Money Matters: Don’t Let Back-to-School Tasks Sneak up on You

By Jason Alderman  PracticalMoneySkills.com

Parents, if this is your first time at the back-to-school rodeo, let me share a few lessons my wife and I have learned the hard way. Chances are you’ll be spending the next few weeks filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, taking the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.

Back to School CostsIf you’re a first-timer or simply need a back-to-school refresher course, here are a few suggestions that can help you save time, money and sanity:

Get organized. Maintain a correspondence file from your kid’s school for things like registration requirements, report cards, permission slips, required vaccinations, school policies, teacher and parent contact information, etc. Ask whether the school has a website, online calendar or email list you can join. Also, create a family master calendar.

Back-to-school shopping. Between new clothes, classroom supplies and extracurricular activity fees and equipment, many parents end up spending hundreds of dollars per child. Ideally, you’ve been setting money aside all year. If not, you’ll need to determine what you can afford to spend without blowing your overall budget.

Here are a few organizational and money-saving tips:

  • Before you shop, make a comprehensive list for each child. Use previous years’ expenses as a guide and compare notes with other parents and school officials.
  • Engage your kids in the budgeting process. Share how much money is available to spend and get them involved in prioritizing expenses between “needs” and “wants.”
  • Go through your kids’ closets and have them try on everything. Make an inventory of items that fit and are in good shape, and take it when shopping so you don’t accidentally buy duplicates. (While you’re at it, share, sell or donate unneeded items.)
  • Spread clothing purchases throughout the year so your kids don’t outgrow everything at once. Many stores hold fall clearance sales to make room for holiday merchandise.
  • Review the school’s dress code so you don’t waste money on inappropriate clothing.
  • Although shopping online can save money, time and gas, don’t forget to factor in shipping and return costs, which could undo any net savings. If your kids are old enough, put them in charge of online comparison shopping and coupon clipping.
  • Ask which school supplies you’re expected to buy. Go in with other families to take advantage of volume discounts and sales.
  • Find out how much extracurricular activities (athletics, music, art, etc.) cost. Account for uniforms, membership dues, private lessons, field trips, snacks, etc.
  • Rent or buy used sporting equipment or musical instruments until you’re sure they’ll stick with an activity.
  • Know when to spend more for higher quality. Cheaper notebook paper shouldn’t matter, but don’t buy poorly made shoes that might hamper proper physical development.
  • Before buying new clothing or accessories, look for “gently used” items in the closets of your older kids and friends, at garage sales, thrift and consignment stores and online.
  • Clip newspaper and online coupons. Many stores will match competitors’ prices even if their own items aren’t on sale. Plus, many consolidation websites post downloadable coupons and sale codes for online retailers, including: CouponCabin.com, CouponCode.com, CouponCraze.com, DealHunting.com and Dealnews.com.
  • Mobile shopping apps let in-store smartphone and mobile browser users scan product barcodes and make on-the-spot price comparisons, read reviews, download coupons, buy products and more.
  • Follow your favorite retailers on Facebook and Twitter, where many post special savings for their followers.

Bottom line: If you get organized before setting out on back-to-school shopping, you can save money, time and aggravation.

 

Treasurer’s Top 10: Morton County

This week, we highlight Morton County! Here’s a look at the Top 10 people and businesses there with unclaimed assets. Do you know anyone below?

Morton County, Point of Rocks

Point of Rocks–Cimarron National Grasslands of Morton county in southwestern Kansas.

If so, have them check out www.kansascash.com  and search their name to make a claim. They can also call 800-432-0386 (toll-free) or 785-296-4165.

  1. Rebecca Payne
  2. Clint Thomason
  3. Carl G. Payne
  4. Helen L. Swagerty
  5. Ray White
  6. Robert F. Hornberger
  7. Rick D. Claassen
  8. Melvin Forbes
  9. David Kyle Scott
  10. Mae Harlan

Treasurer’s Top 10: Sherman County

This week, we highlight Sherman County! Here’s a look at the Top 10 people and businesses there with unclaimed assets. Do you see anyone on this list you know?

