Marketing 101: Walmart

After studying Marketing 101, I realized that a simple stroll through Walmart could teach you just as much. Did you know that even the placement of diapers has been carefully planned and monitored?

That’s right. A few years ago, it was observed that beer sold better if it was placed near diapers.

Why? Imagine the scenario: Dad is on the way home from work and gets a call from his wife.

“Honey, could you stop and pick up some diapers? We’re all out.”

Back-tracking a bit, he heads wearily to the nearest Walmart. On his way to pick up the diapers, what does he notice? The beer. Apparently beer sales increased considerably after it was strategically placed near diapers.

Crazy, huh?

Master the marketing

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Of course, the marketing doesn’t end there. From the differing layouts of each store (which force you to pass by dozens of items you happen to “need” on the hunt for the pickles), to the constantly fluctuating prices of fruits (allowing “mark-down” signs to be placed on normally priced produce) to the blaring $2.50 posters advertising the normal price of potato chips, the folks at Walmart are masters of marketing.

While they master the marketing, we can master the shopping.

Shop with a list. This is perhaps the easiest way to avoid the marketing. Knowing what you need and sticking to a list avoids so many impulse purchases.

Have a target price for such items as fresh produce, meat and other widely fluctuating items. This helps avoid the tempting, but often over-priced “sales”. Of course, sometimes you can find genuine good deals. I generally just put the generic “fruit” and “vegetables” on my shopping list, and then search for those deals.

Check price per ounce/pound: Bigger is not always cheaper. This is especially true when using coupons, but even without them it’s not the price per container, but the price per oz/lb/serving that matters. Recently I was purchasing powdered milk and upon comparing price per oz, realized that a box of individual serving packets was considerably cheaper per quart than the large box. Plus, it’s much easier to store. While some items really are a better deal when bought in bulk, some aren’t!

Shop less often The less often you set foot in a store, the less often you’ll be tempted to buy things you don’t need. Shop your cupboards, get creative and stay out of Walmart longer.

What are some ways you counter Walmart’s (or other store’s) carefully planned advertisements? 

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Feminine Adventures

And now, join Jenn (from The Purposeful Mom) and me for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!

Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

We’d be very grateful if you’d share only frugal and thrifty related posts. Thanks!

Jenn and I will each be sharing frugal tips of our own, so be sure to check out both of our blogs each Thursday for lots of money-saving ideas.

Rules for this blog hop:

  • Please link directly to your post and not to the main page of your blog.
  • Please share thrifty-themed giveaways in the comments in lieu of linking it up to the bloghop. This keeps any links from becoming dated.
  • Please add the Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop button (grab the code from my sidebar) to your post or link back here so others can join in the fun!
  • We’d love it if you would encourage others by checking out some of the fantastic links.

Linked up at Hearts 4 Home Thursdays,Proverbs 31 Thursday, Our Simple Life, Consider the Lillies, and Finer Things Friday

Use What You Have: Sweet Potatoes

“Use what you have” is one of the mantras of frugal living. It applies to most areas of the home: clothes, food, toys, curriculum. “Shop” your own supply before running to the store.

A friend of ours runs a Farmers’s Market and (thanks to my crazy-can’t-pass-up-an-amazing-deal self) what we have on hand is a large box of sweet potatoes.

They were dirt cheap and I just couldn’t pass them up. Once we got home, I realized what I’d done: bought a bushel of sweet potatoes in the Spring. What on earth to do with them?

First? Ask dear friends on Facebook for ideas.

What to do with sweet potatoes

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Following their suggestions, this is how we’ve used up our box of sweet potatoes. So far, every recipe has been a big hit!

  1.  Peeled and cooked a huge pot of sweet potatoes. Tossed in the blender. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and put globs of sweet potato on. Freeze til solid then put in a airtight container. (Thanks Caroline and Megan!)
  2. Once sweet potato dishes are back in season, have it on hand already! (Thanks Jacinda!) 
  3. Make sweet potato fries. They were a huge hit and such a nice non-Fall thing to do with them. (Thanks Heather!)
  4. Grill sweet potato. (Thanks Pinterest!) 
  5.  Use the mashed sweet potato for a cheap, healthy baby food. (Thanks Mama!)
  6. Use it instead of pumpkin in “pumpkin” muffins or bread (You can hardly tell a difference!)
  7. Make baked sweet potatoes (Thanks Keieah!) 

I still have a few sweet potatoes left. Any other ideas? 

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Feminine Adventures

Join Jenn (from The Purposeful Mom) and me for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!

Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

Jenn and I will each be sharing frugal tips of our own, so be sure to check out both of our blogs each Thursday for lots of money-saving ideas.

Rules for this blog hop:

  • Please link directly to your post and not to the main page of your blog.
  • Please share thrifty-themed giveaways in the comments in lieu of linking it up to the bloghop. This keeps any links from becoming dated.
  • Please add the Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop button (grab the code from my sidebar) to your post or link back here so others can join in the fun!
  • We’d love it if you would encourage others by checking out some of the fantastic links.

Linked up at Hearts 4 Home Thursdays & Proverbs 31 Thursday, Living Green, Our Simple Life, Consider the Lillies, and Finer Things Friday

Lessons Learned from Our Little Home

When we first moved into our poorly-designed 650 square foot home for Joshua to start law school, I felt cramped and could hardly wait to move to a bigger place. The kitchen only had about two feet of counter space, the dryer was on the damp back porch, and my “pantry” hid on shelves behind the couch in the living room.  Our previous home wasn’t big, but this was about half the size!

