Dare To Be Martha!

Yes, its that time of year already. Easter baskets are on sale. REALLY on sale. And, yes, they're weird colors. BUT a can of spray-paint later, and ... voila! ... they're white PICNIC BASKETS. Or baskets for pot-lucks, or gift-baskets for Christmas-cookies, or wild-flowers, or home-grown veggies, or whatever it is that you give people. For less than the cost of a paper bag. Ok. Thats an exaggeration. Actually, last year, mine came out to be ABOUT the cost of a paperbag.

And don't use curling ribbon, which is expensive. Go to the fabric department at Walmart (or the floral department) and buy a roll of gross-grain or satin ribbon for way less.

Go on. Dare to be Martha!


You can't make me! ;oP

Leni | 04/10/2007 - 04:40 PM

Also bags of malted milk Easter eggs. To think I was at Alco the other day, and they had shelf after shelf of Easter candy on sale, and I didn't pick any up!

Paul Burgess | 04/11/2007 - 02:52 PM


Yeah, yeah, I know I'm about to write a comment longer than your post, but if you didn't want comments you'd stop blogging. Right. Right?

My perspective is from being a stay-at-home mom with three degrees. "Real" degrees from "real" universities.

First, we're in good shape because my husband made very smart decision very early. I think EVERYONE should read The Millionaire Next Door. Period. The sooner the better.

Second, I'm a stay-at-home mom (and homeschooler) because we both decided early on thats what we wanted.

I kinda laugh, though, that people think family and career are separate parts. Because marriage is not about one person. My husband and I are a team. My lifestyle makes his career possible, and his lifestyle makes my career possible. Its all one big mixed up co-dependent lump! Saying that you can have a family and a career as if they are separate is foolishness. You have "a life" and everything in that life is related and inner-connected.

Third, really think about life. She may not get married. She may get married late. She may get married and he may die very young. She may get married and he may be disabled very young. Think of it not as a "back-up plan" in terms of divorce, think of it as a "back-up plan" in terms of "sometimes bad things happen to good people". And maybe God's way of taking care of the situation is preparing her now for later!

Fourth, $80,000 my ... eye! You've swilled down the Kool-aid, my friend. You and your little dog too ...

I don't have TONS of skills, but I'm not bad at shopping. $80,000 is paying retail. Start looking for sales.

The best bargains are state schools, and most of the flagship schools are good. (For example, the MBA program at UT-Knoxville was ranked in the TopTen again this year -- and instate tuition is very reasonable)

Next step, she needs to get in-state tuition. Which means that she picks a state school, moves to that state, gets a job at a community college bookstore and takes a few classes at the community college while she waits for the first year she pays taxes. Then she'll qualify for in-state tuition, federal grants based on poverty, and have some credits going in.

A lot of times, community colleges let them employees take classes free. And even though she's "on her own" and independent, you and your husband can funnel her up to $10,000 per year without hurting her tax-independent status. The only thing is that you won't be able to claim her as a dependent and she won't be covered by your insurance as she's not a dependent. Consider the cost of catastrophic insurance policy and see if she can get on Medicaid in whatever state she's interested in. She also needs to learn about food-banks in her area.

Also, is she cross-enrolled now? If she's homeschooled, why isn't she? What I'm talking about is taking classes at the local community college (or online from a state-school) that count toward high-school graduation as well as toward a college transcript. There's no reason she shouldn't "start" college with the basics out of the way. You know, English 101 and 102, Math 101 and 102, etc.

As long as its an accredited school based on semesters instead of quarters, transferring credits shouldn't be a problem. Once she picks a school, you can even call the admissions department and make sure that there won't be a problem transferring credits.

Credits represent money. (Cost per semester divided by credits earned equals cost per credit) The more credits you can get cheap freshman and sophmore year, the cheaper the cost of your total degree. And when companies look at your resume, they don't generally look at your transcript. All they know is where you graduated from, not how long you went there.

Don't drink the Koolaid that the value of your education is based on how much you spend on it.

Ivy-Leagues tend to be expensive, but so do small private schools because they don't have the economies of scale (or endowments) of large unviserities.

