Cash For School Update: May 2016

Cash for school

It’s time once again for our monthly check-in! How are we doing with our goal to remain debt-free while I earn a graduate degree?

Last month, we got a big surprise when we did our tax returns. Our return was so huge that is was enough to cover two of our last three school payments, due in July, October, and January. That meant we only needed to pull together about $4500 by January to meet our goal.

Where are we now?

This week, we had another big surprise. I learned that all of the time I have spent pulling together scholarship applications has borne some fruit.

I won a $2500 scholarship!!

I am the finalist in the Value Colleges Finish It! Scholarship for Non-traditional and Returning Students. I hear they may be giving away an annual scholarship, so if you or your child are looking, feel free to bookmark this link and apply next year. We are both ecstatic and grateful to receive this.

This means that we now only have to come up with $2000 by January to meet our goal. Yes, I am still filling out scholarship applications. I just sent another application off today for a $1500 scholarship. I have a week off from school this week, but I am still working about 7 days a week on my two websites, working on the nursing textbook rewrites, and spending Saturday afternoon at the library researching for more scholarships. I will keep plugging away at scholarships until I near the end of my program.

I have spent about 20 hours so far working on scholarships since I started school in September. If you calculate the scholarship amount by the hours I worked on applying, I have paid myself $125/hour for my efforts.

Goal Update: Cash For School Update: April 2016

Cash for school

For those who are new readers, I will just give a quick history. I am a part-time work-at-home insurance nurse and I am in grad school to earn my masters in nursing education. We had planned on using tuition reimbursement to cover much of my degree, but when I was forced to leave my full-time position to manage our children’s needs, we had to make a decision: do I hold off grad school, take out loans, or figure out how to pay cash?

We had just paid off my loans from degree #2 and we did not want to take out more loans. This graduate degree is #4, and we cash flowed and used tuition reimbursement for #3 while paying off the last of the loans for #2. Yes, it was a little crazy. We knew it would be tight if we opted to try paying cash, but we thought we could do it. That means we have to pay between $2800-3900 every three months between August 2015 and January 2017. 

Is it really the end of April?

I have been doing some bare-bones posting the past few weeks. I know a few of my classmates in grad school read this blog, and they can probably attest that the past few weeks have been utterly exhausting and full of many late nights trying to get all of our work done in time. I have probably written 40 pages of text in two weeks on top of working a few shifts at my part-time job and managing three kids.

Where do we stand?

I was able to pay cash for my next set of classes that start in one week, a health assessment course for advanced practice nurses and a pathophysiology course.

We had a huge surprise a couple weeks ago when we finally finished our taxes. It’s been a year now since I dropped to part-time, and we have a better idea of how much I will earn in a year. Last year we didn’t have a clue, so we changed nothing about our withholdings.

We ended up dropping to a different tax bracket and got a crazy $8000 back in our taxes. Believe me, we try not to give Uncle Sam a free loan, so we were shocked. The upside of this is that this will cover two of the last three tuition payments.

That’s right- we only need to save enough for our last tuition payment, due in late December 2016/early January of 2017. That is going to be a piece of cake!

We are not going hog wild with our spending however. We still are saving to max two Roth IRAs for 2016, a replacement car for the mister,  and a host of house repairs, so we are staying the course. We have decided to adjust our withholdings, in the meantime, and my husband is going to increase contributions to his 403(b). This may bring us higher than our estimated 14% of gross income retirement savings for 2016. Woot!

I am still applying for scholarships, and will apply for a few more this weekend while I am on break from school. I know I got an A in one class, and am still waiting for grading to be done in another, so my GPA should rise. Even a little bit will help!

Goal Update: Cash For School March 2016

Cash for school

For those who are new readers, I will just give a quick history. I am a part-time work-at-home insurance nurse and I am in grad school to earn my masters in nursing education. We had planned on using tuition reimbursement to cover much of my degree, but when I was forced to leave my full-time position to manage our children’s needs, we had to make a decision: do I hold off grad school, take out loans, or figure out how to pay cash?

We had just paid off my loans from degree #2 and we did not want to take out more loans. This graduate degree is #4, and we cash flowed and used tuition reimbursement for #3 while paying off the last of the loans for #2. Yes, it was a little crazy. We knew it would be tight if we opted to try paying cash, but we thought we could do it. That means we have to pay between $2800-3900 every three months between August 2015 and January 2017. 

