Tag Archives: Back to School

The Cost of Higher Education

I was recently talking with two parents whose children are heading off to college.  One was dealing with financial aid issues and was concerned about the amount of debt his son might have to deal with after graduation. He acknowledge that he and his wife would be helping out, but that the costs of school exceeded what they’d be able to outright pay for. And since his son didn’t make high enough grades for any academic scholarships or grants, they would need to rely on various financial aid packages.

The other one expressed how happy he was to be dodging that bullet since his oldest had chosen to take advantage of a relatively new program in the state of Tennessee called the Tennessee Promise. With this program it provides FREE education at a community or technical college for two years, with the student graduating with an Associate degree. The advantage of this program is in not only allowing students a free education, but since most of the courses are General Studies classes, those wanting to go beyond an Associate to get their Bachelor’s degree, can apply to an in-state 4-year university to take the remaining two years of course work. This means they have two years longer to save up enough money to continue their education, if they’d like, or seek employment in the area of their two-year studies, and not have the burden of student loans to pay back.

To me, any parent living in this state, who doesn’t have $80,000 to pay for their student’s 4-year college tuition is kinda crazy for not to taking advantage of their kid receiving free higher education for two years; and cutting that financial commitment almost in half, should they choose to continue!

I understand a parents desire for their child to be able to choose where they want to attend school, just as much as they should be allowed to choose what it is they want to major in. But if the alternative is cleaning out your retirement funds, or having to prolong retirement for many years beyond your original plan, then I think looking at other resources needs to be on the table. 

The first guy was also struggling with the notion of his son declaring himself as independent. It seemed to bother him that a student could do that, or worst, that parents would want their kids to do that so that they don’t have to pay for their college education. So I interjected.

“You do know that there’s no law in this state that mandates a parent having to pay for their child’s college education?” I asked. 

Higher Education is a privilege not a mandate or a right. 

While I wish everyone who wanted to attend college could do so, and I wish our country could figure out a way to make it more affordable, if not free, it is still not a parent’s responsibility to empty their 401K, take out huge loans, or take on a second job just so they can pay for their kid’s education. Not only is it not their responsibility, but it can be dangerous for someone in their mid-50s, as was the case for him, to risk their financial future, especially being that close to retirement, in order to pay for their child’s education.

I went on to remind him that while some people can, and do pay for their children’s college; many parents don’t even have the luxury of choice in ever having had an education fund for their child, and they don’t make enough money even now to pay the tens of thousands of dollars tuition has grown to; even at state schools.

The other guy said his family fell into that group. “As sad as I am that I can’t, I just told my daughter that there was no way her mom and I could afford to pay for her college tuition. The money just wasn’t there. But fortunately for us, she was actually interested in attending a community college first any way. We were lucky.”

Sadly, I’ve heard too many accounts (and know of some personally) of parents trying to find money anywhere they can to pay for their student’s education, only for that student to not do well in school — either from not being ready for the demands of higher learning, or being away at school, or from just not caring or taking school seriously enough to try.

At the end of our conversation the first guy recounted a story of someone he knew who paid for her son’s first year of college, and after he managed to fail both semesters, she put the financial burden on him to continue forward and participate in the cost of his own education. The last time he checked, his friend’s son was doing quite well in school; even talking about the lessons he learned after blowing his first year, and the difference it’s making being responsible for it all himself.

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I think if parents have the means, and the desire to pay for their children’s college education, then they should do so. For some friends of mine, it’s almost like an insult to them not to provide that for their kids. At the same time, I don’t think other parents who can’t afford it, should be made to feel bad about needing financial assistance, or having their student declare independence, in order to qualify for the various grants and loans they would have access to apart from their parents. 

It does come down to money, planning, and sometimes, just being able to adjust to a new normal, and being alright with it.

 

 

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Yep, It’s Time to Go Back to School

It’s that time of year — again. While many families in the northeast, midwest, and the west coast are celebrating the midpoint of their summertime, with backyard cookouts, trips to the lake, and the kids being gone for another week or two away at camp, many southern state families are spending these final days of July shopping to replace the clothes and shoes their kids grew out of since last fall, and hectically going through the school district’s mandatory shopping list, in preparation for a return back to school soon.

In Tennessee, as with most southern states, students return to school before the end of August. In the Middle Tennessee area, which includes Nashville, students will be back to school by the first week of the month! Can you even imagine?

