Save money on in-state tuition? Not so fast…

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 21, 2014

TuitionMy friend Kathy was living in New England when her 18-year-old son, Scott, decided to attend a four-year college in a neighboring state. Scott’s grandparents lived in the town where his college was located, so Kathy, Scott, and the grandparents decided that it would be most prudent for Scott to live with his grandparents through his freshman year of college.

Once Scott had lived with his grandparents for 12 months, he would be eligible for tuition at the in-state rate. This would equate to nearly $10,000 dollars for each of Scott’s sophomore, junior, and senior years.

When –and why—to Cash Out Your 401k

by Lynn B. Johnson on July 25, 2013

401k401(k) plans are a great vehicle for saving for retirement. Typically, an employee can choose to allow an employer to contribute a portion of his or her salary to the plan. Some employers might even match those contributions. The 401(k) contributions are invested in funds that might include money-market, mutual, or bond funds.

You are not taxed on 401(k) funds until you withdraw money from your plan. And, while it is your money, there are consequences to withdrawing money from your 401(k) before you reach age 59 and ½.

Energy Audit: Worth the $100?

by Lynn B. Johnson on July 18, 2013

Energy AuditMy husband and I bought a 1950s-era home last year and sank quite a bit of money into updating it. Even though our contractor and my husband have added rolls and rolls worth of insulation to our home, our utility bills have been higher than reasonable: particularly our gas bill in the winter (for heating) and our electric bill in the summer (for air conditioning).

We’ve gone through parts of our home squirting “Great Stuff” insulating foam sealant into the visible cracks but what more could we do? At our wits end to determine just where the heat/AC was leaking from our attic and sunroom, we contacted our electric utility supplier for a home energy audit.

Selling a Domain Name with Escrow.com

by Lynn B. Johnson on July 2, 2013

Selling DomainsWhile we would never recommend domain-name speculation as a no-risk avenue toward untold profitability, it has been known to happen. Last week, I sold a domain name I’d had for 15 years to an interested buyer.  He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him, so we needed to find a way to keep our own interests protected through the process.

I’d sold a domain name a few years ago, and used Escrow.com to facilitate that process. It worked very well, so I recommended to last week’s buyer that we use that service. He agreed.

Roth IRA vs. 529 College Savings Plans: Who Wins?

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 20, 2013

College Financial AidIn the best-timed article of the year, we covered 529 College Savings plans on 5/29. During that assignment, the Wallet Blog editor asked how a 529 plan stacked up against that other popular savings vehicle for higher education: the Roth IRA. I contacted Timothy Parros, CCPS, HECA, NACAC of Parros Financial Group & Parros College Planning in Ann Arbor, MI, to get the scoop.

Beating the FAFSA

Fire Your Lawn Service & Save Some Money This Summer

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 11, 2013

lawncareIt’s summer! If you’re thinking of dumping your lawn service and pocketing the difference, here are some tips for maintaining your own yard without breaking the bank.

Lawn Care

Summertime Money-Saving Tips

by Lynn B. Johnson on June 3, 2013

Summer SavingsMoney never seems to go as far in the summertime. Here’s a collection of money-saving tips to help you maximize your summer dollars!

Entertainment

Just in time for 5/29: 529 College Savings Plans

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 29, 2013

529 Savings PlansDuring the past 10 years, the cost of tuition and room and board at 4-year public universities has risen by nearly 49%. To offset this sticker shock, simple investments specifically designated for college planning are a good way to go. A Section 529 college savings plan allows you to save for the upcoming higher-education expenses of a beneficiary of your choosing.

When the beneficiary withdraws funds from 529 plans for qualified education expenses, those withdrawals remain free from federal income tax. Such qualified expenses include:

Break Out of Your Grocery Rut (and Save in the Process!)

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 18, 2013

Supermarket SavingsSome people shop at the same store at the same time on the same day, week in and week out. If this sounds like you, you’re missing out on some great bargains. Here are some ways to break out of your grocery rut and save money on your food budget.

Couponing? Nope.

Home Warranties: Worth the Price?

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 10, 2013

Home WarrantyA home warranty/home protection plan is a service contract that protects many of the appliances or systems (heating, plumbing, air conditioning) in your house in case they fail. They can serve as a security blanket of sorts to homeowners, particularly if you’re purchasing a home that is older or hasn’t had much in the way of upkeep over the past number of years.  Plans are often offered on an annual basis and can cost much less than it otherwise would to fix a home system or replace a home appliance should one of those cease to function.

