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Too Much Spending at Kohl's

July 13th, 2018 at 01:11 pm

We just returned from Kohl's where we ended up spending over $375! Yes, this was a shopping trip primarily for our youngest daughter to get dorm room supplies. I'm not going to go into a full breakdown, but we primarily bought bedding, shoes, socks and underwear, a wallet and a several new shirts. My husband decided he needed jeans and my older daughter picked up a shirt and a body pillow and cover for it. I bought nothing for myself (can you tell who is the most frugal?)

We 'earned' $105 in Kohl's cash that we can spend next week. I think we will go back for towels and a couple other clothing items. I had purchased towels earlier this week at Target, but she has changed her mind on the colors, so those will end up being returned.

And in good news her future roommate texted that she has a microwave, fridge, Keurig (my daughter could care less) and a rug she can bring. She also has some organizers she can bring later (just not on move in day). We offered to bring a television and a couple more rugs, and likely something to put the television on. Oh yes, and a toaster! More than likely we will buy those items once we arrive as the back of our van is going to be packed as it is!

The spending is overwhelming, but I do know we have the cash and in the end it will even out. I expect our grocery, water and probably electricity bills to be lower once both girls are out of the house.

Spending, College & Vacation

July 7th, 2018 at 09:29 am

These next six weeks are bound to be expensive!

We just book three nights at a hotel in the mountains. We are getting the government rate. No points to use because I used them all up on the last trip! Cost is $400.02. We will have gas and food expenses, and possibly a museum entrance or two...but would like to stick to exploring and hiking in the mountains.

I just ordered vitamins, water filter replacement cartridges, and hair products for my oldest daughter. She had this on her list of things she needs to stock up on before school starts. It's still about a month before she leaves, but I went ahead and ordered them and had them mailed to my parents house! They will be there when she arrives and can take to school. I don't want to load up her suitcases too much for the return trip!

We are going out today to find some of the 'lighter items' on her list (clothes primarily). I'm hoping we can get my older daughter's needs taken care of in the next week and then focus on our younger daughter AFTER the trip. It's really overwhelming the things you need to buy to send your child to college. I know the first time I definitely didn't think of everything, and there were extra trips made on the day of move in, and lots of packages sent those first few months. This time, I know even more what is needed, so will do our best to get it all ahead of time!

And I need to make a flight reservation for oldest daughter. I book this one way in the fall and one way in the spring. The rest of us are driving back to the midwest since we expect to have a lot of stuff for our newest college student! Although I think it could be possible to fly, and simply buy everything there on arrival...but it sounds more stressful.

I did use Ebates to get 2.5% cash back on my Ulta order. Here's to at least finding some deals along the way! Smile

Trip Costs & More

June 29th, 2018 at 09:29 am

I entered all of our receipts into YNAB yesterday after returning from our Midwest trip for our daughter's orientation. My husband was going to do some of it before we returned, but I offered to do it so I could get everything categorized correctly! He has a habit of putting the charge on one card into the list of expenses on another card. Ironically, I did that once yesterday myself! A reason to have just one card I guess. Smile

I can tell we spent over $1000 on a rental car ($246), one night in a hotel ($121) and food! There were some college t shirts purchased, a calculator for calculus, and a few personal care items needed. We were in hotels five nights. We used Marriott points for four of them so that was very helpful. We had free breakfast everyday, but because we ate out for lunch and dinner we easily spent $80-100 each day. If it was a more relaxing type of vacation we probably could have grocery shopped and eaten that way, but we really were on the go most of the time.

I had saved money for these trips, so we were not scrounging to find the funds upon our return. The remaining balance in the vacation/travel fund is $649. We may take a short three day trip in July as a family. Those plans have not been made, but the hope would be to make sure these funds do cover that trip. I will need to add more funds soon for August traveling to the colleges. One daughter may fly, and the rest of us drive. Not sure yet, but will need to save for those...along with all the new college student expenses. That part is feeling pretty overwhelming!

It's payday, so I will pay off the cards and start budgeting for July! I would like July to be low in the grocery budget, so I need to put some effort there for some simple but healthy meals. After eating out so much on the trip, I really want lighter meals. What do you like to eat that is light in the summer?

