A major thing I regret from my childhood is not asking my parents more about my college fund. They were secretive people — never liked to discuss finances with their children. But when I got to college, it turns out they didn't have enough. Not only did I feel betrayed, but also insecure about my own future.

I'm not saying you should save every cent you earn from the moment your little bundle of joy pops out, but there is a method to stress less and still secure a financially stable position for your child, even if they don't want to go to college.


Where do I start?

Hey, if you're good and ready, you can start even before they're born! But only do this if you know for certain that a child will come along somewhere down the road and if you are already financially stable. Make sure that you have enough for your retirement, an emergency fund and any outstanding loans you need to pay. Consider slashing off the high-interest loans and student loans first since they are often the trickiest.

How do I start?

Sign up for a college savings account and start contributing as soon as you can. The 529 plan is a good call because they are federal tax free and low maintenance, but IRA's have a higher interest rate. Even if you only put in $100 a month, by the time they're 18, you'll have about $38,932 in the account based on a 6% return.

There are two options for the 529 plan — prepaid tuition and college savings. The prepaid tuition only allows the funds to be used for tuition and mandatory fees, are backed or guaranteed by state and have a beneficiary age limit to list some of its qualities. The college savings plan allows funds to be used for any kind of college expense, has no state guarantee and are open to all ages.

IRA's are mostly for retirement, but if you had or are planning to have kids later on, it might be better for you. However, if you withdraw from a traditional IRA before age 59.5, it'll result in a ten percent penalty. Another advantage is that you can roll funds from your 401k into the IRA.

Standard savings accounts are also another option but probably the least practical. When you're applying for financial aid, they literally ask you anything and everything. So, having too much money under your child as the beneficiary might be hurtful instead of helpful.

Get realistic

College is not only going to be $40,000 like mentioned above. However, if you qualify, SUNY and CUNY schools in New York City have recently become tuition-free for qualifying families. But even most state schools like UMass Amherst in Massachusetts has a tuition of $15,000 for in-state residents.

If your child wants to go to a private institution, tuition can be as high as $40,000 to $50,000 for schools like New York University and Trinity College. You should apply for as many scholarships as you can, even sending your child to preschools and programs that are known to give out scholarships to their alumni.

Also note that tuition and fees do NOT cover the cost of room and board, transportation and books. So where we're at right now — that $40,000 might cover one year of a public institution with scholarships and financial aid.

What else can I do?

So over time, you'll want to invest more and more for your child — if you can of course. Work on paying off debts and loans as you invest and have your child take summer jobs. If you do end up taking out loans, make sure you let your child know how they work and how much time they'll have to pay them off.

I was lucky enough to have a wealthy family member that loaned me the rest of my college tuition. The result was an interest free exchange that also didn't have a time limit.

Now that I've finally scared most of you off from having a kid, I want to tell you that it isn't all bad. College is a sound investment because most jobs require a degree nowadays. Securing a spot at a top university with a strong alumni network will give your child opportunities for more internships and job offers during and after their undergraduate experience. Thus, saving for college is not only an investment in your child, but also an investment for you to be taken care of in old age.

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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.