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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 [url=https://www.paycheckcity.com/]paycheckcity.com[/url] 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 [url=https://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/09/snap-challenge-vegetable-stir-fry-noodles/]this[/url] 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 [url=https://fafsa.ed.gov/]Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA[/url], 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.