Becoming Debt Free in 2009

April 20, 2009

Goodbye College Scholarship

Filed under: Kids,Scholarships,School Expenses — ambercouric @ 8:29 am

As most of you know, Ashby is attending college on full scholarship. This school wasn’t his first choice. This school was actually his second choice but once he visited he liked it and then they offered him the scholarship so he decided that it was the place for him.

This weekend he told me that he has decided he wants to transfer next year. Guess where he wants to go. The school that was his first choice last year. He is in his first year but will transfer as a junior because of hours received in high school.

At first I thought of a million reasons why he should stay where he is and most of them had to do with money. He will still have the state scholarship so that will pay all of the tuition but will have to pay for room, board and books. But the truth is that he should transfer. The new school has both a masters and a doctoral program and he will have a lot more opportunities for research.

Most of all college is a once in a lifetime experience and I want Ashby to love ever moment of it.


April 16, 2009

Wow! What an inspiration.

Filed under: Positive Thoughts — ambercouric @ 8:18 am

Kennedy is on spring break so things are pretty busy around here.

Someone sent me this link of Susan Boyle from Britains Got Talent. If you haven’t seen it take a second to watch. Wow.

April 8, 2009

Yard Sale – Yes, No, Maybe

Filed under: Uncategorized — ambercouric @ 9:29 am

Kennedy is begging me to have a yard sale.  Long story short, his friend  wanted a Wii and his mother told him he would have to have make the money for the Wii by selling some of his toys.  This family is a shopping family and they have EVERYTHING.  Anyway, the father lost his job 15 months ago and still hasn’t found work.  They have stopped buying stuff so the only way the friend could get to Wii was to sell some of his toys.   The yard sale was a great success more than $2500 and the friend made enough for his Wii.

Kennedy has to have a laptop for boarding school.  We have four people and four computers – two laptops and two desktops.  Kennedy’s is a desktop. I really don’t want to go through all the trouble but I am sure he can make several hundred dollars.  I should also say that I have given him a limit of how much I will pay for a laptop.  He is convinced that the one he has to have is about $200 more than I am willing to pay.

We live in yard sale heaven.  One sign at the entrance and the people will come.  Also, this is prime yard sale time.

I guess I should let him has the yard sale but I dread the work involve.  He could plan a date for a few weeks away and spend part of spring break getting everything ready.

Is it worth the work?

April 7, 2009

Thanks, Basketball, Vets

Filed under: Pets — ambercouric @ 9:09 am

Thanks to all of you who left comments and sent e-mails after yesterday’s post.  I appreciate all of the support.  Right now my plans are to continue writing on this blog but the subjects will be varied.   Eventually, I will probably have to change since this blog title is so goal specific.  I really enjoy blogging and have a lot to say – just not a lot to say about personal finances.  So we ‘ll see where this goes.


Chant with me.


I’m just a little excited about that great win last night.

Now about the Vet.  I had to take the puppy in yesterday to get “fixed”.  I went back last night to check on her since she has to stay the night in the hospital.   She looked absolutely pitiful.  I sat in the kennel with her for a little while.   I am such a cry baby at the thought of pain for anyone including animals.  Anyway, I went back out to the front desk and there was a man (about my age 40+) who brought in a small dog.  The dog had gotten sick over night and was going downhill fast.  The man was explaining he only had $50 but could the vet please see the dog.   I have a great vet who would never let a sick dog walk out the door but it was obvious this man  was not able to afford this bill.  So, I ask the receptionist to add his bill to my bill.   As I drove home I realized that being able to give to someone without having to worry if I could really afford it  is what I have been striving for.  The important thing is the man’s dog is going to be fine.

April 6, 2009

I Have Nothing Financial To Say

Filed under: Financial Thoughts,Giving,Goals,Journey to Debt Freedom — ambercouric @ 9:48 am

When I started this blog I had what seemed to be a huge amount of debt.  You can see the breakdown here.  Nearly $20,000.  I was extremely motivated to get the debt down.  In the beginning, I was working really hard to change the way we thought about money.  We cut some things and decided other things were worth the cost.

Now, it is April and the last debt is well on its way.  I have about $5,500 left on my car.  While that seems like a lot we are so far ahead – I think the car is worth about $16,000 give or take a thousand.  Also, I have the amount set to pay so with making no changes the car will easily be paid off by September.

This brings me to the point of really not having anything to say about personal finance.   Although I am not debt free at the moment I know it is going to happen soon.  I can’t wait but right now being debt free just seems like waiting for Christmas.  It’s coming soon and I have a little of the anticipation but I’m not exactly fired up about.