It’s the end of March and we have nearly $4000 in tuition due by the second week in April. Where do we stand?

Even though we just paid $1400 in car repairs on our 2008 Ford Escape, I am happy to say we are ready to make our next tuition payment. We had saved a little extra in our emergency funds, so paying a month’s worth of tuition savings for our car did not knock us down. It is making us debate about whether we will be building a play set for the kids this month though. Right now, that’s on the backburner.

I have been working more this month and have six shifts lined up for next month, so I’m confident I won’t need money from my husband to cover the expenses I usually cover. I have As in both my classes, and think I will be able to maintain them, so my GPA, which is 3.66, should rise a bit and make me more attractive for scholarships.

This week, I applied for three more scholarships. In total, I have applied for four, though I admit I have not been working on this as much as I should. I was able to complete a few essays and get recommendations from my work and from one of my professors. My goal now is to apply for 30 or more scholarships. Graduate scholarships are fewer and far between, and I’m not sure how much it is reasonable to expect with excellent grades and recommendations. I am setting the bar low, and if I can get $10,000 in scholarship aid, that would be fantastic. Anything above that is icing on the cake.  Luckily, several of the scholarships I am applying for are awarded quarterly, so I can keep reapplying.

This time next year I will be turning in my last projects and applying for graduation. I can’t wait to get out there and get a teaching job!

 

Cash For School Update

Cash for school

For those who are new readers, I will just give a quick history. I am a part-time work-at-home insurance nurse and I am in grad school to earn my masters in nursing education. We had planned on using tuition reimbursement to cover much of my degree, but when I was forced to leave my full-time position to manage our children’s needs, we had to make a decision: do I hold off grad school, take out loans, or figure out how to pay cash? We had just paid off my loans from degree #2 and we did not want to take out more loans. This graduate degree is #4, and we cash flowed and used tuition reimbursement for #3 while paying off the last of the loans for #2. Yes, it was a little crazy. We knew it would be tight if we opted to try paying cash, but we thought we could do it. That means we have to pay between $2800-3900 every three months between August 2015 and January 2017. 

It’s the end of February, and I have already started my Research and Ethics classes. We’re about five weeks away from Grad School Payment Number Four. How are we doing?

I am pleased to say that despite only having a total of four work shifts in January, and what will end up being five and a half shifts in February, I have gotten by without needing money from my husband’s savings funds to cover the expenses I usually cover. Part of this is by cutting back our entertainment funds and part is from transferring from my little nest egg.

We are on track to pay for my Health Assessment and Pathophysiology classes in cash without depleting our savings,  about $3900.

I was successful in getting reimbursed by work for part of my December internet, and I just got a lump sum for a year of business internet. The internet is already in our budget, so we will be putting this one aside to pay for the kids’ new play set.

We are going to continue to keep a lock-down on our entertainment budget for the next 6 months, since my income can fluctuate and we need to think about our Roth IRAs for 2016 on top of my grad school payments. I hope more work comes available as spring and summer roll around, just like last year. March is looking up with seven shifts booked already! I just applied for a scholarship, so here’s hoping I will get something from that department as well. Even a little bit would be appreciated.

 

Goal Update: Cash For School

Cash for school

For those who are new readers, I will just give a quick history. I am a part-time work-at-home insurance nurse and I am in grad school to earn my masters in nursing education. We had planned on using tuition reimbursement to cover much of my degree, but when I was forced to leave my full-time position to manage our children’s needs, we had to make a decision: do I hold off grad school, take out loans, or figure out how to pay cash? We had just paid off my loans from degree #2 and we did not want to take out more loans. This graduate degree is #4, and we cash flowed and used tuition reimbursement for #3 while paying off the last of the loans for #2. Yes, it was a little crazy. We knew it would be tight if we opted to try paying cash, but we thought we could do it. That means we have to pay between $2800-3900 every three months between August 2015 and January 2017. 

As of the beginning of January, we have made three of seven payments in cash. My program has me taking two online courses each session for a total of seven sessions. I am almost done with session two. In a few weeks I will start my Nursing Ethics and Nursing Research courses.

