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Budgeting for an Education

January 23rd, 2012 at 02:31 pm

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.

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.

Savings

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 08:15 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.

Budget and Reality: Combining Both

December 21st, 2011 at 04:20 pm

When you're managing the budget for a family of four, it's tricky enough. You have to know precisely how much you and your significant other are bringing in and when, and you have to be able to make this income stretch to meet all of your family's needs. Now, imagine that you are a family of three – that is, a single parent with two children relying on you for all of their needs.

This is where it starts to get really tricky. Whereas before, you have two breadwinners pitching in, and there was sometimes money left over for "fun things", those days are long gone. Now you understand what it feels like to be the end-all-be-all for everything—judo classes, ballet lessons, schoolbooks, a wardrobe that must keep up with ever-growing children—plus have enough left over every month for those pesky bills and your mortgage payment.

So what should I do?

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the first thing to do is try to take it easy on yourself. Avoid comparing your finances to anyone else's, even another single parent. Instead, encourage yourself at every turn, even—especially—when things seem to be going to roughest. By keeping your confidence high and your optimism intact, you are more likely to stay on track with your intended budget, and avoid behaviors like impulse shopping and overspending.
Yeah, all of that sounds great, but how what should I do next?

After you are confident in yourself and your abilities, then roll your sleeves up and get to work. You should basically start to think of everything that you buy as taking away from possible future purchases. In this way, you can start to see where you are nickel-and-diming your money away, and you will be able to reign in spending. Even simple steps like clipping coupons, packing a lunch, and investing in a reusable water bottle and filling up at the tap can help you save tons of money.

As you're focusing on these "small details", also start to take note of which bills are due when and how much these bills are on average. Once you have a good idea of when all of your bills are due, decide which bills will get paid with which paycheck (for example, electricity, cable, and phone will be paid with first paycheck of the month, rent and car insurance will be paid with the second). If you must, list everything out for the next six months, with your pay dates heading columns that contain which bills are due at that time.

Finally, start looking into a budget worksheet, where you can organize everything into one place and see at a glance where your money is being spent, how much will be left over every month, and so forth. This way, you can be sure that all of your money is being well spent, and the likelihood of actually having extra money every month increases.

And on a final note…

While I may have made this seem very simple and cut-and-dried, the reality is that, depending upon the state of your financial affairs, this process may take weeks, or even months, to fine tune. If you are contending with debt in addition to your everyday expenditures, then it may be daunting to see everything written out on paper.

However, the more organized you are throughout this process, the easier it will go overall. Additionally, if you are honest with yourself, and cut yourself just a little slack, then what may have seemed hopeless at one point will now seem much more bearable, and you will understand that you are not alone. There are many others who share your frustration, but you can and will make it through this in one piece.

Budget and Reality: Combining Both

December 19th, 2011 at 02:59 pm

When you're managing the budget for a family of four, it's tricky enough. You have to know precisely how much you and your significant other are bringing in and when, and you have to be able to make this income stretch to meet all of your family's needs. Now, imagine that you are a family of three – that is, a single parent with two children relying on you for all of their needs.

This is where it starts to get really tricky. Whereas before, you have two breadwinners pitching in, and there was sometimes money left over for "fun things", those days are long gone. Now you understand what it feels like to be the end-all-be-all for everything—judo classes, ballet lessons, schoolbooks, a wardrobe that must keep up with ever-growing children—plus have enough left over every month for those pesky bills and your mortgage payment.

So what should I do?

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the first thing to do is try to take it easy on yourself. Avoid comparing your finances to anyone else's, even another single parent. Instead, encourage yourself at every turn, even—especially—when things seem to be going to roughest. By keeping your confidence high and your optimism intact, you are more likely to stay on track with your intended budget, and avoid behaviors like impulse shopping and overspending.

Yeah, all of that sounds great, but how what should I do next?

After you are confident in yourself and your abilities, then roll your sleeves up and get to work. You should basically start to think of everything that you buy as taking away from possible future purchases. In this way, you can start to see where you are nickel-and-diming your money away, and you will be able to reign in spending. Even simple steps like clipping coupons, packing a lunch, and investing in a reusable water bottle and filling up at the tap can help you save tons of money.

As you're focusing on these "small details", also start to take note of which bills are due when and how much these bills are on average. Once you have a good idea of when all of your bills are due, decide which bills will get paid with which paycheck (for example, electricity, cable, and phone will be paid with first paycheck of the month, rent and car insurance will be paid with the second). If you must, list everything out for the next six months, with your pay dates heading columns that contain which bills are due at that time.

Finally, start looking into a budget worksheet, where you can organize everything into one place and see at a glance where your money is being spent, how much will be left over every month, and so forth. This way, you can be sure that all of your money is being well spent, and the likelihood of actually having extra money every month increases.

And on a final note…

While I may have made this seem very simple and cut-and-dried, the reality is that, depending upon the state of your financial affairs, this process may take weeks, or even months, to fine tune. If you are contending with debt in addition to your everyday expenditures, then it may be daunting to see everything written out on paper.

However, the more organized you are throughout this process, the easier it will go overall. Additionally, if you are honest with yourself, and cut yourself just a little slack, then what may have seemed hopeless at one point will now seem much more bearable, and you will understand that you are not alone. There are many others who share your frustration, but you can and will make it through this in one piece