Save. Spend. Splurge.

Ask Sherry: Breaking down my Comfortable Budget & Saving for Kids College

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You can ask any question using the form here.

Hi Sherry! Why are your thoughts on saving for kiddos college? I’ve calculated what I need to save and pretending it is a debt that needs to be paid off, but looking for more ideas.

I don’t actually save for his college. He saves for his own and I help him invest it because… he’s 6. LOL

All the government money, any gifts, any extra cash that comes his way meant for him, goes straight into his fund.

Once he gets older, I’m letting him handle it all on his own and teaching him how to rebalance his portfolio, etc.

Back to some ideas:

I guess you could see it as a debt you’re saving for, but you don’t really know what it will cost right?

My first thought would be to figure out how much you think they need, and work backwards so that you can set a goal.

In Canada, I am assuming he will need $100K by the time he is old enough to go.

I paid about $5K a year when I went a decade ago but as I took a business degree, he could go into something else.

The maximum now seems to be about $14,000 for an engineering degree or $11,000 for computer sciences. If I double that to $28K by the time he goes, and add a little extra buffer, let’s say $35K a year for 4 years, it means he needs $140K by the time he is in school. That’s not even including books, a computer, housing costs if any etc.

However if he decides to go to school here in Québec, as a resident he would be subsidized for one of the best universities in Montréal (McGill). The tuition fees for engineering are 1/3 of the price at $5000 a year. If I double that and a half, let’s say it is $15K a year by the time he goes.

So best case scenario, tuition is $60K for a ‘max’ degree, up to $140K PLUS living expenses, maybe another $20K a year ($100K extra cost, but $0 if he was in Montréal as he could live at home for free.)

That means he needs to plan for $60K to $240K for his degree by the time he goes at a minimum. Maybe more.

Don’t worry, he will be doing these calculations as he gets older because I am pushing all of this responsibility on him early, and telling him he has to plan his own dang future. I wish my parents had done this with me. I would have understood the true gravity of the situation, student loans, paying things back, etc.

This will help him also decide (instead of me talking myself blue in the face) whether he wants to spend more to go to an out-of-province school, or save a fkload of student loans/debt by staying local.

Back to the calculations:

He already has $32K saved. If I don’t touch it and let it grow, he would have $57,467 in 12 years give or take with a 5% return.

As we are adding to it, based on estimated contributions, he should have $167K by the time he goes with a 5% return.

I am also not including any contributions he will make on his own from summer or weekend jobs, or extra money given by family members, not to mention scholarships, and bursaries – EVERYTHING I will encourage him to apply for and work for to see if he can defray the costs in other ways.

Of course, this is all assuming he doesn’t turn out to be dumber and lazier than a turnip. LOL ….. I’m joking. Sort of. 🙂

I don’t want to put any expectations on him only to be disappointed.

Other ideas:

Maybe a chart? People seem to like these colouring charts for filling in savings and debt.

Or a big bowl where each time you save $100, you drop a marble inside. I read that somewhere once, where someone had a big bowl, and each time they saved an extra $1000 towards their debt, they put a marble in the bowl – the goal was to have a big fat ass bowl full of marbles.

Or maybe not put so much pressure on yourself to do it all. Who knows if our kids even want to go to school or will do something else with that education fund?

I focus on my retirement, and whatever he gets from outside (or we get for him), is his money.

Can you please break down your comfortable $40,000 budget?

Well.. it kind of changes year after year so I tried to think of what I’d spend in each area and why for $40K.


$9500 = Home (utilities, condo fees, taxes, insurance)

$6350 = Food (Groceries)

$3500 = Fancy Food (Groceries but for special events)

$3500 = Medical (Dentist, Doctor, Pills, Physiotherapy)

$3600 = Eating Out (Snacks, Treats, Cakes, Mini Meals)

$5000 = Yearly trip to NYC and travel to Toronto

$3000 = Toiletries

$1550 = Style

$1000 = Office

$1000 = Little Bun

It can be hard to look at yearly numbers, so here it is for the monthly breakdown:


$791.67 = Home (utilities, condo fees, taxes, insurance)

$529.17 = Food (Groceries)

$291.67 = Fancy Food (Groceries but for special events)

$291.67 = Medical (Dentist, Doctor, Pills, Physiotherapy)

$300 = Eating Out (Snacks, Treats, Cakes, Mini Meals)

$416.67 = Yearly trip to NYC and travel to Toronto

$250 = Toiletries

$129.17 = Style

$83.33 = Office

$83.33 = Little Bun

That’s kind of how I see it breaking down, but I could spend more in one area, or less…

I am looking at Fancy Food and thinking – I could spend more on Style and then spend less there, or elsewhere.