My experience with small private "niche" schools is that often the students there are only there because thats the "niche" their parents want them in. Small private schools tend to be rather ... more cliqish than larger schools where the social pressure can be diffused as easily as joining a different club or going to a different cafeteria. While the repuation is that most large universities are liberal, I've found that people are people no matter where you go.

Plus, the whole "summers off" thing is for the birds. If she takes the Summer "off" to work, make sure she gets a job thats an internship counting toward her degree-program instead of just "do you want fries with that?". She should make sure to talk to a counselor in the graduation department to find out about "substitutions" for graduation requirements.

For example, working at a camp for the deaf might count as a foreign language if she learns and uses sign-language during the Summer. (No kidding, one of my friends did that. Sign-language is a recognized language used by many people, and since she didn't use it in her home it counted as "foreign".)

Another example might be working as a guide at a historical military facility. That could count for basic military history. IF it couldn't be substituted directly, consider asking a professor that teaches the class to offer you an Independant Study class over the Summer where you could combine work and studying for "class" which could be just a lengthy paper, or an oral examination at the end of the Summer, or a series of tests. The key is, Independent Study doesn't involve class-attendance. Don't under-estimate the willingness of a professor to help a student who is highly interested and motivated in their special field.

And its my personal opinion that "location" is FAR more important than "fit" when looking at colleges. Students are affected by more than the school, ALWAYS take a look at the area around the school. How convienent are groceries, and movies, and Walmart, and church, and parks, and public transportation. Students are less likely to get clinically depressed if they are less dependant on others or less "trapped" in their situation. Once again, large state schools are usually surrounded by resources.

And, to put it VERY bluntly, parents that think students get into less "trouble" at smaller "niche" schools are delusional. They just get into different "trouble" that is often way more harmful. Been there, seen that.

I wish I had known more in the beginning about how to do college "smart" instead of learning the hard slow way. It frustrates me that so many people see the $80,000 price-tag and panic. Lots of very bright kids who really believe "I can't afford to go to college" and then don't. Just because they lacked the skills to play the system.

Lucy | 04/11/2007 - 06:50 PM


You know, there are also lots of careers she could have and still be a mostly stay-at-home mom (if she has a degree in something employable instead of underwater-basket-weaving)

Like teaching in public school. If your kids are school age, you know exactly where they are all the time. And you're off when they're off. For the hours worked, the pay is actually pretty good.

Here's a new thought for me, and its my new back-up plan: teaching online courses at a community college. It usually requires a masters in something, but you work from home and pick your own hours, and set your own pace. The salary is great if you work up the volume, and teach popular classes (or basic classes that people need to graduate from the local univerisity where scheduling can be a problem)

And there are others. I just can't think of them right now. But working from home is becoming more and more common as commuting is becoming more and more difficult. You just never know!

Oh, and one last thing, if she gets to her junior year and doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows-up? Point out that she IS grown-up and about to be seriously unemployable. THATS the piece of advice most of my friends wish they had listened to when they were getting political-science degrees. College is only a little about figuring out WHAT you want to do; its mostly about getting prepared to actually DO it.

And once she has a bachelors? Just step up and keep going. Get employed and start taking classes once a week at night that can apply toward a Masters.

And sell your football tickets. I went to UT-Knoxville. There students can stand in line and get free football tickets. Then sometimes sell them for the "big" games. And babysit for professors. There's nothing better than a professor whose wife adores you, and whose first thought is "oh, we're going to Greece for six weeks, I need a helper, lets take her!"

And remember that while professors are indeed authority figures they're also just people who take out the trash and who'd love to sleep late on Saturdays except that their toddler pokes them awake and wants to share her new song about Elmo and thats ok too.

Lucy | 04/11/2007 - 07:12 PM

Thanks, Luc! I did indeed want comments. I emailed your response to my inbox so dh and I can go over it. I appreciate you taking the time to write all that out!

BTW, she is currently working on getting dual-enrolled (not quite as easy as we thought it was going to be, thank you very much Hillary.)

I mentioned the $80,000, but we've been very clear that unless someone is giving her a full ride, community college is her best friend, and that's where she'll be going the first two years.

We are blessed to live in a college-rich area. We have 2 community colleges and 6 universities within a 50 mile radius.

Leni | 04/11/2007 - 08:43 PM
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