I would say the majority of us have [often more than once] been told the following: cherish your youth and value this time in your life – it will go by fast. And once you graduate and enter the adult working world, you start to think that person knew what they were talking about. Once you move out and start paying your own bills, it dawns on you that life a student was definitely simpler with less financial responsibility (for the majority of students that is)… but certainly not as rewarding as adulthood.
Life as a student is definitely cheaper. Whether you still live at home, share an apartment or live in residence, student life offers affordable room and board (maybe even free if you stay home with mom and dad) and cheap eats, and the most anxiety provoking stress is usually related to exams lasting about 3 weeks two times a year. Student life is easy in comparison to adulthood, except you don’t realize it at that time. Personally, I lived at home until after graduation. I didn’t pay rent directly, but I worked part-time for most of the 4 years I was in school and I did pay for our car insurance and bought groceries often (a couple hundred dollars per month), plus my own personal bills like my cell phone, etc. It blows my mind that a lot of students don’t contribute at all while living at home. I think going from zero expenses to all of them at once would be terrifying, so I’m grateful for the ‘transition’ I had.
When I was a child, my mom would take me to the dollar store and let me pick one item that she would buy for me. Once I started working at 14 in a retail position, I was expected to buy my own things from the dollar store and I became more selective as to what I was prepared to spend my money on. I wanted to save my money for better and more useful things and learned to make smarter, more reserved choices. At 17 I bought my first used car for $2000 – completely mine. It was my first big purchase and I was so proud that I was able to work hard and save so much. Paying for my own purchases and for my own bills as a student definitely helped me prepare for the financial reality that hits when you move out. The expenses are larger, but the concept is the same.
Living on your own (even with a partner, spouse or roommate) plus having all of your other every day expenses is definitely more expensive than life as a student. You have rent, hydro, gas, water/sewer, car insurance (and maybe a car loan), your RRSP or savings account (if you can manage it), fuel for your car, groceries and other everyday items – that can all add up really fast if you are not careful. I did a lot of grocery shopping with my mom when I was younger, so I know what a good deal looks like and how to shop smart and buy what’s on sale, but that’s only a portion of what amounts to ‘adult living expenses’.
Student life is supposed to help you prepare for adulthood, with a few minor expenses and paying for tuition (assuming you actually pay for these without dependence on your parents) before hitting the big leagues in adulting. Those who were lucky to have some assistance benefited during the student years, but when they actually got out there in the real world, they struggled to get a grasp on the financials and many returned home. I know a few people who really didn’t know what to do or how to manage their finances because they hadn’t developed the skills and knowledge on how to spend carefully and wisely.
Life as an adult definitely has more responsibility, but is also more rewarding. You don’t have to live under your parent’s rules anymore (not an issue at my mom’s house, but I had a few friends who couldn’t wait to move out). You have full freedom to make your own choices and also get to take on the consequences and rewards of those choices. And generally, if you make more than minimum wage, share living expenses and shop smart, you can save a little too for more luxurious purchases or even trips.
You have to work hard and earn hard to pay the bills - but again, you see direct benefits of your efforts and will often be rewarded when warranted (maybe even get that promotion!) and can benefit from how you spend versus save (less money on meals out means more money towards paying off your car loan or towards your travel fund). So yes, adulting is harder than student life and bears much more responsibility financially, but it can also be fulfilling and rewarding knowing you have control over the choices you make. You need to stick up and speak up for yourself and that amounts to independence. Hard work often leads to better opportunities, so keep smart practices and be optimistic about the possibilities.
For anyone raising their own kids, I strongly encourage you to start your kid off on the right foot by putting the onus on them to pay for a few things of their own. Once they start earning an income and have to choose carefully what to spend it on, they will learn to understand the value of a hard-earned dollar and will spend it more strategically. In my opinion, it’s one of the best things you can do to prepare him/her for adulthood.
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.