I’ve been a little preoccupied, so it’s been more than just 15 weeks since school started. A lot has changed, but I won’t get into personally specific details, but I’ve managed to find a new place to live, improve my budget for next semester, and make money over the Christmas break (and get a tan).
As you’ve probably heard, a car is a money pit here. Over the last 15 weeks, we’ve noticed a lot of different noises coming from the car. At first it was the grinding of the breaks which eventually gave out one morning at 6:20am on my way to a GA exam, then it was a “jingling” sound coming from the driver’s side wheel which turned out being a lost break pad by the mechanic, and now it’s a bouncing crunch of the shocks, which I can’t afford to have done until our next semester’s dispersement comes out in January. We found a nice fellow who details cars while you’re on campus for $20EC ($20 for interior and $20 for wash and polish). I only really get the inside cleaned because the outside of my car is terrible looking and the wash and polish never really helped look better, but he is very trustworthy, inexpensive, and my car always looks and smells so nice!
Grocery shopping for us has been a struggle. After having bought our car, we couldn’t just go to the grocery store and spend $500 EC like we had done in the past. Since we made a little extra money over break we budgeted $200 EC per week, but before that we only spent $150 EC ($55 US) which usually sucked, but we were able to have a full dinner at night, and most often breakfast or some kind of snack or lunch. I know it isn’t much to live off of for two people, but for one person, you should be gold. I’ve found that Best Buy usually has few prices listed, so you can accidentally spend WAY TOO MUCH money there. Since we were on such a strict budget, we would go to RAM’S because just about everything had a price, and if it didn’t, we didn’t buy it. They are usually reasonably priced, but come to find out we spend a lot more extra money there, as well. A friend of our suggested going to IGA Horsford’s and we like it so much more than any other grocery store we’ve been to. They have different brands to choose from ( Brand name vs. IGA brand vs. Everyday Essentials) which helps you have a lot of money. I like it a lot more there, and the food also seems more fresh. Examples of prices: gallon on milk $17, wheat bread $7.30, waffles $5.50 (divide by 2.7 for US). Most things I buy at IGA are around or under $10; milk is usually one of the highest things.
Electricity is a nightmare! For our first full month, we had a bill of $775 EC. I was completely shocked because we used the AC for less than 12 hours a day (only for sleeping), barely used the lights, washed clothes maybe twice a week, and cooked dinner a few nights a week; otherwise, we kept the windows open during the day and kept our usage to a minimum. After that bill, we never used the AC ever again, we bought a fan and ran it all night, and most of the day, washed clothes once a week, made dinner from fresh foods that didn’t require cooking, or created foods from cans, etc. We ate a lot of salads and cooked pasta in the microwave. Oh, and we had a grill, so we usually cooked our meats on the grill until that became a pain. Our next bill was $350, which was still a lot more than I had expected, but we dealt with it. When we first got the electric transferred into my name, SKELEC required a $1,200 EC deposit, which pissed me off beyond a doubt, but saves my ass in the end. Since our bill was so high in the beginning and we only had $350 budgeted, I only paid $200 EC each month. When it came time to leave the apartment and pay off our balance, there was $12 EC to spare from the deposit. It was a blessing and a curse. I hate electricity more than anything here.
The company we chose to rent through was terrible. We went through B. Kassab, which wound up being a very bad decision on our part. The rent was cheap and our place was amazing, but there was obviously a few catches (electricity transfer, maintenance quality, miserable heat). In the end, we decided we didn’t want to work with them anymore. After our electric reading came out, they were appalled by the cost, but didn’t help us figure out why. I was pretty much on my own, and we ultimately decided that the discomfort wasn’t worth inexpensive rent and the quality of service. My move down to the island was smooth, but it all went downhill from there. I am blessed to have gotten out when I did. I am going to be much happier where I am now!
One thing I do want to point out is the resources on campus. Even if your landlord may not be the friendliest or most helpful, the people who work to ensure your success are there to help. I didn’t really take advantage of that and it wound up biting me in the ass at the end. Go to the student success center if you have trouble with classes, go to the bursar if you’re having trouble with money, reach out to the housing department if you’re having trouble with your landlord, and reach out to your teachers in the beginning. They are a lot moreover inclined to help you here they know who you are and what you struggle with.
Above all, learning to live off campus and struggle through less and less money each week (after starting off with only $8,000 US), we adapted and finally got through it. You just have to get through it because there is always a clean slate in 3 weeks and a new batch of money. Just make it worth your time and money.