All ‘Finances’ Posts

20 jun

Bankruptcy: The Power of the Clean Slate

JennaSmithIt doesn’t take many clicks online to find writing and advice on how to shape up your finances, even First30Days has a great financial advice section found here. There are posts on frugal living, retirement, and even investing. Today we are going to talk about another form of professional debt assistance: Bankruptcy.

Chances are you felt an uncomfortable twinge in the pit of your stomach when you read that word. Perhaps it’s because you have always heard that bankruptcy will ruin your credit and your life. Or, perhaps it’s because you have always been told that the only people who file for bankruptcy are incredibly irresponsible and incredibly destitute.

None of those things could be further from the truth.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that, according to a 1934 decision by the Supreme Court, “…gives to the honest but unfortunate debtor…a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort, unhampered by the pressure and discouragement of preexisting debt.”

The goal is to release you from certain debts, and to prevent creditors from taking further action to collect on those debts. Thereby giving you a clean slate, and the ability to move forward and rebuild your life.

There are six basic types of bankruptcy, but only Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 apply to the average consumer debt.

Chapter 7 and Chapter 13

Although both types of bankruptcy apply to regular consumers, they differ greatly in the way they deal with the debt.

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 – the type that most people are familiar with – eliminates all debts except student loans, taxes, court-ordered child or spousal support, and certain other debts to the courts, or local/federal government agencies.

Chapter 7 is usually reserved for people who have no assets, or are willing to give up non-exempt assets to their creditors. These assets could include any credit cards, vehicles under lien, and real estate. Additionally, those who file Chapter 7 usually do not have enough income to pay off their debts.

The average cost for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is $245 to file the case, a $46 administrative fee, a $15 trustee surcharge, plus whatever the attorney charges for his services. With the attorney fees, it could cost as much little as $700 or as $1,500 to file Chapter 7, depending on your geographic location. It could be tempting to save on the attorney fees and file on your own. While that is absolutely an option, it could actually end up costing you in the long run.

The federal government makes frequent changes and amendments to the bankruptcy code, and it’s difficult for a layperson to keep up. Additionally, bankruptcy involves filing a lot of paperwork with the courts. It costs money every time you do anything with the courts. If you file on your own, you could make paperwork mistakes that require you to file corrections and amendments, which could greatly increase the usual filing and court fees. Worst-case scenario, you could fail to get your debts discharged, which means you’ve just spent a lot of money to end up right back where you started.

Your best bet is to go with a knowledgeable and experienced Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer because they can do it right the first time and, ultimately, save you time and money. Their targeted area of expertise will generate a more substantial possibly for a positive outcome.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 does not eliminate all debts and you may be able to include debts to the courts, or local/federal government agencies in the filing.

Chapter 13 is usually reserved for people who have assets they wish to keep and have enough income to make a payment agreement with the courts. Under Chapter 13, you could end up paying back all, or part, of your debts over a seven-to-ten-year period. The amount you pay will depend on your income, how much the courts can negotiate with your creditors, and which assets you want to keep.

The average cost for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is $235 to file the case, and a $46 administrative fee, plus whatever the attorney charges for his services. With the attorney fees, it could cost as little as $1,500, or as much as $5, 000 to file Chapter 13, depending on your geographic area.

As with the Chapter 7, although it is cheaper to file alone, you will have a better result if you use the services of a reliable and experienced attorney.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on June 20th, 2014 in Finances | No comments Read related posts in

19 mar

Frugal Is to Smart as Cheap Is to Dumb: Intelligent Financial Decisions for Families

JennaSmithI think we can all agree that the price of living in the United States seems to be a bit of a puzzle to which many pieces have gone missing.

We’ve seen a rising cost in just about everything and we get a twinge of envy whenever we hear about what it used to cost in the past.

A lot of individuals would like to bring politics into the situation (and rightly so) but I believe a lot has to do with our lifestyle and the changes we’ve adopted over years of consumption.

Frugal vs Cheap

I believe Ramit Sethi (of IWTYTBR fame) said it quite well when it comes to cheap vs frugal:

· Cheap people care about the cost of something.

· Frugal people care about the value of something.

For me it really seems that people get lazy when it comes to their consumer habits. They seek convenience. They want it product or service to be cheap and readily available because it satisfies their emotional urge to possess (or experience) the item.

Then there are those that are willing to bide their time and conduct research before making a purchase.

These are the people that can handle the ups and downs of our economy. They’re the ones’ whom develop lifestyles which sustains stable, reliable growth in finances.