The good news is that my life does not revolve around the debt.  I’m not constantly trying to fine ways to save a few dollars.  Since October I have made great efforts to save by not spending on things that aren’t really important to me.  I’ve given lots of thought to how and why we spend money.  So I guess I have grown up financially.

I’m  not sure where this leaves this blog.  I enjoy blogging when I have something to blog about but to blog just to write something down doesn’t interest me.  Right now my life consists of getting ready for boarding school for Kennedy, dealing with college stuff for Ashby, taking care of my dogs (trying to train the puppy to do all the cool stuff show dogs do), and volunteering for a couple of organizations.  We are planting a garden for the main purpose of being able to give the vegetables to the food pantry (of course we will eat some too) and spending more hours at the animal shelter because so many animals are being given up by owners who can no longer afford them.

I guess that I have reached my goal.  Although, I can’t give large sums of money to charity each month I can give both time and  money to help others.  I’m excited that I can see a need and my first thought is let me help and not can I afford to help.

I need to decide where I go from here.  Do I keep this blog and update weekly (which by the way drives me crazy) or do I move on to a blog that is more centered around my priorities and goals?

March 31, 2009

Tips for Getting Scholarships (Part 3)

Filed under: Scholarships — ambercouric @ 9:14 am

Here you go.  The final part of all I know about scholarships.

Areas three and four are extra curricular activities and volunteer work.

I remember when I was in high school a teacher told me to participate in the activities that I love not to participate in everything.    Perfect advice.  This is even more relevant today.  Colleges are looking for students that show a real passion for something.  We have found that three or four real extra curricular activities with leadership positions in some of those works out well.   We try to focus on one sport, one instrument, one academic and one service club.  This way everything is covered.  Being a member of 20 clubs but not participating really doesn’t help with scholarships.  Being able to show that you were truly committed to the clubs you were involved with is much better.  It is important for a student to be willing to step up and be the organizer of the big fund raiser, work to make ALL – State band, editor of the newspaper or yearbook.  Show leadership.

The final area is charity.  Most of the scholarships we have been involved with have a community/ volunteer component that they look for when deciding the recipient.  This is the area that sets you apart from the other 25 kids who have the same GPA and SAT scores.  I have found that once a student makes it past the first round for scholarships this is the area that is the deciding factor.  I truly believe that the scholarship that Kennedy just received came down to this.  He has two areas that he spends a lot of volunteer time.  These two areas speak of a student’s character and that is what schools are looking for.

To put this in perspective, there is a college forum that I visit quite often.  Announcements came out last week for their tops scholarships.  I think all of the kids that post that won the scholarship had  more than 400 hours of volunteer service.  Many had started some project that involved the school or community.

Hope some of these tips help.

March 29, 2009

The Saddest Thing I’ve Seen

Filed under: Uncategorized — ambercouric @ 12:37 pm

This is one of the saddest stories I’ve seen in a long time.  Lady was dead for more than a year before anyone realized it.

We live in the historic district and have several neighbors that are 80-90 years old.   We are usually in daily contact with them.  Especially the ones with children out of state.

March 28, 2009

I’m Freaking Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — ambercouric @ 9:08 am

To use Kennedy’s comment – “Mom, you need to stop freaking out”.  It is finally sinking in that he may actually leave and go to boarding school.  I am totally overwhelmed.  Both emotionally and financially.  I’ve tried to calculate the extra expenses and it runs into the thousands.

I’ll be back later today or sometime this weekend after I have calmed down.

March 25, 2009

Tips for Getting Scholarships (Part 2)

Filed under: Scholarships — ambercouric @ 8:56 am

Course Selection and Grades  (GPA)

What I know about this is limited to information from 8 schools.  Both private and public.  If there is a particular school that you are interested in call the admissions office and ask how GPA is calculated.

All students have a high school GPA.  This is the average grade of all classes taken during high school (sometimes includes high school classes taken in junior high).  Many schools also have a weighted factor for honors or AP classes.    The GPA calculated by the college may be very different from the high school GPA. 

The universities that my son applied to had this formula.  They take the core courses ( you can find the course requirements on each college website) and use only the grades for those courses to determine if you have a high enough GPA  to meet their standards.  My nephew was an average student and had a mediocre GPA.  His parents decided to put him in PE classes to pull up his GPA.  His high school GPA was up but the college GPA didn’t change.   Colleges are more interested in grades from academic courses and also the level of those courses. 

