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May 12th, 2019 at 08:12 am

Our oldest daughter was awarded some more scholarship money. Two scholarships, one worth $550 and another worth $950, for a total of $1500. The school will divide the money equally between the two semesters, so $750 off the total bill each semester.

The interesting thing is that she is getting these scholarships through a foundation that she now has an internship with. She needs to send her thank you notes to the same place she now works. I'm positive that her internship and the scholarships are not related, but just kind of neat to know she is benefitting two ways from this organization.

Always grateful for assistance with college expenses!

A New High And Budget Adjustments

April 28th, 2019 at 09:05 am

Yay! Our retirement accounts have reached a new high as of the closing on Friday afternoon. So grateful we have money increasing in value for retirement! We just keep plugging away adding funds to our account monthly. All of these contributions are set up automatically, so other than recorded them in our check register (which is auto on YNAB), we don't think too much about it. Auto investing is the way to go!

Yesterday's mail was fruitful financially. We received a refund check from our utility service here on base. We have stay at or under the average compared to similar sized homes on base for electrical and water usage. The result is a refund of $55.

The other check in the mail was the proceeds from our oldest daughter's UTMA. I'd have to go back and look at our total investment in that account, but I'm going to guess under $1,000 since the late 90s and early 2000s. The final redemption amount was $3,973.62. This is money going towards her first car. Her car will likely be more than this, but hopefully not by much.

I have two items ending on eBay that are being watched, so two sales possible. They won't make more than a few dollars, but it all adds up, as I have shown over and over again on this blog.

I cut our Hulu Live subscription effective today. It's saving us $45 a month. This is planned for the summer months to offset the need to pay $55 a month for our youngest daughter to store her dorm items this summer. Our older daughter has always stored her items at my parents since she is pretty close. Our youngest is much farther away, so this just made sense logistically. Not exactly how I want to spend money, but we are going to try it this first summer and see how it goes. I think my husband is going to miss Hulu, so this is temporary because we did like it for accessing college football in the fall.

I stopped our youngest daughter's allowance for the summer. She was receiving $125 a month from us. Honestly it far exceeded her needs and expenses. I noticed she seems to buy music and make Go Fund Me donations with it. I love that she is generous. The primary reason to end it for the summer and reevaluate is to help cover rent for our older daughter. Our younger daughter will be home and we can cover anything that comes up with our own budget. We will likely reinstate some form of spending money, but we also know she is starting a part time research job, so she will start accumulating her own spending money, thus less needed from us.

I've also decided to stop funding our car maintenance and repair sinking fund for a few months. We currently have $1000 set aside plus an emergency fund. We have been funding it with $275 a month because we have older cars. We are very current on major repairs and maintenance we we think this will not be an issue short term. We expect to start it back up in August or September. This change is also due to upcoming expenses with our daughter staying in her college town this summer.

I'm doing my best to maintain our current Big Savings Goal progress and monthly contributions, thus the reason for making other adjustments to the budget temporarily. I'm grateful that we have flexibility to make changes to how we spend our money.

Surprise Scholarship!

April 26th, 2019 at 07:34 am

Well, my older daughter DID get a scholarship. She was even surprised by it. It's actually one that she received last year for marching band. They had a Honors and Awards event yesterday, but she didn't go because she didn't know she was getting an award. The year prior they emailed her ahead of time that she was getting an award, so she attended. Oh well, she still gets the money.

Last year it was $600 and ended up being applied to her summer tuition. We expect the same will happen again this year. We are so thankful for all the scholarships we have received for both girls.

I am happy and grateful for all money that flows into our lives!

I'm Getting Clarity

April 21st, 2019 at 05:00 pm

I spent some time thinking through all these college costs coming up and I'm getting some clarity. We have already been notified that we owe my oldest daughter's University $901.25 since we withdrew her VA benefits. They put a hold on her University charge card since it is actually an overdue debt at this point. I will pay that tomorrow. I tried today, but they must have the site down for maintenance.

I will be pulling money out of both daughter's Educational Savings Accounts with in the next month or so, before the mid June tuition bills are due. This IS money we set aside to pay for school, so that is definitely what it should be used for. For my records later, I'm taking out $1560 for DD1 and $1025 for DD2.

In order to get clarity I had to do several calculations, specifically what the expected tuition bills will be for both girls through Spring 2020. I also had to figure how much of those bills we should pay out of pocket for our youngest daughter to qualify for the full American Opportunity Tax credit in 2019. If I take any money out of her ESA that disqualifies those funds as eligible for the tax credit.

Another part of getting clarity was doing a bit of a cash flow scenario, where I can see if we have enough cash available at the time the bills are due. The first time I did it without considering money from their ESA accounts, I was over $3500 short! And I did include loans for my oldest daughter for at least the fall semester.

So in order to not be short the necessary funds, I am withdrawing from their Educational Savings Accounts. I will also use $968 from our tax refund to pay the VA back when they finally do get around to billing us. This will come back out of the Big Savings Goal.

