Howard Community College

Due to the staggering rate at which college tuition prices have increased over the last 30 to 40 years, going to a traditional four-year university isn't in the cards for everyone. There's a significant amount of social pressure to attend college, but if a high school senior doesn't know exactly what they want to study–and by extension do for the rest of their life– it can be hard to justify taking out a six figure loan. And even when you do know what you want to do, it often may not feel worth it. The era of finding oneself while away at college is over; most people don't have that luxury anymore.

With more and more students opting to go to trade school or eschewing post-high school education altogether, liberal arts–that is courses that don't necessarily translate directly into specific career paths–are beginning to lose their prestige. Once the foundation of higher education, the humanities are catching a lot of flak because their practical application isn't abundantly clear. It's certainly understandable. Spending hours grappling with Foucault and Kierkegaard isn't going to make someone rich, or help them pay off their student loan debt. That said, for many, Community college has provided the most feasible means of getting a well-rounded education without taking out exorbitant loans. Community college allows would-be university students to knock out their general education courses at a fraction of the price. With this in mind, here is a quick rundown of the benefits of starting out at a Community college.

Saving Money

Saving money is perhaps the best argument for attending community college

This one's a no brainer. The average yearly tuition at a two-year Community college is a little over $3,000 per year, about one third of the cost of an in-state public school. Prices increase for out-of-state tuition; if you were to leave the state for public school, tuition fees average at about $24,000 per year. Private school is even more expensive, with an average cost of around $35,000 per year. Even if you eventually want to go to a private school, lowering your loans by around $70,000 by taking your first few years of class at Community college is definitely a smart move.

Transfer Credits

If the credits transfer, why not take them for cheaper?

Most Community colleges have specific programs set up with state and private universities in their immediate vicinity. These programs are designed to help funnel students into the schools they want to go to and sometimes even give scholarships to students with outstanding grades. Still, it's always important for students to check exactly which class credits transfer, as most universities have limits on the amount of credits they'll accept.

Figuring out what you want to do

Deciding what to do can be tough

Community college might not be free, but at $3,000 per year, it's more feasible for students who live at home to be able to work and save money to pay for their tuition. This affords Community college students a level of freedom that many university students just don't have. Those at Community college have the opportunity to explore their interests and find out exactly what career path they want to follow. Want to take an experimental dance class? Go ahead. Want to take photography? Knock yourself out.

It's Easier to Go Part-Time

Working and going to school at the same time can be a balancing act. Community college makes it easier.

For people who never got a college degree, Community college is the perfect way to get back into academics. It may be more realistic for some to attend classes part-time or take night courses so that they can still work while taking classes. And if someone wanted to take one class per semester, it'd be easier to facilitate at a junior college. Most major universities have either a credit minimum, or charge an additional price-per-credit that makes part-time study uneconomical.

Smaller Class Sizes

Get to know your teachers better.

While almost every American university boasts "small class sizes," Community colleges tend to actually deliver on this promise. The class sizes might not be as small as some private universities, but classrooms tend to average around twenty students. This gives students an opportunity to form relationships with their professors and get more access to one-on-one instruction.

There are certainly advantages associated with going to an accredited four-year university. These schools often have more resources and by extension better facilities than most Community colleges. That said, Community colleges are beginning to improve as more students are finding they can't afford the traditional route. There's no one correct path. Both Community college and four-year universities have different things to offer. The reality is, success in college is predicated on a student's willingness to learn, not the classroom they're sitting in.

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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.