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Save Money on Your College Degree

Getting a college degree doesn't have to break the bank. Here's a new way for you to cut the cost in half and still get the degree you want from a traditional 4-year college.

First off though, there's been a lot of negative press about the value of a college degree. Yet the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says college grads earn $800,000 more over a lifetime than someone who doesn't have a college degree.

Yes, you can be very successful without a college degree. For some people, college is just not their thing. They don't like academics or they have a different vision for their life from an early age. That's all well and good.

But most people though, the dividing line for creating a good income in life is college.

How to qualify for in-state tuition at an out-of-state college

In years past, one common way to get in-state tuition in a state that wasn't yours would be to move to that state after high school. Using the idea of the "gap year," young people would basically take a year off to work in a new state and establish residency. Following that year, they could then qualify for the in-state tution rate at a state school. But many states are tightening the restrictions on this.

That's led to a new business I read about in The New York Times. At least one entrepreneur has started a business that will shepherd you through the process of qualifying for in-state tuition when you're an out-of-stater. But while it is totally legal, it is of questionable ethics.

Fortunately, there's a different way to accomplish the same thing without the ethics concerns and it's called the Academic Common Market.  It's a consortium of 16 states that let you study in a specialized field at an out-of-state college while paying in-state tuition rates. Give it a look and see if it meets your needs.

Participating states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.


How to get your college degree and save money

I've long talked about cutting college costs by doing your first 2 years at a community and then transferring to 4-year school that you plan to graduate from.

Now a new program called takes it a step further. They will guarantee your admission to big name schools if you do the required coursework and maintain your grade point average.

Schools like Auburn, the University of Arizona, and George Mason have partnered with American Honors to extend this offer to students, according to The Kansas City Star.

Meanwhile, several other schools participate in the American Honors curriculum program, but don't necessarily guarantee admission. Those schools include Amherst, DePauw University, George Washington University, Middlebury College, Occidental, Ohio State, and UCLA.

The cost to go the American Honors route is about $3,000 a semester in tuition and fees. While that is a bit more than community college, having that added layer of a big name school guaranteeing your admission down the road is nice.

Look at employer reimbursement options

Years ago, I got a job with IBM as a bill collector after college because I knew they would pay for my master's degree. I had to pay for my own books and I had to get a B or better in a course or I'd get no reimbursement. You better believe I got a 3.9 GPA in my first quarter in grad school. I never got less than a B during the rest of the time there because I wanted the tuition paid for my master's in business management. Thanks, IBM!

Today, you'll find different employer who offer the same thing. One of them is Starbucks -- the maker of overpriced coffee drinks.  They're now providing tuition reimbursement to employees to earn a bachelor's degree.

This carrot is being offered in partnership with Arizona State and their online curriculum. To qualify, Starbucks employees are only required to work a minimum of 20 hours a week; there is no minimum length of service time required to qualify.

Starbucks will pay half your tuition for the freshman and sophomore years. If you matriculate and make it to junior year, they then offer full tuition reimbursement for both junior and senior year.

Perhaps best of all, there is no handcuff requiring you to stay with the corporation after graduation. I applaud Starbucks for stepping up to the plate with this great offer!


The Lone Star State's solution to the tuition problem

The state of Texas has come up with a solution to the high cost of college that I'm hoping will be a model for other states to follow.

Despite what you may have thought of Gov. Rick Perry's presidential aspirations, he was on target with a promise he made in his State of the State address: To allow the state's university system to deliver a standard four-year degree for a total cost of $10,000.

The Texas Tribune  reports that the first degree available for $10,000 is in information technology. Four-year degrees in business administration and organizational leadership are next on tap.

Among the 10 participating Texas colleges are Angelo State University, University of Texas at Arlington, and Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Florida has a different way to get to the same goal. They've converted almost all of their 2-year community colleges to offer 4-year bachelor degree programs. In the process, many of these schools have changed their status from community colleges to state schools.

A final word to parents and students

For you parents, don't borrow yourself into oblivion to pay for college. Your child can go to a local community college for the first two years and then finish up at a standard four-year school.

And if you as a student are responsible for the bill, don’t over-borrow for four years of college. Your entire school debt for four years shouldn't exceed your likely first year earnings in your desired field of study.

See a list of the 10-worst paying college degrees and the college degrees that pay the most.

For further reading:

When Is It OK To Have a Mortgage in Retirement?

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A new federal report says one-third of retirees now have a mortgage. That is virtually unprecedented in American history.

Historically, when people turned 65, the majority of them would have been mortgage debt-free. But that scenario is changing.

Having a mortgage in retirement may or may not be a danger signal.

ARTICLE: 6 Steps To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

When you shouldn't pay off your mortgage…

I'm often asked by those with mortgages in their 50s if they should double down in their efforts to pay off that mortgage by retirement. As someone who hates debt, you might expect that my answer would automatically be "yes."

But there is an exception to that rule: If you have 15 years or less until retirement and still have a mortgage that's longer than 15 years, *and* you have not managed to save a sufficient amount of money for retirement, it is my belief that saving for your future should be your priority.

