college savings http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/11497/all en-US The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/529_piggy_bank_000071193215.jpg" alt="Learning the best state 529 college savings plans" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>College is a pricey proposition for most families, and saving enough to send a kid off to school can seem daunting. Fortunately, 529 plans can be a great help. They allow anyone to invest money into an account, with the gains growing tax free as long as the money is used to pay for educational expenses. In many cases, contributors also get a tax break based on the money they put in. But which plan should you pick?</p> <p>You may instinctively sign up for the plan offered by your own state, but <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan">many 529 plans</a> are open to anyone in the United States. The key to finding a good 529 plan is the amount of tax benefit offered to the person contributing to the account. It's also important to look at the quality and variety of funds offered, management fees, and other factors.</p> <p>Here are the nine best 529 plans based on these criteria.</p> <h2>1. New York</h2> <p>The 529 plan offered by the Empire State is one of the best-performers, according to SavingforCollege.com. And it has generous tax breaks, including deductions of up to $5,000 per year for an individual, and up to $10,000 per year for married couples.</p> <h2>2. Maine</h2> <p>The state's NextGen College Investing Plan has a nice mix of offerings, including Blackrock Funds and iShares ETFs, which have super-low expense ratios. There are also matching grants of up to $300 per year, and a tax break of $250 annually.</p> <h2>3. Tennessee</h2> <p>The best thing about the TNStars College Savings 529 Program may be its variety of options. There's an age-based option, which allows you to enter into a fund that adjusts its holdings according to when the beneficiary plans to attend college. Then there's a &quot;static&quot; option with 13 different individual selections. Tennessee also offers up to $1,500 in total matching contributions. (There are no additional tax breaks because Tennessee has no personal income tax.)</p> <h2>4. South Carolina</h2> <p>Open only to South Carolina residents, the Future Scholar 529 Plan has no minimum contributions. It has an option of age-based portfolios with three different risk levels, or seven target allocation portfolios. It has a super low expense ratio of less than .25%, and all contributions are fully tax deductible.</p> <h2>5. Louisiana</h2> <p>The START Saving Program is for Louisiana residents only, but it has a nice array of options, including age-based funds or any of six Vanguard mutual funds. There are no program, enrollment, or management fees, and fees of the underlying investments are low. Account holders can get an annual tax break of $2,400 per individual and $4,800 for married couples.</p> <h2>6. California</h2> <p>The ScholarShare College Savings Plan has a ton of options. There are two age-based options, and a whopping 17 static options, including a socially responsible investment option. Fees are very low, but there are no tax breaks.</p> <h2>7. West Virginia</h2> <p>The SMART529 WV College Savings Plan is powered largely by Vanguard index funds, so fees are low. The Bright Babies program offers a $100 one-time contribution from the state. Contributions are fully tax deductible.</p> <h2>8. Colorado</h2> <p>Another Vanguard-driven plan, the Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan offers a $400 match for low and middle income residents, and many students would be eligible for up to $8,000 in scholarship money through the plan. Contributions are tax deductible.</p> <h2>9. Ohio</h2> <p>Another plan with a lot of good variety, the Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan has two age-based options and 16 static options. Up to $2,000 in contributions is tax deductible. Fees are low, with some investments offering expense ratios of as little as .02%.</p> <p><em>Do you contribute to a 529 college savings account?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tim-lemke">Tim Lemke</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-much-college-can-you-and-your-kid-afford">How Much College Can You (and Your Kid) Afford?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-freebies-for-college-students">20+ Freebies for College Students</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan">5 Creative Uses for a 529 Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-better-way-to-rank-americas-colleges">A Better Way to Rank America&#039;s Colleges</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan">7 Times It&#039;s Okay to Raid Your 529 Plan</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Education & Training Investment 529 plans college college savings school tax incentives tuition Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:00:39 +0000 Tim Lemke 1580030 at http://www.wisebread.com 7 Times It's Okay to Raid Your 529 Plan http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy_bank_529_plan_000070739579.jpg" alt="Learning when it&#039;s okay to raid your 529 plan" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A 529 plan is a great way to save for college. Money can grow tax-free if it's used for qualified education expenses, and many states offer great tax deductions on contributions.</p> <p>Generally speaking, it's best to avoid tapping into <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan">your 529 plan</a> until the beneficiary goes off to school, because otherwise you'll end up paying a 10% penalty and taxes on any gains. Plus, you'll lose out on any future gains that money might have produced.</p> <p>But that doesn't mean there aren't cases when it's okay to make a nonqualified withdrawal. Consider these seven situations.</p> <h2>1. Most of the Money Is Contributions, Not Gains</h2> <p>If you opened a 529 account recently, or if the fund hasn't performed well, it's possible that the money in the account is made up mostly of the cash you put in. In this case, you might avoid paying tax on any withdrawal, because you're only obligated to pay taxes on the gains. You may even avoid the 10% penalty. It won't hurt you too much to take money out under this scenario if you need it, but you should still consider trying to replenish those funds as soon as you can.</p> <h2>2. It's Performing Poorly and You Think You Can Do Better Elsewhere</h2> <p>In most cases, the tax advantages of using a 529 plan make it worthwhile to use for college savings. But they aren't perfect. Often, account holders are very limited in their investment choices, and may pay high management fees. If you've done an analysis and think you can do better overall using a Roth IRA, ESA Coverdell, or a taxable brokerage account, give it a shot. Just be aware of the tax implications and other possible restrictions if you do.</p> <h2>3. Your Only Other Option Is Raiding Your Retirement</h2> <p>It's often said that you can borrow for college, but you can't borrow for retirement. If you're faced with a financial hardship and are considering dipping into your retirement money, turn to the 529 plan first. We all want to save for retirement <em>and</em> our kids' college educations, but retirement should be the first priority.