Our next payment is the beginning of April, and we will have to pull $3900 together to pay for the 6 credit hours. That means we’ll need to save about $1300/month in January, February, and March.

Unfortunately, this month started with being booked for only two shifts, though I have been able to pick up two more. This just barely covers my usual expenses plus the sitter. There is nothing extra left over to put towards tuition or retirement.

Next month, I am booked for four shifts, and my in-laws will be in town and able to babysit for us during one of them. I am hopeful one or two more days will open up.

The good news is that in March, I already have 6 shifts booked, and have several more booked well in advance for April, June, and July. January and February seem to be quite slow for taking time off, and I will have to keep that in mind for next year. Let me tell you how happy I am I chose to make savings automatic. It means I don’t need to dip into the savings from my husband’s pay- the savings that are paying for my graduate school- in order to cover expenses.

We are cutting back on some more expenses, and I expect an extra amount from work to cover part of my business internet for this year, plus the almost $100 in unclaimed funds I filed for this month. We will also be doing taxes once we get our W-2s.

I calculate we should have enough to cover my April tuition without dipping into our savings, plus start the first of our home improvements. We are going to build a play set in the backyard and I’m going to paint our downstairs half bath something other than the dark forest green it was when we moved in ten years ago.

We’ll continue our strategy of $10 date nights through the summer, and I will try to pick up as many shifts as I can as spring and summer come near, save the extra, and hopefully be able to fund the other things in our priority list. My expenses will go down once June hits, when I am no longer paying for dance class and preschool. That will be an extra $200 in our pockets every month, and our littlest one won’t need preschool until September of 2017.

Three down, four more to go!

Goal Update: Cash For School

Cash for school

I am halfway through my two current classes in my Masters of Nursing Education program, and that means it is time to pay for the next two classes.

I checked my account this morning, and we will owe $3881.67 . Ugh! This is almost $400 more than we expected to pay. All is not lost, however. Since we got a small windfall this month (about $3500) and a gift towards school expenses ($2000), we will be able to manage to max our 2015 Roths and pay for my tuition without depleting our emergency fund. I am very grateful I have been able to work a few days a month at my job so that we can continue to pay cash for grad school.

Our next payment is due in April, and I am going to assume it will be the same amount. If it is less, no worries. We will just add it to July’s tuition fund.

It’s going to get rather interesting the next few months, as my dental work will require $2000 up front in January, we have April tuition, and we need to start work on our fence in March/April. (The fence is a safety issue with our children, and we can’t put it off any longer).

Because my husband has done so well saving for the Roths from his salary, the little nest egg I have squirreled away is just about enough to cover my dental expenses without taking away from the fence and tuition savings we are squeezing from my husband’s salary.  I am incredibly glad that I chose to make savings automatic every month, and transferred $125 per pay check into my savings. I may make $1250-1500/month tops after paying a sitter, so $250/month is about 17-20% of my net pay.

I am going to push for my husband to finish the taxes and see if we owe or get anything back. I’m hoping for a little unexpected bonus this year. Do you hear that Universe? Because of the low number of work shifts, and increased costs of my implant and tuition, we won’t be able to put any extra on our mortgage this month. But tuition is paid!

I only have 2 work shifts booked so far in January, and it’s making me a little nervous. If there are no requests off from my team for me to cover, I am going to have to use the time to work on my side hustles. Let’s hope a few people I work with feel the need for a little relaxation time in the next two months!

 

Cash For School Update: December 2015

Cash for school

It’s the beginning of December, and we are one month away from January’s tuition payment. I still don’t know what the price of books will be, as it isn’t loaded into my account yet. At minimum, we will have to pay $3276. My school does not allow us the option of finding books for cheaper elsewhere (boo!), but ships them to us and bills us at their price. We are also told to keep our books through graduation, as they may be used in future courses, so we can’t sell them (boo again!). Since I have been in school for what feels like forever, I can estimate that I may have to pay an extra $200 for books, so we are planning for $3500.

The good news is that we are at 100% and ready to pay when January rolls around. I also did complete my first two courses with an A and an A-, so I have a GPA of 3.77. This helps me look good for scholarships. I did find a few potential graduate level scholarships for nursing, however I can’t apply for them until 2016. Scholarships get fewer and harder to come by past the bachelor level.

