Reader Pauline shared a fascinating secret in her comment on Yazmin’s post on college money wasters: “Our plan and my son’s goal is that he graduates from college debt-free.”
Whaaaa?! How would she accomplish such a financial feat? I was dying to know Pauline’s plan. Luckily, she wrote back and shed light on her family’s incredibly savvy spending habits.
Hi Julia: Well, first of all my son is VERY low maintenance. We have had our kids purchase their own WANTS for years. His Dad and I always provided the needs and made that clear what a need vs a want consisted of. And also my son doesn’t like to spend his own money. He has several and various savings accounts that have been growing over the years.
As far as starting 9 months ago I’m the type of person that needs
time to let creativity mull in my mind and in reality if one wants something free or really inexpensive you need time on your side. As an example my son wanted a George Forman grill to take to college, I told him wait you’ll find one at a yard sale at a give away price. Well we never did and I wasn’t going to buy one retail (actually I don’t know if one can even find one retail anymore). Well, one of those thrift shops we located in Arcata had a brand new George Forman grill for sale. Austin said,
“Mom can you buy this for me?”
“How much is it?” (which is my typical response)
“Okay, I’ll spring for that at that price.”
Well, when we went to check out the gal said,
“Oh this is $1.50. Evey item with that color tag is 50% off today.”
YEAH. Everyone I knew, knew Austin was off to college in August so we had many offers of needs. We acquired the items from friends, Freecycle, Craigslist, yard sales, rummage sales and even our own home (yes we do have duplicates of many things). When I returned home from driving my son to school my husband asked where did the microwave and kitchen clock radio go? Oh I let Austin take it to school, I received the microwave from Freecycle and I figured I could find another but Austin needed one now so ours went out the door. As for the radio clock I have a vintage clock on the kitchen wall so didn’t need 2 clocks in the kitchen. One neighbor lady that I met through Freecycle would even email prior to posting her Offers to see if my son could use her items for college (that was really sweet and kind of her).
So here’s a mini list of what he took to college that we acquired for free: Microwave, Dorm refrigerator (I was not going to buy a new one of those), toaster oven, Brita Water filter system, large Rubbermaid storage bin (to store and stockpile all the snacks/foods that I had acquired either free or really cheap), clock radio, all his school supplies: binders, paper, pencils, erasers, pens, highlighters, kitchen utensils/tools, pots, pans, plates, cups, mugs, down comforter cover and comfy pillows, extra long fitted twin sheets. He was given some really neat plaid Penelton type shirts that he eagerly packed, pants (from Freecycle), tennis shoes, heavy wind breakers, basketball shorts/tops. I’m sure there is more I’m just drawing a blank now.
I would say one flawed character trait in kids today is not differentiating needs vs wants because of who is flipping the bill. This one takes years of training and you can’t start the Summer before your child heads off to college. We wanted my son to be responsible for his college expenses that includes tuition, room and board etc. He had to fill out the financial aid applications (with our help and guidance of course), he filled out the scholarship applications also. My opinion is kids today have a huge entitlement mentality and presume parents will cover all college and sundry costs. So I’m old school and believe what one works hard and diligently to acquire one will appreciate and work even harder to maintain. Additionally, we are trying to teach our son independence, discipline and a strong work ethic. I think that is needed even more so in this day and age.
My son previously would always kid me about how “cheap” I am because I wouldn’t buy anything unless it’s on sale, I have a coupon for it, or we find it at a yard sale, thrift shop etc. But one of the first emails I received from him from college was this:
“I found the names of the books for all the classes I have but I don’t wanna get them here because they are very expensive, so see if you can get them for cheap.”
So I replied: “So now you like that I’m cheap ‘er frugal. Okay I’ll check with Half.com and Abebooks.”
I have a funny story about his lap top but that’s another long email. Please email me back should you have more questions. Sorry for the ramblings.
I really admire Pauline’s perseverance and dedication to teaching her son such frugal financial values. Such patience is rare. Pauline mentioned several times. If you’ve never checked out this organization, you should. It’s an amazing community resource that will make you feel good about passing on household items, instead of sending them to a landfill.
As for the textbooks, this is perfect timing. Yesterday I did an entire post on how to get textbooks for cheap.
Got a story like Pauline’s? Email me! How are you preparing for your child’s or your own college expenses?