Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Frugal Files: College Savings, Start Now

Hey all!!

What an exhilarating time for Belle-Noir Magazine!! Have you seen our new Renewal issue? We're back and in full effect, bringing you the best in lifestyle for the Big, Beautiful You!! Get your digital copy and don't forget to check me out on pages 34 and 35!! Belle-Noir Mag: January/February 2012 Issue

This week I dropped my daughter off to her first day of college. She graduated in June, but decided she wasn't ready to jump into college life right away and instead opted to work for six months. After much discussion, we agreed on terms and she proceeded to get a second job to increase her income, specifically  to purchase her own vehicle.

She worked and finally started to consistently utilize her budget sheet. Best of all, she is learning to pay her bills on time. In case you're wondering, she is responsible for paying rent, half of the gas for the car and her portion of our shared cell phone bill. She also has been mandated, by the Frugalicious Diva, to save weekly. But I digress...

After much preparation, which she handled with maturity, the day has come and I was a proud Momma indeed. She had all her paperwork, her books and of course her style together, heading to her first class. I reflected a bit, thinking just how blessed we are. She is able to go to school without much out of pocket expenses from me, due to grants and let me just say, they go much further at a community college. Starting off here will also prove to be beneficial to her, truly preparing her for her next step in life.

My parents were blessed to run in circles with people who also sent their children to school for free. Because of my excellent grades in grade school, I was recommended for a scholarship incentive program  for minority students. The deal was to maintain a "B" average in high school, while participating in activities that involved cultural awareness, civic duty and community service. In turn, the program would provide a full ride tuition. Shout out to Toledo Excel!!

Programs like this and Upward Bound make college educations both possible and accessible to minority and underrepresented students, many of whose families live in low to moderate income communities. Scholarships are one of the best ways to get full or partial assistance with college tuition. Have your student meet frequently with her guidance counselor, but also be proactive and start your own search for scholarships, especially those geared toward minority students. Here's a site where you can start: Black Excel's 100 Minority Scholarship List

If you haven't guessed by now, we're discussing college expenses this week. It's becoming a strain and stress for many parents, especially those who fall into the middle class bracket. Last year around this time Facebook was buzzing with parents who were in dismay about upcoming college expenses and they are wondering how they are going to make it. Listen, I don't have all the solutions, but I do know we need to start planning early and it's likely that we'll have to contribute to our children's higher education aspirations.

Most of us wait until our children are in high school before we think about college expenses, but it should really start at birth. Like you have savings and life insurance, one should create a savings plan for college. That plan is called the 529 Savings Plan. It's a tax deferred investment plan/savings account to which you contribute. The great thing about it is others, like friends and family, can also contribute to it. So here's an idea, set up an account and in lieu of birthday presents for your children, ask your relatives to contribute to their college funds.

Want to be stress-free when your kids get ready for college? Then find you a plan that works for you and save for it. Some grants are still available, but in this current economy, grant money is not available for all. Check out this site and learn more, as they have links to types of 529 plans and a list of professionals you can contact to discuss them: Saving for College

Stay tuned for next week's blog, which will address paying back Student Loans. There will be some exciting news attached to that blog, so be sure to check it out!! Until then, stay Frugalicious and Save!!

Frugalicious Diva

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