“A Shirley Temple with a shot of whiskey is a Lindsay Lohan.”
“A Shirley Temple with a shot of whiskey is a Lindsay Lohan.”
I’ve been taking public transit lately. Although walking is preferable to me, I recently injured my ankle and so am walking less than I usually would. Thus, yesterday morning I was on the bus to work when they walked on. You’ve seen them. They’re those 16 year old girls who have the perfect hair, make-up, and trendy clothes. They’re a clique of gorgeous young things with the attitude to match. The gossip flies around them. These girls are the ones I could never manage to be friends with in high school. I’ve nicknamed them Wonderbread girls. Why? Because after watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding I found myself associating with the main character who could never manage to be cool because she wasn’t a blonde, flighty, Wonderbread lunch toting girl.
They chattered away, unaware of my presence, even though they were standing right in front of me. They were all dressed in trendy items, wearing make-up to make-up their already flawless skin. Only one of them wore no make-up, and she seemed less vapid than the others, although she still laughed right along with them when they blasted their gym teachers and mocked them for being closet lesbians. It actually hurt a little bit, listening to them chatter. It brought back memories of the girls I envied. And now, these girls stood there, but instead of envying them, I felt sorry for them. I felt sorry that the media and their peers were pressuring them into a tiny box– what they believe to be perfection. It’ll take a good number of years before they realize that surface beauty only take you so far, that you earn your success and your place in this world. I’m hopeful that those lessons won’t come as a painful shock to them.
Looking at the Wonderbread girls from my high school days, one is now looking tired and old with three kids running her ragged. The other got married– not to the high school jock she was dating for 5 years– and has put on a good 40 pounds. She seems unhappy. The girl who was naturally pretty, although not a knock-out and never wore any make-up is now married to a jerk who she can’t get the guts to stand up to. I now feel sorry for them, that high school was the best years of their lives. They’ll always be reliving the glory days. And I feel sorry for the Wonderbread girls of now, who, if they don’t wake up and take control of their lives, will also spend their entire futures reliving the glory days. Come on ladies. You only get one life. Do it up.
Someone in my office yesterday was assigned the task of taking Starbucks orders for this morning. She sent out an e-mail near the end of the work day. I didn’t check my e-mail for the rest of the day, and so didn’t know about the e-mail. When I left for the day, she didn’t even bother to ask me what I wanted, and she works in my office! She just didn’t order anything for me. I’m kind of ticked. Everyone else got a drink, and all she would have had to do was say, “Hey, what do you want from Starbucks tomorrow.” But she didn’t. She just ignored the fact that I hadn’t responded. That seems inconsiderate and even a bit thoughtless. I’m trying to be gracious about it, but it’s hard. I’m already working with a bummed ankle, so a latte would have been a nice pick-me-up. Deep breaths. In and out. In and out.
It’s ironic that I’m having such an issue with this. Although I’ve always had a tempter, the past few years I’ve been much better at controlling it. Something small like this usually wouldn’t make me so annoyed. I guess it’s the fact that this co-worker didn’t even appologize. Anyway, on Sunday, I was challenged to be more gracious and to acknowledge the challenge that my temper presents me with. I’ve also been reading a book about slowing down, and appreciating life in the details.
This morning, I missed my bus by one minute. I had to wait for a light to turn to cross the street. I was slightly disappointed, but grabbed a seat on the bench to wait for the next bus, pulled out my book, and read. It was lovely, and the chapter I was on reminded me to slow down and notice the little things. For example, the sun was shining, after weeks of gray and rain. There was a light, fresh breeze– not too strong, but enough to temper the sun. Everything was green. Everyone else was rushing, and I had time to stop and be thankful for the sounds, smells, and sights around me. Missing the bus was a blessing. My time of contemplation grew into contentment, and my morning has been lovely. And now, my contentment is gone due to my over developed sense of entitlement. I complain about our culture and the way we always think we’re entitled to things, and yet I am guilty of it too! Shame on me. Plus, doesn’t the saying go, “every cloud has a silver lining”? What is the silver lining of missing out on my Starbucks? Hmm, we’ll I have a potluck to go to tonight, so this may mean that I have extra points left for dessert. Delightful!
It’s not too often you hear someone say, “Man, I wish I could get student loans.” Most people don’t really want to go into debt to finance their education. But, when your option is between going to school or not, government student funding may be a reality. That is, if you can get government student funding. In Canada, most public post-secondary institutions have gone through the process to allow their students to apply for government student loans. But some schools, like many private vocational schools, have not. As such, students attending those schools can’t get government student loans. These students, such as myself, need to rely on savings, working, and a student line of credit from the bank. Thus, it is with a slightly heavy heart that I find myself wishing I could apply for government student loans. Why? Let me tell you.
1. Government issued student loans are interest free as long as you’re a full-time post-secondary student
2. When you apply for a government student loan, you’re also applying for grants and bursaries– non-repayable monies that the government gives you if your income/ your parents income falls below a certain level. Canada Study Grants range from $800-$2,000
3. In Alberta, you can receive up to $13,300 in loans each year! And they’re interest free until you finish school! Crazy. My bank line of credit makes me pay interest as soon as I borrow the money, and once you’re out of school, principle payments on top of that.
4. 6-month grace period. With a government student loan, for six months after you’re finished attending school, your loan accrues interest, but no payments need to be made, not on interest or principle.
5. Loan Repayment Help– If you graduate and are having issues paying back your student loans, the government has programs in place to help! Depending on the province you’re from, there may be in-course or post-graduation loan forgiveness, meaning part of your loan might not have to be repaid. Yippee! If loan forgiveness isn’t an option, there’s always RAP, the Repayment Assistance Program, which may allow for more affordable monthly payments, with the government covering your interest charges. And if you need to be on RAP for more than five years, they’ll also help cover a portion of your principle! Once again, my bank isn’t doing that for me.
