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Frugal Wins

June 25th, 2017 at 02:37 pm

I just harvested a bunch of lettuce from our garden. Maybe for the last time this season...it seems a bit on the bitter side. We will still eat it mixed with other greens or add to a smoothie. There was also one cherry tomato and a summer squash ready. I do need to do some fertilizing as the soil here is awful!

I used one of my Frito Lay coupons today at the store. The price of the chips was $3.20, so received that off my bill. I also used two other coupons, that I found in the store, for another $1.50 off products I purchased. I have moved $4.70 from the grocery budget to the BIG goal.

I probably saved more money today, as I made a list and later crossed a few items off. I would guess another $5 to $10 worth of savings by skipping some items that were not needed. I also don't think I added anything extra into the cart...oh actually I did. But both were less than $2 combined. I also had a couple times where I picked up an item I needed only to find the same thing, different brand in another aisle for less!

We have been able to keep our irrigation system from running all but one time in the last two weeks because we have received so much rain! Maybe the water bill will be a bit lower next month.

What are your frugal wins?

In other news...

We have been hearing from our daughter each afternoon. Evening for her. She left the UK yesterday and arrived in France. I know she will be in Paris tomorrow evening. She isn't saying a lot because it seems to be moments before she dives into bed. I think the trip is going well. We have seen pictures on Facebook from a teacher who is posting. I will be interested to see how much of her money she spends!

Frito Lay Coupons

June 23rd, 2017 at 10:20 am

I received three coupons in the mail from Frito Lay after discovering something like black mold on some bite size tortilla chips. I sent pictures and explanation through some form on their website. We basically had to throw the entire bag out, so I was asking for a cash refund. The coupons work too, as that will buy us three bags of chips which will save me far more than the cash refund.

I received $3 from Pinecone and it is now sitting in my Paypal account with a little money from a small eBay sale not long ago.

I'm working on Swagbucks here and there. I have not been focused enough everyday to meet goal until this week. It has helped to join the Swagbucks Swaggernauts page on Facebook to find a few quick ways to earn. I would like to get to 2500 by this weekend so I can get an Amazon gift card and purchase a few items for my daughter's birthday at the beginning of July.

Trying to stay frugal in this next week. It felt very spendy in the days leading up to our daughter's trip. So far no meals out, and the only spending were some sports bras, which we did need.

My Baby Girl Is Off to Europe

June 21st, 2017 at 12:28 pm

By midnight eastern time, my youngest daughter will be arriving in London for her first international trip! She will be gone 14 days. I will admit I did get a little teary eyed at the airport. I'm going to miss her. I guess a good trial run for next year when she leaves for college.

I'm glad my older daughter is home this summer. With my husband away I would probably be quite lonely!

I'm not sure how much we will hear from her, but we did buy her a very small data plan which included some texts for a whopping $40 with Verizon. One teacher on the trip plans to send at least one text a day, while another teacher is posting pictures to Facebook. As long as I know she is alive each day, I will survive. Smile

And if you are curious, she is in London two days. Four nights in France. One night in Belgium. Four nights in Germany. And finally one night in Austria. I think she is hoping to use a little of the German she has learned while she is there. The theme of the trip is WWII and the Western Front.

I guess I will save on groceries a bit during these next two weeks, with one less mouth to feed.

High Summer Utilities

June 18th, 2017 at 06:26 am

It's just that time of year. More watering of the lawn, which is very large. And the cooling of our home. Because of the high humidity and heat of the southeast, I cannot set the air conditioning too high or mold will grow.

Last month the water bill was $88 and this month it is $114. Not super happy about it, but the lawn does look better with more water on it. The good news is our neighborhood has put a ban on irrigation temporarily because one of the water pumps isn't working, thus some residents are having low water pressure. It helps those residents with better pressure if we don't irrigate. It has been one week so far and I expect that will result in a slightly lower bill next month.

