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Eating Today/College Savings

April 30th, 2008 at 08:00 am

I wish I could share more what we have done to keep food costs down, and why we barely notice a dent in our budget with rising food prices. But, that is not my department. That is dh's. He does his job well. The better he keeps our costs down the less I care if he ever works again. But I think that is what a lot of people don't get. Though he doesn't bring in income, he has much more time to work on cutting costs. Which is the same in the end. Upping our cash flow.

Anyway, all I can share is what we are eating. I actually am very bad at eating fruits and veggies so every morning I take a small cup of apple sauce. Dh buys the giant containers of apple sauce and I pour a small amount into one of the kids' portable cup (with flat lid) to take to work. I used to drink juice in the mornings. I find this to be a healthier way to get some fruit in my system.

The kids are snacking on graham crackers before preschool. They'll eat a proper breakfast there. (Included in tuition. Which to be fair, does include a fair amount of meals).

The kids will also eat lunch and snacks there all day. I guess to keep in mind that the kids have 2 lunches a week over there, which I am sure impacts our grocery bill somewhat.

For lunch I will eat leftover burritos and rice. I find burritos to be the "perfect" leftover food. I actually requested that dh cook a good leftover meal this week since we didn't seem to have any. (Insert that I am a picky eater - we have lots of leftovers - but I also like things that are easy to pack). So he made them last night.

Dh will eat some leftovers most likely. HE doesn't eat breakfast.

I am not sure what dh has up his sleeve for dinner.

I have a couple of things of yogurt at work in case I ever get hungry. I never seem to lately.

We have some snacks at work (kind of rare - but I know I will probably have a free cookie with my apple sauce today. Big Grin )

The only other thing I can say is I am a pepsi fiend. BUT I find $1-$2 for a serving of pepsi to be quite insane. I used to keep cans at work, but I tend to over drink them. So I have taken to getting my pepsi fix in the morning. I usually just take a giant plastic cup and pour a small amount of pepsi in there (1/2 can at most) and get my fix in the morning. That way I can take it to work, and not over drink pepsi. (I keep 2 litres at work sometimes, but then I just drink too much. So this is where I am at for now).

Anyway, when I finish my pepsi then I fill up my giant cup with lots of water. Water is free at work. At home we drink tap water (mostly filtered through the fridge).

I have also in the past, reused smaller pepsi bottles and poured small portions in, so I could keep it fresh and fizzy for lunch.

That is how we keep our soda costs down.

I really like the 1/2-sized cans, but we stopped buying them because they are rather expensive. I find those to be perfect serving sizes.

I am toying with the idea of going on a soda diet to lose these few pounds. It will be REALLY hard. But part of the reason I have been losing weight is I have been so sick these last few months and I can NOT drink soda when I have a cold. It is the only time I can not stand soda. So I think the 3-4 weeks I was too sick to drink soda made a difference.

I am trying to warm up to the idea.

-------------------------------------

In other news, I had been wanting to save up enough money to invest the kids' UGMA a little more aggressively. Right now I have $1k each (abouts) in Vanguard Star. BEcause it had a $1k minimum. But overall would prefer something more aggressive.

Anyway, I have heard a lot of good things about T Rowe Capital Appreciation. I heard it touted as a balanced fund, and when I look at it, I don't see it. But then again, it like has never had a down year (until now). It looks like the kind of aggressive thing I am looking for. A little more aggressive, but rather "safe" all the same. IT has some bonds I guess which makes it balanced. Though it is much more stock heavy than something like Star.

Anyway, I heard the idea on the radio and am considering it. When I looked up the fund it looked rather promising.

Yesterday Thriftorama was asking about education savings and I was looking up Coverdells a bit since I don't know much about them.

I am more confused than ever! LOL. Honestly, none of my clients are saving for college or ask about it. Why I haven't a clue - I just don't deal with this area of the tax code much.

I thought 529s could pay for transportation and room/board, but everything I read yesterday said no. I honestly think those were old articles because I did have a client who used their 529 for this stuff last year and I remember double checking all the rules. So I share that as a caveat to be careful what you read. The rules have changed much over the last few years. Though it leaves me feeling I have MUCH brushing up to do.

I also was reading about ESAs (Coverdells) and thought they looked pretty darn appealing. I do not like how 529s are so limited (in investment choices). ESAs are much the same, but with dollar limits. But can be used for more expenses and can be invested just about anywhere. I was just about sold until I read they expired in 2011, though it took me a while to research if that was still true.