In other news, we are also at 100% for our 2015 Roth IRA goals ($11,000), thanks to that recent windfall.  We now move on to other priorities: $1000 in dental work for me (a dental implant in January), extra mortgage payments every month ($500/month), $250 for a new toilet, $600ish for a new dishwasher, and April grad school tuition of $3500. Let’s not forget we plan to put up a fence as soon as we can this year ($5000!). I feel confident we can do it though.

It never ends, does it?

Goal Update: Cash For School

Cash for school

It’s nearing the end of October, and I am in the last two weeks of my current class session. My master’s program is divided into seven ten-week sessions, with two classes per session. By the beginning of November, I will have 60 more weeks of classes left.

Next up, I will have Biostatistics/Epidemiology and Advanced Practice Nursing Theory. Sounds delightful, I know! We just paid $3400 for these classes in cash, so I am motivated to do well. During my bachelor’s program, we used our credit card to pay securely online, and get the cash back through our card rewards program.

This year, my school has changed their policy, and will charge an extra 2.5% for using a credit card. I saved us $85 by paying through electronic check, and that is how we plan to continue.

My next group of classes, Research and Nursing Ethics, has an increased number of credit hours, so we will have to pay more. At $546/credit hour, my cost will be $3276 plus the cost of books (still unknown). My program does not allow us to buy books elsewhere, but automatically charges to the account, with the cost due at time of tuition. Because of this, I can’t find alternative, cheaper ways of getting books (and yes, I hate this aspect of the program). This will be due in early January.

The good news is we are doing great, and were able to put 50% of my husband’s pay into savings this past month. The bad news is we won’t be doing that next month. We found out this week about a medical expense for one child that will cost $300-450, and the first of my multiple dental procedures starts next week.

That is OK, though. Emergency fund is 100%, our Roth funds (we want to max one for each of us, for a total of $11,000 by March) is 73% of total, and we are this close to January’s tuition. Next month, our surplus will go to medical expenses, and we will pick back up saving in December. Christmas shopping is done already, so no worries there.

Because this is the end of a class session, grades come out soon. So far, I have an A and an A-. (97-100 is an A, and 94-96 is A-). Anything can happen before then, but with decent grades, I can start trying to apply for scholarship money. The first week of November is a one-week break from school, and that is how I plan to spend my break.

Our Goal To Pay Cash For School

Cash for school

Obtaining an advanced degree has been a goal of mine since I was in high school. There have been a few twists and turns along the way, trying to figure out what I want to spend my life energy doing.

I started out thinking I would get a PhD in anthropology or archaeology, but felt more pulled to a life of service. After my bachelors in anthropology, the winding road lead me to nursing. I got my diploma in nursing (most diploma programs have been transformed into associates programs now), and then my bachelors.

I was accepted into a masters in nursing education program around the same time we recognized having one parent at home most of the time was the better choice for our family, at least over the next few years. That decision meant, however, that I would no longer receive the $5K/year in tuition reimbursement as a full time employee anymore.

While my “as needed” position is allowing me to pay for the things my salary covered when I was full time, thanks to the massive decrease in child care bills, we now have to pay for 100% of my tuition. We are not fans of debt, and only owe on our mortgage. We are not interested in taking on student loans, especially after paying off mine this past year.

We decided we would tighten the belt and make it work. Our first payment of $2400 was due in July, and we paid cash. The number of credit hours increases for my next 2 classes, so we will have to pay $3300 by mid-October.

The good news is that we have already met that goal, and are working on the next payment, which will be due in January.

The bad news is that we will be paying about $3300 every three months through January of 2017 to fully fund my degree. This is not chump change.

Now, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. I have set a goal of trying to get scholarship money to, at minimum, cover what my work would have covered as tuition reimbursement. I have an excellent resume that includes a publication history, a GPA of over 3.5 for my undergrad degrees, and, well, no grades yet for my first classes, but I am halfway through the semester and I have As in both classes. I also write a mean essay.

My plan is to start applying to every graduate scholarship I can find whose qualifications I meet. I sent off one application last week, and am researching regularly. It would be awesome if I could cover 100% of my tuition through scholarship money, but we shall see. I will certainly try!