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FAFSA Time

October 16th, 2017 at 10:26 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 10:47 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 07:55 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 08:29 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 10:00 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 07:16 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 01:57 pm

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 10:59 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 12:55 pm

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 01:32 pm

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 01:12 pm

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 06:28 pm

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 01:04 pm

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.