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Budgeting for an Education

January 23rd, 2012 at 06:31 am

The cost of college continues to increase, and the current economy makes it difficult to budget for a college education. Whether you're studying for a nursing degree or an engineering degree, a college education is expensive, so you must begin preparing early. This process requires you to identify the cost of going to college and ensure your savings will be greater than the expenses.


An effective budget must include basic living expenses such as rent and food. On-campus housing is generally less expensive than living off-campus. You can also reduce your spending by getting a larger apartment and splitting the rent with roommates. The campus cafeteria is typically less expensive than eating out. You can also cut your food costs by buying groceries while taking advantage of coupons and sales. Your budget should include a fund for miscellaneous expenses such as incidentals, entertainment and snacks.

Expenses that are specific to education consist primarily of the tuition, which typically includes laboratory, building and student fees. Additional school expenses include books and other supplies. You will typically sell the textbooks back to the college at the end of each semester. Used books usually cost about half the price of a new book. These education expenses can vary considerably between semesters.


The average cost of attending college was $26,273 as of 2010, according to The Employment Times. This represented a 4.4 percent increase over the previous year, and this trend is expected to continue. So what's to be done?

A 529 fund is a common savings program that can be administered by a college or the state. The primary advantage of these programs is that the withdrawals are generally tax-free. However, a 529 fund is intended for long-term savings and places restrictions on when you can withdraw money.
The key to saving for a college fund consists of performing small actions over a long period. Savings accounts typically earn compound interest, meaning that the interest itself also earns interest. Assume that you begin depositing $100 per month into a savings account when your baby is born. If the account earns compound interest at the rate of 3 percent, the account will have over $28,000 by the time your child is 18 years of age.

It is important to choose a specific amount that you can contribute to a college fund. Long-term savings for an education fund is easier when you don’t have an opportunity to spend the money. Many employers have payroll plans that automatically deduct a portion from your paycheck and deposit it into a savings account.

If you find that you have difficulty saving money, there are many free online budgeting services such as Mint, which collates all of your financial accounts together online or on your mobile device, categorizes all of your spending, allows you to set a budget, and helps you reach your savings goals. Alternately, Quicken is a desktop program that works the same way.
Many find the cost of college prohibitive, and consequently balk at the thought of going. However, with the changes in the job market, employers are becoming increasingly choosy about whom they hire, making a college degree more important than ever before. With a little planning and foresight, you can achieve your dream of being a college graduate, and improve your odds of finding the job of your dreams.

How to Budget for the Unexpected

January 5th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Many families of disabled or seriously injured individuals find themselves deeply in debt by the cost of caring for their loved ones. Therapy and doctor visits, wheelchair accessible vehicles, and home improvements to facilitate equipment and maneuverability of said equipment can quickly add up, making families stress about their changing budgets. Here are ten tips for managing your budget when faced with unexpected expenses.
1. The first thing to do is to take honest inventory of your spending habits. Do you eat out a lot? Do you have a penchant for name brands? While all of these may well have been within your spending range before, when you are faced with new expenses, it's important to prioritize your spending.
2. If you find that there are trends in your spending, such as eating out a lot or buying expensive items, then be brutal with yourself. This may provide temporary discomfort, but when you start feeling as if you can breathe financially, then the pain will subside.
3. Once you have pared down your spending, look at what you have left. Organize this information in some way, whether it's in a simple list or a more complicated spreadsheet. Be sure that you include everything, including rent/mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance, average amount spent on groceries, etc.
4. You may look at this list and see that your spending is still too lavish for your income. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, then that is a sign that you either need to get another job or you need to stop spending as much. After all, if you never have any money left over, then what will you do if another emergency strikes?
5. If changes have to made, especially if they are drastic, be sure to gather everyone in your home together who will be affected by these changes, and speak about them openly and honestly. Be sure that your disabled family member does not feel as if your current economic troubles are their fault. If you have children, use this as an opportunity to teach them about budgeting responsibly.
6. If changes are being made, be sure to lead by example. Once again, this is an opportunity to teach your loved ones about responsible finances; in young children, this may well set a trend for the rest of their lives, which would make it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
7. If you have any opportunity to save money in your day-to-day life, take it! Whether it's clipping coupons and learning how to use them effectively, perusing the discount racks and dollar bins at your favorite store, or simply waiting for items to go on sale, every little bit will help.
8. If you still find that you are having financial difficulties (or are unable to save money), get a second job. This doesn't have to be a permanent thing; often, you can work for a few months in order to get some money tucked away, then go back to your regular 9 to 5.
9. If you have been especially good about sticking to your budget and you can see progress in your finances, then allow yourself a small indulgence. This can be anything, so long as you know that it is a one-time treat, and that you will return to your frugal ways.
10. No matter how dismal your situation may seem, don't lose hope. There are many organizations that can help you with equipment and medical expenses. Additionally, many companies offer discounted or free equipment, if you qualify.