First Semester College Books

June 25th, 2018 at 02:49 pm

Oh wow! I can tell books for my youngest daughter majoring in engineering are going to be far more expensive than my other daughter in music and art. My daughter preordered her books today, and the total was a preliminary $475! We were able to rent most used, one for Calculus will work for all three semesters so that isn't too bad. It's also one of those online type books, so it can't be resold. And get this, two classes didn't yet have books yet determined, so the cost is going to go up.

We will likely take a look over the summer to see if we can find these used for less than the rentals. I guess I'll just keep setting aside that $333 each month to cover books! Smile

College Investing Complete

June 22nd, 2018 at 10:35 am

We made our final college investment contribution this week. We have been sending in $333.33 each month to our youngest daughter's ESA. She turns 18 in July, so we increased it from $166.66 we have done monthly in previous years in order to meet the maximum contribution for the year. Once the child turns 18 you can no longer contribute to their Educational Savings account.

I'd really like to send this money to the Big Goal. But I may need to be realistic and save it for out of pocket college costs that may not be covered with what we have saved.

I'll run some numbers soon and see what we should do, since it may not need to be an either or decision. In the meantime it does feel good to check off that goal! Invest for college complete. What baby step would that be on the Dave Ramsey plan?

Whirlwind Update

June 19th, 2018 at 08:22 am

It's been a very busy week after having my parents, sister and her two girls visit primarily to see our youngest daughter graduate high school! I'm exhausted this morning after taking them to the airport at 4am. I have had a chance though to process my husband's paycheck, add transactions to YNAB, move money around, and pay off the credit cards.

Just prior to my parents arriving my husband was out of town for work for three days. I haven't yet taken the time to figure out his actual expenses, but we did receive $515.85. Some of that is per diem, and the rest is mileage on the truck he drove. I'm sure he didn't spend that much. That money for now is sitting in our second checking account, and I think I'm just throwing it towards our Big Goal. Smile

I spent $220 on food when guests were here, but my Dad also spent ANOTHER $230 on food and some alcohol. So $450 for 9 people for 7 days. We did eat out for five meals, which was additional money spent. We went to the beach for three nights so most of our time was spent sitting on the beach or at the resort pools. Not a lot you can spend money on...unless you venture out and get towed!

Yep, we parked in an expensive lot for three hours, but came back about thirty minutes early to find our van had been towed. The truck, which we also drove, was still parked. In the end it was a bit our fault. The lot has these machines where you pay and then put the ticket on the dash. My husband started the transaction and at some point I looked down and saw a ticket, so I pulled it and handed it to him. Turns out that was the ticket for the person BEFORE us and that ticket expired two hours before ours would have. They didn't even tow until it had been expired for an hour. The cost to get the van out of the impound lot...$160 CASH. Big mistake on our part to not actually look at the ticket. So embarrassing. But we weren't the only ones that night that were careless, the man at the lot said six other cars were towed that night. A bad chain of events for all of us. We thought about pursuing a refund of some sort, but in the end the security guard, and tow truck driver were only going by the information on the ticket...and they were within their duties to tow based on that information. We are not happy about losing that money, but it is just money and we were determined to continue to have a good time and just let it go.

The good news is that today when I was paying off credit cards I redeemed $71.89 from American Express, and $45.95 from Chase Freedom. I also have three rash guard shirts we didn't end up wearing that still have tags. I will return those for at least another $40 to $50. Money flows out, but it also flows back in.

Oh, and my sister is going to give me about $100 to cover food and gas. She is giving my dad some money as well since she didn't contribute while she was here. She had the cash on her this morning, but we both forgot about during the early rush to get to the airport. She will send a check or send me money by Paypal. That will help the budget, too!

I'm exhausted, but we leave in a few days again to go to our youngest daughter's college orientation. Hotels are covered with points, we already paid the airline tickets, but will have a rental car, food and gas to cover while we are there. I think we can also buy the first semester books after she has enrolled in classes. I still have over $1,500 in our vacation fund. Smile

That's all for now! Stay cool and frugal.

No Loans! Six Semesters, Two Summers

June 8th, 2018 at 05:35 am

This morning I paid the balance of my daughter's summer tuition in full out of our checking account. Today's amount due was $1,613.26, which was far less than I estimated.