There are many, many home warranty companies, and you can read reviews about them as well as request a free quote online. Some warranties only cover appliances, and some only cover systems. If you want both areas covered, be sure to note that when you ask for your quote.

Springtime… when a consumer’s fancy turns to thoughts of Yard Sales!

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 3, 2013

yard saleHappy April, everyone! It may be 37 degrees where I live, but the sky is blue, the snow is gone, and I’m itching for yard-sale season to begin. I’ve hosted and attended a number of these consumer extravaganzas over the years… here are some tips for hosting as well as attending a yard sale that I’ve amassed along the way.

Hosting a Yard Sale

“For Me, For You, For Later”: Financial Foundations from Elmo and Friends

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 27, 2013

In an era when the 400 richest Americans account for the same amount of collective wealth as 62% of the nation’s entire population combined and the United States is the fourth most wealth-unequal country in the world, something is grievously wrong with the way income is earned, saved, and distributed. Fortunately, someone has come to the rescue of our next generation, encouraging them to “spend, save, and share” the money they earn. Who is this economic powerhouse preaching to our kids?

Elmo, of course.

Getting Paid as a Caregiver Without Jeopardizing Medicaid Eligibility

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 20, 2013

medicaidThe most recent figures show that 48.9 million people in the U.S. have served as adult caregivers, with 86% of them providing for a relative in need. Not only do these people have to contend with the myriad difficult and thankless tasks associated with caregiving, but most also have to work outside jobs in order to pay the bills. In all, more than 70% of caregivers effectively work two jobs.

As you might expect, that burden ultimately proves unsustainable for many, as nearly one-third of working caregivers choose early retirement, take a leave of absence from their job, or give up working entirely. What’s more, two-thirds adjust their work hours or take time off in order to provide care.

Laid off = Back to School? Not so fast…

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 12, 2013

Back to SchoolGoing to school is a typical fallback position when you’ve lost a job. My dad always says, “Time spent pursuing education is never wasted.” And a few new initials after your name will make you more desirable once you’re back on the job market, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

Surviving the Sequester: Quick Tips for Laid-Off or Limited-Hours Workers

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 6, 2013

Budget CutsIf you are one of the many government workers who has been laid off, might be laid off, or has had your hours slashed, you need to be thinking of a new plan, pronto. The U.S. economy added 741,000 jobs between September 2012 and January 1, 2013. The CBO estimate of jobs that will be lost due to sequestration is 750,000. That means you’re going to have a lot of company in the unemployment line.

Unemployment Benefits

A Recipe for Savings: How to Cut Costs By Baking Your Own Bread

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 21, 2013

chefGrocery stores utilize myriad strategies to trick customers into purchasing more than they truly need: playing depressing music, putting the kid-friendly food at kid-eye level, hiding the milk all the way in the back, etc. Add to this the fact that the average food shopper ends up throwing away 12-percent of the food they’ve purchased due to spoilage and you’ve found a money-exploding minefield.

It therefore makes sense that we spend less money when we limit our grocery trips. I, for one, used to spend an additional $50/week on those “just a couple of things” grocery runs, but fortunately I found a way to curb both my trips to the store –primarily for milk and bread– and my spending.  I started baking my own bread.

MOOCs: Worth a look for free higher education

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 13, 2013

With the rising cost of higher education, my husband and I joke that we’re going to homeschool our children for college. With the advent and rise in popularity of Massive Open Online Courses —MOOCs— we might not have to.

ABOUT MOOCs

Punting your Cable TV Bill

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 6, 2013

punt TVSuper Bowl 2013 is over and by now, you’ve probably seen that it was the third most-watched television event in U.S. history, with more than 108 million Americans tuning in. It seems as though the $3.8 million that advertisers shelled out for each 30-second spot was money well spent.

But some of those advertisers didn’t get my eyeballs; instead, I saw the ads that were delivered via the cbssports.com live stream. This year, I connected a laptop to my television to watch the Super Bowl for free, because months ago I decided to save $100/month by dumping my cable-TV service.

