Are you following us as we listen together to the new podcast from Ramsey Solutions called Borrowed Future? The link to the podcast is posted below, and you have to carve out time this afternoon to listen when you decide NOT to borrow for college, everything changes. Step 7: Bring Your Coupons
It’s a listening party! I’m tuning in, you should tune in too. Let’s talk about how your teen can work Dave’s plan and get your teen through college debt-free.
Bring Your Coupons
During this week’s podcast, Borrowed Future emphasizes the importance of tapping into other people’s money. For the record, I don’t disagree with the premise of earning scholarships or using tuition assistance. In fact, I think using other people’s money to fund your education is great, but it misses the biggest opportunity of all, and that starts BEFORE you apply for scholarships.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re at the grocery store buying ingredients for an important Sunday dinner. After you’ve collected your groceries, you approach the cashier and ask “excuse me, are there any discounts today?” Your impatient cashier grumbles “I don’t know” as she starts to ring up your groceries. As you watch the total continue to rise, you worry that you may have spent more than you planned, but it’s too late now, so you wait patiently for your total. The cashier announces that your total is $145.00 Since you’ve only brought $50, you ask the cashier if there are any coupons available for the items you’ve purchased. With more impatience than before, she says “look, lady, I don’t know. It costs what it costs.” Having brought only $50, you’re thankful that you have access to your credit card. You swipe it quickly and leave the store.
Ok, so I’m not a fiction writer, but the grocery store analogy is too good not to use, and I love a good analogy! I’m sure you’ve either observed something similar or have experienced it yourself. The truth is that you’re an experienced grocery shopper, so you can probably offer good advice about how to be a better shopper. You should know that grocery shopping and college shopping have a lot in common, so let’s share some good advice you can use.
- Important dinners require planning. We’re not throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, we’re planning something important. College is also important. If you’re planning to spend the kind of money it costs to go to college, we need to recognize that it will require time, planning, and effort if we want our teens to be successful. The fact is that ANYONE can get into college, but only about 1/2 will get out with a degree – so from the very beginning we need to be aware that the odds are against our student graduating, so we’ll need to be resourceful.
- You might be at the wrong grocery store. Let’s face it, different stores charge different prices for the same gallon of milk. Such is the case with colleges. While there may be some nuanced differences between a history major at College A and a history major at College B, the truth is that any history degree will be as similar to any other history degree. Since it’s unreasonable to accurately compare and contrast every history major at every college in the country, it’s possible that you’re simply choosing a college based on brand recognition instead of actual quality indicators. And one thing about choosing the “popular brand” is that it will almost always carry a heavy price tag! (you’re paying for marketing!)
- The cashier doesn’t know about sales. The cashier is there to do her job, which is to check you out of the store so she can help the next customer. An admissions representative is there to do his job, which is to enroll students. Unfortunately, an admissions representative is the person you’ll likely interact with the most, but their job is not to save you money.
- The total keeps going up. Here’s the thing about college tuition, the longer you’re in college, the more you’re going to spend, and the longer your teen is in college the more likely you are to do whatever it takes to make sure they graduate! That kind of desperation is a recipe for disaster! The average length of time to earn a 4-year degree is now 6 years, so it’s possible to get in over your head. Cheap tuition is available during the first 2 years. Early on, you’ll have access to dual enrollment, CLEP exams, AP exams, and community colleges. This is as cheap as it gets! Later, once enrolled, it’s going to get more expensive, not less. If you’ve overspent in the first two years, you’ve backed yourself into a corner and may have no choice but to take a student loan for the last few years. At the very minimum, commit to keeping the price as close to $0 as possible for the first 60 credits (years 1 & 2 or an associate degree). Any savings, scholarships, grants, or income earned during those first 2 years can be set aside in a savings account for when it *actually* starts to get expensive.
- The cashier hates coupons. Yes, the store accepts coupons, but coupons slow down the checkout process! Most of the time they require a manager’s approval, cause the register to beep, and generally are a pain in the rear – especially when the customer doesn’t know the store’s coupon policy. Besides, what does she care whether or not you save 50 cents? Are you using coupons for college? CLEP, DSST, Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, Straighterline, Sophia, Saylor Academy, Studycom, and others are all “coupons” you can use toward tuition. If you’re going to make those programs work for you, you’ll have to proactively seek them out, learn the policy, and make sure they apply to the program you’re using. Colleges have no incentive to help you save money on tuition. In fact, the more “coupons” you use toward your tuition, the less money they collect. It’s your responsibility to find the deals and follow the rules.
- Buy now, pay forever. Before the invention of plastic, grocery shopping (with cash) was stressful! You had to do the math in your head and if you over-spent, you had to return items until you were covered. Now, with plastic, there isn’t anything you can’t buy. While a debit card is better than a credit card, debit cards now even have “overdraft” programs in place that allow any transaction to be processed, even with insufficient funds in your account. This is the case with student loans. Without a nickel to their name or a job, with a quick signature, they can fund their entire year’s tuition and living expenses through student loans. Like your debit card, you can get “cash back” when you sign, but unlike your debit card, this “cash back” is a student loan and is funding everything from Friday night pizza to a new car.
In my story, scholarships represent the nice gentleman one aisle over who hands you a $20 bill and says “here, let me help.” Finding money after the fact misses and dismisses the dozens of opportunities you have before you ever got in line at the checkout! Writing your menu, choosing your store, comparing brands, clipping coupons, etc. are all important decisions you’re making along the way that determine your bottom line. So while you listen to this week’s podcast, understand that scholarships should be the last piece of the budget and that your resourceful high school planning, Homeschooling for College Credit, and degree planning are the easiest and most direct ways to guarantee that you can bring down the cost of college.
How to Pay for College Without Student Loans
Over the last few episodes, let’s listen together and plan strategically for your teen’s college credit journey. Following each episode, I’ll offer my own spin on how homeschooling families, specifically those who are Homeschooling for College Credit can take the challenge of going to college debt-free.
Can your teen go to college debt-free? There’s no question in my mind. Keep following and we’ll build a plan together.
Previous posts with comments about each episode
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 6
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 5
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 4
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 3
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 2
Listening Party: Borrowed Future Ep. 1