Originally, my estimate was just under $3,700 without books. I was a bit off on my estimate. One class is a business class and thus carries a premium tuition rate, which added another $534! I also didn't add in the fees, which seems odd that I failed to do that. Books (specifically access codes for online instruction) were added to the tune of $245. The finally tally was $5013.26 for six credit hours. Reminder this is out of state tuition.

But we were blessed with a scholarship of $2,800. It was part of our daughter's main scholarship, but somehow was not applied last year when she took one class. So we didn't know that it would cover summer classes. So at this point I was expecting to pay $2,213.26.

But when I went to pay there was a credit of $600, leaving the balance at $1,613.26. We can't tell online specifically what the $600 is, however we think it is likely one of the music scholarship she received this spring. She was expecting a check for it. I think the University would cut a check if there was not a balance due. So instead the credit goes towards the current tuition owed. In the end it is all the same.

Sometimes I'm just amazed at our ability to have paid tuition and housing in full without loans. Let's see if we can continue the trend! Oldest daughter has three more semesters with intended graduation date of December 2019. And of course, our youngest is starting this fall, so another four years and we should be done!!

More Money for College!!

May 30th, 2018 at 06:29 pm

Our youngest daughter graduated from her Engineering Academy at her high school tonight. It was such a wonderful ceremony, where the strings played music before and after the event, the Jr ROTC posted the colors, sang the national anthem, former students spoke, as well as current students (one being our daughter), and of course, graduation certificates were presented.

But the highlight was the scholarship money presented! Half of the students received scholarships (9 students out of 18). Six received $500, two received $1000 and our daughter received a scholarship given in the name of the founder of this school's engineering academy in the amount of $1,500.

Our daughter did have to officially apply and complete among her peers. And there was some scoring given to the board to decide as well. One thing they had to do during the entire time in the academy was to check in on Tuesday mornings wearing their uniform. Apparently, that was what pushed our daughter's score to the highest level because she ALWAYS remembered to wear her uniform and check in. But in the end I think the essay is what convinced the board, at least that is how they made it sound. We are very proud of her and thankful for the monetary acknowledgement of her efforts.

The tuition portion of her first year is going to be very minimal. I swear that in our experience the cost of room and board is the most expensive part. But a few costs at home do go down at the same time to help offset a little bit of it, primarily groceries!

Money Magnet

April 26th, 2018 at 03:22 pm

Geez! Our oldest daughter is a money magnet as of late. This afternoon she was presented with a $600 scholarship for leadership in marching band. It was the first time this particular scholarship was given out. Smile

We feel so very blessed.

In other news, I gave away $50 to ethical science research. I'd like to give more and likely will, but I did this on a whim. I need to discuss future donations with my husband. Smile

We ordered our tickets in advance to see Avengers:Infinity War on Sunday morning. We have never ordered in advance, but noticed it was $1.00 surcharge per ticket which seemed reasonable to save time. When Black Panther came out we went nearly an hour ahead of the time and that showing was already sold out. This time we'll go early to get good seats, but we will already have purchased tickets.

ANOTHER Scholarship

April 23rd, 2018 at 04:27 pm

Wow! My daughter is a money magnet. She has now received a scholarship for summer classes. It has the same name as the big scholarship she currently has, but she didn't receive it last summer. It is possible that was because she was half time, just one three credit hour class. This newest scholarship is worth $2,800. The total summer bill is $4,768. I was expecting just under $4,000, and have been saving monthly to pay this. I figured out that I didn't remember to add up all the fees, or to figure that one of the classes (a business class) is a higher tuition rate. So now our portion to pay, due June 12 is $1,968.

I also had her apply for a summer grant worth up to $1,400 for summer. I'm not sure she's actually eligible as an out of state student, but it let her apply. That, or a portion, would be very helpful.

I will keep the extra $2000 I will have saved by mid June for future college expenses. Although it is honestly tempting to put it into our Big Goal. Smile

Another Scholarship!

April 17th, 2018 at 06:24 am

My oldest daughter has a four year scholarship worth $14K per year, along with a $500 Honor's Scholarship. She also had another scholarship her freshman year (worth $1-2K). These have helped tremendously the first two years since we pay out of state tuition. This year, her third year, the Post 911 GI Bill has paid the difference after scholarships, along with a book and housing stipend. We have paid very little out of pocket this year. I need to do an update on that here soon.