For one of the neighboring counties of Nashville, the busses will start rolling out this Wednesday, August 1. And almost all of the other area counties will follow less than a week later, with returns on August 6, 7, and 8! So if you sense a little panic from your southern Facebook and Instagram friends with kids, now you know why.

Fortunately, this is also Tax-free weekend (July 27-29) for the state of Tennessee. For those whose states may not offer this, it is a weekend once a year when parents can stock up for the school year, buying clothes, shoes, school supplies, and even computers, and pay no sales tax. In a state where the sales tax is 9.75%, that shopping bill can add up really fast. But so does the savings, if you plan ahead and do most, if not all, of your shopping during this time period. I mean, imagine a college student being able to save almost $100 for that $1,000 computer they need, by just choosing to purchase it this weekend versus next!

And now that parents are tasked with buying supplies for more than just their own child, planning your shopping adventure is even more important.

This is an actual list of school supplies for one of the local elementary schools:
  • Colored Pencils – Box(es)
  • Crayons – 24 Count
  • #2 Yellow/Wood Pencils Sharpened with Erasers, 24 Pack
  • Glue Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Ruler 12″ Standard/Metric
  • Protractor
  • Pocket Folders
  • Pens
  • Composition Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Spiral Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Package(s) of Sticky Notes
  • Box(es) of Facial Tissues
  • Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Canister(s)
  • Package(s) of Filler Paper, Wide Ruled

A Middle school list in the same district looks like this:

  • Pens, Blue
  • Pens, Black
  • Pens, Red
  • Pencils, #2
  • Package(s) of Cap Erasers
  • Package(s) of Filler Paper, Wide Ruled
  • Notebook paper
  • Package(s) of Graph Paper
  • 1″ Binders
  • Write On Dividers
  • Composition Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Highlighters
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Colored Pencils – Box(es)
  • Hand Sanitizer – Bottle(s)
  • Canister(s) of Disinfecting Wipes
  • Box(es) of Kleenex Facial Tissues
  • Paper Towels – Roll(s)
  • Duct Tape
  • Hot Glue Gun Glue Sticks
  • Package(s) of Index Cards
  • Box(es) of Reclosable Storage Bags
  • Package(s) of Printer/Copier Paper – Colored
  • Masking Tape
  • Package(s) of Plastic Cups
  • Box(es) of Plastic Forks

So don’t just shop. Shop wisely.

  • Shop at the right stores.  Find the ones that have the lowest price on the things you need.
  • Use coupons. As you see, the school supply lists have grown way beyond pencils and paper. Look for store or manufacture coupons for those paper towels, toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, and Purell that many schools now require.
  • For your student heading off to college, check out yard sales and online sites where you can find inexpensive desks, chairs, bookcases, and other things for their dorm room and apartment.
  • And don’t be too embarrassed to shop at discount stores and places like Goodwill, where they also offer special discounts on top of their lower prices, including a 10% Student Discount on Sundays; a 10% Senior Adult Discount on Tuesdays; and 10% Military discount on Wednesday. Again, every little bit helps!

When it comes down to it, making the most of your time and saving the most of your money, requires some planning and preparation. But your bank account will thank you for all of the dollars you save. And you’ll thank yourself when that money comes in handy later; usually unexpectedly.

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Back to School Time

Don’t shoot the messenger, but the clock is ticking down to the start of the new school year! Now, for those of you northerners and west coast readers, you’re probably thinking, that woman’s crazy! We just got out a few weeks ago, and the fall start is almost two months away. Right? Well..wrong…if you live in the Southern states. My home state of Tennessee is headed back to class the first week of August. You read correctly.

Three weekends from now, several southern state parents will be franticly running around the shopping malls and discount stores, trying to finish up their required school supply lists, and purchase clothes and computer items needed for that following week. Maybe that’s why the planned Sales Tax Holiday for some states, including Tennessee, begins at the end of this month (July 29-31).

Now for those of you whose kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day, take a moment to catch your breath, lest that jaw dropping, big gasp moment finds you at a permanent loss of air.

Yes, gone are the days when summer break is a three-month vacation; except for most college students. But as a (really small) business owner, in addition to my full-time job as a college professor, this is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s not because I’m looking forward to getting stuck behind a school bus, or having to slow down through school zones, and everything else that school being back in brings! But I am looking forward to taking advantage of all of the back to school sales and savings that are about to kick off this week!

