Refuse to be Passive

Paying for Post-Secondary—Take the Leap

In Life in General on June 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm

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

Balance: $3,100

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.


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