college funds & the future

kindergarten Sym
Kindergarten Symphony, circa 2006

Symphony picked up her final report card yesterday and is officially done with the ninth grade. She’ll be a high school sophomore in September and will be graduating in just three more years, which seems bonkers to me. Her grades were ok, tbh I’m still not 100% clear on how the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program grading system works, but I think she did… alright? Mostly 4s and 5s, plus a 6 in yearbook and a 7 in Art (with another 8 in “Thinking Creatively”)(8 is the highest possible grade btw). Right now her plan for the future is to become a teacher and to get into university I think she needs higher marks, so I told her next year I wanna see more 5s and 6s. For her junior and senior years they have regular, comprehensible grades THANK GOODNESS.

Thinking about Sym’s future university plans sent me into a total tailspin wondering if I have saved enough for her post-secondary education. I am such a perpetual broke-ass that it might surprise you to learn that I have saved anything but I actually started an RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan) for her when she was just a few months old, and every month since I have dutifully (or rather, automatically) put $95 into it. There have been months where my contribution bounced and I had to pay double the next month, and there have been times when I was so broke that I wished I could just have that $95 myself BUT looking back I am SO glad I did it. When the RESP matures in 2019 my contributions, the interest, government education grants and the interest on those will total about $32,000. It won’t pay for a full four years at university but it’ll certainly help!

This summer my big goal is to start an RESP for Gwen (I have been even more of a broke-ass than usual since she’s been born, like last year my net income was $2,200 and no, that is not a typo/missing any zeroes) and then one for the baby once they are born this fall. I’m actually really excited about it, and brought up the topic in my parenting discussion group on facebook. Who was saving? How much do you contribute? How much do you hope to have saved by the time your child/ren are grown? I’m basically obsessed with the topic now and have annoyed the hell out of everyone by constantly bringing it up, but I’m like… proud? Really proud! Of what a good start I’ve made for Symphony’s future (…and a little ashamed I haven’t done the same for Gwen yet, but I’m going to!) and I want to share my experience with other parents who may feel overwhelmed about the whole thing.

PLEASE take this all with a grain of salt; I’m not a financial advisor, and my experience is not your experience. We may live in different countries with different regulations and I’m sure we are in different financial positions (although I’m probably not the only broke-ass out there). But I think some of these feelings may be pretty universal, and if I can help people feel better about it I will.

1. Don’t stress about what you CAN’T save, focus on what you CAN save. It’s daunting to look at what the projected costs of a college education will be when your little ones get big. For Sym, if she lives away from home it’s over $100,000. A friend in the US with a daughter Gwen’s age looked into it yesterday and she and her husband would need to start saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month to fully fund their daughter’s education- and they have two kids! In daycare! Which they are spending all their money on! IT’S A LOT. Not everyone is in a position financially to pay for their children’s whole schooling. But just think of it this way: any money you can contribute is money they won’t have to borrow. Imagine if your own student loan amounts were even just $10,000 less. How much less interest would you have to pay, how many fewer payments would you have to make, how much sooner could you free yourself from that burden? And it doesn’t take a lot to save $10,000, just $50 a month for 17 years, and that’s without even factoring in any interest your savings will earn or grants for which they are eligible!

2. Plan for multiple eventualities. What if Sym changes her mind in the next three years (she is only 14) and decides she doesn’t want to go to a traditional four-year university? What if she wants to go to art school (remember, she got an 8 in thinking creatively), or learn a trade? What happens to the money if it’s not all used up, like it’s in a special education specific account! Well, with her RESP I actually have multiple options for how to use the money if it doesn’t all go towards Symphony’s education:

• I can transfer it into an RESP for another child, ie Gwen or Baby #3
• I can transfer it into an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) for myself or Taylor after Symphony turns 21
• I can just like… spend it? myself on whatever I want haha

With the last two options any funds from government education grants would be returned to the government, and with the third one I would have to pay tax on the interest (but NOT the principal). In the event that Sym doesn’t use the money for school I would be most likely to transfer it to my other kids but it’s nice to have other options. And speaking of those…