</p> <h2>4. You're Confident You'll Replenish the Funds in Short Order</h2> <p>Sometimes it's okay to make a withdrawal if you find yourself in a short-term cash crunch. If you were laid off from a job, but have one lined up to start within a month, for example. Under this scenario, if you can take money from the account but put it back relatively quickly, the financial harm is relatively minimal &mdash; especially if you didn't take out too much to begin with.</p> <h2>5. You Know Your Kid Isn't Going to College</h2> <p>You may come to the conclusion that the beneficiary of the 529 account is going straight to the workforce, or perhaps joining the military. In this case, it might be worth it to withdraw money now rather than later, when your taxes and penalties may be higher. Before you take the money out, just remember that it's possible to change the beneficiary to another person, such as a younger child, who might be able to use the funds for education in the future.</p> <h2>6. The Beneficiary Lands a Scholarship</h2> <p>Hey, this is a good problem to have. You may be forced to withdraw the money and pay a 10% penalty and taxes on the gains, but otherwise the money is then yours to use as you wish. Congratulate your youngster on his or her hard work.</p> <h2>7. You're at the Maximum Balance</h2> <p>This is another good problem to have, though probably a rare one. If you've been contributing aggressively and the investments have performed well, you may be prevented from adding any more funds to the account. This maximum ranges from $235,000 to $450,000, depending on the state. There's nothing wrong with letting the money sit and grow, but since you're no longer getting a tax advantage on contributions, you may consider taking some funds out and placing it in different investments that will perform even better. Just remember to take penalties and fees into account before making any withdrawals.</p> <p><em>Do you contribute to a 529 plan? Have you ever considered borrowing from it?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tim-lemke">Tim Lemke</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-6"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-important-things-to-know-about-your-401k-and-ira-in-2016">5 Important Things to Know About Your 401K and IRA in 2016</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans">The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-things-your-financial-advisor-wishes-you-knew">7 Things Your Financial Advisor Wishes You Knew</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/529-plans-for-college-expenses-what-s-cool-and-what-s-quirky">529 Plans for College Expenses: What’s Cool and What’s Quirky</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/can-reinvesting-dividends-really-save-you-on-taxes">Can Reinvesting Dividends Really Save You on Taxes?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Education & Training Investment 529 borrowing money college savings contributions funds taxes Wed, 16 Sep 2015 17:00:13 +0000 Tim Lemke 1555415 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Creative Uses for a 529 Plan http://www.wisebread.com/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000040983796_XXXLarge.jpg" alt="child education" title="child education" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="126" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The cost of college tuition has risen at an average rate of roughly 8% per year over the last several decades. Case in point: The average cost of private undergraduate tuition at the University of Pennsylvania (an Ivy league institution), including room and board, fees, books, and other expenses was $2,770 in 1960. Adjusted for inflation, that's $22,219.24 in today's dollars. A mere half a century later it costs nearly three times that &mdash; $61,800.</p> <p>Thankfully, 529 Plans, or Qualified Tuition Programs (QTPs), offer families a pathway to save for higher education expenses. In many ways they resemble retirement plans, offering significant tax benefits for savers. There are no federal taxes on your contributions' <em>earnings</em> and often no state taxes if you're a local resident and the plan's beneficiary attends college in-state.</p> <p>But the benefits don't end there. Check out these creative uses for your 529 plan.</p> <h2>1. Pay for Your Own College Expenses</h2> <p>Did junior get a scholarship or decide not to attend college? Then consider using any 529 funds toward our own educational expenses. Most plans allow you to change beneficiaries once per year, enabling you to transfer the funds into your own name. If you'd waited to further your education until later in life, this can be a lower-cost way of paying for that long-awaited degree.</p> <h2>2. Think Outside the College Box</h2> <p>A traditional college is not the only place to get an education, and 529 plan assets can be used to pay for two-year associate degree programs, technical schools, trade schools, vocational schools, and for study abroad &mdash; as long as it's with an accredited institution.</p> <h2>3. Split Beneficiaries</h2> <p>Since you can change beneficiaries on a yearly basis, you could technically fund two (or more) beneficiaries' educations with a single plan. For example, if there's a gap in your children's ages and you prefer to only have one plan, you can do so &mdash; and still contribute to both their educations.</p> <h2>4. Fund Future Generations</h2> <p>The plan's beneficiary can be anyone you choose &mdash; including grandkids or great-grand children. It's a great way to ensure your legacy is put to good use &mdash; and by funding a 529 plan early, the monies can benefit from compounding over a longer period of time.</p> <h2>5. Pay for Non-Qualified Expenses With a Poorly Performing 529</h2> <p>While we usually don't recommend raiding tax-advantaged accounts early (you're usually stealing from your future and subjecting yourself to penalties), in cases of real financial need, withdrawals from a plan may become necessary. If your plan is in the red, you can withdraw from the plan without penalty in order to pay for non-educational expenses, if needed.</p> <h2>How Much to Save</h2> <p>How much you should save depends on whether or not your child intends to remain in-state or attend an out-of-state university. Will your child be attending a two or four year college?</p> <p>Perhaps you want them to attend an in-state program and transfer into a more expensive out-of-state private school. Will he or she require room and board or participate in the school health plan? Will your student work to cover a portion of the costs?</p> <p>These are all questions to ask yourself. But, also take into consideration college price inflation, which is outpacing regular inflation and at a much higher rate. Today's average cost of $45,000 per year to obtain a four year degree may cost as much as $209,743.07 in 20 years, unless something is done about the astronomical rate at which costs are rising.</p> <p>At this rate you would need to save $3,000<span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small; font-style: normal; line-height: 18.2000007629395px;">&ndash;</span>$4,000 a year assuming your earnings grow at 10%. The maximum annual contribution for 2014 and 2015 is $14,000. So, get saving!