Paying for university

I just read an interesting article on Babble by Megan Francis, talking about why she won’t be paying for college for her kids.  I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I do with most of it, especially the part about a trade being more valuable.  David is a lead engineer, and makes good money.  The plumber who came out a few weeks ago to fix our little sewage backup problem charged an hourly rate almost 3 times higher.  Yeah.  If I go back to school, it will be to the local polytech trade school, not to the university for grad school.  Because I want a career, see, not another amusingly useless degree.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved university, and the classes I took, and the experiences I had.  It has, however, done nothing material to help my career, and while I’m totally fine with that, I see no point of going back for more paper I can’t translate in to the work force.  A 2 year engineering technician program would be infinity more useful to me than a MA in International Relations, you know?


David and I each paid for university, but we both had help.  His parents, along with his roommate’s parents, bought the boys a condo for the 4 years they were in Calgary, so they ddn’t have to paay rent – *just* utilities and food and books and tuition and rum.  I lived at home, so got free room and board, but still paid for books and tuition and a social life.  I worked summers, of course, and I also had 4 part time jobs.  (Which sounds way harder than it was. I worked catering and concerts at the university, and the special events set up for the city and the botanical gardens.  All were random shifts with unpredictable hours, and I could turn down any I needed to without problems.)   David didn’t work during the year (engineers have to take 6 courses a semester, while the rest of the campus maxes out at 5) but worked every summer.  We both agree that having to work to pay for (some of) school made us work harder and not fuck around.  Also, we’re in Canada.  Tuition to our university was like 25k for the 4 years, I think?  Call it 30k with books.  I couldn’t quite make enough in the summers to cover it, but that’s why I worked year round.  David had to take out a small loan in his 5th year, but it was paid back quickly.

So we want some of that for Jess.  Working to your goals makes you work harder, and be less entitled, and appreciate it more.

But, on the other hand, we want to do something.

So yesterday, I figured it out.  Canada has a nice Registered Education Savings Plan program, and I think it’s kind of great.  We’ve registered for a family plan, so if Jess doesn’t go to any post secondary, future-hypotetical second kid can, or I could even use it.  And even if no one ever can use it, the money can be moved to an RRSP, although minus the grants and the tax on the interest.  Otherwise, the interest isn’t taxed, and the money is only taxed when the student uses it, but kid will probably have a low enough income to not need to pay much in the way of taxes on it.  Also, they can spend the interest, and at the end, you can take the principle back, tax free. So far, so good, right?  Well, it gets better.  This is Canada, where politicians actually back up their claims of “family friendly”.  If you put in $2500 a year, the feds will add $500 a year to the RESP.  Our province matches that the first year, and there are a couple of $100 grants offered throughout the kid’s childhood.  Plus, all families in Canada are eligible for the Universal Child Care Benefit, which comes to $1200 a year. Thankfully, we don’t need that money to cover day to day costs, so we’re saving it up and will stick it in to an RESP every year, which means that we personally only need to save $1300 a year.  If we do this for 17 years, everything else being equal, before interest that’s $51,500, and will only cost us $21,800.  And, let’s be honest, I expect the grandparents, or at least my mother, to give Jess a bit of money at Christmases for this exact purpose.

So that’s our plan.  We’ll not spend the UCCB cheques, and we’ll save $1300 a year (minus whatever comes from the grandparents) and anything else is on her.  That seems fair, right?  Hopefully, because that’s the plan.


God, I love this country.



I realized after talking about money the other day, that I forgot one big expense.  Mainly because we haven’t paid for it yet, but I know it’s coming.

It’s our cars.  And the fact that we are going to have to buy a new one.

Such a first world problem, right?

But I drive a sporty little Toyota Corolla (in bright blue!) and David has a two door Toyota Celica sports car.  His (sexy black) sports car is so totally child unfriendly.  Hell, it’s third person unfriendly period.  The one time I had to sit in the back, I had to sit sideways, and I’m barely five feet tall.  My car is fine for now, but there’s no real way we can use it if we have another kid, because the car seat thing means that the front seat can’t be pushed all the way back.  That’s not a huge problem for me (see my lack of height) but would result in David not being able to drive the car, what with him being over six feet tall.

Also, even now?  Kind of a pain.  Because of the giant stroller, we can’t fit the stroller and a single suitcase in the trunk at the same time.  (Why yes, we did road trip in this car! And we had many many backpacks of various sizes wedged in there, and the back seat as well.  Not particularly ideal, no.)  This weekend, we’re heading up for a family wedding, which is NBD, except for the fact that my mother in law will drive up to Calgary, and then head up with us to the wedding.  Three adults and a baby in a car with no trunk space to speak of?  And not a large backseat, and the adult has to sit behind long-legged David, due to the car seat set up?  Super awesome!

So we will trade in one of the cars.  The only question now is which one.  Mine is a 2009 with like, 25k on it, and David’s is a 2005 with 45k.  Mine would have higher resale, but the longer we wait on selling his, the more it depreciates, so should it go first?  Or can we get away with one family car and keep the sexy little sports car?  We figure we have at least until next summer, maybe next fall, before it’s pressing.  Even if we do a Yellowstone roadtrip next summer, Jess will be old enough to just use a small umbrella stroller by then, instead of the Graco beast we have now.  (Buying us room for a tent and a suitcase or three.)