So yes, school is expensive. But if you’re eligible to apply for government student loans for the institution you’re attending, say a brief thank-you to God, because not all of us are.
Do you dream of attending post-secondary? Do the numbers for tuition and living expenses make you nervous? Do you feel that there’s no way you’ll ever be able to afford it, so you might as well not even try? You’re not alone. Post secondary isn’t cheap. You know it, I know it, the universities and colleges know it, and so does the government. Is that any reason to give up on your dreams? No. Is that a reason to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into? Yes.
Help for paying for post-secondary is out there, but you need to do some research and be smart about your choices. In this series of posts, I’ll cover the basics of funding your post-secondary education in Canada. Thankfully, unlike our neighours to the south, we can attend almost any post-secondary institution in the country and still have a relatively low tuition because of the government subsidizing post-secondary institutions. Whether you’re looking at a school with $2,000 for tuition, or $20,000, know that you can attend if you plan correctly. Some plans take more time to execute than others, and so patience may become your best friend. But, with determination and a few guidelines, you can get that certificate, diploma, or degree you’ve been thinking of.
Tip #1 Know the real costs. It’s a nice concept that you’ll only have to pay for tuition, books, and rent, but the truth is that life costs money, and you’ll have extra expenses beyond that. You’ve probably got student fees, transportation fees, necessities fees—unless you plan to not shower for the next few years, clothing costs, and entertainment costs. As someone who has worked in the field of financial aid for the past few years, I know a thing or two about paying for post-secondary. I’m now planning on going back to school and so for the budget, I’ll give you what I’m looking at to attend a private vocational school.
Tuition, including fees, books and supplies: $19,300
Rent for 9 months: $4,050 = $450/month
Food: $1,350 = $150/month
Necessities: $450 = $50/month Transit: $891 = $99/month
Entertainment: $450 = $50/month
Okay, so let’s say that’s it. When you add it all up, my total comes to $26, 491. I’m going to round that up to $27,000 to cover the occasional trip to see family or to cover Christmas presents. If you need to fly, make sure you include your flights.
So, two things need to be discussed here.
1) How the heck am I going to cover $27,000?
2) Doubts about prices listed above
I’m going to handle number 2 first. If you’re looking at my costs and thinking, “Wow, that’s low for transit costs, how does she drive her car?” Excellent question dear reader. Part of my going back to school meant making lifestyle choices that would make it a possibility. As a way of keeping expenses down, I got rid of my car and will be taking public transit. Thus, for the price of insurance, I can get around town for an entire month.
And if you asked, “What neighbourhood is she living in that her rent is $450?” Once again, great question. I’m going to be living in a house with other people to help keep costs down. Once again, to make post-secondary a reality, I needed to do a reality check. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, and so I won’t be.
And if $150 for groceries seems low to you, know that I’ve gone mostly vegetarian as meat protein is expensive. I also usually eat at home so that I don’t spend a lot of money at restaurants. The money I do have to spend at restaurants comes out of my entertainment budget. That’s right, out of $50 per month. How does that work? Eat before you go out, then just order a drink or appetizer. Even better, host a potluck and have your friends over. Often they’ll leave the leftovers behind and you’ll have food for the next few days.
As for necessities, learn to shop second hand for things such as clothes. Buy other items generic, and be a frequenter of websites like Freecycle, where you can often get items for, that’s right, free.
Now on to Number 1! Where the heck am I going to get $27,000?
Student Line of Credit (as my school is private and therefore I am not eligible to receive government student loans) $10,000
Savings—I’ve worked the past few years and squirreled a bit away, beside paying down what I already owe on my student line of credit, plus, I saved my last tax return $8,000
Investments—Canada Savings Bond $3,400
Pension Plan—my work and I both pay into a pension plan for me. When I quit I will have the option of turing this into a liquid asset. Some people think it’s a bad move, but as I need the money now, and know I am good at saving in general, I’m not too worried about replacing it in the future. Beside, I need to live through the present to get to the future, right? $2,500
How I plan to cover it: WORK! Working part-time while in school is a very real necessity for most post-secondary students. If you can manage to not do it, good for you. Be smart about the work you apply for. Aim to serve or waitress at a restaurant and you’ll be sitting pretty compared to the person making minimum wage at the bookstore. If you’re good, your tips will be good. And that, is a wonderful thing. Remember to invest in yourself. Having things like ProServe certification for serving alcohol may be the difference between you landing a wait job verses being a host. And remember, no job is below you. You need the money. Work McDonald’s with a smile on your face until you can find something more suitable. You are a student, McDonald’s offers flexible hours. Or check out a few of the other fast food chains like Tim Horton’s or Burger King who actually have scholarship programs for their employees. Crazy, right?
Anyway, assuming I work 15 hrs per week, and make $9.50/hour plus $100 in tips for 2 shifts in a week (and you’d have to be really bad at your job to make less than that) sets you at about $195 per week after taxes (remember that while you’ll get taxed on your tips come tax season, your tuition will also be tax deductible, so it may be a wash). That $200 a week will transfer into just over $7,000 in 9 months. Wait, $7,000? Do my eyes believe me? I only needed $3,100 to meet my budget and now I’m sitting pretty with enough to fly home for Christmas. Horray! Well done budget girl!
That being said, some of you won’t have investments or pensions to pull from, but may be eligible for government student loans or other funding. Unfortunately, the government student loans are currently not an option. But stay tuned! My next post will be on why I wish government student loans were an option. Hint: there are some good perks.