</p> <p><em>Are you funding a 529 plan? How do you intend to use it?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/qiana-chavaia">Qiana Chavaia</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/college-resources">40+ College Resources for Parents and Students</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-didn-t-learn-in-college-but-you-should-have">10 Things You Didn’t Learn in College (but You Should Have)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-to-get-student-loan-debt-forgiveness">8 Ways to Get Student Loan Debt Forgiveness</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans">The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/100-ways-to-save-money-in-college">100 Ways to Save Money in College</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Education & Training 529 plan college college savings education Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:00:10 +0000 Qiana Chavaia 1275174 at http://www.wisebread.com The Freedom of a Debt-Free Life http://www.wisebread.com/the-freedom-of-a-debt-free-life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-freedom-of-a-debt-free-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/4441155157_d10e8d7b21_z.jpg" alt="arms reaching up" title="arms reaching up" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="185" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>For some people, living a debt-free life is just a dream, but for others, it's a reality.</p> <p>It takes commitment, self-control, and discipline to move from a life full of debts to one free of them. Although the process of becoming debt-free may not be luxurious, its end results are worth all the pain and sacrifice it may require.</p> <p>Debt-free individuals experience financial freedom that allows them to live life more fully, since they do not have to be held back or stressed by burdensome debts. This is definitely a nice place to be at, and all it requires is personal commitment and determination. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-false-assumptions-about-debt-free-living">6 False Assumptions About Debt-Free Living</a>)</p> <h3>Why Debt Is Bad for You</h3> <p>One of the biggest problems with debts, especially large ones, is that they prohibit you from spending your earned money the way you want to. For example, your may want to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-much-money-will-you-need-to-retire">save money for retirement</a> or invest to secure your children's future. However, your obligations to pay back your mortgage, a personal loan, or any other loan may hamper your efforts to reach these life goals.</p> <p>When you accumulate many debts and are unable to pay them, it can also greatly affect your credit rating. Such a situation may occur due to late payments or defaulting on your monthly obligations. In addition, you may also have to pay hefty fees and penalties, which can further destabilize your financial status.</p> <h3>Getting Rid of Debt</h3> <p>When your money is unable to work to your advantage because of debts, it means you need to take the necessary action to eradicate the debts. Failure to address the issue will only slow your efforts towards achieving your goals.</p> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-first-step-to-budgeting">Creating a budget</a> is one of the simplest, yet most effective means of getting out of debt. Cut down unnecessary expenses in order to create a surplus in your finances. Direct the extra savings towards loan repayment. Remember that sacrifice is necessary when trying to get rid of debt. Once you have the budget in place, stick to it to the best of your ability and strive to make your loan repayments in time every month. In time, this budget should help you pay back your debt and meet all other financial obligations while giving you a clearer picture of how you use your money.</p> <h3>Benefits of Living a Debt Free Life</h3> <p>A debt free life means more money. Since you will have less monthly expenses, your cash flow will definitely increase.</p> <p>More cash flow will enable you to have greater financial freedom. You might even be able to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-my-family-scores-free-travel-with-credit-cards">go on that vacation</a> you have always desired or comfortably pay for your child's tuition in a good school.</p> <p>Not having to deal with debt will also allow you to invest your money for greater returns. You will therefore be able to generate more wealth and increase your financial status. You can also effectively fund your retirement to secure your future.</p> <p><em>What are your reasons for getting out of debt?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/david-ning">David Ning</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-freedom-of-a-debt-free-life">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-false-assumptions-about-debt-free-living">6 False Assumptions About Debt-Free Living</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-debt-free-getting-by-in-the-new-economy">Beyond Debt-Free: Getting By in the New Economy</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-keep-peer-pressure-from-destroying-your-finances">How to Keep Peer Pressure From Destroying Your Finances</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-full-time-for-17000-a-year-or-less">How to Travel Full-Time for $17,000 a Year (or Less!)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/try-these-6-money-saving-challenges-now">Try These 6 Money-Saving Challenges Now</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting Debt Management Lifestyle college savings debt-free first budget Tue, 17 Jul 2012 10:00:17 +0000 David Ning 942674 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Smart Things to Do With $25 http://www.wisebread.com/10-smart-things-to-do-with-25 <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-smart-things-to-do-with-25" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/counting_money.jpg" alt="Man counting money" title="Man counting money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>So, you&rsquo;ve got $25 burning a hole in your pocket. Or, you just found it in an old pair of jeans. Maybe it represents the contents of your piggy bank, or a check you got from an aunt in another state for your birthday. However you came by this $25, you&rsquo;re trying to figure out how to spend it without blowing it.</p> <p>Here then are 10 ideas, some fun, some serious, that will help you make the most of your 25 buckaroos. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-fun-things-to-buy-for-under-5">15 Fun Things to&nbsp;Buy for Under $5</a>)</p> <h3>1. Go on a Goodwill Shopping Spree</h3> <p>The bargains I find at Goodwill never cease to amaze me. I recently purchased a mint-condition, sealed <em>Sopranos</em> jigsaw puzzle for $2. I sold it for $10 just a few days later. OK, not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but if you could do that with $25 worth of Goodwill stuff, you turn it unto $125. Rummage through the collectibles and glassware, and check out all the pictures, CDs, and garments. Every Goodwill store holds gems, you just have to know where to look. And remember, the money you spend in there goes to a very good cause. It&rsquo;s win-win.