The Science of Smart Financial Living

It’s not just the concept of frugal living that guides people toward smart buying decisions. It’s really about a shift in ones’ mindset. It’s why I had mentioned the whole value vs cost. You can spend big bucks on a product or service and not feel ashamed if it truly provides you with real value.

There are options, all around us, for making smarter financial decisions and fulfilling our basic needs:

Nourishment. Follow the routine of your grandma and start clipping coupons (or use the Web and seek out online coupon sites and directories). Don’t shop when hungry. Avoid the middle area on the shelves. Try to cook fresh. Remember that it’s not just about tasting good … it’s about eating healthy so you are healthy (meaning infrequent visits to the doctors). Learning to cook, even on a basic level, will help your family save thousands from not having to rely on pre-packaged items or going out to eat.

Health. Ditch the gym and seek exercise routines which do not require equipment. Use this opportunity when improving your health to seek new friends such as during team activities or while out for a walk. A healthy body and mind will also inadvertently help you save when shopping around for insurance and health care providers. Again, use the Web to your advantage by reading reviews, cross-comparison shopping, and tapping into the knowledge of experts.

Entertainment. Make every part of your day worth remembering. Find great deals on travel by using comparison booking engines and opening up to staying at hostels and eating street food versus the normal touristy routine. Get into crafting like as scrapbooking or photography. Use event websites to find free events in your area or deals that keep the price low (but fun high) by bundling the events.

Family & Life. Spend more time with the family, friends, and loved ones. Capture those slice moments in time (and save while you’re at it) by using up photo coupons for professional photography services. You’ll have something, framed, that will let you remember the good times and have plenty to work with to kick up conversations when others come over.

Education. Get real about what you (or your children) really want to do with their time. Consider seeking apprenticeship or interning in place of taking a class to see if it’s something you (or they) would truthfully enjoy before paying for tuition. Try out new areas using online courses and educational resources that could give you an edge in your current field (or direction). Weigh the risk/reward of starting a business versus obtaining a degree.

Think of it all like going back to school.

You are retraining your mind. You are flushing away the conditioning you’ve picked up after years and years of bombardment from advertising. You’re gaining patience and with it comes the ability to remove the emotional equation and manage purchasing decisions with logical thinking.

Change your lifestyle. Embrace frugality. Take the time to research. These are the elements that help you never pay full price but always receive full value.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on March 19th, 2014 in Family, Finances | No comments

18 feb

Why Sales Isn’t Dead and What’s Keeping It Alive

RobertCordrayIt’s easy to argue that the days of cold calling, door-to-door-salesman and the traditional sales funnel are coming to a close because they largely are. The traditional salesperson has lost a good amount of advantage, as the consumer has gained access to greater information about products and instant access to buy virtually anything he or she can think of via the Internet. While these particular sales methods may be dying, that doesn’t mean that the sales industry is declining as well. In fact, as the industry adapts to this new customer-centric environment, sales will continue to thrive by using new tactics and tools. Here’s a look at some of them.

Demand Creation

The problem with cold calling is that the sales team ends up spending a huge percentage of their time talking to the wrong person or talking to the right person who isn’t ready to buy. This takes a toll on the salesperson as well as the customer who may be turned off by a salesperson pushing a product they aren’t ready to talk about. Instead, companies are turning to demand creation in order to build up their reputation and form relationships with their entire consumer market. By doing this, when the customer is ready to buy, they come to the sales team rather than the other way around. Accomplishing this requires a multi-faceted approach that involves search marketing, public relations efforts, content marketing and presenting at industry events.

From Funnel to Lifecycle

The traditional sales funnel worked well for closing sales and moving on to the next customer, but in today’s competitive market ending a relationship with the customer after the sell is a surefire way to alienate your customers. Instead, the sales funnel should be converted into a continuous lifecycle where the customer continues to be engaged after the sell. The salesperson should develop a plan for how they can continue to proactively provide additional value to the customer through relevant and personalized conversations. If done right, this ongoing relationship will lead to additional purchases of upgrades, add-ons or new products and services.

Tools to Stay Organized

Obviously completing sales as described above will require keeping much more detailed records about potential customers and current customers in order to keep content relevant. This is where technology such as CRM from Salesforce become important. These tools can keep all of the information in one place where it is easily accessible by the entire sales team increasing efficiency and reducing costly customer service mistakes.

