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Tips For Parents Earning A Minimum Wage Salary Going Back To School

Minimum Wage Ontario


Going back to school with a family earning a minimum wage salary is possible but it sure as hell will take dedication.

I went from earning $15 an hour to a six-figure salary by returning to school at the age of 30 and still need yearly upgrading.

Often times its not poor money management that creates havoc it’s simply not earning enough money to live.

With the cost of daycare for one child being around $40 a day, it doesn’t give much incentive for parents to go back to work when earning a minimum wage salary.

What is minimum wage?

Minimum wage is the lowest wage rate an employer can pay an employee. Most employees are eligible for minimum wage, whether they are full-time, part-time, casual employees, or are paid an hourly rate, commission, piece rate, flat rate or salary. Some employees have jobs that are exempt from the minimum wage provisions of the ESA.- Source

Minimum Wage Salary Yearly, Monthly, Bi-Weekly and Weekly

Using a Canadian Income Tax Calculator for 2019 minimum wage income at $14/hr might look like this;

  • Hours Per Week= 40
  • Paid Weekly= 52 weeks
  • Minimum General Wage Ontario $14
  • Yearly $29,120

Screenshot_2019-10-24 $29,000 【 Income Tax Calculator 】 Ontario - Salary After Taxes Yearly

Screenshot_2019-10-24 $29,000 【 Income Tax Calculator 】 Ontario - Salary After Taxes Monthly

Screenshot_2019-10-24 $29,000 【 Income Tax Calculator 】 Ontario - Salary After Taxes WeeklyScreenshot_2019-10-24 $29,000 【 Income Tax Calculator 】 Ontario - Salary After Taxes Bi-Weekly

As you can see earning minimum wage in Ontario doesn’t amount to much when you are a working parent trying to support a family.

By the time you pay your rent or mortgage, there isn’t much money left to work within the budget which means only two things.

  1. You minimize your budget
  2. Earn more income

I had a reader write to me in what seems desperation because he doesn’t know what his next move should be.

His current issue is trying to feed his family when he has little to no money left after paying their monthly bills.

Let’s have a look.

How To Go Back To School With A Family

Dear Mr CBB,

I don’t often reach out for help but I thought I would see if there was a way to help feed my family when I have little to no money every month.

We are a small family of two adults in our 20’s and 1 child who is not school-age yet and I work full-time for minimum wage.

Currently, we live in a small apartment in Barrie, Ontario that is all-inclusive for $800 a month and we pay for parking, cable, internet, home phone and cell phone.

Our debt repayment is mostly credit card debt of $3565 since we supplement each month mostly for groceries which we try to be frugal about.

I try to pay more than the minimum payment on the credit card so we can pay it off but that really leaves us broke.

It seems by the end of paying all of our monthly bills and with any government funding for our child we still struggle to buy food.

I know we aren’t alone as I have friends who are in the same position as us and we feel our only option is to move away from family.

Trying to take care of a family on a minimum wage job is tough and I’m trying to find a job with increased income and benefits.

As a father, I feel like a failure to my family and I try to keep motivated.

Together my wife and I downloaded your budget and are reading your budgeting series.

It’s not easy when our friends are always talking about their holidays, new homes and how life is great.

I wish that could be a life I could offer my family but I feel I lack the skills and education to get ahead.

Since we had a child young I did not go to College or University and went right into the workforce.

I’d like to work in the trades so I can find a job easily just about anywhere in Canada. At least that’s my dream.

In the meantime what are some ways I can feed my family with no money when I have all of our other bills to pay first?

Also, what tips do you suggest for someone like me to get into a trade or trade school? Is it possible?


Chris. P

The Only Way To Get Ahead Is To Rise Above

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your question but first things first, you are NOT a Failure as a father because you only earn minimum wage.

Staying motivated on course is critical to your success and by seeking help you are one step ahead of the rest. You’ll get there, trust me.

Luckily for you I’ve already written an excellent article titled 11 Ways To Feed your Family With Little To No Money back in 2015.

Honestly, not much has changed since I wrote that blog post as there are multiple ways families can get food for free in communities across Canada.

I would suggest reading that blog post and hopefully, it will offer you some suggestions that will encourage you to make some phone calls and perhaps visits to centres in your area.

I’m confident that you will be able to stock your pantry so you don’t have to worry so much about your family going without food every month.

As for your second question about going back to school to work in the trades while earning minimum wage, I will address that. 

I applaud you like any other reader who emails me with questions that they are often too scared to ask someone else or want answers for and don’t know where to turn to.

We have an excellent community of readers who are full of resources and I can offer you tips from my personal experiences as well.


Going Back To School With Kids On A Minimum Wage Salary

There are always going to be ups and downs when returning to school with a family which you can minimize.

I went through the process of returning to school when I was 30 years old 10 years ago and am now in a career I love.

To get at this sweet spot I worked two full-time jobs while becoming a parent after returning to school as an adult and graduating.

Another wise tip for couples who have a small child and one parent stays home is to see if there a way to work from home.