</p> <h3>2. Adopt an Animal That Needs a Good Home</h3> <p>We recently adopted two kittens from our local animal shelter. We were shocked at how cheap it was to do this. They had so many cats, dogs, and other animals to care for that they were almost giving them away. It was sad to see a sign like &ldquo;buy a kitten, get a grown up cat free,&rdquo; but I guess tough times call for new ideas. The price for the adoption of the two kittens, plus inoculations and spaying/neutering, came in at less than $25. We gave the shelter double that because we know how much they rely on donations. But, if you want to do some good with your $25 and make a friend, spending it on a new pet could be just for you. As always, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-hidden-costs-rules-of-pet-ownership">don&rsquo;t do it on a whim,</a> and don&rsquo;t buy a pet as a gift for someone else (unless they come with you). Animals need loving homes. If you can provide one, get down to your local shelter.</p> <p><img width="263" height="350" alt="" src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u921/pets.jpg" /></p> <h3>3. Buy Previously Viewed Movies and Games</h3> <p>DVD rental stores have hit on hard times. It doesn&rsquo;t bother me too much, because I remember being charged ridiculous prices for new releases and having to pay horrendous late fees. The rental stores had to adapt, and they also had to find a way to make extra money. By selling off previously viewed DVDs and pre-played games, they&rsquo;re recouping some of their losses; and you get yourself some sweet bargains. I picked up movies including <em>A Serious Man</em> and <em>A Nightmare on Elm Street</em> for just 99 cents. I also recently bought Blu Ray copies of <em>Inception</em>, <em>Horrible Bosses</em>, <em>Machete</em>, and <em>Predators</em> for around $7 a piece. That&rsquo;s way below the price of a new copy, and they play just as well. Some discs look untouched. These stores have dozens of copies of the popular movies, so many of the discs are played just a few times. And they all come with at least a seven-day guarantee. Bring it back if it&rsquo;s scratched or doesn&rsquo;t play, they&rsquo;ll replace it for you. Now that&rsquo;s smart.</p> <h3>4. Start a College Savings Plan</h3> <p>With $25? Well, it&rsquo;s $25 dollars more than if you don&rsquo;t have a plan right now. And if you have young children, the price of college by the time they reach 18 will demand every penny you can amass. By investing $25 a month for 18 years with a 7% rate of return, you&rsquo;ll have over $11,000 in that account. True, it&rsquo;s probably not going to cover a lot by then, but it&rsquo;s better than nothing at all.</p> <h3>5. Hit the Sales at the Grocery Stores</h3> <p>If you want to grab yourself some real bargains, go and buy the food that is &ldquo;going off&rdquo; in the stores. It&rsquo;s often heavily discounted because it has reached its sell-by date. But that&rsquo;s an arbitrary date set to protect stores from lawsuits and ensure you get the freshest food. So much of that food is still very good, and you can get it really cheap just before it hits the dumpster. Your $25 could easily get you $75-$100 worth of food. Pop whatever you can in your freezer, and bring it out when you need it.</p> <p><img width="605" height="454" alt="" src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6160/6145801032_6701a4dd81.jpg" /></p> <h3>6. Loan It to a Farmer or Entrepreneur in a Third-World Country</h3> <p>One of the best non-profit ideas I&rsquo;ve seen in a while is <a href="http://www.kiva.org/about/how ">Kiva.org</a>. It&rsquo;s based on the principles of &ldquo;microfinancing,&rdquo; which basically means you can donate a sum as small as $25 to the fund. The borrower will make a request for funds, and if successful, he or she will get a loan funded by the more than 500,000 lenders around the world. The borrower then makes repayments, so if you put your money in, you will get it back at a later date. But in the process, you have helped someone realize a dream who normally wouldn&rsquo;t have a chance to.</p> <h3>7. Hop the Farmers Markets</h3> <p>An article I wrote in the past warned of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-not-to-buy-at-a-farmers-market">things to avoid at farmers markets</a>, and that resulted in a lot of angry letters and comments wondering why I was against them. That, I am happy to tell you, is not true at all. I love farmer&rsquo;s markets; I simply wanted to point out a few pitfalls. But when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, these markets can&rsquo;t be beat. So take your $25 to a local farmers market, get some good quality food for less than supermarket prices, and support a local farmer.</p> <h3>8. Buy Some Original Art</h3> <p>You may think $25 will not buy you much of a work of art, but you&rsquo;d be mistaken. Yes, granted, if you&rsquo;re looking for a 6 ft. canvas by a well-known painter, you&rsquo;ll be out of luck. But if you are willing to look around local art shows, search on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/craigslist-shopping-101">Craigslist</a>, or even peruse the walls of local eateries and record shops, you will find amazing prices on original works. These are from artists who want to be discovered and also want to cover the costs of materials. Who knows, in the future that piece you buy for $25 could be worth six figures.</p> <h3>9. Get a Free Massage or Haircut, and Tip $25</h3> <p>Students who are enrolled in massage or haircutting courses will often <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/haircuts-to-dentistry-and-more-get-low-cost-services-from-students">give away their services for free</a> (or very cheap) to practice. You&rsquo;ll find ads for free massages or haircuts on Craigslist and in newspaper classified ads. But while they are free, or very cheap, these people do deserve a tip. So, for the complete price of $25, you help a student with their studies and get a service for at least half of what you&rsquo;d regularly pay.</p> <p><img width="605" height="454" alt="" src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u921/massage.jpg" /></p> <h3>10. Take a Music Lesson</h3> <p>So many of us have guitars, old pianos, or other instruments just lying around. Maybe we bought them decades ago and gave up on them, or they were gifts. They could be hand-me-downs. Either way, why not see if it&rsquo;s really something you want to do. <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/are-music-lessons-worth-it-hidden-benefits-may-tip-the-scale">Playing an instrument</a> is a great way to release stress, and it&rsquo;s a wonderful hobby. For $25, you can usually get a 30-minute to 1-hour lesson for a variety of instruments. Some charge as little as $10 for a 30-minute lesson.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-smart-things-to-do-with-25">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-6-least-expensive-dog-breeds-to-own">The 6 Least Expensive Dog Breeds to Own</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans">The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan">7 Times It&#039;s Okay to Raid Your 529 Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-much-it-costs-to-own-a-dog">How Much It Costs to Own a Dog</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-is-keeping-you-from-a-life-of-financial-independence">What is keeping you from a life of financial independence?