While certain sales methods are certainly declining, the sales industry will continue to remain relevant as long as sales teams continue to adapt how they approach sells and develop leads. In many respects, these changes are beneficial for both sides as the customers are no longer pressured into buying products they don’t need and the sales team spends more time with consumers who are truly interested in buying.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on February 18th, 2014 in Career, Finances, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , ,

04 feb

A One Bedroom Apartment Isn’t So Bad After All

JennaSmithMy time in college was coming to a close. I was beginning my senior year and it was also the time when things started to get serious with my freelancing career that I had been developing during the off-hours in my dorm.

There was a problem though …

It was beginning to get difficult trying to balance study and work all from a tiny little dorm room. Papers were starting to stack up. I constantly had to mail things so boxes were plentiful. The printer, computer, and video equipment I used to make promo videos was simply taking up too much space.

I started looking around and found a nice apartment complex just down the road from my school, which was perfect since it didn’t take long to get to class and it meant I had enough space for my stuff.

It also helped me relax a bit because my school wasn’t too keen about running businesses out of the dorm room.

But … being on a college budget didn’t give me a whole lot of options, so I decided the best option would be to get a one bedroom, one bath.

At first, the place felt huge compared to the tiny, little dorm room but it makes sense when people say “the more you earn the more you spend”. Getting into the new apartment had me buzzing with energy because things felt like they were truly legit. My freelance income started to climb because I didn’t have nearly as many distractions from my roommates; I now had the funds for bigger and better furniture and household items. These items quickly began to add up, which meant I was quickly running out of space again.

Since I’m not the type that wants to throw out good items, I had to find a compromise to make my living situation work.

I’m out in San Diego, which means the weather is almost always nice. I also happen to have a nice balcony, which until that point was mostly used to store my bike and some of the weird odds-and-ends that I seem to acquire whenever I swing by my parents’.

One of the things I decided to do was to treat this balcony like an extended part of the apartment, so that it would always be open and used frequently. I picked up a few nice chairs that would go out there along with some neat lights I found on, which gave it a real relaxed atmosphere during the night time.

That’s like one extra room – in my book.

I also started to get real about how I kept everything organized. Luckily, there’s an Ikea in San Diego. I had been there before when I picked up some of the furniture at the time I first moved in, but I hadn’t looked much at the storage and shelving units. It’s amazing what you can do with what they have without breaking the bank.

With a budget of about $300 I picked a few shelving units that would go in the room and ones that could double up as night stands.

It took a while to declutter since everything was all over the place, but eventually I got it under control. The shelves I hung onto the wall above the headboard let me keep all my business books in an easy-to-reach spot for when I was winding down for the night.

The toughest thing was finding the best spot for my desk when moving all this stuff. I’m constant working at my computer (between study, freelancing, and doing the blogging thing) and so I decided to go with a DIY option — I mounted a desk top to the wall with hinges so that I can fold it down when it’s not in use (I use a laptop so this worked well).

Doing so also made me further declutter because I didn’t want to constantly move things back and forth when I wanted to put the desk up. Switching to some online services certainly helped (like invoicing) which I’d recommend to anyone trying to get rid of all that hard copy in work and study.

Overall, I’d like a bigger place but when you start to organize and make use of the space you’ve got, you really start to see it’s not really necessary. You’ll end up getting more stuff. If you’re crafty (or if you’ve got someone that can help out) then a one-bedroom is often all you really need when you’re younger, so don’t fret if you’re feeling cluttered … get creative, instead.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on February 4th, 2014 in Finances, House and Home, Personal Stories | No comments

08 jan

How Freelancers Can Make Careers of Their Work

JennaSmithAs a freelancer, I’m always thinking about other options: what’s next, how I can gain more work, how can I can be more competitive. If you’ve ever relied on freelance work as your primary means of wages, you know what I’m talking about.

Although not ideal for some, freelancing does give you freedom to work when you want, however long you want, wherever you’d like to work. However, the best freelancers rarely stay in this line of work; sooner or later, you’re going to want to find career work that’s stable and reliable.

Here are some great ways to start:

1. Additional Schooling

While there aren’t many schools that offer courses in “freelancing,” many universities offer programs that directly help freelancers looking into turning their “side gigs” into a fully-fledged career. I have a friend who also does freelance work in Pennsylvania; his day job is in marketing, but a few years ago he decided he wanted to make his graphic design freelance work his full-time job without having to completely move states to a more high-volume area. Eventually, my friend was able to find a Pennsylvania graduate school and get the additional schooling he needed to transition from freelance to entrepreneur. This is my proof that it’s possible.

