Monday, September 5, 2011

Is the nest half full or half empty when they come home on the weekends?

We just survived our daughter's first year of college. Everything that I imagined could happen happened. Wrong roommates, partying, home sickness, a friend's alcohol poisoning, average grades, and 2AM texts to get her out of there. But it was good too in a way. She learned to manage and grew emotionally. The second semester went much smoother and she had good grades. She pledged to the sorority of her choice and called us at one in the morning when she got her bid.
For you parents out there who don't know what you're getting into in a couple of months, or for you who know and would like to compare war stories, I created this blog titled: A child's first year of college from the parents' point of view: Is the nest half full or half empty if they come home on the weekends?
Why do I use parent in singular form even though her father lives under the same roof? Because it is different for the men who, as in our case, snore away obliviously on the couch while the mother gets texts and horror emails from her only child away in college. The father gets clued in when the drama is over and the kid has moved on.
I will give you detailed updates at least once or twice a week about the previous year (I saved all our emails). Since I already know that it has a happy ending, I can give you the gory details without worrying you too much.

For privacy, I have changed all names.
Now come along for the ride...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How A Warehouseman And a Receptionist Put Their Daughter Through College Without Loans, Scholarships, or Financial Aid

We live in an old, Cape Cod style house in Central New Jersey, where property taxes and car insurances are one of the highest in the country. With overtime and both working full time, we make under $90,000/year, and now live on $22,000 less. (The daughter works part time and pays for gas, clothes and her entertainment) We own three paid-off cars which we bought used, and other than a mortgage, we have no debt, not even in college loans. Our daughter is able to live on campus because we changed our lifestyle years ago. Here is what we do:
29 1/2 Ways to Keep Your Money

1)      Shopping should be done out of necessity, not for entertainment, unless you’re a seller on eBay. Think of malls like museums; you can look, but you can't touch.
2)      Read these books: “Not Buying It – My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine and “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn
3)      I don’t care about shoes and I hate shopping, especially nowadays with all the questions you have to answer at the cash register. Can I just buy the damn shirt without having to go home and fill out a survey?!
4)      You don’t have to buy everything you want. Sleep on it for three days, then make your decision.
5)      I do my own manicure, pedicure, and eyebrows. I also cut, perm, and color my own hair, but I have been trained as a hairdresser, so I get away with it.
6)      Eat at home. You don’t have to cook every day, just make a couple sandwiches and have some chocolate afterwards. It won’t kill you. I never buy lunch at work.
7)      I hang-dry the laundry, in every season. You can’t replicate the fragrance of cold winter air.
8)      Walk the dog instead of going to the gym. Our office building recently added a gym and every employee can use it free of charge. There are free exercise programs on TV.
9)      Divert a set amount from your paycheck directly to a savings account, so you won’t miss it. I will not tell you how much both the husband and I are able to add into it every month, but it is substantial.
10)  Reuse and wear it out. Learn to sew on a button and fix a tear. My grandmother taught me that after she lived through both World Wars.
11)  My hobbies are reading and writing. Ninety-five percent of the books I read are from the library. When I write, I am entertained for hours. I hardly ever feel the urge to go out, go shopping, or go on a trip.
12)  If you do go on a day trip, bring water bottles and sandwiches. In New York City, buy street vendor food. It’s good and cheap.
13)  Thermostat setting: Wear sweaters. 'Nuff said.
14)  Turn off: Water while brushing teeth, lights, TV when not in use
15)  Visit an elderly friend or relative instead of hanging at the mall on a boring Sunday afternoon. Ask them to tell you about the past. That's the real reality show.
16)  Forget sales; don't buy it and you save even more. Yeah, yeah, then you don't have this or that. The euphoric feeling lasts what, five minutes? Oh, and about helping the economy: First of all, there are too many stores and restaurants to keep in business. Second, what hurts the economy more - buying less and paying for it, or going bankrupt? And third, not everybody has a kid in college.
17)  Children do not need to eat lobster for dinner. People are crazy.
18)  Thinking of going away on vacation? Not for awhile, buddy. Unless you visit family/friends out of state/country and stay with them. No freeloading, so don't forget to reciprocate.
19)  Christmas presents: Tell friends and family that there will be no or less presents while you’re getting your child through college. There is no dishonor in that because it is the plain truth. It will not be like this forever. Make home-baked cookies and get together anyway. If they have issues, wait until their kids go to college, hehehe.
20)  The more tchotchkes, the more you have to dust.
21)  Having three or more children can break the bank, even marriages. I see it all the time. I have 1.5 children (stepson who lives across country), because that is all we can comfortably afford.
22)  Don’t even think about gambling.
23)  I buy mostly food that is on sale, and make from scratch.
24)  One kid, one dog, one cat, one husband. Keep it simple.
25)  House: Buy smaller than you can afford. Brag about how frugal you are, not how you spend all your money. Being broke is embarrassing and very stressful.
26)  Admit when you can’t afford something. Or say, “I don’t want to spend my money on this.”
27)  Look at saving and accumulating money like a sport, a challenge, a game.
28)  Stay married
29)  Save up
29.5) Try it for one…
I am not telling you what to do. I am telling you how we do it and that it works. For the third time in a row, I was able to write an $11,000 check, with money coming straight out of an old-fashioned savings account. When the daughter is done with college, we will get an automatic pay raise. Oh wait, then there might be a wedding next J