In order to help cover potential costs of my daughter living in an apartment this summer I stopped an allowance to our youngest daughter since she will be home and we can cover any expenses she needs. I am going to stop our Hulu Live subscription for the summer to save $45. I will also stop funding our vehicle maintenance sinking fund for a few months. It currently has just over $1000 in it , and we don't really expect any major expenses and can make it up from our emergency fund, or even the Big Goal Savings, if absolutely needed. I've been adding $275 a month for that. Those changes alone will free up $445 each month to help our oldest daughter. She already receives $125 spending cash from us each month and with her paid internship we don't expect we will need to fully cover all the expenses once she starts getting paid.

I still may need make some changes but I can see more clearly how I can make this work without completely derailing our savings and retirement goals.

Thanks for listening! I do know how blessed we are to have the ability to pay for college and all of our other needs and wants.

Financial Chaos

April 18th, 2019 at 07:47 am

First, I'm not sure how clear I can make this post as there is a lot I'm juggling financially. I 'feel' like we are in financial chaos, but I've been working very hard to turn those thoughts and feelings around. We are coming up on summer and both of our daughter's are taking classes. The combined tuition is over $4,400 plus books. No scholarships or loans available during the summer this time. The easiest thing to do is to withdraw the money in full from the Educational Savings accounts.

But...I know that if I pay out of pocket for our younger daughter that will help me meet the requirements to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax credit for 2019. Spend $4,000 on qualified education expenses, get a $2,500 tax credit. I'd rather use that money to get a discount on taxes than pay our government more in other words.

And...I also know that our oldest daughter no longer has her scholarship for fall (full time) and spring (part time last semester) that has so helped us previously with the out of state tuition. Her ESA is now down to $3,500. Loans have been offered for the next two semesters.

And...our oldest daughter is living in apartment this summer. Here in a couple weeks we going to help her get a car, likely with a majority of the funds coming from her UTMA account and a small loan. This will not be a new car, or even rather that new.

And some news on VA educational benefits. We had planned to transfer some benefits from our youngest daughter to our older daughter for the fall semester since she already used all that we originally allocated to her. We can do this, but if we claim them for fall, they will actually get applied in arrears to this spring when we only used 19 days. The VA even though all parties are good today, goes back to fulfill the obligation in full. While this sounds good, it's not the best scenario for us, as our daughter will have more tuition due in the fall not because of more hours but because her scholarship expired. We have been advised to withdraw the benefits applied to this spring so that we can them claim those 19 days plus the months we transfer to the fall semester. This withdrawal is now creating a debt we will owe to the University and the VA. Specifically we will owe the University $901.15 and the VA $966.43. The University bill will likely be very soon, but the VA will be delayed several months.

Our oldest daughter did get an paid internship for this next year that starts just after school ends. She is also looking for another job to work this summer in addition to the internship. This is good as she will have some funds coming in to help with the car expenses, such as fuel. Because her hours and income are not fully known we are doing our best to support her as she transitions to paying more of her expenses.

I currently have $1,305 in the college category in YNAB. I also have $1650 in our emergency category. We have our tax refund ($1968) that I did put into our Big Savings Goal and really, really don't want to use. I also save $400 a month towards college tuition and expenses. I think I can add more, since we are saving quite a bit of money in fuel living on base.

My struggle is wanting to keep moving towards our own goals, specifically the Big Savings Goal, as well as to avoid taking on debt. Overall, I'm not against debt for the short term, but I've learned to love not having debt. In the end I think having our daughter take on a small car loan and some student loan debt is the best route. We have given a lot to avoid debt at this point and we really don't feel sacrificing our goals is worth keeping her from debt. I think that makes sense, and even if it's not what you would do, I think it's right for us at this time.

This post is long. I'm pretty confident I can get it all to work out it's just taking a lot of effort to think through it all and decide where all the money is coming from. Oh, I realized I didn't exactly touch on where the student loans come from, but basically our oldest daughter is at the end of her Education Savings money, scholarships and Post 911 GI benefits. We expect she will have no more than $7,500 in loans. This is very reasonable debt for a double major don't you think?

Random Money Updates

March 27th, 2019 at 08:57 am

Spring break with the girls was wonderful! We had a good balance of relaxing, which they really needed and getting out to explore some things. We did several free things and had dinner out twice, so we easily spent under $150 for those kinds of things. Our grocery bill went up slightly, but that's to be expected.

I found a quarter out back in the alley when I was talking to a neighbor. I love finding cash on the ground!

I'm working on my next $25 Amazon or Paypal redemption with Swagbucks. I really just try to complete the To Do List on the left hand side of the home page. I try the surveys, but I'm not always successful, so as to not waste any more time, I do skip that one. I think Rose asked in another post about how to do it. I would suggest following Swagbucks Swaggernauts on FB for tips and pointers. There is definitely a learning curve. I have found a free malware extension on my computer helps with the junk that can come from using the site.

We received our $10 Visa rebate card in the mail from NAPA for the battery we purchased a couple months back. I plan to use it out shopping. I will then add $10 cash to the Big Goal.

I've redeemed some credit card cash back rewards and will update with a total for March when I report how much progress we made on our Big Goal this month.