2. Finding the Right University

Again, most “universities” don’t have programs that are overtly designed for freelancers. In some cases, taking the “schooling” route isn’t even the right option. For others, online universities and certification programs are best. I had another friend in San Francisco, who now manages several other freelance writers, begin his journey to owning his small-time freelance writing business through an online certification in business.

Online certifications can help in making you more competitive, but another excellent part of them is that they teach you about how to manage your own business and develop your brand. Most freelancers won’t learn these crucial steps until they take the time to get a degree or certification.

3. Finding Time to Do It All

Heck, most of us barely have time for sleep – how can we throw in going back to school in addition to our love life, our personal passions, and work? Well, it’s not easy. Sometimes, you have to give up something good to get something great.

What I mean is, you might have to cut some things out of your schedule for a time. For those of you who have the liberty to work less than 40 hours a week, you might need to cut back work hours to make time in the mornings and at night to fit in those extra hours. It’s possible, and many other freelancers before you have done it.

So how do you make the jump? Well, it’s not easy. But if you want to stop working in uncomfortable chairs at coffee shops and always worrying about whether or not you’ll find enough work, you should look into getting more training and experience. It’s not easy, but if it was, every freelancer would own their own company.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on January 8th, 2014 in Career, Finances, New Directions, Personal Stories | No comments

27 nov

A Roadmap to Financial Independence

JennaSmithEveryone wants to be financially independent, but the harsh reality is that only a small fraction of the population usually achieves it. While it’s often possible for a single event to devastate your finances, chances are good that there are multiple factors contributing to your lack of financial independence. The good news is that they are within your means to correct and control.

Step 1 – Assessment

Before you can know how to get to your destination you need to know where you are. The first thing you need to do is take stock of your finances and see exactly where you stand. In order to get an accurate picture of your assets and liabilities, you should account for all of your income and debts. Most people remember their larger debts like mortgage and car payments but many forget to account for student loans, personal loans, and membership fees. Don’t forget your assets, including savings, home equity, and retirement accounts. Here is a good list of debt management calculators from

During this step you should also assess your credit. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies once every 12 months. If there are inaccuracies on your credit report you need to get them corrected. I found out more about correcting credit report errors at

Step 2 – Plan

Once you know where you stand the next thing you need to do is determine your desired end goal. You need to figure out how much you will need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. There are many helpful calculators available online that can help, including one from AARP.

Now that you have your starting line and your finish line, you can begin to connect the dots between the two. Here is where you develop your monthly budget. Be realistic in your expectations and strive to live within your means. Focus on paying your necessary living expenses, putting money away for retirement, and paying down your debts first. Anything left over can be used for vacations, buying a new car, starting a business, or whatever else you might want.

You should also establish an emergency fund. Unforeseen events can have catastrophic consequences to your financial stability. An emergency fund provides you with the means to deal with those events with minimal financial consequences. You won’t have to incur additional debt. You won’t have to reduce your retirement savings. You will already have the money you need.

Now you can make adjustments and fine tune your budget. You may need to reduce spending or increase income in order to reach your goals. In either case you can identify the specific need and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track.

Step 3 – Monitor and Maintain

This is the step that never ends. None of what you have done up to this point will matter if you don’t remain vigilant and stick to your plan. Life changes, and when it does you need to change with it. Whether it’s a new job, new home, or new family member, you will need to constantly stay on top of your current situation and make adjustments to ensure that you are still on track to meet your end goal.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on November 27th, 2013 in Finances, Personal Stories | No comments

19 nov

Working from Home and Saving Money

JennaSmithWhen you make the big switch to freelancing or working from home, you gain a lot. You are able to work at your own comfort and speed, without the worry of a supervisor coming to check on you. You are able to wear pajamas if you want, and work from your bed or your couch.

On the other hand, you often have to adjust to living on a reduced income. A freelancing career takes a while to ramp up, and even if you are earning as much as you made at your old job, you’re often paying more in taxes. Since self-employed people are required to pay both the individual and the employer’s portion of Social Security and other taxes, even if you’re making the same amount of money each month, less of that money goes into your pocket. Still more of your income has to go towards funding the business itself — the web hosting, for example, that helps clients find your work.

All of this means that you have to learn how to live on less. Don’t worry — we’re not suggesting you give up your new freelance career and go back to your old job! Instead, here are the steps you need to take in the next 30 days to get your finances on track.

Start eating at home

If your old job meant grabbing a Chipotle burrito or Corner Bakery sandwich every day for lunch, it’s time to swap out that habit for a more economical one. Eating out every day costs far more than eating at home, even for “meal deals” like McDonald’s Dollar Menu. As Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar proves, it is cheaper to buy ground beef and make your own hamburgers than it is to buy the same amount of hamburgers even at $1 each!