3. Consider all your savings options. It’s not just about how much money you save, but how you save it. There are so many different ways you can save for your kids! For me an education-specific account with regular, automatic monthly withdrawals was the best because it’s kind of a no-brainer and I’m such a broke-ass all the time (HAVE I MENTIONED I’M A BROKE-ASS YET???) it would have been too easy for me to just spend all my money and save nothing. But maybe this isn’t the best for you. Maybe you can trust yourself to regularly or even sporadically put money in. I know a few people who put any monetary gifts from family (for birthdays, holidays, etc) into their kid’s accounts, and that works for them. Maybe an RESP or 529 (the US version) isn’t practical for you for whatever reason, like you anticipate the contributions may exceed the limit (for RESPs while there is no annual limit for contributions, there is a lifetime contribution limit for any one student), or maybe you want something with a little more flexibility, like a tax-free savings account or a mutual fund that doesn’t have any education-specific restrictions on it. Symphony (aka the luckiest girl tbh) actually has a mutual fund as well, set up by a relative, which could be used to fund any education cost shortfalls left by the RESP, or it could be used for ???anything??? Travel, buying a home, a fancy wedding, saving forever like a Scrooge? THE SKY IS THE LIMIT. Symphony herself is very Scrooge-ly, often “forgetting” to bring her own money when we go shopping to try to trick me into buying her stuff, and has said she’s never having children who will require college funds. Instead she’s going to start saving for her own retirement the moment she can. Such practicality, I’m really not sure where she gets it from!

So just like… know that while the idea of saving for your children’s future education might seem overwhelming, it’s actually not. A little contribution can go a long way, no contribution is too small, and it’s never to late OR to early to start.




messy bed

Later this summer the girls are switching bedrooms. Right now Sym has the bigger room and Gwen’s is quite small. Gwen will be sharing a room with the baby so Sym has very graciously accepted the smaller room. It’s kind of a huge production because Sym’s room is full of STUFF that all needs sorting out, and both rooms need to have all the wall-holes fixed and be repainted. Right now the plan is for Sym to slowly pack up everything over the next month, and then right before she goes to her dad’s for the last week of July we’ll move everything out, fix the walls and paint. Then we move Gwen into Sym’s old room, fix the walls and paint in Gwen’s old room, move Sym into it and there you have it! It would be easier if Taylor or I had that time off but OH WELL, we’ll figure it out.

Because Sym’s current room is so large she has a big desk, wide dresser and wide bookcase, and NONE of it will fit into the new space, so I have to get her new furniture. I was kind of dreading it because $$$, but what’re you gonna do? I’m still counting my lucky stars that we didn’t get rid of all Gwen’s baby stuff in January! Originally I’d planned to get Sym a daybed with drawers underneath to replace her dresser, but she didn’t really like any of the options so instead we’re just getting a simple underbed frame to use with her old headboard and installing a storage system in the closet with extra clothes rails and shelves. This is actually great because the simple frame & storage system are a lot less expensive than the daybed, so it’s cut my estimated cost by about 60%. To add to the savings Gwen and the baby will be inheriting Sym’s old wide dresser, and Gwen’s current small dresser is on the Ikea recall list so BACK IT GOES FOR A FULL REFUND. We’re also getting Sym a tall bookcase (to replace the wide one) and a small desk (to replace the large one) and the cost of these will be partially offset by the returned dresser, so everything’s coming up Milhouse!

In other good news, Sym is getting her braces off in just FOUR WEEKS! She is really looking forward to eating popcorn and caramel again, and I am looking forward to not having to remind her to put her elastics in. Also, she’s getting a new phone in July (I used her upgrade on my phone so she gets my upgrade) and I recently introduced her to the wonder that is cheap-ass iphone cases on ebay and she has a short list of about ten she wants to get. And in August she gets to take this great week-long course for teens at the art school! Truly, this will be the summer of Sym.



wild rose

squirrel friend

This morning I read a blog post where the author complained that she is “so over” summer and is “ready to move on,” and I’m just like… it has been summer for one week, why are you wishing your life away? This same blogger keeps posting about how she CAN’T BELIEVE her kid is five years old already, and where does the time go and like… it passes while you are wishing it would pass faster! Stop rushing through every moment trying to get to the next season and maybe just take one minute to enjoy your life before it’s over, yikes.

After a truly terrible time last week I am finally starting to feel a little better. I really wish I could navigate this pregnancy without having to take medication that makes me sleepy all the time as it exacerbates my exhaustion. I have a lot of guilt right now about not being able to do things with Gwen and how much housework slack Taylor is having to pick up, but some days I honestly can’t do anything I’m so tired. The physical exhaustion is the worst; recently I was trying to fold some laundry, a whole load of little wash cloths, and I could only fold three before I had to go sit down. Hopefully my feeling better this week nausea-wise means I’ll start to feel better staying awake and also vertical-wise, too.

