Category Archives: tip of the week

Because Freedom

Because Freedom

man walks along a dirt road and enjoy the freedom.

Today, in honor of Independence Day, we’re going to have a change of pace from the usual tactical level, immediately applicable financial tip. Instead let’s get philosophical and explore the situation in front of us from a more strategic vantage point. Let’s talk about something you need to understand as you make life choices of all stripes. Let’s talk about valuing your freedom.

Recently I ran across an article/photo essay on the UK’s Daily Mail website which provided a glimpse into a handful of “Peter Pan generation Lost Boys” as captured by the lens of one Liz Calvi of West Hartford Connecticut. The content completely captured my attention, and my ire, not so much for the photographs but for the language used to explain why these young men had all dropped out of college and moved back in with mom and dad. And I quote (emphases mine):

  • They “were forced to move back in with their parents, unable to get a job…”
  • “You’re almost in this trap, where you have to go to college to get a job…” (but college is untenable due to the costs)
  • “But college costs so much money, so sometimes you have to go back home to live with your parents.”

I reacted so viscerally to these statements, and to the representative photographs, because I don’t find this line of thought uncommon at all among the lost boys I encounter with regularity. In writing the following I do not specifically pick on any of the men in depicted in the article. I speak to every young person when I seek to clear something up once and for all with another quote, this one from my mother:

“Nobody’s making you do anything.”  

Continue reading Because Freedom

Addressing Textbook Pain (3 of 3)

Addressing Textbook Pain (3 of 3)

Vector concept of investment in education with coins books and scales

Note: This is the third installment of a 3-part series of tips on how to mitigate the ever-rising costs of college textbooks. See also posts 1 and 2 on this topic. 

Let’s address three strategies for your textbook woes that don’t actually require you to buy any textbooks to get the job done. These may not come into play as often, but if they do you’ll be glad you tried. Continue reading Addressing Textbook Pain (3 of 3)

Addressing Textbook Pain (1 of 3)

Addressing Textbook Pain (1 of 3)

artwork in retro style, girl in the library, sleeping

How to address the ever rising costs of textbooks? Getting your textbook purchases wrong can severely punish your bottom line, but how do we get it right in this era of multi-digit prices? Today let’s look at three of the more typical sources of textbook procurement. In the next two posts we will then explore some more creative ways to get it done.

On Campus Bookstore

So you got your syllabus. On it are a list of books your professor wants you to read. The tempting thing to do would be to stroll over to your campus bookstore where you can be assured said textbooks can be found. However, while convenient, I would highly encourage you to not simply grab your book lists and stroll over to the campus bookstore to pay whatever the price tag says.

In fact, if at all possible, I’d recommend avoiding the campus bookstore altogether. Treat it not as your first resort but your last. There, with rare exception, you will find the best chances for finding the books you need but at the highest prices going. Fortunately, this is a feat more and more possible as other avenues become available through the Internet. Let’s explore a few of these options available to you before you put even more money into your college’s coffers. Continue reading Addressing Textbook Pain (1 of 3)

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Giving a praise


Today let’s talk about two seemingly disparate realities I regularly observe about student activity in and out of school: 1) the stress (and importance) of declaring a major and 2) “unspent” school breaks. And then I’ll dish you this handy tip, which should in a sense kill these two birds with one stone. Continue reading Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Credit Hours and Cost

Credit Hours and Cost

Speedometer with neon backlight isolated on black


It not only matters in college which classes you take, but also how you schedule said classes. As such, let’s take a look at credit hour enrollment in light of affordability. But first it helps to know how your college charges for tuition, with the two basic flavors being per-hour and block rate. Figure out the specifics of your particular school’s billing metrics and you can save some serious coin. Continue reading Credit Hours and Cost




I’ll never forget my most bitter college moment. I hated a pre-req humanities class. I labored to stay awake through my professor’s monotone delivery, the textbook dried my eyes out, and the assignment loads amounted to arbitrary busywork. One day as I sat at my desk grinding through a reading section my roommate walked in and asked, “Why didn’t you just test out of that?”

He then explained that instead of taking this class he had studied a prep book, paid a small fee, and then passed an exam administered on campus. In return the college granted him three credit hours and waived their requirement to take a class on the subject.

I nearly cried. I certainly fumed. How come nobody told me about this option until it was too late? Continue reading CLEP. CLEP. CLEP.

AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

High School Class Test

Heads up high schoolers!

In my workshops when I mention the topic of Advanced Placement (AP) credits it seems they have great name recognition and people get the idea of earning college credits while in high school.  But few actually do anything about this opportunity because of the proliferation of bad information out there. When I detail how AP credits work the light bulbs go off and excitement builds. Everyone can see this for the opportunity it is once we clear up two major and prevalent misconceptions: Continue reading AP Credits (With or Without the Classes)

How to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

How to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Two cartoon style blue birds with orange beaks apparently dead and belly-up next to a grey stone with a literal depiction of the saying kill two birds with one stone on an isolated white background

What if I told you about a system wherein students at 73% of the high schools in the country students could fulfill their high school graduation requirements AND earn college credits at the same time? What if I then told you that in most cases these college credits could be had at severe discount, or even for free? You might be surprised, like I was, that the vast majority of students to whom this opportunity is available fail to take advantage of it. Continue reading How to Kill Two Birds with One Stone

Alternatives TO School

choices, options, alternatives


Alternatives To School

Disclosure notice: The following topic causes panic among parents when I bring it up. We’ve looked at alternative schools in the past (here, here, and here for instance) and will do so again in the future, and this makes people a bit uncomfortable. Today we’ll go one step further. I’m going to walk you through (gasp) some alternatives to school that may work for you.

In my last post I broached the idea that college falls short in its outcomes for many students. Perhaps, then, many would be better off to get what they need through other channels. Sacrilegious, I know, but perhaps you don’t need a full-blown college experience to get where you need to go. Before thinking about school by default, perhaps we should challenge the assumption that anything but a college experience would serve you well. The old maxim is true: College isn’t for everybody. Here are a few alternatives to school to consider. Continue reading Alternatives TO School