Why do Colleges and Universities Vary so Much in Cost?

January 23, 2014 Permalink 0

We all know community college is a budget-friendly alternative to most four-year colleges… but what about some colleges being a budget-friendly alternative to… other colleges?

When you’re staring down the barrel of student loans or earning money for college, the question becomes a lot more interesting: Why do some colleges cost tons, and others cost less, when sometimes they offer the same majors and programs? Let’s look at the different things that affect tuition rates:

Cost  of College

Public or Private Can Vary the Cost

The first, most obvious stop is between public or private schools. Public schools meet certain requirements to accept government funds, thereby subsidizing the enrollment costs. Therefore, public schools are often less expensive than private schools (and the same goes for lower levels of education, like high school and middle school).

Hiring More Published and Experienced Faculty Increases Tuition

One of the major costs behind running a university is finding, hiring, and keeping the professors and adjunct professors that attract students. The more prestigious a scholar is (which usually translates into how often and in which publications they are published), the more the scholar will expect to be paid in cash and benefits — one of those benefits being the prestige of the school.

Location, Location, Location

Location is another important factor when calculating prices like enrollment and cost of living. Whether your school is on the East Coast or the West Coast of your country, in a rural area, or a metropolitan area, not to mention if it’s in the US, UK, Canada, or elsewhere, all of these factors will have an impact on the price tag.

What Fields of Study Are Offered

The more profitable the school of study (or the more likely a field’s students are to get a high-paying job) the more universities can charge for enrollment. A school well known for IT and Graphic Design might charge more than, say, a school well-known for sociology or geology. However, it’s important to note that sometimes high-paying majors subsidies for low-paying ones, which let’s schools promote how well-rounded their curriculums are.

How Good Are Their Sports Teams?

Maybe (hopefully?) this is exclusive to the US, but schools with good sports team also command a higher price tag. Which, to me, makes less sense — you’d think the sports team could subsidize the price to make the school charge less to students, but it seems to have the opposite effect: the more popular the sports team, the higher the demand, and up flies the price.

Any more ideas on what makes colleges cost less or more? Leave a note in the comments!

How I Cut Almost $200/month Worth of Expenses

January 13, 2014 Permalink 0

Last week, I was creating my 2014 budget with Cait’s budget spreadsheet (thanks Cait!) and checking my credit card statements for more accurate predictions of my future expenses, based on what happened in the past year.

This is part two of my financial planning for 2014. The first part was finding ways to earn more income passively.

I did a budget for every month of the year, totalling it all up in the end.

HOLY F-CK, guys.

2014 is going to be an expensive year.

I’m getting married. I’m going on an expensive honeymoon. That’s it, but that’s enough. That’s all my wallet can handle.

After I came to the sobering realization that I would have to either put all of my savings on hold for the entire year, or do something about cutting back my expenses, I decided for the latter and got to work.

Line Them Up

Since this realization came out of the exercise of doing a budget in the first place, I had all of my expenses lying in front of me, glaring a me, and begging for me to pick them off.

If you’re playing along at home, do the most detailed budget you’ve ever done. Every single penny that goes out of your bank account must be accounted for. Don’t lump your vitamins or cleaning products in with your groceries; actually list these things separately.

(Why? Well, you can’t stop eating, but you can cut back on the extras you buy from the grocery store. You can cut back on portions of your bills, if you can’t cut back on the whole bill, so be very detailed).

Pick Em Off


Greyed out cells: There are some bills you can’t reduce. Your mortgage, any debt repayment you may have (in fact, you should be boosting those payments), different types of insurance. I greyed those expenses out on my budget spreadsheet.

Orange cells: I could most certainly reduce these expenses, but these are more discretionary and where I’d rather see my money go. I would cut back on these as a last resort.

Bold cells: These are the expenses I was focusing on cutting.

Regular text cells: The cells with regular text and a white background are cells that I do plan on scaling back a bit on, but I wouldn’t be able to total my savings on them easily because of the way my finances are set up with my fiances. I left them out.

cutting expenses

(I don’t have cleaning products or firewood on my budget because my fiance pays for those things, and I pay for the pet food/nail clipping, etc).

Instant Gratification

Right away, I was able to save $75 (instant gratification) on:

  • Phone bill
  • Internet bill
  • Banking Fees

Phone Bill

I have some extras on my phone that I probably don’t need, and are costing me $30/month extra. I phoned and got rid of those extras, saving me $30/month right off the bat.