The electric bill was $122.88 last month. This month it jumped to $220.90. I did compare that higher bill to last year at this time and it was $252. So I kind of feel that there is an improvement in using less electricity in areas we can control. I'm still hanging my own clothes to dry, but I know my girls are still using the dryer. And I do use the dryer for towels and jeans. Reducing the use of electricity is still on my radar. We will keep trying despite the weather!

Returns

June 13th, 2017 at 07:43 am

I returned a shirt to Kohl's this morning. I received $9.97 back to my Kohl's card and $1.34 in Kohl's cash. I find it odd to get Kohl's cash because the Kohl's cash I received had already been used in full. So a mini bonus I guess. At least I have 30 days to use it.

I have a pair of jeans I bought in April from JC Penney's that I need to return also. That will bring $20+ back to our budget.

The money is all going back to the clothing budget as there has been more spending there as of late.

Do you have anything at home that you purchased, but have now decided not to use? Return it and put that money back in your budget!

Snowflakes to Big Goal

June 10th, 2017 at 05:58 pm

Small amounts add up. I'm pretty sure I have said that before!

Our bank reimbursed us for a $3 ATM (incurred while my husband is away), plus gave us $0.07 for interest.

I sold four CDs of an older band on eBay earlier this week for a net profit of $1.67. Considering the used book/music store wouldn't even buy them, I'm happy with the small amount.

Just tonight I listed two books on eBay and one on half.com. One already sold! I expect a net of $4.90.

I think I mentioned in a past blog post that I was using up my change while out doing my normal purchases. I had $5.09 in coins, with over a dollar in pennies. I did get it spent. What I found to be a great place to spend it was at self checkouts that accept cash! Five dollars in coins is heavy in my wallet, so I didn't have it all with me initially.

Last night on a trip to Target, I made a point to take it all so I could get rid of it! Luckily there were no other people waiting while I inserted nearly $2 in coins in the machine. My balance was far more, but the machine lets you pick Pay With Card if you don't have enough cash, so that is what I did. I have moved $5.09 from our spending budget to our savings! And while I would have liked to have just deposited directly to our account, we bank online, so that isn't an easy option for us.

I'm gathering all the snowflakes I can while we rack up the cash towards our Big Goal, which you can get details on the sidebar if you don't know what that is. Smile

Eating Out Costs Since January

June 9th, 2017 at 04:26 am

OMG!

I say we don't really eat out, but I did a report on YNAB to see how much we have spent since January 1. We have spent $1,158.51 in restaurants. I was shocked. I feel like we only go out once, maybe twice a month.

Here's the monthly breakdown:

January $153.03
February $142.71
March $254.90
April $428.35
May $159.73
June $19.79

I know that in March my daughter was home on spring break, and my husband was off work, I know we ate out as a family at least once and took her to lunch at couple times. In April, we were traveling for eight days and we did buy food out many times during that time.

January, February, and May seem like they may be more normal spending amounts.

In May, there were 9 restaurant transactions. Four of those were my husband eating out for lunch. One was for pizza when I thought a friend of my daughter was going to eat with us. She didn't but I had already ordered it. The other four were restaurant meals for two to four of us. I would say two were for convenience and two were for enjoyment/entertainment.

I'm sure people spend far more than we do eating out, but even basic grab and go at Subway adds up!

Do you know how much you spend eating at restaurants on a monthly basis?

Cancel Basic Cable

June 8th, 2017 at 02:18 pm

We have basic cable here. Before we moved we had an antenna in our attic to receive over the air channels. I did the research here hoping to do the same, however, the signals are not great in our location for over the air. The cable portion for very basic channels is $30.48 which includes two digital adapters and taxes.

But guess what? We don't watch television. We end up watching things on our phones, tablets and computers. And what we watch doesn't require a cable subscription. I did think of one show my husband does often watch on Sunday mornings, but after talking to him he said he could watch it later online. He seemed to think that was a perfectly fine solution.

So I just need to make the change. I need to call the cable company and cut the cord! Once I do, and turn in the adapters, I will save at least $30.48 each month, that is $365.76 a year.

