’s a limit to how many times it can be reused, and it takes a lot of energy to process them and do so. Same with the tea, buying cereal this way can help you try a new kind without a lot of commitment. Saves you money, plastic, and food waste!
5. Seasonal Candy
Making seasonal recipes, centerpieces, or baskets with a variety of different candies is something a lot of people enjoy doing. Whether you’re doing Easter baskets or gingerbread houses, it’s nice to have a bunch of different kinds of novelty holiday candy. However, if you have to buy a whole bunch of different kinds of candy, you’ll end up spending a lot of money. Bulk stores often have a great selection, and you can buy a really small amount. Perfect if you’re only using them as a decoration!
Hope you enjoy this list of bulk items you might not have thought about! It’s pretty exciting to see the selection at bulk stores increasing over the last few years. If you’re in an area without a lot of bulk stores, you might be able to ask the management of your bulk stores about specific products you’d like to see. Especially if they’re little mom and pop shops, it’s worth a shot. You can also see about buying bulk products at candy stores, health food stores, or farmer’s markets.
What other items do you always get at the bulk store, and why?
If you’re a great cook, you might love the feeling of taking a random assortment of ingredients and cooking up a delicious and creative dish. If you’re not a great cook, or too busy to bother with a Chopped-style dinner every weeknight, it’s very helpful to have a well-stocked pantry. Here are some of the benefits:
You never need to worry about having staples on hand. If you’re at the grocery store and you see corn for a great price and it looks SUPER sweet, you don’t need to sit there trying to conjure up an image of your fridge interior or call your family to remember if you have cream, butter, flour, and paprika to make your favourite corn casserole. You can just remember that those are all on your pantry list, and buy the corn. Then you don’t double-buy those staples, and you don’t accidentally miss one.
You can plan ahead for sales and bulk pricing. If you have a large repertoire of meals that are based on your pantry staples, you’ll develop a really good idea of what ingredients you/your family eat through fast. Maybe you go through a pound of butter a week. If so, you can confidently buy 3 pounds if it’s on sale, because it will definitely last more than 3 weeks. With a standard pantry setup, it’s much easier to figure out what’s actually a “staple” for your diet.
You can make a lot of varied meals even when your grocery budget is tight. If you live somewhere where the price of food fluctuates through the year (Remember that week in 2017 when cauliflowers were $8 in Canada????) OR you have a job where your income fluctuates quite a bit, you might have weeks or months when that grocery budget is pretty low. Having a well-rounded pantry at home is going to serve you a lot better in that situation than having a random assortment of specialty baking chips and breadcrumbs, trust me.
If I’ve convinced you that a well-stocked pantry will benefit you, let’s get talking about how to build one. The list I’m giving is what my family tends to keep, and what is the hardest to work around when we don’t have it. Keep in mind that your staples might vary – if couscous is your staple grain instead of rice, don’t buy 8 kgs of rice. If anyone in your family needs to eat a large amount of one thing for health reasons (baby formula/fibre/supplements/juice to mix with meds/etc.), that’s something you should have at least 2-3 weeks’ worth of. If you run out, it’s gonna suck a lot more than being out of butter.
Dry goods are the best pantry staples to have. They don’t go bad quickly, they’re often more affordable than their fresh counterparts, and they’re a great way to bulk up staple recipes.
Flour. If you only buy one kind, get unbleached white. It can substitute cake or bread flour pretty well, most of the time.
Cornmeal (this is a staple for me because I love cornbread and make it at least once a month. Might not be a staple for you.)
Dried beans – I like to have lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans.
Breadcrumbs. The reason I put these on the staple list is that if I don’t, I ALWAYS buy new breadcrumbs when I need them. Last time we cleaned out the cupboards we had four opened containers of breadcrumbs.
Pasta – I like to have one “short” pasta (like penne or macaroni) and one “long” pasta (like spaghetti or fettucine) at a time.
This is a basic list of the things that come up in dozens and dozens of recipes. This obviously is going to depend on what kind of food you eat – each cuisine has its “staple” spices. I recommend NOT getting spice mixes once you already have a pantry built up, because they’re less versatile. If you buy the spices individually, you can use them separately or together. Plus, you can usually mix spice mixes yourself in about 2 minutes. However, I do suggest a couple spice mixes when you’re building a pantry from scratch because it reduces the up-front cost.
