Blended Families, Baby Gifts and Post-Secondary Education– Are You as Prepared as You Could Be?

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Blended Families, Baby Gifts and Post-Secondary Education– Are You as Prepared as You Could Be?

Last summer, while sitting in a restaurant having a quick bite, Darren and I ran into our neighbor’s daughter. She was preparing to head off to university in just a few weeks.

Darren and I both absolutely loved our experiences at University, so naturally we took the opportunity to give her tips and to ask a few questions (seriously, if either of us could go back to those University Days, we would! We are totally those lame parents who constantly tell their kids about the good old days back in “Uni”)

The conversation was great until she told us how much money this first year was costing her.

Between tuition, books, lodging and a meal plan, she was coming up on $20,000.

My mouth dropped. I couldn’t believe it. It is more than double what I spent when I went to University (Which I am starting to realize is not as recent as I like to think.)

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve been planning for the kid’s post-secondary education. We have RESP’s for them and were aware that post-secondary education is going to be expensive. Still, that number was like a punch in the face.

Next year my stepdaughter will be in her last year of high school and applying to post-secondary. My stepson is a couple short years behind her. This means that not only do we have four kids to put through post-secondary, but two of them will be there at the same time.

OUCH!

Needless to say, this chat with our neighbour sparked a lot of conversations about finances, saving and budgeting. Not just between us, but with my stepdaughter as well.

We’ve been using a great resource from RBC about  how to create a student  budget. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s really helping us feel prepared!

We’ve been using a great resource from RBC about how to create a student budget. I highly recommend checking it out. It’s really helping us feel prepared!

SIDEBAR: There is always a lot of confusion about how parents who are divorced, handle the costs of post-secondary education. Here is an article from Advocate Daily that helps clarify. From what I understand, in Ontario, it is considered an “extra-ordinary expense”, unless parents come up with an alternate agreement (e.g. the kids need to contribute X amount, or each parent will contribute X amount). However, if there is no agreement in place, it is defaulted to an extra-ordinary expense ratio

So, when my sister gave birth to twins earlier this year, it didn’t take me long to start thinking about post-secondary education for her crew! Including her one-and a-half year old, she was a mana of three under two.

Since I knew she would be flooded with lots of gifts and onesies for the babies, we decided to do something different. Instead of your traditional baby gift, we gave them a contribution for the twins’ RESP.

She and my brother in-law were so thrilled, that now it’s my “go-to” baby gift.

Not only does this gift motivate parents to open up that investment account right away, in 18-years-time that money will be worth way more than the amount we gave. I think it’s a way more practical than a jumper that the kids will grow out of in just three-months-time.

It’s literally an investment in the babies’ future!

WHAT IS AN RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan)

So, if you’re not familiar with an RESP, here’s the low down from RBC:

A RESP is a tax-sheltered plan that helps you save for a child’s post-secondary education faster.

You don’t pay tax on earnings within a RESP (similar to an RSP – Retirement Saving Plan).

When you take out the money for education, the withdrawals are taxed in the name of the student –RESP earnings are taxed in the hands of the student when funds are withdrawn for education purposes, and since students are generally in a lower tax bracket, it often means little to no tax on the earnings.


If your kid doesn’t go to post-secondary education, you’re able to choose a new beneficiary for the policy.

The best part is, the government matches 20% of the first $2,500 contributed annually, up to a maximum of $500 per year (and $7200 per life time). That’s up to $7200 money you wouldn’t have otherwise.  

SAVING STRATEGIES

So many people say, “I can’t even think about RESP’s right now. We have so many bills to pay” and I hear you. BUT, the sooner you start saving the more your money can grow, so it’s smart so start early, even if it’s just a small contribution.  Forgo that dinner out or that drive-thru lunch for the kids and get your money working for you!

To give you an idea of the potential growth, I’ve included this chart from RBC’s website! (why try and re-invent the wheel right?)  

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With a regular, pre-authorized contribution plan you save without even thinking about it!

Anyways, moral of the story is, post secondary school is expensive. The earlier you start saving, the more you can reap the benefits of long term growth and government grants. When it comes to investments, time is something you can't make up. The earlier you start the more growth you'll get.

