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Plan Your Finances

By Rob Taylor and EDge Staff

Manage Your Money So You Don't End Up Nude Modelling

Post-secondary education is where you will grow up: not just academically and mentally, but financially too. Ultimately, it is you who will have to learn how to budget and pay for school. And although we would like to graduate with no debts, with tuition rising every year, not everyone will be able to do so. The person who will be responsible for taking care of these debts will be you.

The key to budgeting for school is to think ahead. Universities and colleges are full of new and exciting experiences, but if you're not careful, the huge amount of money you think you have can be blown in a matter of days.

During my undergraduate degree, I had a friend (who shall remain nameless, although I will say he has become teacher) who went through over $2,000 by going out and socializing in the first month of his third year. He ended up being so short of cash that he took up nude modeling for art classes around town. He became a desperate, desperate man. And no, it wasn't me.

The point is you need to be careful, or you too could end up nude and being sculpted in clay. Or having to borrow more money. Honestly, I don't know which would be worse.

Being a student puts you far down the list on financial mobility. You probably will have Kraft Dinner® for more than one meal. But living on the cheap is part of the fun and right of being a student, and there are some nifty benefits as well. Your student status means you can get some pretty good discounts on services, transportation, food and travel.

So, OK, let's sum up. We've said being as student can be expensive. But we haven't really said how it will be expensive. If you haven't left home before, you might not really know what to expect in terms of cost.

Never fear! Included below are two scenarios for the costs of going to school. I should mention the schools selected were universities and the programs general arts programs only for the sake of consistency. Programs and school types (universities, university colleges, colleges) will all have different fees and prices. But by choosing a school in Toronto and Edmonton, we hope to give you an idea of how living in different parts of the country can affect expenses. For instance, residence in Alberta is $1,608 and in Toronto it's a whopping $3,600!

You should note that some of the numbers in these charts are not exact and you should look into prices and budgeting on your own.

The totals are for an eight-month period, assuming most academic years last from September until April.

 

Toronto
Toronto The Upper Scale The Middle Scale Residence
Accommodation Bachelor pad in the city $6,400 Sharing an apartment $3,600 $3,600
Tuition General arts degree $4,029 General arts degree $4,029 General arts degree $4,029
Cost of Food Eat out and take out with some meals at home $3,000 Sharing groceries $2,000 Middle cost meal plan $2,700
Textbooks All new textbooks $800 Some new textbooks, some used from Books4Exchange.com $400 Some new textbooks, some used from Books4Exchange.com $400
Utilities, Phone and Cable $600 Sharing utilities costs $480 Phone less long distance $320
Transportation Public Transit $700 Public Transit $700 $0
Entertainment Bars, movies, dancing, traveling frequently $3,000 Cheap nights at movies, going out once or twice a week, going to free school-funded events $2,000 Cheap nights at the movies, going out once or twice a week, going to free school-funded event $2,000
Total $18,529 $13,209 $13,049

 

 

Edmonton
Alberta The Upper Scale The Middle Scale Residence
Accommodation Bachelor pad in the city $4,400 Sharing an apartment $3,000 $1,608
Tuition General arts degree $3,890 General arts degree $3,890 General arts degree $3,890
Cost of Food Eat out and take out with some meals at home $2,500 Sharing groceries $1,700 Middle cost meal plan $2,000
Textbooks All new textbooks $800 Some new textbooks, some used from Books4Exchange.com $400 Some new textbooks, some used from Books4Exchange.com $400
Utilities, Phone and Cable $600 Sharing utilities costs $480 Phone less long distance $320
Transportation Public Transit $700 Public Transit $700 $0
Entertainment Bars, movies, dancing, traveling frequently $3,000 Cheap nights at movies, going out once or twice a week, going to free school-funded events $2,000 Cheap nights at the movies, going out once or twice a week, going to free school-funded event $2,000
Total $15,890 $12,170 $10,218

 

All right. You're a little bit more financially aware than you were before. Now it's time to think of some ways to help pay for those costs:

Scholarships, Bursaries and Loans: Do searches on the Internet and in print directories. Each province, territory and the federal government provide student loan programs. If you can, set some of that loan money aside. The less you spend means the less you have to pay back at the end of your schooling. Having a small cushion can ease the transition from school to the work world. But be warned. The amount of money you have in your account can affect your eligibly for a loan.

Family Contributions: Grandparents and parents may have made investments for you. Ask, but don't be pushy. They don't have to give you the money.

Summer Jobs: Each summer, I would move back home and get a job. The best job I ever had during school was gas station attendant. I wasn't being paid much, but I became the 'I'll take your shift' guy. I never said 'no' to a shift. My first cheque was for $1,300. Working all those shifts had the added bonus of making my boss think I was the best worker he had and he hired me back for three summers in a row, plus winter holidays and reading week. If you can, be the 'I'll take your shift' guy. And live cheap during the summer. I put away at least 80% of what I made during the summer in the bank. Speaking of banks, you may want to look into some Guaranteed Investment Certificates (G.I.C.'s), mutual funds or other investments. There are penalties for withdrawing money from these types of programs, but they generally will have higher interest rates.

Part-Time Jobs: Most schools have part time work for students. Get involved with extracurricular activities. This will bring you in contact with the school administrators who hire for these positions. Being interviewed by someone who already knows your worth makes a world of difference. Some schools have jobs that are only open to those students with student loans. Co-op jobs are kind of like student job security. Many post-secondary schools run co-op programs for specific faculties which alternate between work and school terms. Getting a career-related job IS part of your schooling. Besides money, they provide you with experience and work contacts for when you graduate into the working world. If you do get a job, just be sure you don't overextend yourself and forget why you're at school to begin with - to learn. I had a professor who told me that my full time job was to learn and that's how I should be approaching my education. He was right.

Take a year off and work: I personally do not think this is the greatest idea, but if you have to, you have to. You will save up a good deal of cash during the year and you'll be a bit more mature than you classmates when you do go to school. On the minus side, you may get caught up in the working world and continue putting off school for the immediate rewards of working: cash.

The great thing about entering into post-secondary education is starting to learn to think for yourself. Thinking for yourself should not be limited to your studies. You should be applying it to everything you do, including your finances. Think and plan your life out, the same as you would an exam, project or essay. By all means, use the information in this article as a guide and study the budgets, but if you have an idea of your own about how to save or make some money, don't be afraid to look into making it happen.

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