Do you have cable? Did you have it in the past and cut it? Do you rely on just over the air reception?

All The Things I Want to Say About Money

June 7th, 2017 at 06:33 am

I came across this blog post today. I feel like I could have written this post. I think these things. And I usually don't say anything unless I would be asked advice.

I do find it interesting that people don't see the disconnect between their actions (the spending) and the way they talk about money.

If you want to go on vacation (where you fly somewhere) and you earn $100K, you can make it happen. It doesn't have to happen every year. I know people who buy excessive (not necessarily expensive) clothes, eat out frequently, get their nails and hair done professionally, have children in MULTIPLE activities, yet don't have the ability to make a trip happen.

Now everyone has the right to choose how they spend their money, but don't speak as though you don't have control. The majority of the time we have much more control than we think we do.

Retirement Up Since Last Year & More

June 6th, 2017 at 01:35 pm

Retirement is definitely up from last year at this time. In fact, we had just met a milestone of $350K. But now, a year later our retirement accounts at last check totaled $439,848. A nice $89,000+ difference. That change is due to the market rise and our contributions over the year.

I sold an item on eBay yesterday. I only netted a small amount, maybe $2. But the items are gone. That money will go to the Big Goal.

I found a nickel in a store parking lot yesterday. Unfortunately, it didn't cover the costs of what I spent!

I used $30 worth of Amazon gift cards (earned through url=http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree] Swagbucks[/url]) to cover some phone and travel expenses for my daughter. A phone case and screen cover, a travel adapter, a book for her AP Literature class (she has to do a project over the summer!), and a travel wallet for cash and passport that she can wear under clothes. Out of pocket I only spent $6.52!

Today has been a no spend day! Happy about that, since it has been a very spendy June so far.

Paid Summer Tuition in Full

June 5th, 2017 at 03:59 pm

I paid my daughter's summer tuition bill in full this evening. A whopping $1,855.18 in cash out of our checking account. This money was saved since March of this year.

I've also paid for the books she needs. Two were purchased used for a combined total of $14.23. I'm nearly positive she will not want to keep them after the course is over, so they will get resold. The third book we rented for $17.76 on Amazon. I looked everywhere to buy or rent cheaper. The cheapest to buy was $24.99 for an eBook. When you rent a book, it is nearly always free to ship back, at least that is our experience with Amazon.

Feels fantastic to still be student loan debt free!

Big Savings Goal: $2,093.73

June 3rd, 2017 at 07:11 am

I'm not sure when I announced our Big Savings Goal, but it has been at least two months. I thought it would be good to share how far we have come.

The Big Savings Goal is $160,000.

We have saved $2,093.73 as of the end of May 2017.

I wish it was more, but I also am pleased that we have a decent start. I didn't put the goal out there to forget about it. I also expected progress to be a little slow in the beginning. We have a daughter in college, and some of our cash goes to tuition. We have a rent payment of $1800 for another year (hope to move and lower that amount).

I posted our interest for May in yesterday's post. Yes, that interest is going to our Big Savings Goal!

May Interest

June 2nd, 2017 at 05:39 am

The interest earned on our cash savings came to $92.26 in the month of May. We do have several 2% CDs where a lot of our money is parked, so that helps a lot.

In fact, I remembered when checking the interest, that at least one of the CDs allows new deposits added to it. I transferred $430 I had in a savings account at the same bank to that CD. I think it is actually two of the CDs that have that option, but the rate is the same, so it didn't really mater which one I picked.

Did you earn any interest in May?

$75 to BIG Goal

June 1st, 2017 at 11:45 am

We found out last night that my daughter's flute teacher is no longer going to be doing private lessons. As a result her last lesson with this teacher is in two weeks. As it turns out we have credits for three weeks of lessons. The store gave me a refund of one lesson back to my credit card last night of $25.