Dry stock mix/bouillon cubes. Liquid stock goes bad really fast, and is usually more expensive. I usually make my own stock, but sometimes you don’t have enough scraps to make it and you just need to cook.
Italian seasoning mix (or oregano, thyme, and rosemary)
Soy sauce/black bean sauce/anything else you use as a common marinade.
Fresh food and produce
It might seem like a bad idea to have fresh food on hand at all times because it will go bad. However, you don’t have to buy these things in bulk. You just want to make sure you have them on hand at all times so you don’t have to think about them. Plus, even though they need to be refrigerated, some of these things (like butter and cheese) actually keep for a reasonably long period of time as long as they’re sealed up.
As for vegetables, the ones I have here are the things that aren’t super easy to replace in meals. They’re good versatile vegetables that can “bulk up” a soup, stew, etc. However, on top of this we usually buy a good 3-4 other seasonal vegetables. Great vegetables to pick up are things that you can make in a really simple way – roasted, steamed, grilled, etc. They make a really easy side.
Cheese – I usually keep parmesan and cheddar.
Sour cream or yogurt.
You might notice that I don’t have any meat on here. That’s cause I don’t eat it! If you eat meat, I suggest choosing 2-3 types of meat that you know you’ll go through every week. Maybe you know you eat ground beef and chicken breasts every week. But stocking up on meat doesn’t make sense unless you have room to freeze it, or it’ll go bad. I recommend that unless you have a big family and go through a ton of meats, just buy what you need for the meals you’ve planned.
Speaking of planning meals…
Pantry planning works best with meal planning. I’ve made a HUGE list of meals that ONLY use these ingredients, plus some that use only one or two additional ingredients. That means that if you have all your pantry staples, you only need to buy a handful of things to get a variety of meals. Which is the whole point of HAVING staples in the first place.
You can view that post HERE!
Hope this helps you plan some meals and make grocery shopping a little easier!
Pretty much everybody at some point in their life has sat down with their budget book and realized they went a little over their planned number in the spending-money category. I certainly have. Depending on where you are in your financial life, the steps you need to take to fix that kind of mistake are going to be different – but it doesn’t matter how you compensate for a month of overspending if it’s a pattern you’re going to repeat next month.
There are a million reasons why you might overspend, or get into debt, on purchases that you absolutely couldn’t avoid. Sometimes circumstances are tough, and you might have unexpected medical bills or a sudden loss of income that set you back. But whether that’s your situation or you’re sitting in a decent financial situation, cutting out irresponsible purchases is going to benefit your financial health no matter what.
Of course, what counts as “irresponsible” for you is going to depend on your lifestyle, priorities, and resources. If you’re a multimillionnaire, then spending a couple hundred dollars on a whim on a dress won’t be too big of a problem. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck and buying that dress on credit, that’s a different story. So keep that in mind for these tips, but in general, these are pretty universal ways to keep your purchasing habits smarter.
Think of how much the item costs in terms of other products.
For example, maybe that dress costs $150. If your family’s budget for groceries is $150 a week, then that dress costs an entire week’s worth of food. If you’re saving for a $300 tattoo, that dress costs half your tattoo. If you owe $100 on your credit card, you could pay off that entire card just by not buying that dress! It might seem like you’re comparing apples and oranges, but dollars are dollars. At the end of the day, $150 spent on a dress is $150 you can’t spend elsewhere. And if it’s $150 you don’t have, then that’s money you’ll be paying off later when you will definitely wish you had it in your pocket to spend on future expenses.
2. Think of how much the item costs in time
How much is that dress worth compared to your salary? For me, I’m a student and I only work part-time for $15 an hour. That dress costs 10 hours of my labour (before deductions). That’s…a lot. Plus, since I only work part time, that’s likely how much I’d make in a week. I always think about purchases like this – if I worked for 10 hours for my boss, and at the end, she gave me this dress instead of a paycheque, would I be happy with that? Usually, my first reaction is Hell no! My work is worth more. If that’s your first reaction too, then it’s probably not a purchase that’s worth the splurge.