Sherman County CourthouseIf so, have them check out www.kansascash.com  and search their name to make a claim. They can also call 800-432-0386 (toll-free) or 785-296-4165.

  1. Janette M. Rust
  2. James H. Wing
  3. Marian W. Linthacum
  4. Norma Topliff
  5. Nancy Gibson
  6. Sheryl L. Davis
  7. Darral S. Craft
  8. Ryan J. Weis
  9. Mary S. & William E. Wendt
  10. Lois A. Maes

Money Matters: The Costs of Parenting

Costs of ParentingHow can something so small cause such a major upheaval in your life? Not the least of this upheaval is financial. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average middle-income family will spend over $241,080 raising a child until the age 18 — and that does not include any college costs.

But just as you find the extra time and energy you will need to take care of the little bundle of consuming joy, you can also find ways to work it out financially with the help of PracticalMoneySkills.com.

Planning for Parenthood

Brace yourself. You will be spending much more than expected to buy things you never even thought of. Start planning financially for having a baby as soon as you can – before conception if possible.

Set aside as much as you can every month in a savings account. The actual event of birth can be expensive as well as all the first time purchases you’ll make. Don’t forget to save some money for your maternity or paternity leave. This is usually unpaid time off work.

How much do you need? As much as you can save. Any funds left over make a great starter for a college fund. If you’ve amassed a considerable amount well before the due date, you can invest in a short-term CD or other insured investment. But don’t tie up your entire fund in investments. Babies will not sign contracts and they have not agreed to your schedule.

Have a brainstorming session with an experienced parent to figure out all the things you need to purchase before the delivery. It will be extremely helpful to have most of what you need before the baby is born. Your spare shopping time after birth is reduced drastically. If you need to shop after the baby is born, try the Internet. Nobody on the Internet cares how loud your baby is crying, what you are wearing or what time it is when your baby gives you a free moment to shop.

Here’s a starter list for your brainstorming session. This is far from a complete list, but it will help get you thinking.

  • Car Seat By law, you can’t even take the baby home from the hospital without one.
  • Crib You want one that meets the highest safety standards.
  • Bassinet One with wheels will add to your mobility around the house.
  • Stroller Consider getting one that’s part of a stroller/car seat combo. It makes transitions easier.
  • Baby Monitor “Baby calling Parents, come in, Parents.”
  • Safety Gate Keep your newly mobile child away from staircases and other hazards.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Most companies don’t provide paid maternity leave – and don’t have to. The Family and Medical Leave Act, which only applies if a company has more than 50 employees, ensures mothers should be able to return to their old job or an equivalent job up to 12 weeks after they begin their leave. The actual policy varies from company to company, especially if the company has fewer than 50 employees.

If you are a father, ask your employer about paternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act does not cover this time, but many employers are offering the same or similar benefits to their male employees.

Plan monetarily for maternity and paternity leave, as it is unpaid. You may be able to save up sick time and vacation time to continue receiving income for several weeks. But most likely, you will lose some income during this time.

Treasurer’s Top 10: Johnson County

This week, we highlight Johnson County! Here’s a look at the Top 10 people and businesses there with unclaimed assets. Do you see anyone on this list you know?

Johnson County Courthouse

Children of the Trails sculpture, Johnson County Courthouse, Olathe, KS

If so, have them check out www.kansascash.com  and search their name to make a claim. They can also call 800-432-0386 (toll-free) or 785-296-4165.

  1. Beverley Jean Worrall
  2. William J. Miller
  3. Stephen K. Sinclair
  4. Wilda N. Hataway
  5. Amy Lou Stern
  6. Haake Company
  7. Kshama T. Narayana
  8. John H. Thompson
  9. Catherine Anne & John J. Farr
  10. Michael L. Hodges

Money Matters: Ways to trim college costs

Here’s a new twist on an old saying. There are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes and college costs that go up every year, even during a recession. How can students and parents avoid the “extreme borrowing” phenomenon that can lead to years of burdensome loan payments? 360FinancialLiteracy.org recommends looking for ways to trim college costs so they won’t have to borrow and/or pay as much in the first place. Here are some ideas.