Internet Bill

My brother, who lives in our suite, insists on having the highest speed internet. This is fine with me, because that way we can both be on the internet efficiently, but I don’t like the cost. I phoned Telus (my internet provider) and they transferred me to the client retention department.

Since I have been a customer for 4 years, and I wanted cheaper internet, they cut my bill down to $20/month for the next 6 months and $50 thereafter. That saved another $50 off of our bill. Once the six months expires, we’ll transfer it to J’s name, so he can get the new customer discount.

Banking Fees

I know my fees are only $4.95, but banking fees are such a huge waste of money.

I’ve had a checking account with ING Direct for years, since I started this blog, and it’s free. I cancelled my account with TD so I wouldn’t be dinged so much by their insane fees, and it saved me (almost) $5.

(Sign up for ING with my Orange Key – 35611511S1 – and get $25 for yourself).

Instant gratification saved me $84.95!

Slower Process

Because not everything can provide instant gratification, I’ve decided to cut down in a few other ways, too.

Natural Gas and Electricity

This one isn’t hard – we’ve been pretty bad lately about turning off the lights, and relying on gas heat instead of our fireplace when we’re too lazy to light a fire.

I can’t let that continue, because I just don’t feel comfortable seeing our dollars go down the drain. We experimented over the past month to see how a change in behaviour might reduce our bill and saved just over $60 between both bills.

Health Care and Alcohol

I have amazing benefits with work and as a result, I don’t have to pay very much toward health care. The health care item on my budget is for a supplement which I’m not eliminating, but I am reducing it. I am getting the nutrients it provides in my diet at least partially, so I am cutting back the amount that I use by an amount that works out to cost me about $15/month.

I am having a drink free January and am trying to stay sober throughout the first quarter of the year (at least on my own dime). Alcohol is severely dehydrating and my skin and body just can’t take it in the winter. That’s over $20/month that I am saving (about 2 bottles of wine) but I am rounding down to $20/month.


There are few expenses I hate more than paying for parking. We have to pay for parking at work, but I have been parking in a residential area and walking to work instead, thereby saving the parking expense. However, two times per month I’ve been parking in the work parking lot, which costs $4.25 each ($8.50 total).

I gave up my parking pass so now I won’t have the option to do that.


Just by making a few small adjustments (and spending some time on the phone), I am saving $188.45. Since I rounded down on quite a few of these expenses, it’s closer to $200 than $190.

Have you cut back any of your expenses this year?


We’re Doing Big Things to Tame Our Heating Bill

November 20, 2013 Permalink 0

One of my most hated expenses is the heating bill.

We don’t have air conditioning, so we only experience this type of bill for a few months every year, but it’s still a pain. Our heating bill isn’t even all that much, but it’s enough to make us want to save a bit here and there on it.

We moved in December 2012 to a house that is quite a bit larger than our previous dwelling/shack. A larger house generally results in larger bills, particularly when it comes to heating, cooling, and electricity.

We’ve been able to keep our electricity bill cost neutral, but we’re on a mission to save some cash when it comes to heating, too. So far we’ve taken a few steps to bring it down a bit.

The Attic Re-Insulation Project

Our house came with a big problem when we bought it: vermiculite insulation in the attic, which unfortunately tested positive for asbestos.

We found out about the asbestos when we got our home inspection, and were able to negotiate the removal costs of the dangerous substance, but post-abatement we were left with an un-insulated attic.

We re-insulated the attic and every other point we could get at by purchasing the highest possible grade of thermal resistant insulation we could find. We insulated with R-40 and saved quite a bit of money on it by buying it off of Craigslist. 

Wood Burning Stove

We have a wood burning fireplace, which we try to use as often as possible instead of the alternative forced air heat.

The heat from a wood burning fireplace seems so much warmer than forced air or electric heat, and it’s free.

We don’t buy wood for the fireplace. Instead, we use discarded pallets. There are a lot of companies that have to pay to get pallets picked up and shipped away, so we (and by we, I mean my fiance) picks them up from the businesses (construction companies, grocery and furniture stores, etc) after talking to the management.

He then chops up the pallets and we have free heat all winter.

Changing out the Windows

Our fireplace doesn’t reach our loft, which we’ve turned into our ultimate master bedroom. This is the only room in the house that doesn’t have double paned windows, as the reno company that worked on our house before we bought it overlooked them.

This is next on our priority list. While we don’t really use the electric heat in the loft, single paned windows can be poor for air quality. Condensation can build up more readily with single paned windows, causing mould and mildew on the window sills.

Plus, the loft can get pretty hot in the summer and double paned windows can help with that.


What do you do to reduce your heating bill?