I have another interview for you! This week it’s with Mr. Jumpstart from Jumpstart from Scratch.
Here you go!
Why did you start Jump Start from Scratch?
I was freaking out about the cost of college during my son’s junior year of high school. In a post, I described my state of mind with the following.
Holy Crap! It is time to pay for college! $25k per year for a public university! My wife and I only make 100k a year. People do this all the time. How the hell do they do it? I am typically calm and collected, but I am freaking out! I must stay calm.
My family cannot see me panic. I feel happy to have banked about 100k bucks over the last 20 years. My 2 kids need 200k$ in the next 7 years. My wife and I need to be left with some money. I need a plan. People do this all the time. How the hell do they do it?
I started reading, making plans, and putting those plans on paper. I also wanted to help my son with general finances and travel hacking. I read many blogs including MMM, Frequent Miler, and Frugal Travel Guy. I am very thankful to these bloggers for all the advice, strategies, and techniques they have shared.
I still haven’t found a blog that I love about the experience of choosing and paying for college. There also isn’t much on credit cards for college kids. When looking at my plans, they began to look like potential blog posts. It wasn’t long until I was trying to create a catchy alias.
Once I had an alias, I was watching Youtube videos about blog publishing.
After the initial reaction to the cost of college, what are some steps you took to get that part of your finances in order?
One of the worst things is not knowing the costs of college. I had no idea if we had a chance of need-based aid. (We did not.) I did not know how student loans worked. In the end, we decided to help our son with $18k per year.
My son was accepted to 5 schools with a wide range of prestige, and a final cost of attendance ranging from $21k to $31k. He chose the least prestigious school, where he earned merit aid, making it the smallest price tag. He has declined student loans, continued working part-time, and doesn’t have a car.
It is possible that he will graduate after 3 years with money in the bank and no loans. We have stayed one year ahead saving $18k each school year. Currently, we have the $18k for next year, and $9k for my daughter already saved. In the next 3 months, I need to save about $10k for summer unemployment.
We are on track to easily meet that goal. We also paid $8500 cash for a used car this year. We have always automatically transferred $500 monthly to an investment account. I never believed I would be able to continue this during the college years, but fortunately, we have kept the monthly contributions.
How has teaching impacted your finances and how you view personal finance?
One of the weirdest things about teaching is the 2-month gap in paychecks over the summer. It forces you to save, but it also gives you a chance to blow your money through travel and home renovations.
Were there any lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?
I don’t think there were deliberate lessons taught to me, but I observed everyone. My grandparents and mother were smart with money. My Dad was not. My family wasn’t by any means poor, but we lived a rich neighborhood. I was surrounded by business owners, lawyers, and doctors. I always tried to soak everything in.
What are some lessons you would like to pass along to your kids?
In Mr. Money Mustache’s words “people suck at money.” Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Be deliberate with money and be smarter than everyone else.
What are some travel hacks you would recommend to a college student? What about some credit building tips?
Read my post:
Get a parent to add you as an authorized user at age 16. Never use the AU card. At 18 sign up for credit karma, start with student credit cards and use them responsibly. Never pay interest or fees. Every 3 months consider a new card.
Travel hacking is all about the new card bonuses. As you get more cards, your score will begin to rise slowly. As your credit score rises, you will be able to get better cards with better bonuses.
Will your blog stop after both of your kids finish college or will you continue to track their progress and development?
I’m at the 1-year 4-month mark at this time. I don’t know if I’ll make it to year 2, much less year 7. It really depends on if it continues to be fun. I lost motivation last summer, and it is currently tough publishing a post per week during soccer season.
I don’t think I will want to track my kids as closely after graduation so the blog would need to change directions.
Sounds like it pays to be handy, any clue on how much you’ve saved by doing repairs and renovations yourself?
I have purchased 3 properties, and they were all in rough shape. I sold one for a 20% profit in 2000. I bought our current home in 1999 and the Myrtle Beach Townhouse in 2013. Their value has gone up substantially, due to market appreciation and our work.
You don’t really make money until you sell. I believe my home is much nicer than anything I could afford to buy, but only because I have redone most of the house, with no labor costs. I never thought I would be able to own a beach house, but the real estate market, interest rates, and a work bonus lined up correctly at the same time.
Remodeling the 30-year-old townhouse is much easier than our 90-year-old home. The only time I call a repairman is for HVAC issues. My high school/college summer job with a construction company taught me well. I’ve also learned a lot from TV, Youtube, and guys at the hardware store.
How has monitoring your kids’ financial progression impacted your own finances?
Don’t know that it has. The pressure of paying for college has impacted me greatly.
You say the pressure of paying for college has impacted you greatly, what are some things you’ve done to combat that?
We made a 7-year plan for college. That 7 years almost gets me to the 30-year teaching mark. I want to retire from teaching at 30 years. We have tightened our budget.
Lower food costs. Less driving. No cable. Less new clothes. Chose not to replace our broken air conditioner for the last 3 years. Only necessary, cheap home improvements. Fewer gifts. Coach soccer for money. Mrs. Jumpstart quit a gym and got a part-time job at a different gym. Rec soccer instead of travel soccer.
Our kids work and buy their own stuff. We are going to let renters stay in our townhouse through the summer. (We typically got 10-month leases so we could have it in the summer.)
What’s a blog you would recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?
I’d recommend going to Rockstar Finance and reading a variety of blogs. There aren’t any bloggers with the exact right answers for everyone.
You have to analyze, pick, and choose the best strategies for your situation. There’s tons of free advice from smart people in blogs today.
Where can people find you to learn more about you and your site?
That concludes my interview with Mr. Jumpstart. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth. Come back next week for my interview with Robert Farrington from The College Investor.
So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with Mr. Jumpstart about