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living Investment college savings pets smart shopping Spending Money Mon, 06 Feb 2012 11:36:26 +0000 Paul Michael 886207 at http://www.wisebread.com Receiving Your Tax Refund in Savings Bonds http://www.wisebread.com/receiving-your-tax-refund-in-savings-bonds <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/receiving-your-tax-refund-in-savings-bonds" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000002531778Small.jpg" alt="Woman putting money in a piggy bank" title="Woman putting money in a piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="157" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>As you prepare your tax return this year, you have an interesting option. You can opt to receive part of your tax refund as U.S. Savings Bonds. The process is relatively simple.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8888.pdf">Form 8888</a>&nbsp;(PDF) from the IRS allows you to allocate how you will receive your refund. You can have your refund directly deposited into a bank account, mailed to you as a check, or invested directly into savings bonds. You can also divide your refund between these options however you'd like. It's an easy process. The real question is should you invest part of your refund into savings bonds.</p> <p>The bonds in question are Series I Savings Bonds, which the U.S. Treasury sells for face value. You can redeem such a bond, plus the accumulated interest on it, after twelve months have passed &mdash; although if you redeem a bond you've held less than five years, you'll give up three months worth of interest. Series I Bonds earn a combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate. The fixed rate stays the same for the life of the bond, while the inflation rate changes every six months. New rates are set every November and May. The last fixed rate set (November 2010) is 0.00 percent, which means bonds bought before next May will be relying entirely on their inflation rate for income. You can see a list of <a _mce_href="http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds_iratesandterms.htm" href="http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds_iratesandterms.htm">recent rates</a>&nbsp;on the U.S. Treasury's website. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/while-waiting-for-rates-i-bonds">While Waiting for Rates: I-Bonds</a>)</p> <h3>The Benefit of Automatic Savings with Bonds</h3> <p>Sarika Abbi, who works with the <a _mce_href="http://www.d2dfund.org/" href="http://www.d2dfund.org/">D2D Fund</a>&nbsp;to encourage savings for low-income consumers, points out that this approach provides a way to automatically save money.</p> <blockquote><p>The nice thing is a taxpayer can consider saving just a portion of their refund with bonds, allowing them to use the remainder to pay bills, meet spending needs, or save in other saving or investment vehicles. For individuals who don&rsquo;t have access to savings, it&rsquo;s a great way to begin setting some aside for the future, without the requirement of a bank account. They also offer a competitive rate in comparison to comparable savings products (traditional savings account and one-year CDs). There are no fees associated with buying or redeeming bonds and they have a low entry point: only $50. This makes them a very accessible product for many households.</p> <p>Tax-time saving bonds are Series I Savings Bonds, which are inflation-protected. This means your savings bond never lose value. They are also very safe investments &mdash; your principal is protected and when you redeem them you will receive your entire principal as well as any interest earned. They are a nice long-term vehicle (mature in 30 years) but are accessible one year after purchase if a family faces an emergency or need for the vehicle. It is also a good savings vehicle for individuals who want to set money aside for their children, grandchildren, or other loved ones. And there is a tax break if used for education purposes.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's truly an easy way to build up savings, and the fact that it takes a little more work to cash in a bond than it takes to just transfer money out of a checking account means that there's an additional barrier to using your savings for purchases that aren't really all that necessary. There is a maximum amount that you can invest in Series I bonds every year &mdash; $5,000 &mdash; but a taxpayer can request as little as $50 in bonds if that's all someone wants to put aside.</p> <h3>Is Getting Your Refund in Savings Bonds Right for You?</h3> <p>It's true that savings bonds, especially at current interest rates, aren't the ideal investment for everyone. But when you consider that you can use them as a savings vehicle rather than an investment opportunity, you may find that putting part of your income tax refund towards savings bonds makes sense. You may find that you can earn at least as much interest as you can through a savings account at your bank. And if you're starting to plan for college for a little one, a savings bond offers other <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/college-savings-bonds">benefits over the typical bank account</a>.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/thursday-bram">Thursday Bram</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/receiving-your-tax-refund-in-savings-bonds">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-reduce-your-tax-bill-with-bonds">4 Ways to Reduce Your Tax Bill With Bonds</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/did-your-parents-give-you-a-whole-life-insurance-policy-heres-what-to-do-with-it">Did Your Parents Give You a Whole Life Insurance Policy? Here&#039;s What to Do With It.</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-times-its-okay-to-raid-your-529-plan">7 Times It&#039;s Okay to Raid Your 529 Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-best-state-529-college-savings-plans">The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tips-and-i-bonds">TIPS and I-Bonds</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Investment Taxes college savings savings bonds tax refunds Fri, 04 Mar 2011 12:00:30 +0000 Thursday Bram 499912 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Tips from a Financially-Savvy Teen http://www.wisebread.com/10-tips-from-a-financially-savvy-teen <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-tips-from-a-financially-savvy-teen" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/594278237_badb104ee2_z.jpg" alt="teenager" title="teenager" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A few years ago, teenager Tamara Johnson had no savings and vague plans to attend college. Today she is a freshman at Marquette University, using scholarship dollars for tuition and her personal savings to pay for living expenses.