3. Think of how much the item costs in resources
Pretty much every product we buy has a significant resource and environmental cost. As well, a lot of the consumer products we buy are produced in less-than-ethical ways, meaning a lot of people suffer in the industries that purchase is supporting. This isn’t meant to shame you if you buy these products! I do too. Unfortunately, there are very few regulations to prevent this exploitation, and there are too few brands that make affordable, ethical products. And no matter how much of a minimalist you are, there are things you need, and want, to buy. You need clothing. And if you can’t afford or access ethical/sustainable options, then you need to buy what you can. But, if you’re contemplating a purchase that you likely won’t use very often, won’t enjoy, or is similar to a lot you already own, decide if the impact of that item is worth the cost, and remember that a lot of that cost won’t fall to you.
4. Think about how marketing has impacted your desire for this product
One thing that helps me a lot is trying to figure out WHY I want something so badly, and a lot of the time that leads me to realize that it’s actually an external motivation. Do I want that dress really badly because it’s something that’s missing from my wardrobe, or is it because it was marketed to be something bigger? Sometimes ad campaigns hit heartstrings or make us jealous, and while buying that item might give you a rush of relieving that, it’s not going to make you happy longterm.
I remember a few years ago there was an ad for a Dior perfume (I think it was Joy??) that featured Jennifer Lawrence. I thought the commercial was BEAUTIFUL and I think it’s one of the only commercials I’ve ever actually looked for to watch on my own. I actually considered buying the perfume because just looking at it made me really happy. But perfume ads have nothing to do with the actual scent and what I was actually being marketed was the fantasy of diving into a pool in a wedding dress (totally still down to do that. By the way.). A few months later I actually smelled in in a department store and I didn’t even like it – if I had bought it it would be sitting in a drawer right now.
5. Remind yourself often of your long-term goals
In the moment, it’s easy to feel the draw of a shiny dress over the appeal of an abstract lifestyle you’ve been planning for. Even if you stop yourself and go no, being debt-free is more important or whatever your goal happens to be, that might not be enough to shake the emotion-driven draw of the splurge item. The key is to make your long-term goals a part of your daily life. Remind yourself often of what you’re aiming for. Remind yourself of how good it will feel to reach them. Make a plan for something you will do when you reach them (maybe when you pay off your student loans, you’ll make the final payment with your friends in the room, and then have a party).
Remember – advertising companies want you to feel emotionally driven to buy their products. That can make it really hard to resist, but it isn’t your fault. They’re playing the game. But you can play it too. If you can make yourself emotionally driven to save that money instead, you can beat them at their own game and end up financially healthier and happier overall.
I want so, so badly to be able to recount to you my wonderful and consistent morning routine in which I get a lot done and set myself up on a path of productivity and motivation. But that would be a really short and kind of sad post, so I’m not doing that. Instead, I’ve gone around to some of the top blogs around and read through their tips, and picked the ones I think are absolutely genius. Plus, I’ve linked the rest of the post so you can click through and read the rest of their insight.
Write out your long-term goals.
This tip comes from Captivating Crazy and their post on 8 things to do before 8 am. It’s so simple and it’s pretty similar to writing out your goals for the day, which is featured on most of these lists. You probably don’t have to write out ALL your long-term goals, just the ones that you’re specifically working towards. Maybe you’re getting up early to work out – write out “Maintain a healthy weight” or “Stay in shape” or “Improve overall health” as a long term goal.
Wake up to music
So simple! Wake up to your favourite song to get you motivated. You can also pick a song that starts with a mellow intro so you wake up slowly rather than with a jarring alarm sound. Gets you in a better mood for the start of the day. Read 4 more tips from The Werklife here.
When trying to wake up earlier, go to sleep as soon as you’re tired.
In a blog post I found extremely helpful, Her Highness, Hungry Me writes about how she started waking up earlier (5am!!). She says that in order to be up that early and not be tired, she has to be in bed by 9 or 9:30. But when you’re trying to gradually move your bedtime back, you probably won’t be able to fall asleep that early. Instead, go to bed as soon as you feel tired, and don’t distract yourself along the way. That will help you seamlessly move to waking up earlier.
