By Rachel Hall

If you have kids or are planning to have to have kids, it's likely that generations above you or even your peers have mentioned the looming "college fund" that we are supposed to have for our children, both born and unborn. And yes, if you come from a family with immense wealth, then perhaps your unborn spawn already have a fully mature, vested, pile of coins set aside for their presumed Ivy League capabilities. For the rest of us mere mortals, whatever you want to call the generation who currently has kids and is somewhere between 30-Something and 40-Something, chances are, we are not going to make the herculean efforts that most people would have go to, to even attempt (and likely not be able to succeed) in order to have a college fund for our mini mammals.

No, it's not that we are trying to raise illiterate, uneducated, anarchists. We are not saving for college because we just don't have the money, and because we see that college "savings" didn't really guarantee us careers that left us carefree about our finances. Most of us are still paying our own student loans (not me, thanks mom), or at the very least, are lucky enough for our families to still be paying them (again, thanks mom). If you are super lucky, likely living pay-check to pay-check, you might possibly qualify for deferment programs, which lowers your monthly payments, but just delays the inevitable. We are the generation that was told, JUST GO TO COLLEGE and EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE. You will get a job, pay back loans, make bank, and boom. Well the joke was on us (and some of our generous parents), if not completely, than at least partially.

Of course it is a privilege to have been able to go to college. I am one of those people who will say that college was some of the best years of my life…though I think 50% of that is manipulated memory. That being said, when my single mother and I sat down with the guidance counselor and she suggested a small liberal arts school across the country, we both said YES, this sounds great! Looks smart! Looks quaint! I want smart and quaint! Well guess what? A degree in Psychology (or whatever liberal arts degree you studied) pretty much only prepares you for another degree. Upon graduating in the early millennium, most of us made less than $40K a year and likely had over $25K to pay back. Factor in cost of living and you have a generation who has no idea what our long-term financial abilities will be. We assumed we would be financially independent, living on our own, and saving money. Clearly that's not the case.

Some folks knew all along that we would seek an additional degree and immediately after graduation signed up for more loans and pushed ahead towards another degree of sorts. We did this in hopes of accessing better jobs, and to gain a leg up on the "lesser educated" and "less hirable" so to speak. Some people just did it because we didn't know what to do after our life had been structured for us for the past 20+ years and we just craved that collegiate container. Either way, yes it was great to be able to write Masters Degree on the 5000 resumes I sent out, and yes I am personally happy and extremely grateful I could be financially supported to receive my degrees. That being said, I think it would be financially irresponsible for our generation to put money in a college fund when we barely have retirement funds, health insurance, or enough (or any) long-term investments. This generation is wondering how they will maintain health insurance, how they will afford rent, and barely can imagine buying a home. Most of us have very little retirement plans and little faith that the government will provide retirement benefits in 25-35 years. This generation needs to figure out how it will support themselves for the rest of their lives. This generation also knows their kids can go in-state to college, take out loans, or even defer college and work until they know what field they really want to get a degree in. So many of us are working in fields that have nothing to do with our degrees, we wonder if we went to college simply because everyone else was going.

Right now, plumbers, contractors, and electricians can make more money than the average teacher and pay much less for their training. We have an expensive and inflated education system and this generation is not sure what the ROI is. We also can't believe we (or our parents) paid thousands of dollars a year for a dorm and a meal plan, just so we could pretend we were independent, while our families footed the bill. Some of us worked in college, which at least brought us closer to reality, but still, attending university at 18 years old often just seemed like the thing to do…not a personalized plan. If one is to invest over 50k in themselves, you would think we would stop and think…is this the best investment for me? It might have been. I just don't think middle class and even working class people stopped to really consider what they were paying for. What is the true cost of college? Before we put our families and ourselves in immense amounts of debt, we should really know.

We can't just assume shelling out tons of money for college will be a great financial decision, particularly, immediately after high school. This is what I assume; I assume my kids want me to be self-sufficient, in good financial standing, and in a place where my financial concerns do not have to be theirs. For that reason, I don't have the extra funds to put towards their college right now. I'm too busy paying for their healthcare, day care, non-toxic organic food, ect… When the time comes for them to discuss going to college, I can offer them free rent, food, a place to study, and they are welcome to commute. If all goes well, I hope to be able to help them pay for school in some meaningful way. However, being able to pay $25k-$55k/year so they can have a go at feeling (but not actually being) independent is not something I am going to save for. Independence is something that can't be faked or funded. Education can be funded, and that I am prepared to help them access and consider. It just might not look like a dorm room shower caddy with a $50k price tag.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture. She is a frugal Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.