We have been notified she is receiving an art scholarship next year worth $1500. This will be divided in half, so worth $750 per semester. This is most significant for the spring semester, as she will not have Post 911 GI Bill benefits to use, thus everything after scholarships is ours to pay.

We expect our daughter will be going an extra semester (Fall 2019) because she is a double major. That semester will be the most expensive, or possibly the least expensive. Scholarships will have run out (unless awarded a new one), thus the entire out of state tuition will be on our shoulders. She has been averaging 17 credit hours a semester, so the cost could be almost $20K. We do not have the money now and expect her college funds to be depleted by then. We are starting to think it would be in the best interest to move more of my husband's Post 911 GI Bill benefits to our oldest daughter just in time for her final semester. And then that benefit covers the entire tuition!

Our youngest daughter will be receiving in state tuition. Yes, her college is in another state. Smile Her tuition after scholarships is $3500 PER YEAR for the first two years, for 12 credits or more. The remaining two years will be higher as an engineering student, around $1500 per year, or $4500 TOTAL per year. Again, this is not including housing. Honestly, we can totally cover tuition out of pocket for her even in those higher cost years.

Our thinking now is to move more of the GI Bill benefits to our oldest daughter because the benefit to us financially is much higher.

At any rate, just excited our daughter was awarded a scholarship! Part of it will benefit our us directly, the other benefits the US taxpayer...paying less out of the GI Bill funds to the university.

In other news, received $10 Diamond Class Action settlement. Apparently enough leftover funds from several years ago to make another payout! I also sold a book on eBay last night, so few extra dollars there.

I sort of felt like a money magnet yesterday!

Spent Some of That Vacation Budget

April 6th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

I finally got my rear in gear and made some airline reservations! I booked my daughter's trip home for the summer. We always do this one way since we don't know exactly when she plans to arrive on campus for the fall. This usually works out in our favor with decent one way tickets. This one cost us $155.

Next I booked our tickets to travel back to the last state we lived in. This is where our youngest daughter will go to college in the fall. I don't disclose exactly where we live because my husband is military and has asked me not to. Smile Our daughter has orientation at the end of June for two days. We will leave on a Friday, have a free Saturday, orientation on Sunday and Monday, and then a free day on Tuesday before flying home on Wednesday morning. Our oldest daughter is coming with us in hopes of seeing some old friends. The airline tickets cost us just over $1,600! Now you can see why I needed to be adding to the vacation budget this year!

I will need to book hotels for five nights AND get a rental car. I think at least three of the nights we may book at a hotel with a kitchen, so may just eat in those nights for dinner and have breakfast provided by the hotel. That will help quite a bit. The good news is I have one free night at Marriott as well as points we can redeem. So it appears we may only need to pay for one night out of pocket. I also looked briefly at rental cars. I have some discount options to consider, but guess at least $150-$200.

We may also do a test run of the shuttle my daughter will take to get to and from campus to the airport on her visits home. She will not have a car. We expect a trial run, may help ease any anxiety about the process. This will cost us about $59 for two of us one way. Not exactly frugal, but helpful. We may change our minds on this, but right now seems like a good option.

Vacation Budget Status

April 2nd, 2018 at 11:55 am

I think I mentioned we are likely to need to do some travel this year, primarily to visit our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June and later in the summer to move her in. I also need to buy our older daughter a plane ticket home in May. I should do that any day now. And we are also planning a small trip to the mountains this summer as a family. We will drive, but will need to cover fuel, hotels, food and activities.

I was able to add $500 this pay period to the vacation budget. We now have $3,427.56!

I don't have an exact number we need. I suppose I should start estimating that! It's starting to feel like a lot of hotel nights! We do have some points with Marriott, so will likely use those for some of the nights we need to cover. May need to get creative for other nights to pay the least out of pocket, but within our comfort zone.

I expect to be able to add more money as the weeks go by!

Withholding...Trying to Figure It All Out

February 7th, 2018 at 05:51 am

I have calculated the new withholding amounts we expect to see on my husband's paychecks going forward after the new tax law was passed. I used paycheckcity.com to do the calculations. We currently withhold 9 exemptions every pay period. That means the withholding in the past for us has been $409 per month. The new amount based on the same withholding will be $319 per month. An $80 difference, or $960 a year.