  • Little Bun will be in school not daycare and I suspect I will have to spend more as he grows older
  • My budget is fluid not set in stone
  • Doesn’t include unexpected emergencies like my car getting side swiped
  • I don’t necessarily spend the entire amount of each category every month
  • Doesn’t include savings or donations, this is just my spending, not my income because I donate when I have income

HOME (Utilities, Condo Fees, Taxes, Insurance)

My house is paid, so my condo fees are just to pay for the place, the utilities are just electricity and heat because water is free, and we pay municipal & school taxes along with home insurance.

FOOD (Groceries)

This is actually a lot of money for this particular category because it is what we eat in a month as our ‘basics’, but my partner is always stocking and restocking.

One month, we spent under $200 for the whole family because we were eating the stock we had in our pantry (pasta, rice, quinoa, etc)

FOOD (Fancy Food – Groceries for special events)

We have birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day and so on, so my partner usually buys fancy cheeses, and things to make special meals which can cost more money.

MEDICAL (Dentist, Doctor, Pills, Physiotherapy)

Teeth cleaning, but some years I had to have a root canal, or my brace popped off.

I also pay for physiotherapy at about $100/month on average to fix my back and knee, which I do not see ending any time soon, and of course my pills like birth control, cold pills, etc.

EATING OUT (Snacks, Treats, Cakes, Mini Meals)

I like to go out and eat cakes on my own (slices), or some treats, pastries, maybe a vegan burger here and there.


I go yearly with my friend (not this year), and I spend every summer with Toronto.. at least I did before this whole virus that has screwed everything up.

I spend happily in this area.

In some future years I also plan on spending on a BIG trip to Japan, other cities and traveling (road trip?) with Little Bun as he gets older.


My skincare regimen is here 2020….and it also includes facials, spa treatments, etc. I really keep up on my skin and beauty.


I love shopping and doing it secondhand, thrifting, or buying online. Getting creative and so on. $129 is a very low number based on what I have spent in the past but that was when I shopped at retail prices (even on sale), rather than secondhand!


Paper, envelopes, cellphone, ink for my fountain pens, etc.


I buy him books, learning books, apps, etc. I am assuming he is in school, and no more daycare. Once he gets older, I think this budget will get bigger, and I will cut on other areas like Style, Eating Out, etc.

My barebones budget is $1500 or less

I can spend about $1200 as a basic budget every month (home, groceries), so that $300 is for extras like Little Bun things, medication, office, toiletries, etc, and I wouldn’t spend unless I really needed it.

In the past few months I have been spending $1200 or less, which I suspect will continue if I continue to stop going out, shopping, etc. I can do it, I am not happy about it, but it is a possibility and I have the basic essentials I need.

Even though I have the money to live on around $40K with my side incomes…

I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so. I need to bring in at least $80K in side income to feel comfortable spending $40K. It is just this thought in the back of my head: What if? Because I know it could disappear to $0 as easily as it made it into the thousands.

Until I had solid income that was WELL ABOVE what I spent, and I could save and invest the difference, I wouldn’t mentally allow myself to spend $40K with just my side incomes alone.

I’d need to make much more to release that fear.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


  • susan

    I find that some nice clothes (or shoes, bags) can be one of the biggest expenses when purchased new.

    When you buy second hand, do you already know your size from that designer or do you order several sizes?


    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I know my general size… which is US 4/6 but some designers run smaller, and I tend to always size up instead because of my shoulders and depending on the cut

      It’s just from years of shopping and knowing how things fit on me, what problem spots there are (shoulders), and if I SHOULD size up or take my ‘actual size’.

      I do not order several sizes — I can’t…. secondhand is only one size. You ask for measurements and guess.

      • Liz

        Thanks for the college savings ideas Sherry! I think I’ll sit down with my older child and make a chart. We sure have plenty of time together during the Stay home initiatives. We are good for the first year but need to work up for the other six (3×2). I’m a fan is staying at in state tuition, we’ll see if that is where they end up. I’m planning on saving half in the 529. We could also give them the 2k it’s tax break for kids. I do feel a duty to pay for most of their education. It is been a long tradition in my family. My great great gramma went to one of the first teaching colleges in Indiana, my gramma was in one of the first graduating classes at USC dental hygienist. You are right in with your message of women having a plan to support themselves. And yes I agree with you this should come after you have taken care of your own retirement savings.

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          Excellent! I definitely think getting them involved in their own education makes them realize how much it costs to actually pay for one, rather than money magically appearing out of the air.

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