How to Survive Without a Salary

How to Survive Without a Salary

by Laurel Walsh


Today my grandmother gave me a thick antiquated book entitled “How to Survive Without a Salary”, by Charles Long, circa 1981. The truth is that I’m employed, as a writer here for Jobspeopledo and a barista at a coffee shop. My grandmother is aware of both those facts. So I do in fact earn summer salaries, but with her infinite wisdom, my loving old granny felt the need to bestow the book upon me nonetheless. With a career as a student and jobs that pivot around an education’s schedule, it’s pretty much impossible to predict long term income or complete financial stability anyway. My grandmother knows that despite the state of a person’s finances, tips on how to adopt what Long calls the “conserver lifestyle” are always good to consider.


So let’s consider them. Long defines the term conserver lifestyle as “a means of coping better with what (one) already has.” Chapter one of his novel deals with internal factors preventing you from finding success in that regard. For interest’s sake, let’s pretend we don’t have any of those. But chapter two is ‘Assessing Yourself: Making a Budget,’ which is definitely worth a look. You never want to be spending more than your wallet can handle, especially when, as students, there are some costs that can’t be evaded.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian student tuition fees alone averaged at $5,777 in 2008-09, with Quebec’s $2,488 average the lowest and Ontario the highest, at $8,797. But there are also “ancillary fees,” those compulsory extra charges over and above tuition to cover things like athletic programs, health services and student associations. These fees added an average of $695 more to the demands on a full-time Canadian undergrad in 2008-09, ranging from a low of $423 in New Brunswick to a high of $827 in Nova Scotia. Ancillary fees are usually unregulated, but you can often look into them on school websites and find opportunities to opt out of what you don’t need.

We can all survive without a salary while we are students if we keep watch on costs and budget ourselves accordingly. Long claims that “costs are always more important than earnings…there is nearly always more advantage in reducing costs than in increasing earnings.”

In order to be able to sustain yourself while you get an education with an unstable salary and all of these subsidiary costs to student life, several banks like RBC and TD Canada Trust have places for you to create your own budget lists on their websites. At the time the book was written, without widespread use of the Internet it was a bit tougher to budget, but today many student budget list templates can be found online as well. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada’s student budget section is a good resource, at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/bsf-osb.nsf/eng/br01399.html.


After the section on budgeting Long gives eleven more chapters of detailed analyses on financial strategies, many of them useful. He says, “A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny saved is a hell of a lot more than a penny earned today.” We know that simply by keeping our savings in the bank, they grow with interest. That can apply to scholarship money or bursaries that may be extractable for personal holding (OSAP, for example).

Chapter six, on ‘The Second-Hand Market’, is my personal favourite, advocating the benefits of getting everything and anything used or pre-owned. Shopping in thrift stores doesn’t only help your wallet, but choosing to reuse can help our planet too.


I’m glad to have been given this book, and prepared to become more money-conscious. With sky high tuition costs and the absence of established careers at this point in our lives, it’s smart to consider advice from anyone, outdated or otherwise, especially a published professional. And where did my grandmother find this yellowing treasure? At Value Village, naturally.

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