Sounds great right? Well, if I'm understanding the new tax laws for no personal exemptions, but higher standard deduction for married couples, and lower tax brackets, we will definitely have lower taxes, but the withholding we are currently at will be deficient by $400, and maybe more if we cannot take the full American Opportunity Credit for college expenses in 2018. I don't mind owing, but I'm now working to decided if I want to change our withholding to 8, or even add more to retirement to offset income.

I will get it figured out. I know how to do it all, I just need more time to decide what we want to do. Sending more to retirement when we already invest 18% and expect a pension equal to half my husband's pay is starting to seem like overkill. Again, just decisions to be made. I also need to figure how much we may actually pay in college costs out of pocket this year.

Oh, and a note slightly related to figuring taxes. When you claim the American Opportunity Tax credit you can only do it for four years per child. So if you claim it their first semester of their freshman year, that is one tax year. Therefore, once you get to spring semester of their senior year, you are into a fifth tax year...which you cannot claim. In our case, I did claim it for our oldest daughter for that first semester. Although, we didn't use the full amount, but my guess is as tuition increases through the year and our educational savings options run out we would benefit more in that final semester. I think there is still the Lifetime Learning Credit that can be taken indefinitely and combined even if you have another student still eligible for the AOTC. (There are income limits, so don't assume you are eligible based on the information I provide here. Do your own research for your specific situation)

I also have to remember that I can adjust withholding later in the year as we have more information...such as the amount we have actually paid out of pocket for college expenses that could be claimed.

Hmm...another thought I may actually take the Lifetime Learning Credit for my youngest this year, since it will be for just one semester. Then finish up using the American Opportunity Credit for our oldest daughter for 2018. The following year we could swap these. I think that could work. That would lower our taxes even more. I sure would rather the money go to pay tuition, than to the government who is overspending as it is with our tax dollars.

Have you done the calculations for your 2018 taxes? Did you have to change withholding? Will your taxes be less?

Vacation Budget

February 6th, 2018 at 07:02 am

After a low spend January, we had extra funds to allocate. I finally took care of that yesterday, by adding $1000 to our vacation budget. We are definitely going to be on the move this year, so the budget needs help.

We potentially have a small beach vacation with family that will visit in June. The beach is about two hours away, so no airline tickets, but contribution to a rental for sure. And food!

We are going to need to travel to our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June. We likely could skip it living so far away, but we think since we can make it work, it will be helpful as part of the adjustment living away from us to have more experience on campus. We will likely fly for this event. Hotels also needed.

We also want to fly with our daughter and help her move in to her dorm in the fall. Ironically, while typing this message a parent online was asking about storage and moving solutions for out of state students. In helping her I found two that we may be able to use to have her items transported so we don't need to drive 20 hours! We think we will send her bike, so that is bulky. Although maybe it's better to sell it, and buy another one. All things we need to figure out.

Then we would like to visit both girls in late fall, maybe for Thanksgiving. The point is our budget for travel is going to start to be a bigger expense than ever. So it felt good to add $1000 in just one month.

I think I can cover spring break for our daughter with Southwest points. Yay!

No College Loans

January 30th, 2018 at 04:49 am

I paid the University $4,383.69 yesterday for spring tuition and housing. It's primarily housing and books since tuition was covered by the Post 911 GI Bill benefits. So grateful once again that we have been able to provide three years of college expenses without loans. Once we get to 2019 for our older daughter it will get a bit more interesting. Not sure yet exactly how we are doing that, we have just under $5K saved in her ESA, but loans may be involved. I'll have to write a whole other post on that later.

Feeling very blessed!

Computer For College

January 29th, 2018 at 06:13 am

Last night we ordered a Dell laptop for our youngest daughter. She is heading to college in the fall and we found with our older daughter it was nice to have it purchased well before the first day classes.

Originally we tried to purchase one direct through the University to save on sales tax, however, the one they recommended and were offering was no longer available. It would have been $1299, including a 4 year warranty. Apparently, it was a special deal the university was able to get in cooperation with Dell last year. (I'm sure there will be on again in the early summer or fall, but we decided to just get what we need now to be done with that decision making process...it was stressing us all out for some reason!)