We will, however, NOT be buying a minivan.  We have a no minivan deal.  I’ll be pushing for the smallest crossover we can find, and he’ll be pushing for a medium sized crossover.  I think we’ll probably be able to find a compromise that works, right?

(Please feel free to tell me that I totally don’t need a bigger car.  But then you have to find me a car seat that doesn’t take up so much seat depth.  And doesn’t cost a thousand dollars, ugh.)

All about the money

One of our friends is always, always complaining about how expensive having a kid is.  For my entire pregnancy, every time we’d see her, she’d mention how expensive having a kid is, and to enjoy our money while it lasted, and so on.  It was (is) kind of annoying, but it did prompt us to pay a little attention to how much we actually spent.  And the answer?  Not that much, in fact!  I mean, she’s only six months old, and I know we have years of stuff ahead of us?  But it’s not been that bad.
Birth etc:

  • $200 for 10 week birth and babies class
  • $40 for parking at hospital for week I was there
  • $0 for my private room (I don’t know why we never got billed – I think maybe they felt bad about the fact that bad nursing caused the baby problems.  I’m not worried – the bill was only going to be $120 anyways.)
  • $700 for doula.  I’m not comfortable talking about it over the internet, but I will say that if/when we have another kid, we will not be getting a doula.  It was okay, just.  Well.  Yeah.  Not a story for the internet.

Baby gear:

  • $400 for stroller and car seat system
  • $70 for new crib mattress for our house.  Hand me down mattresses with the grandparents was fine with me, but I wanted a new one for her usual bed.
  • $170 for swing (so so worth it for the first 4 months.  Still nice, but not as much of a need.)
  • $25 for high chair
  • $50 bouncy seat
  • $60 storage unit for nusery


  • $800.  Yes, this has totally been my big splurge.  But these diapers, spread over two years, over two kids?  Totally cost effective in the long run.  And I haven’t noticed any difference in our water bill.  This also counts cloth wipes, a wet bag and a travel bag.


  • $100, give or take.  A few onsies, a cute tutu, some Flames shirts, a mexican-esque skirt, a little stripey dress.  Some socks.


  • $100, let’s say.  Some Lamaze toys (Captain Calamari is the best), a few things from Ikea, a cheap mirror, a bin and toy box for storage.

That brings us to $2715.  Take away the doula and it’s 2k.  I’m absolutely sure that I’m missing things – like, say, the fun knobs I bought for the dresser I refinished for the nursery, or the little hair elastics I bought to attempt tiny silly ponytails.  But still, 3k spread out over more than 9 months?  Honestly, the extra $350/month hasn’t been that noticed, in our budget.

Now.  To make this work, we have obviously been the recipients of incredible generosity.  We’re about dead middle of the pack in our family and friends.  Half have had their kids and are done and have hand me downs to give, and the other half can’t resist the allure of tiny onesies and hooded bath towels.  We’ve been given an exersaucer, a bumbo, two playmats, three cribs (two live with different grandparents), a glide rocker, all the clothing we could need until she’s at least 18 months old (new and hand me downs), a bassinet, old school baby monitor (no video monitor for us), bed sheets, a bath tub, toys, baby scale (we laughed, but it’s been kind of handy), books (so many books), toiletries, Halloween costumes (this year and next), blankets (so many blankets!), and more I’m probably forgetting.  (I guess another expense would be thank you cards and postage, something I’ve been surprisingly diligent about sending out.)

Also, it means that we don’t really care about the esthetics of it all.  The nursery was done on the cheap (oops, more expenses to add).  3 cans of paint, and my sister provided the labour as her Christmas present to us.  $40 of wall stickers (clouds).  A couple of ikea lights.  The knobs for the dresser that I refinished, which belonged to my dad, and before him my grandparents (and before them, Mount Royal College dorm room in the 60s, by the inscriptions on the side of one of the drawers).  The bookshelf was made by my father in law years ago, for David’s first apartment.  The change table is from a different set than the crib, which is a different wood that the bookshelf, dresser or glide rocker.  I simply don’t care.

Sky-themed nursery. I use the word “theme” very, very loosely.

It’s the same with the clothing.  Some of it absolutely not in my taste, not things I would buy.  But will I use them?  Of course I will!  Does it matter what the baby’s pjs look like, if they are warm?  No.  Do I dress her in the outfits I like when we’re going out, and leave the ones I’m meh about for wear around the home?  Yes.  But at the end of the day, a onesie is a onesie, and she’s totally going to drool on it either way.

I love this oh-so-nerdy onesie.  Captain J!

Look, it’s totally true that kids cost money.  But not ALL the money.  I don’t feel that we’re going broke over here, on our 1 and 1/3 income.  (My EI is less than half my take home pay.)  In fact, we’ve UPPED our monthly savings in a few different places.  (Not having to renovate helps the budget.)  I just want to say that kids don’t have to cost a fortune, if you don’t want them do.  There are totally things from even this short list we could easily have cut out (doula, baby classes, impulse clothing purchase).  We’re also planning on eventually having a second kid, and that means a lot of this stuff will get used again, before it is passed along to some friend or family member who can use it.  Pay it forwards, and all that.

But the cost is probably worth it.  I mean, she’s kind of cute, and I think we’ll have to keep her, even if it costs us money.

And bananas.