That means you have to start planning and shopping. Buying pre-packaged sandwiches from the grocery store isn’t saving money. Slicing your own cheese for sandwiches is. Look for meals you can make while you work, such as slow cooker stews or hearty casseroles. The more money you save on food, the more money you’ll have to support your new business.

Cut back on your overhead

If it’s a monthly payment and you don’t need it, it’s time to let it go. That means no more magazine subscriptions, and no more gym memberships. (Yes, staying healthy is important, so find activities you can do for free, such as running, or joining a sports league.)

There’s one place where you probably shouldn’t cut back: your entertainment/internet/cable package. You definitely need internet for work, and you don’t want to skimp on your download and upload speed. Instead of cutting back on cable and internet, look for deals on a combination package. As the bloggers at MoneyNing note, a good Verizon FiOS double play promotion code can get you significant cost savings as well as a bonus $300 Visa gift card. That’s money in the bank!

Figure out how much money you need to earn every day

When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to get into a procrastination habit. With no fears of a boss coming after you, sometimes that little break stretches into a lost afternoon. Solve this problem by figuring out how much money you need to earn to make your monthly financial goals. Then, every day, make sure you do at least as much work as would earn a day’s amount of money. If you have a project that is supposed to earn you a week’s worth of income, for example, make sure you complete at least 20% of that project every day, Monday through Friday.

If you implement these three steps over the next 30 days, you’ll be well on your way to a successful “work at home” career. Then you can devote your time to growing your new business.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on November 19th, 2013 in Career, Finances, House and Home, Personal Stories | No comments

05 nov

5 Tips for Getting Your Finances Back on Track

RobertCordrayFinances are scary, and it often doesn’t take much to find yourself in debt, spending more than you make or simply not using your money in the best way possible. Many families right now are in financial trouble due to the recent recession, and may find themselves struggling to pay off debt or make ends meet. Luckily, there are steps you can take to dig yourself out of a your financial rut, no matter how deep it may be.

1. Calculate Your Debt

Start by determining exactly where your finances lie. Stop ignoring those credit card bills or student loans, and come up with a grand total of what you owe. It can be disheartening to see a big number after doing this, but it is also the only way for you to start setting goals to pay that debt off. Set a goal for how much you would like to reduce your debt each year and then divide it up by month. Congratulate yourself for each monthly and yearly goal you make, and as you watch that number go down, you will be so pleased that you decided to take the reigns.

2. Build Emergency Savings

Most everyone has savings accounts, but they are often used as holding stations until the money is transferred into checking or used for bills. It is perfectly fine to do this, but you must also have a savings account that is for emergencies only, and no, that new pair of shoes does not count as an emergency. Make a goal to keep 10 percent of what you earn in an emergency account, and if you need to, make it incredibly difficult to get that money back out.

3. Budget

A significant portion of the population does not have any sort of budget. We often think of a budget as restrictive or difficult, but really it is a tool to keep your money under your power. Start using a free budgeting software such as or other options for keeping track of expenses. If you want to limit how much you spend on groceries, how are you supposed to do that if you don’t set a limit or monitor what you spend? Creating a budget may also require cutting some expenses. You can do this by eating out less, using student discount software on your computer or any number of things that can save you money.

4. Adjust Expectations

It can be hard to be stuck in a rental with used furniture and no TV if you grew up in a nice home with plenty of luxuries. However, you have to realize that in all likelihood, your parents didn’t start out with all of those things; they had to work many years to get them. Adjust your expectations of what you think you should be able to get out of a paycheck and what you expect from yourself. Really, it is ok you haven’t bought a house yet. Those things come with time.

5. Get Support

Finally, get some help with your goal. If you are married, get your spouse on board with a plan, and be sure to involve any children old enough to understand what is going on. Banks will often offer financial guidance, as will churches—you could even confide in a close friend who is financially savvy.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on November 5th, 2013 in Finances | No comments

16 oct

3 Ways to Get a Free College Education

RobertCordrayIf a degree is what you’re after, then going to college is really the only way you’re going to get it. After all, many companies won’t even take a look at your resume unless it includes a reference to college graduation in easy to read letters across the first page. However, that little piece of paper doesn’t come cheap. In fact, some college educations can end up costing more than $60,000 per year. On the other hand, there are ways to get the same level of know-how without having to pay a dime. It may sound like a fairy tale, but the reality is that if you know where to look, you can get a top-notch education for free. Here are three ways to get a college level education, without having to pay college level costs.