We basically got the same laptop we originally ordered through the University. We did downgrade to a 3 year warranty because that saved us nearly $250. We upgraded to a 2 in 1 version, so that it has a touchscreen available and can be flipped and used like a tablet.

Our daughter will be an engineering major, so the laptop does have higher specs than some students may need in college. We did get an older version and an older processor, but again the same one the University was suggesting that we thought we could still purchase.

The University did give us some other options to purchase but they were more expensive than the one we ended up purchasing directly with Dell. They were having 10% off select computers (slightly older models it appeared). The warranty was three years for the price of two. We did get free shipping, but had to pay sales tax of 7%.

The final total charged to our US Bank card was $1,481.65. I had selected electronics stores as one of my 5% cash back categories for this quarter. That will amount to $74.08 off the total. I went through the Ebates shopping portal for 2% back (better than Swagbucks 1% offer), and that will give us $27.88 back in cash (should arrive in May). Both of those more than cover the sales tax we were charged.

I did have to move another $184+ to the computer category as this is the amount over what we originally thought we would pay to the University for the laptop they offered. Luckily, a low spend month help me know we have that amount covered!

Computer arrives on Thursday, and my daughter is excited. She and I no longer have to share! Smile

Spring 2018 College Bill

January 17th, 2018 at 08:34 am

We have a bill that will be sent out in the next week for our University expenses. The final amount, including books that we were charged is $4,383.69. All of that is housing for the second semester. And we will get reimbursed from the VA over the next few months for just under that amount. Specifically we will receive $4,336.80 to cover housing.

I currently have $5,854 set aside in our college category in our checking account. So there will be no issue paying the bill when it is due in early February. After the bill is paid that will leave $1,470. I expect to need at least $3,700 to cover two online classes this summer. The bill will be due early June. My goal is to pay those out of pocket, and I have been setting aside $410 per month to make that happen. It does appear we are on track!

I increased our younger daughter's Educational Savings amount to $333.33 from $166.66. The maximum amount you can contribute each year is $2000. She turns 18 in July. At that time you can no longer contribute to the account. I increased it in order to get the full amount funded by her birthday.

You add those two amounts up ($410 +333.33) and we are setting aside $743 each month for college expenses. That is what saving and cash flowing look like. And if we had car payments like so many American's it would be even more difficult to make this happen. So happy my 2007 Honda Odyssey with 130K miles still looks and runs great!

Whoops! & College Tax Credits

January 13th, 2018 at 06:32 am

I just realized this morning that we had a CD mature at the end of December. The money was moved to our savings account, but I forgot to move it to a new CD that I had opened earlier in December. At least not too much time passed. The transfer of $10,375 is now complete and earning 2% interest until sometime in early 2019.

My daughter sent me the 1098T for 2017. This form shows how much in qualified tuition expenses we paid and how many scholarship and grant dollars were applied to her account. The difference between the two numbers is how much we paid out of pocket for tuition. That amount can be applied for the American Opportunity Tax credit. In our case the amount is over the maximum for 2017, so we can claim the full $4,000 in tuition paid result in a $2,500 benefit to us. This won't result in a refund for us though as I already figured it into our withholding for the year...we've been getting the benefit all year long!

In 2018 we have the potential for claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit for two college students. Right now I expect we will claim whatever we pay in summer tuition for our older daughter. Her tuition for 2018 will likely all be paid by the Post 911 GI Bill so no other tuition to claim. And our younger daughter's tuition is still yet to be determined but at this point I don't expect it to pay out anything near $4,000 for tuition. It's going to get more interesting that is for sure!

Book Stipend

December 22nd, 2017 at 06:16 am

With my husband's VA benefits my daughter gets a book stipend of $1000 per year. We received a payment of $708.33 in August. We have been notified that the remaining amount of $291.67 will has been sent. We have not yet received it though. I'm expecting it will likely come later this month along with a partial payment for December housing.

All is on track to receive all tuition paid next semester. She is signed up for 19 credit hours! We will continue to receive housing payments monthly for $1,112. They do prorate based on numbers of days in the month. So December, January and May will all be prorated.

After this spring semester, she will have one more full semester of benefits. Our plan is to use that next fall, although I may need to do the math and see if it would be better to use it her final semester, which is currently planned to be Fall 2019.

I've said it before. I am very grateful for this benefit that we have been able to pass on to our daughter's for their education.