Choosing course levels – rule of thumb here is to choose the class that gives you the best GPA outcome.  For example, taking a Calculus class that is honors and is weighted 4 for an A or taking an AP Calculus class that is weighted 5 for an A.  It seems like it would be better to take the AP class.  But if your child is not the strongest math student an A is honors Calculus is better than a C in AP Calculus.  But a B in AP Calculus is weighted the same as an A in honors Calculus  so you should take the more advanced AP class. 

Since the above is now clear as mud I’ll go on to discuss other classes.  Colleges are looking for academics.  There is an exception.  A passion class.  For example, if you child is a talented musician it is fine that they have four credits for band.  Same for art.  But to have the minimum academic courses and lots of PE or basket weaving, home economics, etc. basically tells the school that you were only interested in getting what you had to have.  You didn’t take enough of the classes that would challenge you.

Public high schools some times are horrible for getting students in the right classes.  Each year I had to go to the guidance counselor and redo Ashby’s schedule.  One year in particular they had him scheduled for English, AP Statistics, 2 study halls, 1 PE, Yearbook, Creative Writing, and SAT prep.  I had to have the scheduled changed to AP English, AP Statistics, Biology 101 (college credit class), Biology 202 (college credit class), AP US History, and one study hall.  There were less classes overall because some required two periods.  This seems like a heavy load but knowing my child I knew that it was not to much for him.  Make sure you help your child arrange his classes.

Students can get into good schools only taking the minimum required classes but in most cases they won’t be the ones getting the scholarships.

Tomorrow I will post about extra curricular activities.

March 24, 2009

Tips for Getting Scholarships

Filed under: Scholarships — ambercouric @ 10:06 am

DISCLAIMER – I am not an expert.  I have done tons of research for my family and some of our friends.  I have read lots of books and talked to admissions counselors.   My husband and I both attended college on full scholarships.  My husband’s scholarship came from the company his father worked for.  My scholarship was merit based from the school I attended.  My older son is currently in college also attending on full scholarship.  And per my post yesterday Kennedy is going to boarding school on full scholarship.  That sums up my expertise.

Now for the real tips.  There are four areas that I feel contribute heavily to obtaining scholarships.

Standardized Tests – Area 1

My children take the SAT.   I also tutor for the SAT so I’m sure that plays a roll in their high scores.  The most important thing in scoring high on these tests is to understand the tests long before you take it.

There are a couple of videos that we use. The New SAT Math and The New Critical Reading & Writing both of these are by Goldhil Entertainment (2005) and aren’t really new anymore but have great tips.   We rent these from the library.  They are simple and a little hard to sit through (a bit silly) but as I said they have great tips.  I believe the SAT is about strategies and these DVDs include lots.  It is important to watch these before you  take practice tests and then again a couple of weeks before the first time you sit for the actual test.

SAT practice tests.  The only book I recommend is the College Board The Official SAT Study Guide.  This book includes 10 real SAT tests.  I have found that other companies that make study guides for the SAT have tests that are much easier and don’t give a true sense of the actual test (just my opinion). 

Get a list of the most used SAT words and a list of SAT prefixes.  You can find these online by doing a search.  Here is a Quizlet game that can be played online. Here is a list with definitions from the Washington Post.  Of course, these lists don’t have all the words but are a great starting place.  We have made a family game out of learning new words.

Our SAT study schedule.  We start about 3 months before the test.  The first month we work one SAT test a week.  During the first month none of the tests are timed.  The sections are worked in whatever order the child wants to work them.  The thing is that each week a complete test has to be worked and check usually only completing two sections a day.   Any questions that are wrong we go over at the end of the week.  There are detailed explanations for each answer.  We do this with the first 4 of the 10 practice tests.  Week 5 a complete test is completed.  We do this on a Saturday morning.  Starting at the regular SAT starting time.  We take only the breaks allowed during a regular test.  This lets you know where your child stands as far as the real test and gives you key areas to target for improvement.  For the next four weeks we work parts of tests.   SAVE the last test for a final complete practice test.  At this point we are timing each section although we are not working them in any particular order.    We spend time on areas that were problem areas during our practice test.  Week 10 watch the videos again just in case there is a small detail or tip that was missed.  Then on Saturday sit  for another complete test.  By the time this schedule is complete the student is completely familiar with the test.  So on test day the anxiety is so much less.  Also, the student knows if there is a certain type of question that he just doesn’t get and can skip it.   I am always amazed at kids who walk into these tests and have no idea that they have to pretty much sit for nearly four hours.

This is getting long so maybe I should do each area as a different post.  If you have specific questions about the SAT please ask and I’ll try to answer.

The next post will cover GPA and Course Selection.

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