Yes.

Most of their benefits expire anyway.

But they can be transferred into 529s.

Anyway, I also read something new that I did not know. With the Coverdells, if the oney is not used for education because your child gets a scholarship, there is no penalty. I had not realized that. That had been one of my beefs with college savings plans all alonog - what if your child got a full scholarship? I know a lot of people who have. & as my kids are rather bright, I don't think it is a false hope that they may have a paid-for education.

Anyway, so this is much of what I learned yesterday.

From what I could glimpse, and considering how little ESAs are given any credence in the investment community, I think the writing is on the wall that these will probably get phased out. Kind of a shame. I always prefer to invest in things like ROTHS where you can invest almost anywhere, as opposed to 529s and HSAs which are VERY limited.

I am leaning towards funding an ESA for the kids this year, keeping in mind if my prediciton is right we can roll it to a 529 in future years (maybe when there will be more investment choices). The minimum is $1k at T Rowe. !!!! Perfect. The kids will probably get $1k each for their birthday and that is what I am thinking for now. I already have a T Rowe account, so will be easy to add those on.

I am also considering if I will resume $50 monthly contributions for BM, once he is done with preschool. That money only has so far to go and I wanted most of it to go to ROTHs. BUT I always go back to as long as I am getting 10% retirement contributions from my boss, as long as I am saving, it matters little where it goes. It probably is more useful towards college than towards our retirement, while we have such a retirement windfall. Plus the more we get in college earlier the less we will have to save later.

I am thinking of diverting $50/month for BM, and then the same for LM when he is done with expensive preschool.

Well I have a couple of months to think on this.

7 Responses to “Eating Today/College Savings”

  1. debtfreeme Says:

    do you also save for retirement or just the 10% from the boss?

    I ask because i put away more money each month than the state required 5.6%. I add about 11% on to this and i hope to get it to 15% by mid 2009 (in $10 and $15 increments so as to not upset the budget to much). I have about $200 more to go to be at 15% each month plus the state requirements.

    Plus $50 the freedom account thing sponsored by orman. i will move that to my roth next year and hope to get it to 100$ a month.

  2. merch Says:

    The amount you can contribute to an ESA declines based on MAGI (modified adjusted gross income). If you plan on putting more then 2K a year away or you are over the income, I believe you can still do a 529. And you don't have to use the 529 plan from your state. I'm in Mass. and I don't get a state tax break on 529 contributions so I'm going to open up a 529 with Nebraska.

  3. merch Says:

    also 529s are for college while ESAs can be used for elementary and high school. Both have the scholarsjip provision.

    I found Vanguard to be good place to start for the basics.

    https://personal.vanguard.com/us/accounttypes/college/?bc=1

    I then cross referenced with Kipling the best plans. Good Luck

  4. monkeymama Says:

    Debtfreeme - oh yes - we do more than 10% to retirement. I go back and forth. It is tempting to load it up while still young. But mostly I think we are better off loading other savings while we have a free 10%. We would have to direct much more of our resources to retirement if that ever goes away. So I figure loading up on the other stuff while we can is probably a better bet. Right now we are only putting 2% to ROTHs but will go up to 5% by Jan. 1. We just have a plan to add 1% every year, going forward.

    The thing for us is I have no health benefits so I pay about 15% of my income to medical expenses. I figure it's kind of like a trade. Likewise, if I lost my retirement benefits I could always seek out better medical benefits and put away more to retirement, etc.

    It's relative. Last year we were able to max out our ROTHs. In the 2 years I took maternity leave we put away $0. So it has been kind of all over the place. For now we are trying to inch it up slowly so we depend less on my benefits. But, any windfalls generally go there so though we only put away 2% regularly, for now, it is usually more.

  5. zetta Says:

    For eating fruit, I've found it really helpful to cut up a fruit salad once a week, and have a 1 cup serving each day with lunch (no bananas because they won't last more than a couple of days.)

    Now if I could just get on the veggie bandwagon...

  6. scfr Says:

    Say ... you could have "no soda days" like other folks have "no spend days"! That could be your $20 challenge!

  7. monkeymama Says:

    Zetta - good idea. I got the apple sauce breakfast down and dh cooks a lot with veggies and we usually have salad with dinner.

    I need to work on adding more to my lunch.

    I also LOVE fruit smoothies. It's time to break out the blender.

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