And while I don’t have any kids in school, that doesn’t keep me from taking advantage of stocking up on supplies during the sales tax holiday weekend. Remember, I’m all about planning ahead and saving money in the process. So as I look to expand my own back to work wardrobe, I might as well do it during the back to school sales extravaganza!

Now’s a good time to be on the lookout for what’s being offered. For starters, the one cent sale (on select items) is back at Office Depot. Other stores like Staples, Walmart, and Target, among others, have the predictable savings on basic school supplies as well as technology needs. So it’s not too early for you to do a little online research to seek out the best savings for what your household’s needs are, which helps to eliminate wasting gas driving all over town for different items, or paying too much for certain ones.

Want to read more about Back to School savings, check out this article on CBS Money Watch.

Why Shopping this Weekend Could Save You Lots of Money

Tomorrow is our nation’s 239th birthday anniversary. Happy Independence Day! Celebrate the importance of the day. Hang out with friends and family, and enjoy cookouts and outdoor games in the neighborhood.

But after you get that electric ice cream maker going, and before you throw those hamburgers on the grill — GO SHOPPING!

This 4th of July weekend kicks off one of, if not THE, best times to shop for summer.

Why wait until July to shop for summer items? That’s easy. Because our retailers have become so obsessed with what I call “season jumping” that they put seasonal items on sale in the middle of the actual season the items are intended for, desperate to make space for items of the next season! For those of us in the South, that means summer’s out, and Fall’s Back to School items are in. The commercials have already started running!

You need more sunscreen, citronella candles, tiki torches, planters, lawn and patio furniture, outdoor fans and even grills? Head over to your Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and other stores like that. Want some colorful outdoor pillows, unique outdoor lanterns, lighting, and picnic items like plastic plates, utensils, and cups? Go check out places like Target, Pier 1, and even a grocery store like Kroger.  Remember, those red, white, and blue napkins aren’t just be for the holidays. Grab on-sale red today, use for a Christmas or Valentine’s gathering later. Blue? White? Anytime!

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But maybe you don’t need any more outdoor living supplies. This weekend is also great for buying summer clothing and shoes. Tank tops, shorts, sundresses and sandles have to go to make room for the more school-appropriate pants, skirts, tops and even sweaters. Yes, some retailers rack sweaters in their stores in August!

For the South, although our kids return to school by the second week of August, we still have three more months of hot-to-warm outdoor living. So that retailer rush that traditionally kicks off over the Independence Day weekend, is a great time for you to take advantage of the often 50%-75% off for things you need anyway, or can buy now and use next summer!

And don’t forget your gift closet. Grab some items now to give as gifts later — birthdays, Christmas, weddings, hostess, coaches, and babysitter gifts. Or just treat yourself. I did during the Bath and Body Semi-Annual Sale (still going on now), with bath, body, and home items up to 75% off. Why not send some of those wallflowers off to college with your coed for their dorm room? They’ll probably appreciate it. Or get a new calming candle for your office? Or hand lotion for your purse.

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No, I don’t own stock in any of these companies (but maybe I should). I just want to make sure my friends spend wisely. And there’s nothing like catching sales today for something you might need tomorrow and saving money in the process because of your advance planning for it all!

Back to School? Already!?

Yes, it really IS that time of year again. Well at least for those who live in the southern states! While our northern counterparts get to enjoy the true time period of the summer months, most southern states head back to school before the unofficial, but always noted, Labor Day end of the season. For some states, like here in Tennessee, that means the countdown to the return to classes has already started, with some places in the T-minus three weeks, and counting…

Yes, I actually said THREE WEEKS! One Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets facebook community member indicated that her kids start back on August 1st!! Maybe that’s why stores such as Walmart, Target, CVS, Staples, and others have already started their big Back to School online push. A lot of these specials are only good through the end of this week. So even if your kids don’t return to school until September, you might want to go ahead and check out some of these super specials they’re posting. I found a link to a great website that lists each separate store’s school supplies specials: Back to School Specials

Hey, and an idea for those of you who don’t have school-aged kids, how about picking up some of these supplies yourself (several items under a dollar) and dropping a bag of school supplies off at your church for them to distribute to parents in need!

So get out and take advantage of opportunities to catch raindrops in your water buckets!