I had already budgeted $50 for the two lessons in June (the later half of June she will miss lessons due to her trip to Europe) not knowing we had credits. I decided to look at the money as a windfall and put it towards our Big Goal.

We aren't sure when my daughter will restart because a new teacher recommended by her teacher is currently going through the hiring process. So it all ends up as good budget news, but a bit sad my daughter has to start with a new teacher.

Sinking Funds

May 31st, 2017 at 03:55 am

I'm on FB group where there has been a lot of discussion about sinking funds. The definition they gave is 'saving a small amount of money each month for a certain amount of time before you make a purchase'. That definition is true, but a bit vague since it doesn't really explain the types of things you use sinking funds for.

I have used sinking funds (sometimes I call them escrow funds) for car registrations, Christmas, auto insurance for a very long time. I established these pretty early on. I wanted to get a discount for paying insurance semi annually. The only way to make sure I had the funds was to save for it. A little each month.

Specifically, I save $50 a month for Christmas. I guess I do have a birthday fund now too. I save $42 a month in that one. I also save $152 a month for car registrations, auto insurance and renters insurance.

Now that we use YNAB, I have quite a few more sinking funds. I don't always add to them all every month. For example, I know that my daughter has a fair share for band expenses due in the fall when marching season starts. It's usually around $300. I could save $25 a month, but that feels tedious to do all year long. So for the last couple months, I have been just putting various amounts in knowing the goal is to have all the money by August. I actually need to make a $75 payment to them tomorrow. And I do have that.

I established an eye care fund, as nearly all of us are due (over due actually) for eye exams and will need glasses. And I also established a cell phone replacement category. So far I have funded it well enough to purchase two new phones. My older daughter and I are holding out even longer with phones we bought 3 years ago. My does randomly turn off and on by itself sometimes, but she hasn't had any problems with hers.

Do you have sinking funds? What do you use yours for?

A Time for Spending

May 30th, 2017 at 01:17 pm

We are just in that time of year I think. It's spending season. Over a week ago we bought one of our daughter's a new smart phone. We tried one unlocked one that didn't end up working with Verizon only to buy a cheaper version by the same company that did work. Net cost $227. I plan to buy a case and scratch cover on Amazon after I earn a few more Swagbucks.

Friday I took both girls shopping for summer wear. Overall, I would say they don't need anything. However, we rarely buy clothes so a few new things are nice. And the younger daughter does need more for her Europe trip this summer. I spent $134.59 for at least eight items. It may have been more.

The week prior I bought myself a new pair of summer sandals for $29. I had been making do with a pair of flip flops from Walmart I bought on a whim two years ago and sneakers. It was time to buy sandals!!

We went to the beach on Sunday. We did pack water and lunch. Parking was free. However, it was a two hour trip each way, so there was fuel for the van. And my husband seemed to need a soda each time we stopped. We did also treat ourselves to homemade ice cream from a local shop.

Our other entertainment this weekend was to see the matinee of Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Tickets for four of us were $23. And we almost made it without buying popcorn and soda, but honestly it was lunch time, so we did end up spending $13 on those. Not the most frugal for sure.

The glass for my husband's windshield came to $230. Exactly the amount I was expecting. It was great service and I easily saved $100 over Safelite.

And coming up soon will be new eye glasses for our girls. They are both over due by a year for an exam. One will be covered in full by insurance, the other has a $150 deductible that we haven't met, so the exam will be out of pocket. The frames and lenses are not covered by our insurance. We will be considering online options for sunglasses for sure, if not the actual glasses themselves. However, I know how hard it is to find frames they like, so if they find something they really like at the optical store, I will likely splurge. I currently have $600 set aside for these expenses, but can more money around from other savings goals if needed.

Are you spending more or less this time of year?

Amazon Spending 2017

May 29th, 2017 at 01:01 pm

Since LivingAlmostLarge posted about her online Amazon orders, it got me wondering a bit about ours. I have spent more than she has, but I have not spent tens of thousands like the woman in the article.