Read for fun
This one is pretty common but I found it on Lustre Lagoon and even though it’s pretty self-explanatory I think it’s really helpful to write it out and emphasize how important it is that it’s FOR FUN. Reading the news or for work and classes is great, but you should also take some time to read something for fun. Don’t worry if it’s “smart” or good, just pick up something you like and read for a few minutes. Lustre Lagoon has some more great tips you should check out here.
Actually get ready
This is one of the things that Blogging Babe recommends in this post and it’s not one that everyone’s on board with. I’m certainly not telling you that you should have on a full face of makeup and a blowout every morning if that’s not your thing, but a lot of people find that getting ready and feeling “awake” helps them feel like the day has started. You’re more likely to laze around, get back in bed, or just not start working if you’re still in your PJ’s. So whether you’re wearing leggings or a sheath dress and pearls, get dressed in clean, non-pajama clothes as soon as you wake up.
Write it down!
It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re waking up early or going to sleep at a reasonable hour “most of the time” if you don’t actually write it down. That’s why Ponytails and Productivity recommends you can write down in your planner, journal, or bullet journal the time you went to bed, the time you woke up, and which items on your morning routine you got done so you can get an accurate idea of how often you’re actually getting it right.
Block off all interruptions
For a lot of people, their morning routine is the only part of the day with any peace and quiet (ESPECIALLY if you’ve got kids or a loud house). If your morning routine time is broken up by emails and DMs and text messages, then you don’t even get that time of quiet. It’s really important to spend that time to quietly and calmly transition into the main chunk of your day. Kim and Kalee recommend you turn off notifications and don’t check your phone until your morning routine is done, and I agree.
I’m definitely going to start bringing some of these into my morning routine. Hope these help you as well!
Picking a university, a program, a major, a residence building…. It’s all a lot of choice in a short period of time. Especially if you don’t have older siblings who’ve done it before, or if your parents didn’t go to university, you can feel like you’re shooting in the dark on a pretty big life decision. Here’s a quick list of questions to ask yourself (or the school!) before you accept an offer.
How much is my tuition going to be?
Will my tuition fees increase in later years? What if I switch my major?
How expensive is rent/transportation/living in this city?
How expensive is residence? Is it mandatory? Could I live at home?
Are there student services on campus that could replace things I’m currently paying for (e.g. free gyms, discounted medical services)
Will some classes require me to pay for online access codes/answering software? Do all classes use the same one, or will I have to buy multiple softwares? This is a good question to ask current students.
If I drop a class or take a reduced course load, what will my tuition be?
How much will it cost for me to come home for the holidays? How often will I be able to realistically afford to do that?
How many scholarships does this school offer? How many will I be eligible for? What is the process for applying to them? Many schools automatically consider all students for many scholarships.
Will I be able to find a part-time job in the city? Will I realistically have time to work if I pick this program? Some programs require MUCH more time than others.
Does this school have a work-study or student on-campus job program? Do you need to have financial need to qualify? How do I apply?
If I drop or fail a class, will I lose my on-campus or work-study job?
How big is the school? How do I feel about that?
Is the school broken up into smaller “divisions” such as colleges, faculties, or houses? Do these also act as a social group?
Are there student societies I am interested in joining? Do they seem approachable or elitist? Do they seem relaxed or very goal-focused? Which do I prefer?
Is anyone I already know going to the school? Is that a pro or a con?
How do current students talk about the school? If the student body tends to complain about the school a lot, or acts very pretentious about it, that could impact your experience.
How much party culture is there at the school? Is that too much or too little for me?
What kind of parties? Club nights, frat parties, house/residence parties, etc?
Do I feel safe on campus? How about at night, or early in the morning? How about if I’m working alone in a building, or walking home? This is a hard one to gauge, especially if you can’t visit the campus. If you can visit, see if you can go in the evening. Get a sense of how busy the streets are, who’s on them, if it’s well lit, etc.
Are there on-campus safety services such as Walk Home programs, Work Alone check-ins, or safety phones? Do they seem sufficient?
Do you sense that you will feel any discrimination (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.?) on campus? Are communities that you are a part of treated with respect? Do they have space on campus (e.g. a Black students association or an LGBTQ centre)? How about in the city as a whole?
Think of the hobbies that are important to you. Are there opportunities to do them on campus? If not, is there somewhere else in the city you can do it?
If I’m living on residence, are there a lot of social events in residence? Do they sound like something I would enjoy?
