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How WE got MY Husband prepared to go to University without any student loan debt

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

First of all, my husband is a mechanic and he’s great at communicating with teenagers so naturally it would seem that he should go into teaching right? And that process should be fairly easy right? Wrong?! When you say easy, do you mean that it takes a lot of intentional planning and hard work? Then heck ya! Easy... sure!

My husband and I started dreaming about him becoming a teacher while my kids were quite young. We knew that being a mechanic over the long term can take a toll on the body and we didn’t want him to become crippled as he aged. We also thought that if he started working as a teacher by the time he was at least age 38, this would allow him to potentially retire with a full pension by age 65. It was also about this time that we started dreaming about serving aboard Mercyships.

We started researching how many years of school and upgrading would be required for him to attend university and get a degree in teaching. We researched whether he could go to the University of Alberta which was the closest University or if he could go to Athabasca University and take online classes.

We looked at the cost of tuition being approximately $7,000 per year and looked at how much we would need in savings to account for his lost income while he attended school. We also started looking for a different nursing job for myself in homecare instead of at the hospital so that we could have an income while he went to University.

Tuition was going to cost approximately $24,000 (3 years of university) total including books. With my full time income, we were still going to need an extra $500/month for 3 years = $18,000 so that’s where our total estimated savings that we aimed for came to $40,000. Although, we hoped that by working in the summers that he would make at least $8,000 per summer to cover the cost of tuition.

We discovered that my husband didn’t need to upgrade but would have to go to university for 3 years and we originally planned for him to work in the summer months. We also decided that it would be best if I went from working part time to full time and that I would likely need a day job in nursing instead of working shift work in the ER. We surmised that having consistency in my schedule combined with his schedule that changed each semester, would be beneficial for our family.

We decided that we needed to save approximately $40,000 in 21 months. Honestly, I can’t remember when exactly we started saving this money. However I do remember my husband switching jobs in January 2014 and making 1.5 times more money at this new job. He went from being an hourly mechanic to a flat rate mechanic. About 3 months after he started at that new job, I started casual in Homecare in my local town with hopes of one year later, obtaining a full time position there. Six months after I started my casual position, I was fortunate enough to get into a temporary 0.9 position in homecare. This was a bit of a surprise but a blessing. I was not expecting to get such a high FTE at first because my youngest was still in kindergarten. Thankfully my parents were such a blessing and were able to watch my children everyday after school. Luckily my start time allowed me to drop the kids off at school every morning, which was also such a blessing. It was a pain in the butt to get them ready every morning but in hindsight I enjoyed having that time with them instead of having to leave by 6:45 and miss seeing them in the morning. I also hired a cleaning lady to clean every 2 weeks while I adjusted to this almost full time work schedule. This was another blessing because this higher income also helped us save for my husband’s education savings fund.

By April 2015, my husband was accepted into the Education program at the University of Alberta and we were on a pretty intentional budget. We were introduced to Dave Ramsey and his “on paper, on purpose” budget and the Mint app in 2014. Which was also such a God-send because we needed to be “on purpose” to save for this education savings fund.

Needless to say, we were able to save up $2000/month over 21 months and this included having a cleaning lady which cost $150/month. I loved having a cleaning lady by the way! It was so wonderful coming home on a Friday afternoon after working full time and not having to clean over the weekend. Plus my children were quite young at the time so their idea of cleaning was non-existent. This time of saving up, also included a trip for the two of us to Mexico in January 2015 for our 10 year anniversary.

Anyway, by the time my husband started school in the Fall of 2015, we were ready to rock n roll! However, another two miraculous blessings came our way! My husband applied for a government grant in the summer of 2015 and was the successful applicant for a huge $50,000 grant in a “Bridge to teaching certificate program” which meant that he could go to school full time for 2 years straight through without taking summer breaks and graduate sooner than anticipated. I can’t even tell you how much of a huge blessing this was. We were aware of this program and grant but never relied on getting this grant money! This allowed us to have extra cushion room and to put extra money onto our mortgage! As a side note, we didn’t start putting any extra money onto the principal of our mortgage until 2014, the same time that we started intentionally budgeting and planning (that is a topic for another time). Also the second blessing and surprise was a newly created permanent full time position which became available at my workplace and I was able to switch from the 0.9 temporary position to that permanent full time position.

Naturally, after we received the extra grant money, I wanted to pour all of that extra money onto our mortgage immediately but my wise husband suggested that we wait. So we kept our extra education money in savings until he was done school. I can’t even begin to explain what a rush it was to put extra money on my mortgage and watch the amount of years and the amount of interest decrease on my mortgage statement! Man, what a high! (sorry that’s for another time). Can’t you tell how excited I was!

Anyway, that’s our story of how we made it through university from 2015-2017 and saved and prepared for that great adventure!

Like Dave Ramsey says,

"Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you."

I’d like to add, also plan like it depends on you. (

Now Go and Be Intentional!


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