I want you to do a Roth IRA, which you can fund up to $6,500 annually when you're over 50. Or be sure you're picking up the full match on your 401(k) at work.

Many people who took out mortgages during the recent years did so when mortgage rates were very low. As a general rule of thumb, if you have a mortgage with an interest rate below 4%, paying that mortgage off by retirement is a lower priority than saving like a maniac so you have money to live on in retirement.

Of course it would be better to have no mortgage. But life isn't always perfect.

So if you're setting priorities and have a low interest rate, that mortgage being paid off is not the highest priority. Unless you've saved like a maniac and have massive amounts of cash for your retirement years.

ARTICLE: Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Early?

Top 10 Most Expensive Cities for Car Insurance

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A new report from BankRate finds that some places are frightfully more expensive than others when it comes to auto insurance.

It's not cheap to insure your auto in these cities!

The single highest city for auto insurance rates is Detroit.

Why Detroit? Well, you have a lot of people driving around with no insurance, so those who are insured are charged more. Plus, there are certain quirks to Michigan law on liability that make it extra expensive for insurers to offer auto coverage in the state.

Following Detroit as the most expensive cities are New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Other cities that are all above-cost markets include Sacramento, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, and Tampa.

The cheapest place among big cities to insure a car is Charlotte, North Carolina. I have no idea why that's the case.

What do you do if you live in a high cost city? You've got to shop your auto insurance. Price differences from one insurer to another for the same driver or the same family can be gigantic.

The same exact person could be paying well more than $1,000 more annually than they need to -- just because they haven't shopped. Some insurers consider unusual factors like credit score, education, and employment that could cause you to overpay. Others will only look at your driving record. Hence the huge differences.

I suggest you shop your insurance every 3 years. See what's out there and get the best deal.

ARTICLE: Best Auto Insurance Companies

Why Doing an FSA Makes More Sense Than Ever

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There's a little used benefit most employers offer called a flexible spending account (FSA) for health care. Not familiar with FSAs? Here's why you should be...

How FSAs work

Here's how this thing works: With an FSA, you have money deducted from each paycheck that goes into a savings account. The money that's deducted is never taxed. You can put aside up to $2,500 a year and the money in the savings account can be used for any eligible medical expense.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 people (depending on who you are believe) who are eligible to do an FSA through their employer actually do it. But more people should, because you get to pay for medical expenses with pre-tax dollars instead of post-tax dollars.

Many people are scared off by the old rules that governed FSAs. It used to be that you had to use the money you put aside in a calendar year or you would lose it. But now employers are allowed to let you carry $500 forward year to year.

Now that most of us have pretty significant deductibles, FSAs make more sense than ever.

Back when we had the old "use it or lose it" rules, people used to go on a shopping bonanza buying OTC meds during the last week of the year to use up their money. But the use of your pre-tax money for un-reimbursed purchases of prescription meds was restricted in 2011.

Plus, there's no more reason for that mad end of the year rush because you can now carry $500 forward each year.

Remember, having the ability to divert money tax-free is really powerful. And the higher your income, the more doing an FSA makes a great deal of sense for you.

ARTICLE: 4 Key Things To Know Before Open Enrollment

Make Your Own Cosmetics on a Home Printer

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Teenage girls who want customized makeup might want to consider literally printing it up on their home printer!

How to print makeup using your computer

An entrepreneur named Grace Choi who I read about in Business Week has come up with a way to jailbreak a printer so it can make custom makeup. This schematic explains her idea in a step-by-step way.

By next summer, Choi will have a Mink machine available on the market to make the process easy. Her target market is girls 13-21 years of age.

Cosmetics is a $56 billion business. She doesn't need a big chunk of it to be successful!

Welcome to the 3-D printer revolution

What Grace is doing is similar to what's going on with 3-D printing. Of course, the name "3-D printing" is really kind of misleading. It's more like 3-D manufacturing.

Instead of making a photocopy of a piece of paper, a 3-D printer is a machine that actually makes an item by creating it layer by layer out of plastic, metal, or other material -- such as this Marble Run Yoda Base you see pictured here.

Coupon Code Savings Minus the False Leads

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Feeling frustrated by coupon code sites that give you false leads? There's a new way to save money when you're shopping online that involves no work at all!

The easiest way to find coupon codes

There is a browser extension called Coupons at Checkout that is compatible with PC and Mac computers, and with all of the most popular browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

When you're shopping, Coupons at Checkout scans all the coupon offers available and lets you know what's available to you. Just click the code you want, and it will automatically populate the promotion code box. Then be sure to hit the apply or redeem button (or hit "Enter" on the keyboard) on the retailer website.

The exercise in frustration of finding coupon codes manually only to have them not work is over!

Meanwhile, if you're looking for more coupons, check out my list of Deal-A-Day and Coupon Code Sites.

Finally, inquiring minds want to know how do all these coupon mills make any money anyway? The reality is that when you use a coupon code, the referring site get a tiny commission every time they drive a paying customer to an online store. But it's all contingent on that customer making a purchase.

I don't necessarily know if that's a deal for the retailer or the coupon code site. But it sure is a deal for you!

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