For the first five months of 2017, I placed 16 orders, which I guess would average on three a month. The total amount spent out of pocket was $284.45. Some of these order totals came to $0 because I used Amazon gift cards earned from Swagbucks. And I'm sure some of them were reduced because Amazon gift cards, too.

Actually the amount of Amazon gift cards used was $192.73. So that means the spending was $477.18 for the first five months of the year. Just under $100 a month.

Some of the things we purchased were six text books, vitamins, a cord holder for Christmas lights, new headlight bulbs, reusable menstrual items, engine and cabin filters for both cars, a treadmill mat, cell phone cases, and allergy medicine.

Broken Windshield

May 25th, 2017 at 05:22 am

During my husband's travels to school on Sunday, the windshield on his truck was hit by a rock. It eventually resulted in a crack as the trip progressed.

We won't claim this on our insurance as we have a $1000 deductible. I did start the process through USAA who contracts with Safelite for repairs which is where I saw that the windshield would cost $300. I was close to scheduling it, but decided to see if Safelite offered coupons or discounts. Instead I found a local shop that gave an online quote of $197! That is a huge savings.

I'm calling to today to see if we can get our vehicle in on Saturday while he is home, otherwise it will need to wait.

Of course, I'm not thrilled about paying for a windshield, but this is a reason to have savings! And it does pay to shop around when needing repairs. Smile

Saving Change

May 23rd, 2017 at 07:18 am

I found $5.09 in change this weekend. Most was from my husband, but I had seemed to collected some in my wallet as well. There was almost a dollar in pennies stashed in a small container, too.

Because we bank online I can't just deposit this money to savings. I have to spend it. So my plan is to spend it when I making some cash purchases this week. Once I have used it all up I will transfer $5.09 from checking to savings.

We used cash much more in our early days of marriage. We would toss all coins in a container and once filled we would take it to the bank to be counted and then deposit it into our account. When we got serious about debt this money would go to make payments on the debt.

Coins count and add up! What do you do with your coins?

Bummer, No Kitchenette

May 21st, 2017 at 02:44 pm

My husband has found out his room while he is away for three months of training is a fairly basic hotel room. It doesn't have the stove and kitchen supplies we were expecting. It does have a microwave and a very small dorm refrigerator.

The good news he does get 'free' breakfast everyday. I hope it is somewhat decent as some of those breakfasts can get old after awhile. There may be a manager's reception/weekly social at least one night a week.

He will be back home for Memorial Day weekend, so we might have to figure out some options for food he can buy and eat from the commissary without eating out for every meal.

He is getting per diem to cover meals. Originally we were told it was $69 a day, but it is 75% of that because of the length of the training. That works out to $51.75 for each day. For thirty days, that is $1,552. I think the man can eat decently for that, even with some eating out.

The truth is I would love to keep as much of that money as possible. Even half or 2/3rds of that amount seems possible. I guess we will know more as it all plays out.

Renter's Insurance

May 19th, 2017 at 05:57 am

Our renter's insurance has renewed for July. And the rate has dropped! By $100 a year. Last year the amount was $404, this year our rate is $304. Seems almost unheard of that insurance rates go down!

I'm taking this saving and dropping it into the BIG goal. Smile

I do find it interesting that as soon as I make a plan to save more money, money shows up! Some of it comes in the form of checks, and some comes in the way of savings on bills. I will take it.

Sold Our Treadmill and More

May 17th, 2017 at 04:30 am

We sold our treadmill back to Play It Again Sports, which is where we purchased it used 20 months ago. I used it a fair amount initially. My husband used it last on Sunday. And easily used it about four days a week.

I figured out that we originally spent $900 including tax and delivery. We sold it back for $200, and they came and picked it up and moved it (down the stairs no less). $700 net over 20 months was equal to $35 a month. Not bad.

We didn't really want to sell it, but we had it on carpet in our bonus room and realized a couple months ago that the treadmill had burned a hole in the carpet from friction! Well when you rent you do try to limit damage. So we bought a mat to put under it, but it didn't seem to help. We were seeing evidence that a new hole could develop again.

