Tag Archives: BMO

Stay at home or go away to school?

By Sheryl Smolkin


There are many pros and cons to weigh if you are still debating whether to attend college or university in your home town or go away to school. A crowded, messy dorm room and doing your own laundry for the first time may seem like a small price to pay for your independence.

However, the real cost of leaving home prematurely could be a huge debt that takes years to pay off. A March 2013 report from BMO’s Wealth Institute says that tuition and other costs for a four-year university degree now can cost more than $60,000. Due to tuition inflation, this amount could rise to more than $140,000 for a child born in 2013.

Of course, if there is no college or university in your hometown or you are interested in a program that is not offered locally, staying at home may not be an option. Regardless of what your decision is, here are some ideas for students who want to trim their expenses to avoid leaving school with a huge debt.

  1. Scholarships: Apply for scholarships or bursaries. The selection criteria are not always based solely on high grades. You can find out what scholarships are available from the school you plan to attend and websites like scholarshipscanada.com and studentawards.com.
  2. Accommodations: To get the true “college” experience you may want to live in residence on campus for at least the first year. However, it may be less expensive to share an apartment with one or more roommates and prepare your own food. If grandma or another close relative lives in the town where you plan to study, consider asking if you can board for a nominal amount.
  3. Trade services for a room: One single Mom I know is training to be a midwife, so she is frequently on call at night and on weekends. Her tenant gets free rent for helping her with child care outside of normal daycare hours. Similarly, an elderly homeowner may be willing to offer free or cheap accommodation if you agree to help out with yard work, shovelling snow and buying groceries.
  4. Get a job: Get a part-time job and a summer job to defray current expenses and save money for the next semester’s tuition. Some schools have work/study programs and offer students on-campus work. While it would be nice to get work in the field you are training for, take what you can get and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
  5. Take a reduced course load: If you take fewer courses over a longer period, it may be easier to balance school and a part-time job. Also, your annual tuition expenses will be lower.
  6. Choose a co-op program: Co-op programs typically require that students work in a relevant business or industry for several semesters a year. Co-op terms are generally unpaid, but employers participating in these programs frequently hire successful students for paid summer work and jobs after graduation.
  7. Enroll in online courses: The Centre for Distance Education offers distance education for Saskatchewan residents. You can get distance degrees including undergraduate programs and a highly rated Executive MBA from Alberta’s Athabasca University. Many of these courses can be applied towards your degree or a diploma at another institution, reducing the time it takes to complete your program.
  8. Check your employee benefits: If you are planning to go back to school part-time, check your employee benefits. Many enlightened employers will pay all or part of tuition once you satisfactorily complete the program. Generally, but not always, the course must relate to skills needed to do your job.
  9. Join the military: Enroll in the Canadian Armed Forces through the Regular Force Officer Training Plan (ROTP) and you will receive free university tuition, books and academic equipment in addition to a salary with benefits. You can attend the Royal Military College or an approved Canadian university. Finally, you will have a guaranteed job upon graduation.

    In return for having your university education paid for, you will have to serve between 36 and 48 months, calculated on the basis of two months’ service for each month of subsidized education.

  10. Live frugally: A student loan, the proceeds of your summer earnings and an allowance from your parents (if you are lucky) will have to last for the whole term. Figure out what you can afford to spend and stick to your budget. If you have a credit card, don’t use it unless you can afford to pay it off every month. Remember that the credit rating you generate now will follow you into the workforce and can affect your ability to buy a home or a car in future.

Do you have tips for students deciding whether to go away to school or study at a local college? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

29-Aug College/University Credit card options for your college kid
05-Sept College/University What kinds of insurance does your child need?
12-Sept Kid’s allowance How much and what your children have to do to get an allowance?

The why, when, and how of telecommuting

By Sheryl Smolkin


I have worked from home for over eight years – first as a magazine editor and now as a freelance workplace journalist. I certainly don’t miss the daily commute and my co-workers Simba (the cat) and Rufus (the dog) are great companions.

Telecommuting saves me time and transportation costs plus I don’t need a business wardrobe. But don’t just take my word for it.

In April 2011 the Telework Research Network in collaboration with Calgary Economic Development released a study that revealed twice weekly telecommuting could save Canadian companies, employees and the community over $53 billion dollars a year, reduce greenhouse gasses by the equivalent of taking 385 thousand cars off the roads and save approximately 390 million litres of gas

That means Canadian employers can see savings of $10,000 per two-day-a-week telecommuter annually. Employees who telework can also expect savings between $600 – $3,500 per year through reduced commuting and work-related expenses.

A 2013 BMO poll reveals that 23% of Saskatchewan employers offer telecommuting. Companies that offer telecommuting by sector are:

  • 28%: Business/finance
  • 14%: Manufacturing
  • 14%: Retail
  • 13%: Services
  • 3%:  Agri-business

However, not every job lends itself to working remotely either full or part-time. For example, job tasks that that have been identified as appropriate for telecommuting include writing and editing; data entry and transcription; online research; data analysis; and inbound and outbound telephoning. A chef, waitress, construction worker or police officer certainly does not have the same latitude to work offsite.

It also takes self-discipline and commitment to work effectively from home. Many telecommuting advocates say they are more productive when they are not distracted by the hustle and bustle of an office. Nevertheless, there are definitely people for whom the negative aspects of telecommuting outweigh the advantages.

If you don’t have a separate home office where you can comfortably work away from kids, dogs and the doorbell, you may feel like you are always at work or always at home. I know I find it hard to resist checking my email at 10:30 PM when I pass my office on the way to the bedroom.

Another reason for decreased productivity at home may occur if you need the structure of the office environment to work efficiently or if an office is your major source of social interaction. Informal interactions with co-workers can also be an important source of information about the needs of your internal and external clients.

So if you think the “pros” of occasional or regular teleworking outweigh the “cons,” how can you make the business case to your boss?

  1. Analyze your job: Review the components of your job on a daily or a weekly basis. Be prepared to explain how you can do research, writing and telephone work from home, but come to the office for scheduled client and internal meetings.
  2. Your home office: Reassure your boss that you have a suitable, private working space with an internet hookup and telephone. More and more people are opting to get rid of their landlines, but if you will be handling a large volume of local and long distance customer service calls, a landline with a headset may still be preferable.
  3. Technology: Most companies now allow employees to dial into the office network and/or their own desktop machine so they can work seamlessly, regardless of where they are on any particular day. Nevertheless, check with your IT department to find out if they can recommend solutions for backing up your computer and any potential security issues.
  4. Stay in touch: Teleconferences, Skype and live chats with your group are all ways to stay in touch, even when informal meetings are scheduled on days when you are working from home.
  5. Performance measures: Make sure out of sight is not out of mind. Clearly establish with your supervisor how your performance will be evaluated. Performance measures should be based not solely on input (the number of hours you work) but on output (work done, projects completed and contributions to the organization’s goals and objectives).
  6. Pilot project: Set some goals, try out the proposed arrangement for a few months and then reassess. This will ensure both you and the company have an exit strategy if telecommuting turns out to be a less than optimum arrangement.

Do you have tips for telecommuters or teleworkers? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

1-Aug Vacation Staycation ideas that can save you money
8-Aug Garage sales How to make money on your garage sale
15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment