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Family Budget: What could go wrong during the college years?

Mom22039Mom22039 593 replies49 threadsRegistered User Member
As some families must budget very tightly for college it might be illustrative to mention the unanticipated “life happens” events that others of us have experienced.

We’ve had 2 Ds in college over a 10 year period — 4 years, then 2 years neither in college, and the second for four years.

Probably the least predictable events were dental in the parents: 4 crowns and 2 implants. Minimal dental coverage.

We were a two car family when D1 left for college, but added a third car late in her freshman year. There have been a couple of accidents (not our fault) like the deer that totaled H’s car, and (Ugh) some teen just hit my car Friday night.

Add in emergency flights due to the illnesses and deaths of 2 grandparents.

So, what were the extra hits in your budget during the college years?
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Replies to: Family Budget: What could go wrong during the college years?

  • yauponreduxyauponredux 730 replies25 threadsRegistered User Member
    edited September 22
    Unanticipated family drama was the big unwelcome surprise for us. DH’s younger brother lost his job, and DH gave him $14K. BIL has since died, in debt, so that $ will never be repaid. DH’s parents (who had been through bankruptcy twice in their lives) developed dementia, and we spent I don’t know how much, but probably tens of thousands, on caregivers and legal fees. DH’s sister was abandoned with two young kids by her no-good husband, resulting in DH feeling he needed to help her get on her feet. I appreciate my DH’s big heart, but if DD hadn’t decided to attend the school where she received a generous merit scholarship, we probably would have had a second mortgage or be bankrupt ourselves.
    edited September 22
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78229 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wouldn't there be college/student related unanticipated issues?

    * Student needs one or more extra semesters to finish the degree (more common for those who were B students in high school than for those who were A students in high school).
    * Student has a medical problem requiring a late medical withdrawal; while there may be no academic penalty, the money paid for that semester may be lost (in addition to the costs of the medical problem).
    * Student needs a high college GPA to retain a scholarship but does not meet it.
    * Student's intended career path starts with unpaid internships or volunteering that prevent using that time for paid jobs that were anticipated to help pay for college.
    * Student's intended major has a high college GPA or competitive secondary admission, but student does not get in, and wants to transfer elsewhere (which may be more expensive) for his/her major.
    * Student is a pre-med, and is looking at $7k or so costs just to apply to medical school.
    * Parents took loans or cosigned additional student loans for first year of college, but then do not qualify in a later year.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7259 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My H lost his job when our D was a senior in HS. We had a healthy 529 for her and told her to continue on with her planned for list, but she came to us after her RA safety gave her a full ride and said if dad didn't get a job, she'd be more than happy to go there. It wasn't necessary but things could have been much different if H hadn't found another job so quickly.

    We have a family friend who had to leave school in the middle of her sophomore year because the family business went bankrupt. She moved back home, got a job, and finished her degree at a local school in the evenings.

    Life does happen. Contingency plans and safety nets are important!
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  • kiddiekiddie 3408 replies216 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Unexpected home repairs (I had about $20,000 worth this year - roof, AC, etc.)

    Medical bills for the student - despite coverage - daughter experienced bad TMJ in college and none of the thousands I spent were covered by dental or medical.

    Life happens and this is why expects always advice having an emergency fund (separate from college or retirement savings).
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4218 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 22
    Besides kids get sick so paying their deductibles and then their bill. My son needed to get a echocardiogram due to a detected murmur (that I have also) before his study abroad internship would allow him to go.. Agh... $1,000 after deductible.

    My friends son admitted himself into a hospital then told his dad for serious depression. This is your all A honors student. My friend had his partners see his patients, had to cancel surgeries. Get the next plane from East Coast to Michigan and find somewhere to stay for the week while his son was there. Not sure what that total cost was but you get the idea. BTW - son is medicated and doing great.. One of the best things he ever did for himself.

    For my daughter going abroad to Southeast Asia for Study abroad to get all the vaccines was like $800.0(last about 2 "years and she has been there two more times since, both times paid for).

    My son doing study abroad we paid for his travel to France then everything else was paid for and his travel from France to Israel for his internship but everything there was paid for.

    Both kids work so they have their own money per se.

    Not unexpected but things like clothes. My son will be interviewing this year for internships and even going abroad it was that time he just needed a lot of nicer clothes. T-shirts will only get you do far,we told him.

    Then he gets to his international internship and he's dressed nicely and "everyone" is in t-shirts and jeans /shorts...... He was so happy and now he has nicer clothes for school.. Lol.

    My son's deciding this year if he will do a bs/ms 5 year program. That will add another year of costs and my daughter who graduates this year is tinkering on doing a MS or going to a PhD or not. Those should be paid programs though.

    So you just never know what's coming next. Somethings you can't control.



    edited September 22
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  • cshell2cshell2 552 replies7 threadsRegistered User Member
    I don't have one in college yet, but I have had so much go wrong my entire life that I completely expect it to continue through the college years. :wink:

    The one thing that is going to be a killer for me though, is child support ends in July next year and DS heads off to college in August. Child support is a HUGE percentage of my income...to the tune of it paying the majority of my house payment. I've been saving the last 4 years just to have a cushion to make said house payment for a couple years post child support while I figure something else out. There will be basically ZERO dollars in the budget for DS at college. Scholarships, savings financial aid and him working will have to cover 100% of it. Fortunately, with the schools on our list that shouldn't be a problem...UNLESS there is a 5th year. This is starting to eat at me a little more and might narrow down our list even more.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1935 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's like anything else. Wise people plan for the unexpected risks of "life happens" (and it does) and leave room in the budget or make sure there are access to funds. Unfortunately, not enough wise people out there. You see it in all areas of spending (housing, college, retirement planning, etc.)

    Hoping for the best is not a plan, but it is a reality. Would hate to live with the stress of knowing it could all crash and burn if the stars don't align.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 8928 replies334 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    * If parents divorce, household income will be less and that can affect the money available for college. Women's income may change more than men's after a divorce.

    * If there's a stepparent's income in the mix it can increase the EFC which can make financing college more difficult, especially if the stepparent also has children.

    * Job loss, especially one followed by an extended period of unemployment (or followed by underemployment) can affect ability to pay for college.

    * Dealing with aging parents can cost more than expected. Even if there's a plan in place, an unexpected event in the extended family (divorce or death of a sibling) may cause a couple to have to take on more responsibility then they had planned. That takes time and money.

    * If parents develop unexpected health issues while students are in college it can affect their ability to pay. People who have physical jobs seem to start feeling it in their 50's, so the ability to work until they're 65 starts to look less feasible than it once did. Serious health conditions start to appear in this age group too.

    * Loss of a parent due to accidental death, a previously undiagnosed health issue, or a recently diagnosed terminal illness is more common than I realized. Those who plan to pay a big chunk of college expenses out of current income should consider this possibility.
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  • turtletimeturtletime 1245 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Let’s see, with eldest we were surprised with a new baby lol. That was an adorable financial hit. With middle in college now, the company hubby worked for unexpectedly closed. He got a new position right away and an increase in salary but the benefit pay out is SO much less that health insurance will eat up half of what we currently pay per month towards sons education. We will be fine with budgeting BUT, if anything else goes wrong, it’ll be tough.

    It’s not enough to plan for one unexpected set-back. College is 4 long years and you can get hit with several!
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  • mackinawmackinaw 3017 replies53 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 22
    One relatively minor hit, and one major hit.

    Minor: we hadn't budgeted for the extra cost of study abroad. Our #1 spent junior year abroad. While basic tuition and room-and-board were more or less a wash compared to costs of attendance in US, there were large added costs for international travel and for day-to-day expenses including travel within country abroad. Our #2 spent a summer abroad, which also added to travel and local expense costs but weren't outlandish.

    Major: while our two kids graduated in 4 years, after graduating and working in the economy for 4-5 years our #2 decided she needed an advanced degree. We had made no allowance for that in our planning. She took out prodigious loans for the program costs (tuition) in her MBA program, coupled with an MS program in a special area. Three years out of the labor force, all subsized (tuition, rent, and daily expenses) by us and by loans. In the end, repaying those loans was a severe hurdle, because of the absurd interest rates of Federal Direct Loans. We ultimately picked up the bulk of those loans.
    edited September 22
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  • thumper1thumper1 74784 replies3278 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    In my opinion, there are some things that could go wrong.

    1. Parent job loss. This is big and could affect any ability to pay for college.

    2. Significant unreimbursed medical expenses. As I often say...you are healthy until you are not.

    3. Student finishes a couple of years of college and has taken loans. The loans then need to be repaid after the 6 month grace period. Some folks don’t anticipate that expense when a student leaves school for any reason.

    4. Need for additional terms to complete coursework towards degree. This can happen for any number of reasons...student illness, failed courses, change of major, addition of major or minor. Doesn’t matter why....additional terms will cost you no matter what.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78229 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    * If parents divorce, household income will be less and that can affect the money available for college. Women's income may change more than men's after a divorce.

    Could also mean higher spending on lawyers. Even if not nasty, two separate households tend to cost more than one combined household, so combined money after living expenses becomes less after divorce even if both maintain their incomes.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29661 replies175 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    DH lost his bread-winner job half-way through DD's junior year of college. Scary times indeed.

    DD is now in grad school. This summer she needed trigger finger surgery which was mostly covered by her student health insurance. But she couldn't drive herself back to campus, and couldn't move herself from her old apartment to her new one with just one hand. About $1000 from Bank of Mom & Dad right there.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1935 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @austinmshauri Caring for parents "sandwich generation" is a real thing and can dramatically affect finances for a long time. Been doing it for 20 yrs. to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thank god we can but that $ would have paid for both kid's college at full pay privates. We had the resources, income. But if we didn't, a different plan for the kids would have been in order.
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1335 replies49 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 23
    This one is forward looking, but we plan to downsize and use a good chunk of home equity for child #2's college and I worry about recession / housing market downturn when we want to sell in about 2 years. :(
    edited September 23
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  • CheeringsectionCheeringsection 2459 replies75 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Tuition, fee or housing increases should be planned for. If the school is a stretch in year 1, it will only get worse even if tuition is frozen.
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  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 4218 replies17 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think it's fair to say that just about anything can go wrong or underestimated....
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5710 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Mental health issues, which are often poorly supported in health plans (a situation that may be complicated if your kid is out of state) or an accident that requires more PT than your plan allows. Most people don't find the gaps in the insurance until they need a service that has limited coverage.
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