College costsPick a college with a lower sticker price

Pricey private colleges often like to point out that the majority of their students don’t pay the full “sticker price.” The problem is, you never quite know how much, exactly, their students are paying. Every student’s aid package is different, and the presence of merit aid awards makes the picture even murkier. Private colleges with the biggest endowments can afford to be the most generous (replacing loans with grants in aid packages, for example, or guaranteeing merit aid for all four years), but not every private college can do this. Even if a college takes $15,000 or $20,000 off its sticker price, that may still leave $30,000 or more to pay each year.

In the past few years, enrollment at public colleges has soared due to their lower sticker prices—public colleges are typically half the cost of private colleges and, for in-state residents, the savings can be even greater. Education experts often debate the benefits of spending more money to attend a well-known, more prestigious private college vs. a public college. But it’s generally agreed that motivated, bright students can succeed anywhere, and that after a certain period of time, job experience matters more than where you went to college.

Consider taking a year off

The number of students taking time off between high school and college is growing in a measurable way. This period, commonly referred to as a “gap year,” is typically spent volunteering, traveling, working and/or interning. One of the main benefits of a gap year is the increased maturity and focus that comes from engaging in new experiences. These traits can help students get their money’s worth in college by sharpening study habits and career goals. Another benefit is the potential to earn money to pay for college. For example, working full-time for 42 weeks (10 months) at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour equals about $12,180 before taxes. Or, for the volunteer-minded, the AmeriCorps program currently provides a modest living allowance and a stipend in 2010 of $5,350 in exchange for service work (future stipends will be tied to the maximum federal Pell Grant). And more than 80 colleges now offer matching grants to students who earn an AmeriCorps stipend (see http://www.americorps.gov for more information).

Tweak the typical four-year experience

If your child doesn’t mind forgoing the typical four-year college experience, here are some ways to trim costs:

•Attend a community college for one or two years, then transfer to a four-year institution
•Take AP high school courses to earn college credit and reduce the time in college
•Look at colleges that offer three-year accelerated degree programs
•Consider living at home and commuting to school to save on room-and-board costs
•Research online education options (check out http://www.distance-education.org)

Research scholarships

After your child fills out the federal government’s financial aid application (the FAFSA) and the college’s financial aid application (the standard PROFILE application or the college’s own form), he or she should set aside as much time as possible to research and apply for scholarships. With online searches, students can easily input their talents and background and get a filtered list of relevant scholarships (try http://www.fastweb.com/ or http://www.collegeboard.org/). Also, don’t forget to check with your employer and the local chamber of commerce for scholarships.

Budget well during college

Encourage your child to look for deals on mandatory items like books, supplies and other personal dorm room items. For discretionary items, establish guidelines for a reasonable amount of monthly spending money, but build in flexibility. If you do co-sign a credit card application with your child (a co-signer is now required in most cases for applicants under 21), make sure your child doesn’t succumb to the temptation of easy money. According to a study last year by Sallie Mae, the average college student has $3,200 in credit card debt. Discuss your expectations of credit card usage and make sure your child understands how interest accumulates on unpaid monthly balances.

Treasurer’s Top 10: Wilson County

This week, we highlight Wilson County! Here’s a look at the Top 10 people and businesses there with unclaimed assets. Do you see anyone on this list you know?

If so, have them check out www.kansascash.com  and search their name to make a claim. They can also call 800-432-0386 (toll-free) or 785-296-4165.State Treasurer's Office Seal

  1. Chester & Timothy Puckett
  2. Linda l. Cannon
  3. Fiberglass Engineering Inc
  4. Leonard Powell
  5. Violet Russell
  6. Rosalie Raifsnyder
  7. Patricia J. Guenther
  8. Delbert Secrest
  9. Abe C. Frey
  10. Thomas E. Aubuchon