If I’m commuting, are there orientation or social events for commuters? Do they sound like something I would enjoy?
How much drinking culture is there among students? Does this match with how much I generally like/want to drink? How about other drugs?
If I am part of a religious group, will there be others of my religion on campus? Is there a centre/organization/facility for that religion on campus?
If I’m not interested in on-campus parties, is there nightlife in the city I am interested in? Are there museums, shopping, shows, or whatever else I like to do in the city? Are there affordable places to do these things?
What is my school’s academic reputation? How about internationally? How much does that matter to me?
How big are class sizes? Will they be smaller in upper years? Will I likely know my professor?
How many TA’s are there? Who are they (upper year undergrads/grad students)? This will likely vary by program.
What are the classes I’m required to take? How many of them are things I’m interested in?
How many classes am I required to take per term? Is that manageable for me?
What is the average GPA at this school?
Check online to get a full list of ALL the required courses for your program. Are any of them deal-breakers?
If I want to transfer to a different program within the same school, can I do that? Would I have to make up extra courses? Who would I be competing against?
If I realize I hate my major, are there other things at the same school I would want to study, or am I stuck?
What academic supports are there? Tutoring/learning centres? Writing centres? Are they free? Are there waiting lists?
If I mess up and fail a test/miss an assignment or I need an extension, can I do that easily? Some schools will let you self-declare an absence while others need several forms and official documentation. It seems small but I promise it can add up.
How competitive is my program? Will I likely get along with others in my classes and work together, or is the culture really unfriendly? Try to ask current students.
How many different electives can I take? Are courses available for the things I might want to study?
Does research happen at this university? Are there ways for students to get involved? Is the research at a level and a subject that interests me?
Are there mental health centres on campus I could use? What about in the city in general? Are they free? Are they run by psychologists and counselors, or peers? Are there wait lists?
Would I have to switch doctors if I move to this school? Do I have any serious concerns that could make that difficult?
Are there fitness centres on campus I could use? Are there fitness classes I could attend? Are they free, high-quality, and accessible to me?
If I were to have a medical emergency, how easily could my family get to me?
How stressful or high-pressure is this school? Am I able to handle that?
If I have a mental illness or am likely to need mental health support through the year, are there therapists/centres/hospitals in the city that I could use?
How many healthy food options will I have? How healthy is the cafeteria food? Are there food options around campus, or will I be tempted to get junky snacks in between meals?
Is healthy food/groceries too expensive in this area?
Do I generally like the feeling of the city?
Am I interested in living in the city after I graduate? If yes, am I still interested in going to school there? If not, why not? Do you still want to study there?
How big is the campus? Is there a satellite campus, or buildings that are far from the core campus? Will I have to take classes there?
Can I drive in this city? Will I have access to a vehicle, and a place to park it?
Is there public transit here? How much will it cost, and how much will I have to use it?
Is there a safe/cheap way for me to get around at night? Am I comfortable using Uber/Lyft/taxis here?
How far away from my classes is my residence/home?
How far away from school admin buildings/libraries/offices is my residence/home?
How far away from a grocery store/drugstore/mall is my residence/home?
If living on residence, do I like the building? Do I have enough space? Is it a single or double room? Can I cook? Is laundry free or paid? Is it in the building?
If living at home, are you okay with that? Is there somewhere on campus you can study overnight or late when you want to get out of the house?
Do I have friends or family in the city? How often would I be able to travel to see friends at other schools, and how much would it cost?
Are there any specific professors I am excited to work with/study with? Would one of the schools I’m considering let me do that?
Are there networking programs or connections to be made here?
Will my degree be recognized in the location I want to work in permanently? What if I want to move?
Do I need any certificates or licenses to do the work I want to? Can I get them here, or will this school help prepare me to get them?
Do the values and culture of this school match my own? Would I be proud to tell people this is where I got my degree?
Do I feel “at home” on campus?
Remember that there’s a LOT more to your university career than just academics and classes. I know some of these questions might seem inconsequential, and they might be to you. But if you’re the kind of person who’s going to get really stressed out by anything on this list, that’s absolutely something you should think about when you pick a school. You will do much better if you’re happy and at home at your school.
Are you picking a school? Is there anything else you’re considering?