Perhaps starting a blog to earn money or working as a virtual assistant from babysitting are ways a parent can earn extra cash.

Related: How we earned hundreds of tax-free dollars as a student homestay family

Financial Assistance

Getting financial assistance to go back to school may mean applying for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), bank loan or through a program such as Second Career in Ontario.

When you apply to Second Career, you have to show the costs to be covered during training.

You may have to pay part of these costs yourself. The amount you’ll have to pay is based on several things, starting with your gross (before tax) household income.

I ran the numbers through an estimated OSAP calculator for a parent returning to school with 1 child and below are the results.

As you can see you may potentially qualify for an OSAP loan of up to $20,900.

After the grants are applied you would only have to pay back $9100 of the original $20,900.

Related: How to pay back your OSAP loan Fast

osap loan back to school parent family minimum wage salary

Picking A Course

If you browse the career catalogue at your local community college or university you can see which courses are being offered and when.

You can also complete your search online if you know where you plan to attend or hope to attend school.

Ideally, you will want to pick a course that is in demand so you know that once you graduate your success rate of finding employment will be higher.

For example:

Becoming a nurse is a great job because there are always positions opening up all over Canada for nurses or other medical professionals.

Another great career choice is one that Chris was interested in and that’s the trades.

Are Skilled Trades The Better Choice For Canadians?

Skilled trade workers such as welders, mechanics or electricians have been among the top five hardest roles to fill in Canada for the last ten years. – Skilled Labour Shortage in Canada

Do your research and talk to any school counsellors that can help you understand the employment market related to the selections you’ve chosen.

Just remember one thing, You have to love what you do in order to reach your highest earning potential.


Always budget especially if you are on a tight budget and really need to stretch your dollars.

It is imperative that you know how much money you are earning net each month and apply it to your monthly budget.

Paying down debt is important as well so if you can fit that into the budget while going back to school, do it.

The reason is that if you pay above the minimum payment and eliminate the debt as fast as possible you can free up cash for other savings such as emergencies.

This was an area we could have done better in because we didn’t use an actual budget like we do today.

Had we have used a proper budget than we likely would have paid our vehicle debt off faster.


The idea would be to work full-time at your minimum wage salary job and go back to school either full-time or part-time.

When I went back to school as an adult we were renting and our son had not yet been born.

We still needed to pay for the bills so I continued to work my full-time weekend job at slightly more than a minimum wage salary.

I believe back 10 years ago it was around $15 an hour.

The only downfall was that I was away every weekend working 12-hour shifts Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

During the week I attended school full-time but it worked out perfectly.

If you are able to talk with your employer to see if they can accommodate you working full-time during the weekends going back will be easier.

You can also work during the week and go back to school part-time or perhaps see if there are any weekend courses.

The idea here is to see what works for you and your family and your employer so you can still work and go back.

If you don’t plan to work at all then going back to school Monday to Friday is the obvious choice.


One of the pitfalls when going back to school when you have kids and a spouse is that you don’t get to spend as much time as you’d like with them.

Communication is very important so try to create a system that works for the both of you so you keep the lines open.

Both Mrs CBB and I kept a journal book back 10 years ago where we would leave each other notes.

These days you can text or email each other or if possible make a phone call and leave a voicemail.

I have never owned a cell phone in Canada but had I then I would have used it for that purpose.

If I was ever going to be late I would call right away to let her know so she doesn’t stay up and worry.

It’s also nice to come home to a hot meal but if you’re running behind letting your spouse know to pack it away is respectful.

Talking and playing with your child as much as possible and making time for you and your spouse is paramount.

It All Works Out In The End

What you both need to understand is that there is light at the end of the tunnel when you graduate.

You will be armed with new skills that will help you to find a better paying job so you can earn more than a minimum wage salary.

Discussion: What other tips do you have for parents who want to return to school earning a minimum wage salary?

Leave your comments below and I will be sure to reply to them.


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  1. I would encourage you to contact trade schools if it is something you would be interested in! My husband was able to do is Machinery course one day a week while working full time. The government of Ontario also offered free tuition and bursaries covered rhe cost of books and tools. The college helped him set it all up.

  2. Great suggestions for Chris! I would also add that he should look into scholarships and bursaries, as they are sources of free money that does NOT need to be repaid. Bursaries are based on financial need, which it sounds like Chris would qualify for. Scholarships are generally based on academics or other skills. (I have a post on how to find scholarships and other grants in Canada.) Fall is also the season for schools to compete for students for 2020. They all have open houses in Oct-Dec, so don’t delay on searching for your options. Google “college-name open house” to find out when you can tour. And Chris, depending on how long you’ve been out of high school, your high school guidance office might still be able to help you out with free advice.

    There is a lot of money to be earned in the trades, and in part because many people currently working in the trades will be retiring and there aren’t enough young people to take their place. At the college information fair this week (I took my son) we were told that as an airplane mechanic, you’ll start at $30,000 and can move up to $100,000 in 5 years.

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