Oh… and RESP contributions are the new cool baby gift. Just ask my sister and her husband…

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DISCLOSURE: This post was sponsored and created in partnerships with RBC. While I received compensation for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


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How to be happy when things are sh*tty

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How to be happy when things are sh*tty

The next time you feel really happy... STOP and do this!

The other day ... as I stood in our kitchen making dinner, after a busy afternoon running to and from hockey arenas and after school jobs, listening to the kids play in the basement…. I had a moment that made me literally stop stirring the pot of pasta. 

In that regular moment, of every day mom life, I realized that, I am truly happy.

Not just in the moment happy.

But content happy. Thriving amongst the realities of everyday life, I want to bottle this shit up happy.

If you’re reading this, resist the urge to roll your eyes and whisper to yourself… okay Jamie. your life is effing perfect…. congra-effin-lations

It’s not. Oh girl, trust me it’s not.

Right now, our life is FAR from perfect.

We are buckling up for another stressful time in our blended family life… one that I don’t openly speak about online but once it’s said and done and the kiddos are grown up, I may just write a book about

My husband is working crazy hours, and I’m here on my own managing everything with the kids. It’s all good, but some days, it’s a lot, especially on those unexpected late nights!

Our daughter is struggling with some things at school. Even though we know it will be okay, it’s added some extra stress to the load.

And despite the goal of slowing down. things are more chaotic than ever!

But like I said, in that moment I was still “I want to bottle this shit up happy”

 
How to be a happier person - Jamie Scrimgeour - Stepmoms Support
 


So instead of noticing how I felt and moving on with the night… I stopped and thought about what I could to do actually keep that feeling.

How could I reduplicate it? 

How could I keep it around? 

In doing so, I asked myself these questions. 

  • What are we doing well right now?

  • What did I do today?

  • What’s been going right lately?

  • What sets this day apart from every other day of our life? 

You know, we try SO freakin’ hard to try and avoid things and situations that make us feel bad. We don't want to repeat mistakes and try to avoid negative experiences in life. 

And rightfully so. It’s not so enjoyable when things are going shitty. 

BUT what if, instead we focused on reduplicating the things that are going right? 

What if we focused on the things that are going well… 

Stay with me here… 

What if we stopped and thought about the times we still felt GOOD when things were going BAD!

Because here’s the deal - shit is going to happen. 
Life is going to get hard
If you have kids, it’s going to be busy
You’ll have tough times with your husband
You’ll have tough times at work.
If you’re co-parenting, chances are you’re going to have tough times with the ex. 

You may have to prepare for court
You may have extremely different parenting styles
You will have curve balls thrown at you
You will have times when you think to yourself “I just can’t take this anymore”

But it all goes back to the question, and the purpose of this platform…. how are you going to thrive amongst those extra stressors?

How can you still feel happy when it would be so easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, sad, angry… and all those premature wrinkle giving emotions! 

____

In case you’re wondering, here are MY answers to the questions I asked myself. 

EXERCISE: I worked out that day. I had blown off some steam. I fell off the wagon for a while and it feels good to be back on. 

ME TIME: I woke up early that day, and have been very committed to my morning routine [You can learn more about it here]

WORK LIFE BALANCE: I’ve made a point to stop working at 3:00 pm everyday so that I can be available for the kids when they get home from school. Previously I had been trying to juggle work when they came in the door, and trying to do too many things at once. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this attempt at multi-tasking shortened my fuse HUGE

DATE NIGHT- a few days earlier Darren and I had an amazing date night out. It was so good it left me craving more. It’s crazy how easy it can be to fall off the date night wagon. It’s even crazier how just a couple of hours with your person, can leave you feeling so good!

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT - I have been making a point of telling the kids all the things they are doing RIGHT, instead of correcting the things they were doing wrong. The positive reinforcement has gone a long way and their behaviour has been ON POINT! It’s also resulted in me looking for more of the positive. Mindset is key! 


Look, my answers to these questions won’t be the same as your answers to the questions. 
But next time you get that “I want to bottle this shit up feeling”… I encourage you to not just experience it… I want you to analyze it, and then reduplicate it. 

It sounds a little crazy, but it actually works! 

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