Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I Can't Spend Money

My son is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He graduates in June. I remember back when he was a toddler, and my husband started a few mutual fund accounts for college. It really seemed silly to start saving for college when my son was only 2, but boy am I glad we did. He has applied to several schools, none of which is a state school, which tends to be cheaper. He wants to be a U.S. Marine, preferably a pilot, so in order to do that, we needed to look at military type schools with strong engineering programs.

He has applied to the Naval Academy, which will be free if he gets accepted, but considering it's the third hardest school to get into in the country, we weren't very hopeful. However, he got much further than we thought, and now we're just waiting for the decision to be handed out at the end of March.

In the meantime, he has applied to a few military schools, one of which is a junior college that is 10 minutes from where I work. However, it is a private institution and the tuition is $43,000/ year. Seems like a lot to pay for a junior college, but the class size is about 10-14 students per teacher, and we feel that would be a good fit for him. He has already been accepted there and received a scholarship of $13,000 per year, but that wouldn't be enough for him to go there without taking out a lot of money in loans, and my husband refuses to do that. So my son is applying for a scholarship through our state representative, who can award him up to $18,000/year. Because it is a new program, my son is the only one who applied this way, so he stands a good chance of getting some money. However, if it's not the full $18K, then we're still looking at paying a substantial portion of his tuition.

Because we've been saving for 15 years, we have about $60,000 that we can put toward his college education without having to take any money from our immediate earnings. But as you can see, at $42,000/year ($35,000/year for his third choice school), that might only pay for a year or two without financial aid. After filing the forms for governmental financial aid, we're not going to get much, so I think we'll be on the hook for whatever we can't get directly from the school.

My husband has been worrying about college costs since my boys were babies, and while we seem to have prepared, the cost of college is still ridiculous. We do not want our boys to graduate owing $100,000 in student loans, so we will have to sacrifice for the next 8 years so that we can get them through college and keep them out of debt.

This is where minimalism has been really helpful, but also sometimes kind of frustrating. Helpful in that I really don't want to spend money on clothes or even household items as much as I used to. We are looking to have our bathroom upgraded this summer, but if it doesn't happen, I really don't care. As long as I have hot water, a shower stall, and a working toilet, I'm good.

And it's frustrating in that when you read minimalist blogs (not all, but many), these people are selling off everything they own and travelling the world. Well bully for them, but what about those of us with families? Maybe I got into minimalism too late, but I am where I am, and I can't change that. So I need to make it work for me, which means that I still NEED to work at my regular job, and so does my husband, who I desperately wish could retire in the next few years. We need to be able to feed our kids and to put them through college, although I suspect a mimimalist's argument might be that they don't really NEED to go to college. That may be true, but I'm not going to deprive them of that experience because I'm trying to be a minimalist. That's not fair to them. Granted, I am doing my best to teach them that things won't make them happy, and I think they are getting the message, but they still need to eat and have clothes and do activities and be prepared for a carreer, and all of this costs money.

Anyway, all of this to say that it's very difficult because I really want to be able to travel more and do things, but we just can't. Now, if my son does get accepted into the Naval Academy, we may give him some money when he graduates or maybe buy him a car if he needs it, but we'll save the rest for our younger son. Although the tempation would be to spend the $60K on something else, like a great vacation and maybe a new kitchen.

And so I look at my job and my life and try to be content with just today. We can't stop living, so we do allow ourselves the occasional weekend away, but money is always looming in the background. 

So, this is why it's been easier than expected to let go of my spending ways. All I know is, my kids had better be prepared to change my diapers when I'm 80 years old...


  1. One kid went to a state public university for 4 years and the other went to junior college for 2 years and state uni for the other 2 years. Both graduated on time with no loans and the older one has a master's degree because her work paid for most of it. We told both of them that they could go wherever they wanted for uni, but we would only pay the amount the state uni charged. The rest would be up to them. I wanted my kids to have a good education, but we were not going into debt for it.

  2. WISE decision. And in the end, your degree is where you graduated from. Who cares where you went for the first two years.