</p> <p>A financial literacy program &mdash; <a href="http://www.aboutschwab.com/community/financial-literacy/money-matters.html">Money Matters: Make It Count</a> created by the <a href="http://www.aboutschwab.com/community/financial-literacy/index.html">Charles Schwab Foundation</a> and taught at <a href="http://www.ppbgc.org/">Pueblo of Pojoaque Boys &amp; Girls Club</a> &mdash; helped Tamara understand and apply the money lessons that her parents had been trying to teach her. Her enthusiasm and grasp of these financial lessons led to her selection as the 2010-2011 National Money Matters Ambassador. More recently, she became the first teen to take the <a href="http://www.makechangecount.com/default.aspx">Make Change Count</a> pledge as part of a national campaign sponsored by the Charles Schwab Foundation and the <a href="http://www.bgca.org/Pages/index.aspx">Boys &amp; Girls Clubs of America</a> to make financial literacy more accessible to teens. Through Money Matters and life experiences, here are lessons that Tamara learned.</p> <h3>1. Save money now, because you&rsquo;ll never know when you&rsquo;ll need it later.<b> </b></h3> <p>Now that Tamara is in college, she sees that her savings habit formed in high school is worthwhile. She has enough money to buy essentials, such as a warm winter coat, and pay for holiday travel from college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tamara told me that some of her friends have just a dollar in their bank accounts, having never considered saving for later. They have to call their parents and ask for money. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-important-lessons-frugal-parents-teach-their-children" title="7 Important Lessons Frugal Parents Teach Their Children">7 Important Lessons Frugal Parents Teach Their Children</a>)</p> <h3>2. Apply for scholarships in your junior year. Don&rsquo;t wait until the second semester of your senior year.<b> </b></h3> <p>I heard similar advice from Kimberly Stezala, author of <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0814409814/ref=nosim/?tag=wwwwisebreadc-20">Scholarships 101: The Real-World Guide to Getting Cash for College</a></em>, who spoke with me about <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-win-small-scholarships-for-a-big-payoff">private scholarships</a>. Guidance counselors may not encourage this approach, perhaps because they see so many students who have not taken basic steps to begin the college search process. Nevertheless, middle school students as well as high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors can compete for scholarship monies. Tamara&rsquo;s early start helped her to win scholarships that cover tuition payments for the next four years.</p> <h3>3. Learn to budget your money instead of spending whatever you have.</h3> <p>When she was younger, Tamara received an allowance from her parents. At 16, she started earning her own money when she went to work for the Boys &amp; Girls Club. Before she took the financial literacy classes, Tamara was not careful with her allowance and headed to the mall right after getting her paycheck. After completing the program she realized that she should <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-college-freshman-budget" title="The College Freshman Budget">budget her money</a> toward savings and anticipated expenses for things like gas, movies, and clothes.</p> <h3>4. You&rsquo;ll be surprised at how easy it is to save money and how quickly it builds.</h3> <p>Tamara started setting aside and saving money at 16. Just a couple of years later, she had amassed nearly $4,000. She is using this money to pay living expenses and plans to rebuild and add to her savings by working during holidays and summer breaks.</p> <h3>5. Working together with friends to avoid spending can be fun.</h3> <p>Peer support is a powerful component of the Money Matters program and Make Change Count pledge. Tamara and many of her friends took the financial literacy class together and helped each other learn to put its principles of saving and budgeting into action. Sharing what you know is one part of the four-step pledge.</p> <p>A few high school friends thought she was crazy for being careful in her spending; Tamara says that many people do not realize the importance of saving until they need money and have none. At college, Tamara talks to her friends about saving because they often notice that she has money to spend when they are broke.</p> <h3>6. Shop for bargains.</h3> <p>When she shopped with her mom&rsquo;s money at the grocery store as a child, Tamara chose whatever she wanted despite her mom's cautions to spend more carefully. Now that she&rsquo;s spending her own money for groceries and armed with financial lessons, Tamara is a bargain shopper. She notices specials and uses coupons.</p> <h3>7. Learn to recognize wants and distinguish them from needs.</h3> <p>One of the ways that Tamara identifies what she needs is to consider all of her options. Comparing a premium brand to house brand at the grocery store, for example, can show you that may want a certain (heavily advertised) brand, but you need certain foods.</p> <h3>8. It&rsquo;s never too late to start saving.</h3> <p>Even if you have made mistakes and have no extra money now, you can become a saver. Though an early start is helpful, saving at any time will put you on the right path to a better financial condition.</p> <h3>9. Take advantage of financial literacy programs.</h3> <p>Sadly, most high schools do not require financial literacy classes for their students. You may need to look at electives, programs offered by outside groups (such as the Boys &amp; Girls Clubs of America, which presents Money Matters), or personal finance websites. Tamara learned not only about saving and budgeting but also how to read a paycheck and how to pay back a loan.</p> <h3>10. Learn to deal with financial decisions face you everyday</h3> <p>Most of us may think of financial decisions in terms of big decisions such as when to buy a house and how to save for retirement. Tamara emphasized that many small decisions have financial consequences. For example, when it&rsquo;s lunchtime, she needs to choose whether she will eat lunch in the cafeteria or go back to the dorm room to make a sandwich.</p> <p>Tamara&rsquo;s parents laid a foundation for financial education by opening a savings account on her behalf and encouraging her to spend wisely. But the financial literacy course provided specific information on topics not discussed elsewhere and gave her new insights. Experiencing success in trying the ideas (such as being able to save money by budgeting and finding alternatives to mall shopping) reinforced these lessons.</p> <p><em>Have you taken financial literacy classes? If so, what did you learn, and how did they change your life?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-tips-from-a-financially-savvy-teen">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-emergency-fund-myths-you-should-stop-believing">6 Emergency Fund Myths You Should Stop Believing</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-money-mistakes-to-stop-making-by-50">5 Money Mistakes to Stop Making by 50</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-personal-finance-milestones-every-20-and-30-year-old-should-hit">7 Personal Finance Milestones Every 20 and 30 Year Old Should Hit</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/this-is-how-rich-youd-be-if-youd-saved-the-money-you-earned-in-high-school">This Is How Rich You&#039;d Be If You&#039;d Saved the Money You Earned in High School</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance college savings financial literacy savings teens and money Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:00:07 +0000 Julie Rains 315679 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Save 20-100% on Textbooks http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-save-20-100-on-textbooks <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-save-20-100-on-textbooks" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/4244811650_543e2285a3_o.