My husband is about to be away for a few months for training, and when he returns his job will have fewer hours, with more time for working out on post. And that is free!

I've been walking in our neighborhood, even during some of the winter months, so my exercise is free as well. I do need to start doing more weight bearing exercises, but those can be done with some small equipment pieces we have at home and with my own body...like pushups and squats.

The damage to the carpet is unfortunate. And we feel really bad about it. My husband thinks the landlord will have to replace all the carpet, therefore we will lose our entire $1800 deposit. My thought is to approach them in the month or so before our lease ends, and suggest a local company that will repair the hole using carpet from a closet. The hole itself measures less than 2 inches by 2 inches. We have a remnant of carpet from another home that could fill in the small amount of carpet from the closet. We would pay for the repair and expect all or most of our deposit back.

Our landlords are a bit hard to work with, so we don't know how they will respond. We are currently trying to get them to hire a new company to fertilize and spray for weeds. It is in our lease that they provide it. They fired the last company for unknown reasons last fall. Currently, they have simply not responded to our voice mail, a text or an email concerning the problem.

We have heard from neighbors that they didn't take care of the lawn very well when they lived here, so I think they aren't very motivated to provide the service when they can't see the weeds themselves.

In the past they have tried to have us call to make a/c repair appointments. However, if we call the a/c company still requires the owner to call to authorize. So I don't get why they can't just make the call when we are in need of service. Sometimes I wish we had a property management company, but then I hear my neighbor complain, and figure we don't have it too bad. They leave us alone most of the time and the house itself is in good working order.

As I get to the end of this post, I'm beginning to think we need to spray the weeds ourselves, and charge them for the cost and time. They seem to be fine with just deducting things from the rent. However, then I'm irritated that our lease states it is included and they aren't providing it.

Oh and by the way the $200 is going to the BIG Goal. Smile

Double Water Bill

May 16th, 2017 at 06:30 am

While I'm loving that lower electric bill, it seems our water bill has doubled! From $44 last month to $88 this month. It's that time of year where we are running our sprinkler system. It runs four mornings a week. I think it takes two hours to do all the zones.

Oh, and I should mention our lawn is huge! It takes us 1.5 hours to mow with a standard walk behind mower. Luckily the grass in the southeast doesn't grow too fast, so we don't mow every week.

If we weren't renting I'm pretty sure my husband would have convinced me to buy a riding lawn mower. But since we don't expect to have a huge lawn long term, the standard mower has been just fine. And walking is good exercise!

Lowest Electricity Bill Yet!

May 14th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I just received our electric bill in my email inbox. I love bills that are emailed. They don't add clutter to my life that way!

The bill is the lowest we have had the entire time we have lived in this home (22 months). For a 2400 sq ft home our bill came in at $122.88 The highest was this past December, at around $315. Last month it was $167.

Now it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the cost savings, but I have to give some credit to not using the dryer as much. It still gets use twice a week, rather than four times a week or more.

I'm going to give some major credit to the weather. It has been very mild for many of the days of the billing period, April 10 through May 10. Not too hot to run the air conditioner most of the time. And no need for heating either. Unfortunately, we are going to hit the 90s later in the week.

We were also gone for one week during the billing period and I did increase the temperature before air conditioning would come on. I couldn't turn off entirely because the cat was home, but no lights, or tv use during the week can make an impact.

After we returned, my husband and I both came down with colds. And we both skipped our regular workouts, and for my husband that meant he wasn't using our treadmill. Since that uses electricity I have to think it made an impact also. (We are selling our treadmill this week and expect to make about $200, so no longer will that be an added impact to the electric bill. )

And finally, just this past week I did change the gaskets on the fridge. I do wonder how much cold air was escaping and causing the fridge to run more often. That would have only been for a couple days on this billing cycle, but it had to have contributed a bit.