1. Go to Antioch College

Antioch College is a private liberal arts college in Ohio that was founded in 1850. Beginning in 2012 and continuing on through 2014, Antioch will waive all tuition fees for any new enrolling students for the entire four years of their college career, through the Horace Mann Fellowship. This is being done in an effort to attract students because as the college has recently fallen on hard times. It was forced to close its doors in 2008, but thanks to help from dedicated alumni, it was able to renovate itself and reopen in 2011. So, if you’d like to go to college but you don’t know how you’ll ever get the money together, then this may be your shot. Just hurry, because 2014 isn’t far off at all.

2. Consider financial aid

If you come from a low income family, it’s generally possible to receive help with tuition, housing, supplies, etc., all through the school itself. However, most of the time this means that you’ll still be paying for a portion of the costs. But if your family earns less than $60,000, you may qualify for a completely free education. Many Ivy League schools offer free tuition to low income students. Some schools may still have you work off the money in jobs around the college, and others may also require you to pay for living expenses, but compared to the full price of four years at the university, those are small sacrifices to make.

3. Online

Both of the above options are fine ways to get a diploma without having to sell all of your possessions just to scrape together enough cash. If, on the other hand, all that you’re really after is knowledge, then you have a few other options. The Internet is an amazing thing; it basically contains the to3 Ways to get a free college education

tal sum of all human knowledge and is almost totally open and accessible to anyone with a computer. Just by spending a few hours a day on sites like Wikipedia and YouTube, you could learn enough a tremendous amount about any given subject. Of course, if you need something a bit more structured, many colleges offer free open courseware. That means that many of the classes they offer, including texts, lectures, and tests, are available online through the university website. You can “enroll” in them and start learning whenever you feel like, at no cost at all. These may not give you any certification, but they’ll sure help you get that free education you’ve been wanting.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on October 16th, 2013 in Career, Finances, New Directions | No comments

30 may

Gifting Responsibly

JennaSmithGifting gives me great pleasure. I like to get everyone something special for their celebrate their day. I’m the kind of gal who comes back from a trip to with a suitcase full of souvenirs to give to my mom, my mentors, and my mailman. I never worried about cost, giving feels so good and generous. Until one day when taking a look at my credit card statement I realized I nearly gifted myself into the poorhouse!

I learned my lesson the hard way: moderation in everything, even generosity. Giving beyond my means stretched my budget thin for a little while. Now I approach gift giving more sensibly. I still aim to please. Now instead of simply swiping a card at the store, I exercise a little more creativity and spending smarts to show people that I care.

Opt For Experience

While I once felt pressure to pile my nieces with the latest in toys, now I focus on giving them an experience they never forget. I give them “Auntie Day Outs,” we’ll hit a nature reserve, fly a kite, and have a picnic. My area is full of low cost and free activities for families and kids and I take full advantage of it.

Spending these days together has truly enriched our relationships. The one on one time gives me a chance to get to know the girls. They both are so creative and so funny! And so different–the youngest loves to go on long hikes or bike rides; the oldest always want to go to the main library or the history museum. The experience and memories we make far outshines the thrill of them tearing paper off something they might get bored with in a week!

Bargain Hunt

I never even used to look at price tags. I guess I thought it made me seem wealthy. Now you can’t stand between me and a good bargain. I keep my eyes open for great deals when I go out, and make sure to check clearance racks and sale piles. I swear I have a talent for making exactly what I want appear at half price. The trick is to stare really hard.

Of course, the internet makes find deals a snap. I find amazing sales all the time online. I recently found great coupon codes for gift baskets to send to my aunt who lives on the other side of the country. I sent her a Breakfast & Bubbles gift set that fit exactly within my spending budget once I applied the code.


I make a lot of gifts at home know. I have to be careful though because making my own gifts can easily get as expensive as buying them. Handmade gifts are especially good for things like holiday gift giving because it is easy to make a lot of little trinkets at once. Lately I hand print sets of coasters.

I also started making my own greeting cards to send for holidays. Part of reducing my gift spending means that certain people on my list only get a card. Hand making each card allows me to personalize and ensure that the recipient still gets something special.

Gift giving still makes me happy, and I still allot space in my budget to make sure I can afford to be generous. I stick to the budget, though. It allows me to give presents responsibly!

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Posted by Jenna Smith on May 30th, 2013 in Family, Finances, Personal Stories | No comments