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="165" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Since I graduated from college some time ago (I won't embarass myself by saying exactly how long) I had no idea that textbooks had gotten so expensive. How expensive? Well, according to a <a href="http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-806">2005 study by the General Accounting Office</a>, the average estimated cost of books and supplies per first-time, full-time student for academic year 2003-2004 was $898 at 4-year public institutions, or about 26 percent of the cost of tuition and fees. At 2-year public institutions, the average estimated cost of books and supplies per first-time, full-time student was $886 in academic year 2003-2004, representing almost three-quarters of the cost of tuition and fees. And that was five years ago!</p> <p>Why is the cost of books and supplies increasing at such a rapid clip? Read all about it in articles like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textbook#cite_note-GAO-7">this one from Wikipedia</a>. But as far as this course is concerned, the &quot;why&quot; is academic. This mini-course isn't about finding fault; it's about finding deals. Check out the following TV news story, then join me on the other side for more details.</p> <p><embed width="480" height="300" src="http://blip.tv/play/kjqBuvguAg%2Em4v" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></p> <p>So the simplest way to get a free textbook is from the school library or your professor. Since supplies will be extremely limited in either case, best you hit these two options the instant you know your schedule. If neither of these ideas work, head for the web. Here are links to the sites I mentioned in this story in order they were mentioned.</p> <p><b>Sites where you can download out-of-copyright (old) books:</b></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page"><b>Project Gutenberg</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://www.bartleby.com/"><b>Bartleby</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://books.google.com/"><b>Google Books</b></a></li> </ul> <p><b>Sites where you'll find a limited number of free textbooks for online reading or downloading: </b></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://cnx.org/"><b>Connexions</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://oerconsortium.org/"><b>Open Educational Resources Consortium</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/"><b>Flatworld Knowledge</b></a></li> </ul> <p><b>Site that offers free, advertiser-supported textbooks in .pdf format</b>: (There's a half-page ad every 3 pages.)</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://bookboon.com/us/student"><b>Bookboon</b></a></li> </ul> <p><b>Sites where you can swap textbooks with other students:</b></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.textbookrevolt.com/rent"><b>Textbook Revolt</b></a> (Note: this site was a swapping site, but is now apparently morphing into a rental site.)</li> <li><a href="http://bookins.com/"><b>Bookins</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://www.swaptree.com/"><b>Swaptree</b></a></li> </ul> <p><b>Sites where you can find all manner of free stuff, including textbooks:</b></p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.freecycle.org/"><b>Freecycle</b></a></li> <li><a href="http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites"><b>Cra</b><b>i</b><b>g's List</b></a></li> </ul> <p>These are the sites you <i>might</i> find free textbooks; whether you actually succeed is a function of how hard you look and how common the title you're looking for. And if you're thinking of a swapping site, beware of the pitfall of any online transaction: fraud.</p> <p>If you can't find what you're looking for on a free site or a swap site, what then? Time to try a rental.</p> <h3>Textbook Rental</h3> <p>There are several sources for textbook rental. The first place to try is your college bookstore. The cost to rent a book should be no more than half the price of buying the book; hopefully less. You might find a better deal online -- two popular rental sites are <a href="http://www.chegg.com/">Chegg</a> and <a href="http://www.jdoqocy.com/click-2822544-10734724">BookRenter</a>. The downside of book renting is the same as with renting anything: you don't own anything when it's over and you've got to keep it in great condition. One way to avoid the wear-and-tear issue is to rent a digital copy. You can find these at <a href="http://www.coursesmart.com/">CourseSmart</a> -- they claim to have more than 8,000 textbooks available for digital download at savings of up to 50%. You can print out up to 10 pages at a time and the license to use the book expires after six months.</p> <h3>Buying Overseas</h3> <p>As with drugs, some publishers sell cheaper overseas. And some booksellers re-import international-edition textbooks and offer them at prices less than in the US, which means you might find a bargain. One site that features international editions is <a href="http://www.abebooks.com/">AbeBooks</a>.</p> <p>There are two potential problems with international editions of textbooks. First, you've got to be sure that the international edition is the same as the domestic one (your professor might know). Also, be aware that some people aren't happy about the reimportation of international edition textbooks, since pretty much everybody from the author to the campus bookstore makes less money as a result. If you want to read more about the controversy, see the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Textbook#cite_note-GAO-7">Wikipedia page</a> I mentioned earlier.</p> <h3>Buying Used</h3> <p>Used textbooks can often be found at the campus bookstore, not to mention campus newspaper classifieds and bulletin boards. But you should also check sites like <a href="http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites">Craigs List</a>, <a href="http://books.shop.ebay.com/Textbooks-Education-/2228/i.html?_catref=1&amp;_fln=1&amp;_trksid=p3286.c0.m282">eBay</a>, and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/New-Used-Textbooks-Books/b?ie=UTF8&amp;node=465600">Amazon</a>. Just be sure you're buying the edition you need -- textbooks are revised often.</p> <h3>Shopping for Savings</h3> <p>When you shop at the campus bookstore, it's convenient, and they'll have the textbook you're looking for. But like buying your groceries at 7-11, convenience often comes at a cost. So shop for savings on books the same way you (hopefully) do for every other expensive purchase you make: do a quick online search at sites like <a href="http://www.amazon.com/New-Used-Textbooks-Books/b?ie=UTF8&amp;node=465600">Amazon</a>, <a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/textbooks/index.asp">BarnesandNoble</a>, <a href="http://www.half.ebay.com/textbooks">Half</a>, <a href="http://www.ecampus.com/textbookpage.asp">ecampus</a> or others (do a search for textbooks and you'll find tons). Or use a textbook shopping bot like <a href="http://www.gettextbooks.com/">GetTextBooks</a> and <a href="http://www.directtextbook.com/">DirectTextBook</a>.