I'm having fun working on reducing our electricity, even though it can feel I don't have much control over it at times. Thank you mother nature!

Let's Talk College Costs...Summer 2017

May 12th, 2017 at 05:55 am

I'll keep this short as there isn't much detail to post about taking an online summer class. My daughter did originally sign up for 6 credits. But one of the classes she picked to fulfill a math credit was an engineering class...which is a much higher rate! Basically I told her it wasn't worth it, so she dropped it.

The class is online, so while it is still the non resident rate it is lower than the classroom rate.

The total tuition and fees for one 3 credit hour class is $1,751. She does not have scholarship money that is applied for summer classes. We will be paying this in full out of pocket. I currently have $1,285 saved. I think tuition is due June 12 (although the class doesn't start until July).

My husband gets paid on Monday, so I expect we will have the $466 available at that point. I should put a bit more in as I'm sure there is a text book she will need to buy.

My daughter still has money in her Educational Savings Account. I had considered paying half of tuition with the money in that account, especially when I thought she was taking 6 credits. However, I'm going to save those funds for later, since we are able to pay the full amount out of pocket.

So once again we will have paid some more college costs without student loans! Yea!!

Let's Talk College Costs...Spring Sophomore Year

May 11th, 2017 at 06:32 am

Note: I wrote two posts today, scroll down to see the other one.

Get ready, this was the most expensive semester yet! My daughter took 17 credit hours!! Remember she is an out of state student.

$12,746 Tuition and Fees
_$5,063 Room and Board
$17,809 Total Before Scholarships
($7,250) Scholarships
$10,559 Total After Scholarships
__($400) Advance Housing Deposit Paid out of Pocket
($4,750) Paid from ESA
($1,497) Tax Refund (also considered out of pocket)
($3,912) Paid Out of Pocket

I looked back at YNAB, where I now have a College Tuition and Housing Category and we did save all that money from December to February when it was time to pay the bill. Again, I have made the point to pay at least $4K out of pocket each calendar year to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Housing cannot count towards the credit, only eligible tuition and required fees.

This is the semester our daughter just finished. And we have not taken out any loans. The ability to cash flow some of this at times does boggle my mind a bit, but we have pretty low expenses overall thus the extra cash cushion to apply to college. This is key to making it work along with having saved some money in advance. We have also known that we have the Post 911 GI bill for awhile now which has factored into all of the decision making.

Next Up! An online summer class!

Let's Talk College Costs...Fall Sophomore Year

May 11th, 2017 at 06:12 am

As of my daughter's sophomore year, she still has her primary scholarship of $7,000 per semester. She still has her honors scholarship of $250.

The fall of her sophomore year she enrolled in 13 credits.

$10,350 Tuition and Fees
_$5,801 Fall Housing
$16,151 Total Before Scholarships
($7,250) Scholarships
_$8,901 Total After Scholarships
($4,750) Paid from ESA
($4,151) Paid Out of Pocket

I don't have an account of book and art supplies costs for this semester. As a music major she often has to hire an piano accompanist for a couple practices and then the performance. She pays these fees out of her own money.

I'm remembering that the reason I pay at least $4,000 toward tuition out of pocket is to qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum tuition amount you can claim is $4K. The maximum credit is $2,500.

I looked back at our bank account last year and can see we were definitely socking away between $800-1,100 a month early in the year. This is where some of that money went...tuition!

Another thing to note, is that she took 13 credit hours in the Spring and Fall of 2016. There was a cost difference in tuition and fees of $431. A small portion may be fees specific to classes, but an increase non the less.

Let's Talk College Costs...Spring Freshman Year

May 10th, 2017 at 11:28 am

Let's move on to my daughter's spring semester of her Freshman year in college. That semester she took 13 credits. This is down from the 16 she took her first semester.

