If you’re hoping and praying your kids go to college, how are you planning for college to be paid for?

About a month ago I was out in British Columbia celebrating some family birthdays when my cousin-in-law said something interesting. He said, “Nobody ever talks about money–like the specifics of it. So we have no way of knowing if we’re on track with savings for this point in our lives.”

It’s true, isn’t it? We don’t tend to talk about money in polite company.

Well, every Friday I write a quick, 400-word inspirational marriage moment to give you one thought to take into the weekend. And today I thought I’d do more of a “family moment” and open up about our money arrangements with our kids for college. We should be talking about this more, and I hope that it may help some of you, too!

Sheila’s Marriage Moment: How We Handle Money, College and Vacations Now That Our Kids Are Adults

The arrangement we made for our kids to pay a portion of university--let's talk about what works to build responsibility!

When I went to university it cost, in total, about $7000 a year, including tuition, room and board, books, and personal stuff like clothing and toiletries. At summer jobs I was making about $15 an hour (I was awesome at word processing and Excel), and by working full time in the summer and typing essays during the school year, I didn’t have to borrow money and paid my own way.

Today, almost 25 years later, it costs about $18000 a year to go to the University of Ottawa, for all costs (and I know it’s so much more expensive in the United States!). And my girls were only making about $13 an hour as lifeguards. So there was no way they could fund themselves.

We didn’t want to just pay for school, though. We’ve heard of far too many parents who just paid for college and then the kids didn’t take it seriously.

So we did a matching grant system: We’ll give you a certain percentage of the full $18000, deposit it in your back account in September, and then you have to make up the rest by working or taking out loans. But you get nothing more from us until next September (and now that Rebecca’s graduated she’s cut off). You pay your tuition, rent, etc. out of that.

If they get scholarships, it doesn’t affect what we give them. They should benefit from those scholarships. (If we were using loans, though, or if school cost as much as it does in the U.S.–that would be totally different!)

Our girls as college students: How we made them pay part of their own way

This year, Katie made it her mission to not touch her savings. She wanted to live within what we gave her and her income from YouTube (which is far less than the $18000). She didn’t buy coffees, bought no clothes, spent no money. She wanted school to be a money making exercise! She’s a little too frugal, but having to pay for life was a great lesson.

Then here’s the long term plan: we all go together on one vacation a year, in July, which Keith and I will pay for. One year we’ll splurge for something big, like a trip, and then the next year or two we’ll all go camping. We need to build more family memories now that there’s another person in the family (Connor, Rebecca’s husband), and my girls need to spend time together to build their relationship since they don’t live together anymore. So instead of giving them money when they’re older, we pay for the family vacations.

So that’s our plan. I can tell you that if my girls didn’t have a clear need for university, and if we didn’t have the money to help them, I would never send them. University isn’t always worth it; College is cheaper and often a better route to get a job. But they’ve both made great contacts and met great people, and learned a lot about managing money and paying bills.

That’s what we do. What about you? Let’s talk in the comments!

Katie as She Started College: “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!”

Here’s a video Katie made for her channel as she started university orientation last year!

Have a great weekend!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - How We Handled Money, Paying for College, and Vacations with Our Kids Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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