A Recipe and Update On College

November 15th, 2017 at 04:27 am

We had this for dinner last night. It was really good! Lots of chopping, but very healthy. I'm making two other recipes from the website later this week.

The VA Education department has continued to provide us a housing payment of $1112 per month for our oldest daughter. I just made a $200 deposit for next years housing contract. My daughter would like to move off campus, but is having a hard time finding a roommate. There are ways to find roommates, but she would like it to be someone she knows. If we go the on campus route again, she will get a discount for being a returning student. That discount for the fourth years is $1097. She packs her schedule full...18 hours on average, so living on campus saves a lot of time and hassle than living off campus.

Our youngest daughter applied and was accepted to her college of choice. She plans to major in Industrial Engineering. This is in our former midwest state that we are still residents of. We did however have to provide documentation to the school to get her classified as a resident. Luckily, we were approved. They do provide in state tuition for all military members, spouses and children. This college charges a flat fee for 12+ hours, rather than break it down by credit hour. Of course, as an engineering student she will have higher tuition in her junior and senior year.

Specifically tuition and fees for 12+ hours is $4,318 per semester, or $8,636 per year. She did receive two renewable four year scholarships. One is worth $8,000 ($2000 per year) and the other is worth $10,000 ($2,500 per year). Very reasonable in my opinion. It's the housing that adds up! I don't have the details on those costs yet, as we have not picked a housing option. I think housing will be less than we pay for our older daughter, so that is a plus! And she will be applying for more scholarships soon, so fingers crossed there is a little more money to assist.

FAFSA Time

October 16th, 2017 at 03:26 pm

It's that time of year to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, if you have a student or you yourself will be attending a college or university in 2018. As of last year, the application comes available October 1 and you use the previous year's tax return. In this case, we will use our 2016 tax return to provide information. In the past, FAFSA's were filled out in the early months of the year after you had filed your tax return.

We haven't ever received any grants, but have always been eligible for unsubsidized students loans. As you know we have not taken the government up on that offer yet! This next school year there is a small possibility we will, so we will apply again.

We also will be applying for both of our daughters. I will need to make note of what I report on one so that I report the same for the other. Maybe their is a way to transfer that information and save time. I will find out!

Money Inn

September 28th, 2017 at 03:47 pm

Ha. Ha. A typo in the title that I decided to leave. I would like to be the Money Inn, where money comes to stay for as long as it wants.

I received a $5 rebate on some vitamins I bought last month.

I redeemed Swagbucks for $25 Paypal cash. My Swagbucks added up fast after buying some Gillette razor blades. It was a money maker!

We received $1,112 from the VA. That's the monthly housing benefit we are receiving from the GI Bill. That money is going in savings to pay us back for making the upfront housing payment.

And tomorrow is payday, so that is pending in our account as well.

No Student Loans Continues

September 10th, 2017 at 12:55 pm

I can't tell you what a relief it is to pay for our daughter's tuition and housing in full. No loans!!

The tuition this semester was officially covered in full by the Post 911 GI Bill benefits my husband earned and transferred to our daughter. I guess part of it was covered by her scholarship...can't discount $7,000! I have to say her University was definitely on top of processing the benefits in a timely manner. I think it helped tremendously that we notified them we would be using them in mid May.

Most of the tuition is being reimbursed by the Post 911 GI Bill as well. So far we have received $370. But we are expecting another $3,892 over the next several months. In the meantime, I transferred that amount from our savings so that I could pay the bill due on Sept 12.

Ah, the relief of no loans. It really is palpable!

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 01:29 pm

We had some good news today on my daughter's University Bill. The school has applied her VA tuition payments. I'm not entirely sure they have received the funds, but they have noted them on her bill, so it appears we no longer owe the money. So now a bill for just $6,073.51. Most of that is for room and board, about $250 of that seems to be additional housing payment for the week she was in her dorm during band camp. I think something else was covered that we didn't expect. It seems they allowed her Honor's book scholarship of $250 to cover books. It didn't count towards tuition, so that was another $250 from the VA that went towards tuition. All done correctly it seems, just not what I was expecting.