_$9,919 Tuition and Fees
_$4,949 Spring Housing
$14,868 Total Before Scholarships
($10,000) Scholarships
_$4,868 Total After Scholarships
__($400) Advance Deposit from Cash on Hand
($4,400) Paid from ESA
___($68) Paid out of Pocket

Looking back I kind of wish I paid less from her ESA, but overall I have no regrets. I mean couldn't I have come up with another $1000 towards it? But it did go to costs associated with attending.

I'm not entirely sure the book costs for Fall, but I do see she purchased at least $269 for books and supplies at the University book store. Some of her supplies would be art items, which are often pricey! And I know she bought some items at an off campus art store too. We paid for the books out of pocket, also.

I think you can tell that it is helpful to have room in your budget to absorb some of the costs, of at least books and incidentals that come up. Of course, I also think it isn't a bad idea to have students pay these themselves. And there are things our daughter does pay for, which I can put in another post at some point.

Let's Talk College Costs...Fall Freshman Year

May 10th, 2017 at 06:04 am

So let's go back in time. My daughter graduated high school two years ago, May 2015. At the time her ESA account was valued at $22,588.50. She also has a UTMA that was valued at $2,608.19. The total of the two was $25,196.69. All of that was saved by us, except for maybe $1000 worth of gifts from grandparents, and some market appreciation.

My daughter was enrolled in 16 credit hours (at the non resident rate) for Fall 2015. Tuition and fees totaled $12,044. Housing for first semester was $5,154. Yep, a $17,198 bill!

The good news is she had scholarships! That semester those came to $10,000 (current scholarship per semester is still at $7,250) Leaving us a balance of $7,198 to pay.

I had to look back at my blog to find what actually happened. But the plan was to pay the tuition portion ($2,044) out of pocket and pay the housing $5,154 from her ESA. But what actually happened was I paid the full $7,198 out of our savings account when the bill was due in early September.

I then paid ourselves back with two withdrawals later in the year from the ESA. The market was down at the time, so it was hard to pull the sell trigger! Those amounts were $1,718 and $1,436. Which together equal $3154. Which is less than I originally planned to withdrawal by $2000.

The remaining amounts did come from savings and cash flow that was not original designated for college expenses. I had also changed our withholding once I realized we would benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This netted us $259 per pay period or $518 a month that we made sure to put back into savings for four months ($2,072).

So in the end we did pay $4,044 out of our own savings for the first semester. The remaining $3,154 was from her ESA. No loans! Smile

$12,044 Tuition and Fees
_$5,154 Housing
$17,198 Total Bill Before Scholarships
($10,000) Scholarships
_$7,198 Total after Scholarships
($3,154) Paid from ESA
($2,044)Saved Withholding/American Opportunity Credit
($2,000) Paid from Savings
-$0

It's interesting for me to go back and look. I had no idea we actually paid more out of pocket that first semester than what we withdrew from her ESA. One thing I remembered is that we had been saving $166 a month ($2000/year) for many years into her ESA. I don't specifically save that money into our savings for education but that is where some of the money comes from. ESA's require you stop investing on the child's 18th birthday.

Questions? I'll post Spring Freshman Year next.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part Two

May 9th, 2017 at 07:26 am

There is a lot to discuss when sharing the nitty gritty of college costs. I expect to break my posts down about this over several days. I even need to check with my daughter on how many credits she took each semester.

First here is a screen shot of the annual expenses for a full time undergraduate student taking 30 hours from the 2015-2016 Common Data Set at the school she is attending.



Living on campus is required at this school the freshman year if the student is under 19.

She is an out of state resident. She did receive a renewable four year scholarship of $14,000 per year. That is equal to $56,000. She also received an art scholarship her freshman year equal to $4500. And because she is an Honors student, she receives $500 per year towards books. Because the way the billing is, the Honors scholarship is really like any other scholarship and reduces tuition costs.

I do want to say that even I see areas where costs could be reduced. But we all make choices for our spending that are not about dollars and cents. I'm not going to go into justifying the decision. We are simply grateful that we have had the ability to pay the costs so far without taking out student loans.

In my next post I will try to break down actual costs for freshman year.


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