Last week was also difficult because Taylor was working this weird half-day,, half-night schedule where he’d wake up at like 3 or 4 in the morning and work from home for a few hours before going into the office for meetings. It was a nightmare! We saw way less of him and he was sleeping for a lot of the time that we usually spend together, which was a bummer. He also had less time to help around the house and with me being extra sick there was no one to pick up the slack, except for Symphony. I think she got very tired of me asking her every five minutes “can you help me with this one little thing…?” Not a great start to her summer vacation, haha.


A quick note about my shop: there’s a high probability of a Canada Post strike starting this upcoming weekend so I’ve decided to put my shop on vacation mode for now. Customers outside of Canada can still order items designed by me from my society6 since they ship from the US.

too much

fathers day

Gwen now has multiple excuses she uses for when she doesn’t want to do/try/eat something: “too hard,” “too scare,” and “too yuck.” I have been feeling too yuck myself recently, as over the weekend my pregnancy nausea stepped up its game to the point that EVEN THOUGH I am taking Diclectin (anti-nausea medication) yesterday I puked SO HARD I burst all the blood vessels in my face YET AGAIN and I also peed my pants. And not a little bit. A lotta bit. Sorry if that is Too Much Information but I think it’s important to share the realities of life and pregnancy on this blog, and not just a shiny sugar-coated version. The puke- and pee-coated version is what you’ll find here.

Thankfully yesterday was also the day of my monthly appointment with the doctor who very sympathetically wrote me yet another prescription for a second medication to aid digestion, with the theory being if I digest my food faster it won’t be in my stomach to get thrown up. I don’t know if it will help BUT I did take one last night that absolutely knocked me out so I guess maybe if I am sleeping I’m not puking?

Of course sleeping all day isn’t exactly conducive to eating enough (or working at my full-time job…) and I’ve lost two pounds since my last appointment when I should have gained four pounds which actually means a net loss of six pounds. The baby’s growth is still good (based on how my uterus is measuring), but if I don’t start gaining again that would not be cool. If I don’t I will have to get another ultrasound to check that everything is still developing normally, IN FACT my doctor (who I really like, have I mentioned I really like her?) offered to order me a not-really-medically-necessary ultrasound now, on account of we weren’t able to find out the baby’s sex from the last one. I declined because I’d rather not use up resources that other people might REALLY need and also it’s really hard to fit them into my full-time job work schedule, but talk to me again in four weeks and we’ll see.

Feeling so sick all weekend seriously cramped up my plans to celebrate Father’s Day with Taylor, mostly because I spent most of it in bed and had to ask him to clean the whole house, which seems pretty unfair to him. We did do a couple of fun things: on Saturday we booked a zipcar (because it was so rainy, normally we take the train) and took Gwen to the Lego store. We got her one of the new Duplo construction vehicle sets and as predicted SHE LOVES IT. Sunday we went out for brunch and Taylor got gifts: an electric griddle for making brunch at home, and a cool manly apron so he doesn’t have to wear my frilly polka dot one while griddling things. Hopefully these helped to make up for the rest of his weekend of cleaning, haha.

five faves

Gwen Green Pillows

These fluffy round “basketball cushions” I got for Gwen’s room were a BIG HIT, I kind of want to order more. How many fluffy round cushions is too many fluffy round cushions?

A brutally honest read about the reality of getting a late-term abortion.

This article about the truth of Canadian accents is fascinating! I love this sort of stuff, linguistics etc. And for the record, I have a Canadian Shift accent, NOT a Canadian Rising, so don’t come at me with that “aboot” nonsense anyway.

One of these Duplo construction sets would be PERFECT for Gwen, she is OB. SESSED. with all the “big trucks” at the construction site one block over.

I will never get over this song.


Sooooo city hall passed the motion to look into giving my block a heritage conservation designation! I’m so excited, like nothing’s done for sure yet (I guess the next step is research) BUT it’s one step closer to our goal. My friend emailed me a link to a local newspaper article about it and the reporter called it “a contentious decision” but like… there are like half a dozen privately owned buildings in the whole block so exactly who is it contentious to? A few rich dicks? Putting stronger restrictions on redevelopment in the neighborhood would affect almost zero people. ANYWAY. We won this fight and we’re gonna win the whole battle.

sleeping gwen


animal hood gwen

Today I am 24 weeks pregnant. I’m celebrating by eating a lot of fudgesicles (the only food in the house right now) and wearing this truly absurd pentagonal jumpsuit I got in the mail yesterday. It’s not even maternity wear (I’m having trouble finding much in the way of maternity wear I can stand, ONCE AGAIN) but the loose & flowy and did I mention loose? like there is an abundance of fabric! design means I’ll be able to float around in this thing all summer, no matter how preg I get. I bought it in the black but I honestly might get the red as well? I wish I could get it in every colour of the rainbow.

