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Posts tagged with: Saving Money

How to Make College More Affordable: An Insider’s Perspective

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By Gina Stewart

As a higher education advocate and counselor, I have helped many people, ranging in age from high school graduates to adult professionals, enroll in higher education, only to see them get in way over their heads when it comes to finances. Pressured to meet enrollment numbers, admissions advisors are often guilty of selling the my kids and clients “the dream” without painting a realistic picture of the financial burden that they’re going to saddle these students with after graduation.

Here is what I tell my kids and clients: College, at any level, is expensive. Anyone selling you the dream of higher education without also providing an accurate accounting of the costs and associated difficulties, is doing you a disservice. While I will not share with you the horror stories I have witnessed in an abusive and unchecked system, I can give you some advice on how to spend as little of your money as you can to get the best return on investment possible.

Here are the most important pieces of advice that I offer to every hopeful student I work with:

Get a Degree that Pays

The most important advice I can give to anyone running the financial aid gauntlet is to get serious about the investment, and choose a degree that will pay off in the end. While it is great that many schools offer degree programs in subjects like art history and music appreciation (I majored in music theory and composition so I know whereof I speak), these programs aren’t going to help you get hired outside of your field.

It is better to get your degree in a field that pays well from a school that has a solid track-record of placing students in jobs within the first six months of graduation.

For example, I helped one of my kids enroll in the radiation therapy bachelor’s degree program offered at Gwynedd Mercy U, located here in Pennsylvania. I explained that radiation therapy is a degree that she could carry with her wherever she went and, if she wanted to further pursue medicine or health would pay her enough to help fund that education while simultaneously giving her a leg up on her fellow students. Whatever university and degree combo you choose, make sure it is one that has a good chance of paying off (and that travels well).

Online University

If you are still carrying some doubt about the efficacy of online universities, get over it. When I was an admissions advisor for a major online university back in the day, I understood people’s reticence about joining the program. Today, though, we live on the internet and recent high school graduates are literally younger than household access to the web.

Many of the degrees that are now available online can lead to some highly lucrative careers in a variety of different industries. For example, you can complete a nursing degree online, which puts you on the fast track to paying for your education and earning a very nice living. There are always jobs available in the nursing sector, as hospitals, private clinics, and many other facilities require trained workers. The industry is expected to grow by 22 percent by 2018, since the country’s population is aging, giving you even more chances to find a great job.

Here’s what I told a man who had been downsized out of his retail management position: At the end of the day, you are going to get a solid education at an accredited school, and land a job that pays well. Your interviewer will not disregard your application because you went to a school with an online component. He went after a business degree from one of the most well known online schools in the country and now he’s making three times what he used to make.

Get on the Fast Track

Another thing that I tell everyone I work with is this: If you have the option to get it done quickly, get it done quickly. The longer you are in school, the more it is going to cost you. It’s good to look for programs that have an accelerated option. If you already have some college credits, see if you can CLEP out of the core. That could save you two years, and thousands of dollars. One of my students was looking to transfer from a community college to a four year university. We found her an accelerated program that let her finish the last two years of her bachelor’s degree in just one year. Her current employer was impressed that she took such initiative and even listed it as part of the reason my client was hired!

Let’s face it: College is expensive. But if you do it right, it is one of the best investments you will ever make.


Some Simple Ways I Reduced My Debt and Everyday Living Expenses

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By Martin Fine

Almost all of us reading BAD have struggled financially at one time or another. Most of us who have found our way here try to spend more frugally, but it wasn’t always that way for me. There was a time when I lived with the attitude that the money doesn’t go with me to the grave. While living like the later may have been more enjoyable in the moment, it’s was stressful day in and day our when I didn’t have money to pay the bills and caused me to take out ill advised loans and to sell things I wish I hadn’t.

Here are some simple ways that I have reduced debt over the years.

Rent: If you are paying rent like I do you can’t be afraid of your landlord. Let the landlord know that times are tough and ask for a rent reduction if you sign a longer term lease. By doing this, the landlord let me save $50.00 a month for signing on for another year. A savings of $600 just for asking. There is a theory that if you ask you have a chance of receiving. If you keep quiet you will never know. Remember you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you are paying your mortgage each month check out the possibility of refinancing and getting a lower rate than certainly explore this possibility.

Water Bill: I found that my water bill fluctuated a lot. The culprits? Well showering too long, leaving the hose on, and not repairing leaks were some of the culprits, Addressing these issues have saved me $100 so far this calendar year (pro rated). While all of these “leaks” were tiny, when I tightened everything the monthly bills started to go down.

Electricity: Always know that in the summer and the winter there are ways to save on electricity. A few things like using less natural gas, pellet stoves, and buying energy savers like LED light bulbs and adjusting your devices. In fact there are over 100 different tips (PDF) from First Energy Corporation that I used such as adjusting my thermostat and saving $65.00 so far this calendar year.

Health Insurance: There’s no price you can put on your life right? Well, that is correct, but you also don’t have to overpay. I called my representative and let them know times are tough and again ask to save. While I only was able to squeeze out $5.00 a month savings when I pleaded my case, it was still an extra $60 in my pocket.

Renters Insurance: I never opt for additional insurance and you shouldn’t either. This is a tough call and I think it depends a lot of what you own, but I opted to cancel mine and go without. Renters insurance isn’t too expensive, but I needed to save every dollar I could. It was a chance. Had something happened, I would have been on the hook, but I thought it was worth teh risk since I didn’t have anything that was too expensive to replace. I took a pass and rolled the dice and it worked out for me.

Entertainment & Meals: When I was at the Naval academy I learned that the best food is free food. While only when others are looking for business advice do I receive those free meals. So when I am on my own I check out deals on Groupon and Restaurant.com which offer all sorts of great specials and deals for when you eat out. If you are not too health conscious shopping at the secondary grocery stores and buying the BOGO (buy one get one deals) always pays off. Once I lived off of Pasta, Rice, and Shrimp. I spent $25.00 and it fed me for a whole month. Yes you read that correctly. Maybe take a month to test it out and see how much you can save on food and take the Pasta, Shrimp, and rice challenge.

Gas & Car Expenses: GasBuddy is a site that you hear all about when Gas Prices are at all-time highs, but what about when they are low? Well that’s where the frugal mindset looking to pay off debt comes in. I make sure to save money by shopping out the cheapest gas year round not just when prices are high.

I had a difficult choice to make when things were tightest. I had a settlement that was paying me a small amount each month that I relied on, and I was tempted to cash it in. That would have been the easiest way to handle the situation. I considered it enough to search the pros and cons of a loan against my lawsuit settlement, but ultimately decided against it. I count on that small amount monthly, and if I cashed it out, I would have had money now, but lost the income each month. It initially seemed a good idea, but taking up more sound financial debt reduction ideas like the ones stated above was a more feasible long term solution for me.

The thing I learned most was that the easy solution isn’t always the best solution. Taking steps to make my overall finances more sound was the best move I could make even though it took a bit more work. Those are savings I will be able to keep without having to give up anything in return which was the best move for me.