Putting Tanning Beds into a Positive Light

January 2nd, 2012 at 11:38 am

For many, winter is a time of joy. The air is cold and snow is on its way; the holidays line up one after the other, with promises of fun family memories; and children are hoping for a snow day or two.

But for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD, the wintertime has an entirely different meaning. This disorder, which is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency, can cause prolonged, severe, and often debilitating depression throughout the dim days of winter, and there is precious little that can be done to alleviate this.
While there are medications such as Bupropion that have been shown to alleviate some or all of these symptoms, many are reluctant to be on medication, as they feel that they should be able to "shake this off" and return to their normal happy selves. Others worry about becoming dependent on a medication, and prefer more natural methods.

If you fall into this category, you are definitely not alone. Here are three practical things that you can do to help relieve your depression. While the results may not be immediate, you will start to notice a change, especially if you consciously implement these activities into your daily routine.


Due to fears of skin cancer, tanning salons have earned a bad reputation, but this is the first thing that you can do to help with your SAD. Not only will tanning beds provide the Vitamin D that you are lacking from the shorter days and less intense sunlight, but on a more practical level, they provide you with the opportunity to relax and de-stress for a little while, which is always good for those who suffer from SAD. When tanning, be sure to follow the suggestions of the tanning salon, and tan in moderation. If you are unable to find a tanning salon close to you, then you can also buy a light box.


In addition to improving your overall health and increasing your self-confidence—both of which go a long way toward warding off depression—exercise releases endorphins and increases dopamine, which essentially mimics the effects of most antidepressants and helps to alleviate stress and depression. Whether you work out with a certified trainer, or venture into the gym on your own, the key is to get (and stay) active, even after your SAD abates for the year. On a side note, excessive exercise can actually have a detrimental impact on your mental wellbeing, as you will be exhausted and risk the chance of burning out.

Eating Healthy

For many, this is a natural way of life. However, one of the side effects of SAD is a craving for starchy foods in order to increase your energy, which leads to excessive weight gain. This means that, for those who endure SAD, a healthy diet is especially important. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as these are a healthy source of carbs, and lay off of candy, chips, cookies, and other "junk foods." Drink plenty of water and juice and eschew coffee whenever possible. Finally, be sure to take a multivitamin everyday, as this will ensure that your body is getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

The most important thing to remember when you realize that what you thought was simply a case of the winter blues is, in fact, a recognized disorder is that you are not alone. According to FamilyDoctor.org, "between 4% and 6% of people in the US suffer from SAD. Another 10% to 20% may experience a mild form of winter-onset SAD." What this means is that there are plenty of other people who are experiencing what you are experiencing, and you needn't be embarrassed to talk about it with your family and friends, and your doctor. With proper attention, you will find that your symptoms will abate significantly, and things will start to be right in the world again.

Wedding Budgeting

December 19th, 2011 at 08:45 am

In today's economy it can be difficult to see how you can have the wedding you want without going into massive debt trying to pay for it all. The key to having a wedding you'll be happy with while avoiding an empty wallet is effective budgeting. Effective is the key word there. It doesn't matter how meticulously you've planned your expenses if you don't stick to the plan.

The first step toward working within a reasonable budget is to create your budget in the first place. Figure out who's going to be paying for the wedding; will it be the bride's parents, both sets of parents, you or some other combination? When you figure out how much each contributor can and will put into the wedding, you can start to plan your individual items and look for savings when you need to. Having a hard limit for your wedding is a crucial step because it gives you boundaries and forces you to be creative with your planning.


Don't neglect the value of free coupons and bulk discounts. Saving a few cents per wedding favor or invitation could add up to hundreds of dollars in the end. Every time you find a way to save money without sacrificing too much time or compromising your wishes will be worth it in the end.

The Dress

Purchasing a dress from a bridal salon can end up costing more money than you're comfortable spending, but is that the only way? Definitely not! If you have a love for vintage clothing, try looking for classic dresses at consignment shops or antique stores that you can have altered to fit. Though it's not for everyone, if you or a close friend or family member is handy with a sewing machine, you can consider making your dress yourself. Even if you buy your dress at a bridal store, you can take it somewhere else to have it altered if the store is asking too much for alterations.


Providing wedding favors for your guests is a popular tradition that nearly everyone follows. If you want to provide fun wedding favors but don't want to spend a lot of money on them, consider combining them with your décor. Floral centerpieces, candles and fun thrift store jewelry can make excellent little takeaways from your wedding. Also, consider buying items in bulk and finding stores that are going out of business.


Traditional catering options can be expensive. Even if the caterer only charges $9 per person, with even 100 guests you're looking at close to $1000 just for the food. There are a few methods for dealing with this conundrum, however. Try having your wedding in the early afternoon and serving appetizers and desserts. If your wedding and reception take place between lunch and dinnertime, your guests probably won't be that hungry and you can save some cash on food. Another technique that's certainly not for everyone is asking your guests or a few close friends to contribute to the meal by bringing their favorite dish or baking cupcakes for the guests. Depending on how inclined your guests or friends are to bring food in lieu of a gift, you could end up saving money and sharing in some of your guests' favorite recipes!