Overall I am still doing well this pregnancy. I do still have to take Diclectin for my nausea; I fell asleep before taking it on Sunday night and all day Monday I was suffering. I wish it would just go away like this is first trimester stuff! What gives?! I’m also having a lot of pelvic girdle pain which is a drag because it make sit difficult to stand, or walk, or sit down, or lie down, or move between any of these states of being. After all the standing and walking I did on Saturday that night was truly miserable, so I’ve been taking it a lot easier since then. Unfortunately it’s also quite painful to sit on the floor, especially sitting on the floor cross-legged, especially sitting on the floor cross-legged with a small child in my lap, which is often my natural state. But other than those two things, the endless nausea and crippling pain, everything is going great! The baby is moving and kicking a lot, and I’ve even been able to see my belly push out in a weird lump from baby stretches. It’s always the creepiest thing and I can’t wait for it to happen more often so I can force everyone else to witness it, haha.

Oh and! I added a new item to my shop, the first of the suede & leather appliquéd skull patches I made in the spring! I wanted to put up more but I needed to photograph them all and my camera was acting weird, there was a huge delay when I pressed the shutter button and I couldn’t figure why. Then I saw there were dozens of extremely close up pics of a pair of dirty socks on my desk and I realized… a toddler must have been here, and set a 10-second timer. Anyway, you can see the listing here.


around here


Cake Pop Gwen

Pregnant Tanie

Swing Gwen

Taylor took these pictures a few weeks ago, when we took Gwen to the playground at the school and then to lunch and both got sunburned. Since then the weather has vacillated between super hot & sunny and super cold & rainy (a little while ago it was hailing and just as I was about to hit “publish” on this post a thunderstorm started!), often both in the same day so it’s almost impossible to make plans or dress yourself appropriately.

I haven’t been taking weekly pics this pregnancy like I did with Gwen, which I sometimes feel a little bad about but it kind makes the whole thing go more quickly. Like I’m 23 1/2 weeks pregnant already! Amazing! I did ask Taylor to take a few pics that day BUT unfortunately they are all obsolete now because I got bangs again. I KNOW I KNOW, I know what everyone is going to say: “Tanie you hate having bangs, why did you do this again, you are a fool, a FOOL!” But really I don’t hate having bangs, and the last time I had them my hair was too short (anything above my shoulders is reprehensible on me) so I hated all my hair, not just my bangs. And I grew them out! I grew them all out successfully so it’s really nbd.

I took Gwen to the salon with me so she could get a proper bang trim herself instead of one of my Lloyd Christmas butchering jobs, and brought Sym along to help wrangle Gwen during my cut. While we were there Sym spontaneously decided to get bangs as well, for the first time. So now we are all Twinsies, which is cool, it’s cool to match with your old mom, right? She’s never had bangs before and it took a little getting used to for all of us. She looks more mature with them somehow, like a really teen instead of a little kid. Weird how they make her look older and me look younger!

Lest you think the only thing going on around here is bangs, this weekend I was on the news. It was for a story they are doing about a motion being voted on by city council, to like… see if they want to consider possibly making my block a Heritage Conservation Area or something. Basically stop any terrible redevelopment in the block that doesn’t mesh well with the existing look of the heritage houses. I also stood out in the rain at the farmer’s market collecting signatures in support of the motion, which is being voted on today. Fingers crossed!

I didn’t actually watch the news story for which I was interviewed because Oh My God how embarrassing is it to watch yourself on video? I literally wanted to die the entire time I was making my stupid kickstarter video and I feel like this would be even worse because I had NO CONTROL. I did read the article and there is one quote from the city councillor who put forward the motion, one quote from the executive director of the organization that manages the block and TWO FROM ME. And OF COURSE the interview was outside on a drizzly day when my hair was in a frizz, this was actually the same day I had my hair done but the interview was in the morning and my hair appointment was in the afternoon! Oh well, at least if I had to look dumb hopefully I didn’t sound dumb.

Monster Gwen

All photos in this post by Taylor Laramie.