Hey Investors, You Up for a Dip in a Dark Pool?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on January 31, 2013

They’re three of the most tried-and-true, commonplace expressions:  1) Look before you leap; 2) Don’t swim within 30 minutes of eating; and 3) Buy Low, Sell high.

While decidedly trite, we were raised on such sayings, and they typically don’t lead us astray.  But do they hold true in the post-Great Recession world of finance, which is marked by things like “shadow banking,” “floating-rate demand notes,” and “dark pools” that are not only unclear to most consumers, but could also get you in over your head and ultimately eat your lunch if you aren’t careful?  That remains to be seen.

CD Rates on Steroids (and With Some Risk, Of Course)

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on January 23, 2013

corporate bondIt can be difficult to find an investment vehicle that gives you a safe, yet lucrative return on your deposit these days.  Rates on savings accounts, Money Market Accounts (MMAs), and Certificates of Deposit (CDs) have remained low since the Great Recession began; the stock market is doing its best Yo-Yo impression; and commodities like gold have left many scratching their heads.

That’s why private-label corporate bonds – more commonly known as floating-rate demand notes – might seem so attractive.

Why You Can’t Comparison Shop For Life Insurance

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on January 2, 2013

There’s always a lot of talk about resolutions this time of year.  It’s a New Year, after all, and that means many people are embarking on new beginnings or striving for self-improvement.  It’s not all about losing weight or giving up cigarettes either.  A number of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions are financial in nature, and one in particular – taking out a life insurance policy – raises some important questions about how certain aspects of the personal finance landscape operate.

It’s understandable why people would factor life insurance into their resolutions.  I mean, New Year’s is when many of us finally address long-shirked obligations (plus, barely surviving New Year’s Eve can have that effect on you).  Parents in particular want to make sure their loved ones are provided for, not burdened financially, if they pass away.  Well, anyone who’s ever taken out a policy knows that while you can try to shop around for the best rates, offers aren’t finalized until your paperwork and physical exam results are processed.

How Can a U.S.-Made Prescription Drug Cost Hundreds More Domestically Than Abroad?

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on December 20, 2012

prescription drug pricesJust a few weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed into the world our first child, Achilles Spiro Papadimitriou.  He obviously takes after his papa when it comes to having an exceedingly Greek name (just check out my byline), and my hope is that he can channel his namesake, Achilles of Greek mythology, when it comes to strength, bravery, leadership, and general badass-ness.  Anyway, that’s beside the point.

You see, Achilles recently had some trouble with his eyes (I know, surprising it wasn’t a leg tendon), and our experience getting him medication raised some very interesting questions about our country’s medical system (I know, U.S. healthcare is flawed, surprise surprise).  To make a long story short, there was some sort of snafu with our insurance and Achilles didn’t show up on our account, so we had to pay for the medicated eye drops he needed out of pocket.  No biggie, right?

Will Coming Face to Face with Your Future Self Help You Plan for Retirement?

by John Kiernan on December 12, 2012

Retirement and Face RecognitionHave you ever seen one of those movies where the police or some super-secret spy agency uses cutting-edge technology to project what a fugitive or rogue agent looks like today based on a really old picture?  I’m pretty sure they used something along those lines in The Fugitive, U.S. Marshalls, and the Bourne series.  Well, as it turns out, such predictive appearance tools aren’t the sole domain of the authorities.  Retirement planners are getting in the act too.

I’ll give you a second to let that sink in.

Give the Gift of Savings to Your Loved Ones This Holiday Season

by Guest on December 12, 2012

gift tax exemptionEvery year, we look for gifts that are “different,” that really show our loved ones how much we care. This is not always easy, especially since it seems that we are surrounded only by material gifts that will be forgotten or thrown away over time.

With these thoughts in mind  the GradSave team went in search of gifts that will not only hold their value, but that will actually help the ones you love save money. Here are our tops five picks:

The Best Mobile Apps for the Holidays

by Guest on December 5, 2012

There’s no escaping it: The holiday shopping season is officially upon us, which means it’s time to get serious about gift giving and holiday spending. The good news is that this year, with the wealth of mobile apps that make holiday shopping more convenient (and cheaper!) than ever, there’s no need to shell out a bunch of cash on presents you can’t afford.

Check out these four apps that will not only save you money during the holidays, but they’ll make holiday shopping more fun, too.

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