</p> <p>Comparison shopping is a fairly simple way to save 20% or more on new book purchases and a way to perhaps find a used version for even greater savings.</p> <p>Bottom line? The cost of both tuition and textbooks has been outpacing inflation for many years. It's not fair, but don't get mad, get smarter. View the challenge as an opportunity to learn a life lesson. Confront costs by combining creativity and legwork, and you can have the things you want for less.</p> <h4>Related Stories</h4> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2009/05/29/5-ways-to-pay-for-college/">Five Ways to Pay for College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2008/10/06/6-ways-to-build-credit-in-college/">Six Ways to Build Credit in College</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2008/10/27/insurance-for-students/">Insurance for College Students</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.moneytalksnews.com/rates/">Higher Rates on Savings, Lower Rates on Loans</a></li> </ul> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/stacy-johnson">Stacy Johnson</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-save-20-100-on-textbooks">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-6"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-things-you-should-always-buy-used">8 Things You Should Always Buy Used</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/school-bookstores-cant-afford-cheap-textbooks">School Bookstores Can&#039;t Afford Cheap Textbooks</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-kitchen-dish-towels">The 5 Best Kitchen Dish Towels</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-ways-to-avoid-buyers-remorse">6 Ways to Avoid Buyer&#039;s Remorse</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-lip-stains">The 5 Best Lip Stains</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Shopping college savings Stacy Johnson textbooks Wed, 06 Jan 2010 15:00:03 +0000 Stacy Johnson 4429 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Tips for Easy College Savings http://www.wisebread.com/5-tips-for-easy-college-savings <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-tips-for-easy-college-savings" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/college savings.jpg" alt="college savings" title="saving for college" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="183" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you have a baby, there are many initial financial concerns, especially when a family is still working hard just to make ends meet. College savings on a tight budget may seem like something you'll do later when the kids start elementary school but time goes by so fast. The reality is by the time today's toddlers are in college, the <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/cost-of-college">costs of higher education</a> will be outrageous.</p> <p>To get a jump start on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/saving-for-college" title="How to Save Money for College">saving money for college</a>, here are ideas for starting to save when kids are still young and money's still tight. Also check out our <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/college-resources">40+ College Resources for Parents and Students</a> to get more information.</p> <h2>Choose the Right Savings Plan for College</h2> <p>You can start the account in your child's name to save on taxes but be warned &mdash; if you are later eligible for <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/college/financial-aid" title="College Financial Aid">financial aid</a>, it can be cheaper to have the funds in your own name. Colleges expect contributions toward tuition to be 5-6% of your assets each year. Assets in a child's name are marked considerably higher at 20%. Savings bonds are also affected in this manner.</p> <h2>Balance the Budget</h2> <p>The earlier you start, the smaller increments you can deposit. If your child is still in elementary school, work through your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tricks-for-budgeting-as-parent" title="Budgeting Tricks for Parents">parenting budget</a> to find at least $50 a month to invest into a college account. Make a serious commitment to socking away $50 each month until the college years loom. It may seem like an insufficient amount but in 18 years time at 6% interest a year, that $50 a month can be worth around $20k.</p> <h2>Invest Extra Cash</h2> <p>Any windfalls in money (bonuses, inheritance, etc.) should have an allocation right off the top of at least an additional $50 to invest, if not more, into the college account. It can be easy to find uses for &quot;extra money&quot; but $50 is rather small and you'll feel better making that extra deposit during the month.</p> <h2>Automate Your Savings Plan</h2> <p>Psychologically speaking, you can save more when you see less. Talk to your payroll department about having $25 a check (if you get paid bi-monthly) deposited directly into the college account. After a month or so, you'll likely never even notice it is missing.</p> <h2>Look But Don't Touch</h2> <p>It's great to track your progress and see that $50 start adding up but don't touch it, not even for emergencies. Start a similar plan where you deposit money into an <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/figuring-the-size-of-your-emergency-fund" title="Figuring the Size of Your Emergency Fund">account for emergencies</a> like home or vehicle repairs. Since you have been dedicated to the savings process, a second account should be just as simple. It can be tempting to withdraw the money but consider instead how good it will feel when your child is getting ready to go off to college without additional financial stress on them &mdash; or you.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tisha-tolar">Tisha Tolar</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-tips-for-easy-college-savings">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-7"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-creative-uses-for-a-529-plan">5 Creative Uses for a 529 Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-financial-moves-to-make-when-a-loved-one-dies">12 Financial Moves to Make When a Loved One Dies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-things-yoga-can-teach-you-about-money">5 Things Yoga Can Teach You About Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-money-moments-that-are-awkward-for-everyone">10 Money Moments That Are Awkward for Everyone</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-16-cardinal-rules-of-loaning-money-to-friends-and-family">The 16 Cardinal Rules of Loaning Money to Friends and Family</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Family 529 plan budgeting college savings higher education costs savings account Mon, 30 Nov 2009 14:00:03 +0000 Tisha Tolar 3863 at http://www.wisebread.com