We need to already be thinking about airline tickets for May! We will likely go back to the Midwest to help move our daughter's out and help our oldest daughter buy her first car. She is likely going to be staying back there this summer to take a class and get a job or internship. Lots of activity around here and spending.

I have three items I need to sell. Two should be able to go on eBay and the other should go up on a local sales page. I rarely do eBay any more since my main motivation was usually to sell outgrown clothes and toys. I saw a YouTube video the other day though that reminded me of how it is possible to buy items at garage sales and resell them for more. Something I might try and see if it keeps me interested. Clearly more work than finding items in my house!

Please excuse my random thoughts!

Cash In, Cash Out

March 17th, 2019 at 06:36 am

The tax refund did arrive as expected. It is currently in our savings account marked as Big Goal money!! I decided to act like it didn't exist in some ways. We were never expecting a refund, so spending it didn't exactly seem right. If we need an additional $1900 we can take it from our other savings or cash flow it.

I earned enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card. I used it to buy cabin and engine filters for our two vehicles. Those arrived yesterday.

We learned this past week that the University our older daughter goes to overestimated her VA benefits for the semester. Once they received actual payment, they notified us we owe $595 by April 12. Our plan is to use her ESA to pay this. Her benefits were lower this semester, so this was the plan all along, we just know the amount we need to take out now.

Our girls arrive here today to spend their spring break with us. My husband took the week off, so we can do some more exploring of our new town with them. This likely means some meals out and money spent on entertainment.

I learned recently that American Express waives their annual fees for active duty military. I haven't taken action on that as I think we only have one card of theirs with an annual fee. This may give us an opportunity to use some of their other cards with higher annual fees and better benefits. I have more looking to do on this. Anyone have experience with this? If so which card do you use? Yes, we use credit cards, but do not carry a balance, nor pay any interest. Credit cards a financial tool that can be beneficial if used wisely.

Tax Refund Arrives Tomorrow

March 5th, 2019 at 07:58 am

Tax refund is pending in our second checking account right now. Somewhere I saw that it would arrive March 12. It's arrival is about a week sooner than I expected.

I really, really want to add this to the Big Goal. And I probably can, but then just back it out later if needed.

Another part of me thinks I should put it towards college tuition expenses since the refund can be directly attributed to taking the American Opportunity Tax credit.

I also know that I could send it various places too.

I think I'm conflicted about where to allocate it because of some bigger outflows happening right now. Spent over $800 on plane tickets for our daughters to come home for spring break. We need to pay the VA for the overpayment they sent the University (and University sent to us). I think there is something else too.

Once I work through my emotions and review our budget in YNAB a bit more, I think I can eventually make a decision. It's been several years since we had a refund and I wasn't expecting one...so I wasn't making plans on what to do with it!

I'll be back to let you know once I decide for sure!

Tax Return Filed

February 25th, 2019 at 11:55 am

I could have filed much earlier this month, but honestly it was wearing me out each time I attempted it.

Each of the two colleges we are working with fill out their 1098-T forms slightly different. One school includes the books, the other does not. One school includes the required activity fee and the other does not. I was a bit surprised by this, but found a resource that schools should be using as guidance for filling out these forms and used that as my guideline. We also had money paid on our behalf by the VA, but have to pay back, that was not reflected, nor did H&R block have a way to ask or handle this situation. This probably makes no sense to most of you, but just know that different institutions fill out their 1098-Ts differently based on their interpretation of the law. I think some parents/students at one institution are probably losing out on some qualified expenses if they only rely on the 1098-T.

I feel 99% confident I did it correctly. We claimed the American Opportunity Credit for both girls this year. Neither one them had expenses that qualified for the full amount offered, but we ended up with a refund of $1,968.

It's been a few years since we had a refund as I've been able estimate our future tax and withholding pretty well. This year I forgot about the Dependent Tax Credit ($500) for a dependent that qualifies over 18. This was $1000 in our favor. I also decided to claim the AOTC for our younger daughter, although originally wasn't going to.

I'm pretty sure this money will go towards future college expenses rather than the Big Goal.

Have you completed your taxes?

Edited to add: We do file state income tax, but our home state does not tax active duty military wages, so no refund or payment ever required unless I start working or we earn a LOT of interest.

Tuition Paid, No Loans Again

February 9th, 2019 at 07:54 am

I've now paid both of our girls tution and housing bills for Spring 2019. We still have no loans!! Eight semesters for one done and two for the other. I will say housing and meal plans are the most expensive part of sending your children away to college. It is a choice we made, so no complaints, just observation.

I looked up the cost for graduate school yesterday. My oldest daughter is thinking about it. But that cost will be on her. For some reason, I thought graduate tuition was a flat rate, not base on in state or out of state residency. Not sure where I got that idea. I checked only a couple schools, so maybe somewhere this is true. Maybe this fact will convince her to go back to our home state. It's going to be expensive and she really needs to figure out if the ends justify the means. I'm not entirely convinced...but we will keep discussing it.

“We all have a story. The difference is: do you use the story to empower yourself? Or do you use your story to keep yourself a victim? The question itself empowers you to change your life.” ― Sunny Dawn Johnston