There have been a few more school expenses. My daughter needs a conducting baton for her conducting class. We bought it used on eBay. It was about $22. Hopefully we can resell after this class. My younger daughter needed more notebooks and I picked up some printer paper. Out of pocket for those additional items was $4.03.

Other high school expenses I see coming up are $40 for senior dues (these primarily go to Prom I think), and my daughter's year book for $73. The yearbook isn't a need, but we have always bought them...and this is the last year!! We can afford it, so we are buying it.

Not sure how long it will take for the school to start talking about cap and gown orders and so forth. We will likely only order the cap and gown. We didn't do announcements for our older daughter and it was just fine. That will save some money. We also won't be having any big party. My parents, maybe my sister's family, will be in town and we will celebrate simply with them.

And then at some point we need to get senior pictures.

I made a donation to the American Red Cross to help Houston flood victims. I doubled our normal disaster amount. I wish we could do more, but if everyone helps it will make a difference. Consider miles you have or even Swagbucks if you don't have cash you can assist with.

I received a $3 Pinecone payment today. I redeemed $2.50 in coupons for groceries this week. Two were physical coupons, the other two were rebates with Ibotta.

That's the money news for now! I will get another Emergency Fund post up soon.

First VA Housing Payment

August 24th, 2017 at 03:00 pm

We received our first VA Housing payment due to our college daughter using the Post 911 GI Bill. The amount was $370.67. I guess they counted this month as just 10 day. I think it should be 11 since it is a partial month and the number of days my daughter is in school is 11 for August. But I do know the government does base payments on a 30 day month. We will take it.

Now we are just waiting to see the Chapter 33 (Post 911 GI Bill) designation on our daughter's account at the University. The VA office on campus indicated that it should show up after the first week. And since this is the first week, I'm not too concerned yet. I just need it to show up BEFORE the bill is due on September 12 when the bill is due.

In the coming months we expect a monthly payment of $1,112. For the fall semester we will receive that full amount in October, November and December. In January, we will get a partial payment for the partial days of class in December. Each time these come in we will simply be paying ourselves back for the cost of the semesters housing.

And I've mentioned before these housing payments will cover all but about $1700 of the housing that is due for this school year.

So very thankful that our out of pocket costs are going to be far less this year. We'll still be saving some cash in the coming year in anticipation of future semesters that will not be covered. So this reprieve is very helpful!

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 12:16 pm

In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.

The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.

Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.

In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.

I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.

The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.

We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.

And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.

Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.

Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.

VA Payment for Books Received

August 9th, 2017 at 06:57 am

Second post for the day!

I just noticed that we have a pending payment from the VA for my daughter's book stipend. The maximum per year is $1,000. She is taking 17 credits so the payment for this semester is $708.33. This means next semester the payment will be $291.67.

The VA will be making monthly payments to the school for the tuition portion they are covering after my daughter's scholarship. We expect the total for the semester from the VA to cover $6,465.75. I'm not sure how they break down payments yet, but I guess I will know more after the semester. I do know that after the first week of school, we should see the benefit on her billing account.

The VA will also be making housing payments directly to us. Our daughter is again in a dorm. This may be her final year. The housing portion (room and board) for the first semester is $5,828.08. The VA benefit is $1,112 per month and prorated for the exact days of the semester. The first payment will cover housing from Aug 21 to Aug 31, which will amount to $407.73. We expect this payment at the beginning of September.

The housing payment will be due in full on September 12. We will pay this with cash on hand. The amount we will receive from the VA for housing for the semester is $4,299.73. This leaves us paying $1528.35 out of pocket. The second semester out of pocket will be less as we will have a $400 credit for the housing deposit we made last fall applied to the housing bill. There will also be a $719 credit applied because she is a returning student (they give a discount). We expect spring out of pocket for housing to be just $176.20.

Before the book stipend payment I had about $325 set aside for college expenses. I expect I can add more on each pay period before the bill is due. We also will have a travel payment from the Army sometime in September for all the per diem owed us from my husband's school trip this summer.

We are all very grateful for the VA benefit assisting us in paying for college. So far no student loans! Right now, it is very possible we will need a loan for the last semester she attends as the scholarship will run out, our 529 savings will be tapped out, and her portion of the VA benefit will also be used up. That is a bill we would be looking at about two years from now. By then we will know more about any scholarships our younger daughter may receive. So many moving parts to consider!

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!

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!!


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