Little did I dream that when we finally did pack up our boxes (after four years and two more children!) to move back to our home state, that leaving this little home would be tinged with sadness. This little home was crammed full of fun memories and life lessons.

Lessons Learned from Our Small Home

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Lessons learned from our little home

1. God gives grace for each day

Looking back, I don’t know how I would have handled knowing we’d live here for four years. Probably not very well. But God gives grace for each day, not the next four years!

2. Perspective is vital

One day (when I happened to be wishing for a bigger home) my then three-year-old daughter came up to me and said, “I love our house. Don’t you? It’s SO big!” I couldn’t help but laugh. For a child, even a small home seems big. Compared to many in the world, our home is big. Compared to what we need, our home is big. Learning to see it that way, makes it feel much bigger.

3. Creativity makes all the difference

The kitchen was by far the toughest part of the home for me. We could barely squeeze a table and three chairs into the corner and leave enough room to reach the stove. As Will and then Meg were added to the family, we had to get rid of anything un-essential (like the portable dishwasher) and squeeze things in a bit tighter. With a bit of creativity (and added shelves for storage) we were able to make what I hardly thought would work for a year work for four.

4. Wherever you are, someone else would gladly trade.

Recently, Josh and I had an acquaintance over for lunch. After looking around the kitchen he said, “Oh! I sure love this kitchen. I hope that next year I can afford to move into a similar home.”

I was a bit stunned and definitely humbled.

5. Short-term sacrifice pays off

The temptation to move was strong, but we had a goal in mind: keep student loans as low as possible and pay them off quickly! We don’t know what the future holds, but are so grateful to be able to face the future without the burden of school loans.

6. Embrace where God has you today

While dreaming of the future is fun, God placed us here, in the present, for a purpose. “Be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) Whether in a mansion or college apartment, God has promised to not leave His children. That’s reason enough to be content and embrace where He has us, even when you don’t have any elbow space.

Lessons learned from our little home

I never thought I’d actually feel this way, but I am going to miss our little home. I will miss the feeling of adventure, creativity,and togetherness that living in a small home almost forces you to embrace.

What about you? What’s the smallest home you’ve lived in? What lessons did you learn through it?

Three Ways to Save on Diapers

Welcome to our very first Thrifty Thursday blog hop! We’d love to have you link up your thrifty-themed posts. 

Most moms agree: diapers are the most expensive part of clothing a baby.

I have three children and figure I’ve changed 12,000 diapers. At the very least.

That is a lot of diapers!

Regularly priced diapers range from 20 to 35 cents each. Going with $0.25 x 12,000? That’s $3,000 this mama doesn’t have. Maybe you don’t either.

Baby in diaper

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Three Ways to Save on Diapers

1. Use cloth diapers

My mom used them, my grandmas used them. Cloth has been used for centuries. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, cloth diapers can save hundreds of dollars.

They can be a steep upfront investment, but Little Natural Cottage’s has 5 ideas for keeping the cost minimal. Want to make your own? Penniless Parenting shows how to make your own cloth diapers… from an old t-shirt! 

Of course, you have the expense of water and detergent, but that will be far less than $3,000! If you are willing to undergo the extra work (and the nastiness factor) cloth diapers are a wonderful way to save money diapering your baby.

2. Buy disposable diapers on sale, in bulk

My husband has agreed to most of my money-saving, natural-living ideas, but put his foot down on this one. No cloth diapers allowed in our home.

That doesn’t mean we can’t save though!

Diapers go on sale frequently. Especially if you are not brand loyal (Target and Walgreens diapers work well!) you can often find them marked 50% off or more. I have a target price of 10 cents for small diapers and 12 cents for larger sizes.

Follow saving sites (Money Saving Mom is my very favorite) to stay updated with diaper deals. Drugstores and online sites like Amazon frequently run sales. Oh, and I just learned that Amazon Mom is open again! Join up to save up to 20% on diaper deals! Hurray!

Set aside a bit of money each week to stock up if there’s an exceptional sale. (Just please be polite of other moms who also need a good deal!)

If you don’t have time to run down a sale, find the cheapest brand that works for your child and buy them in bulk.

3. Potty train early! 

Did you know that in many cultures, mothers potty train their infants? Or rather, mothers train themselves to take their child to the bathroom from infancy.

If it can be done in other countries, surely it can be done here too. Shalom Brand shares how she trained her little daughter. 

I lacked the discipline (or desire) to potty train my infants, but started potty training earlier than average. Every month sooner, is one month sooner that you can stop buying diapers!

(In celebration of paying off our student loans, Feminine Adventures is offering a fourth way to save on diapers: win them! Enter for your chance to win a box of diapers.)

What about you? What methods do you use to save on diapering? 

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Join Jenn (from The Purposeful Mom) and me for our very first Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop!

We invite you to share your frugal and thrifty ideas! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.

Jenn and I will each be sharing frugal tips of our own, so be sure to check out both of our blogs each Thursday for lots of money-saving ideas.

Rules for this blog hop:

  • Please link directly to your post and not to the main page of your blog.
  • Please share thrifty-themed giveaways in the comments in lieu of linking it up to the bloghop. This keeps any links from becoming dated.
  • Please add the Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop button to your post or link back here so others can join in the fun! (Grab the code for the button below—if anyone knows why it won’t center, I’m all ears!)
  • We’d love it if you would encourage others by checking out some of the fantastic links.

Feminine Adventures

<a href=”http://feminineadventures.com/category/thrifty-thursday/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://feminineadventures.com/images/blog-button-thrifty-thursda.jpg” alt=”Feminine Adventures” width=”125″ height=”125″ /></a>

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Ten Ways to Show Hospitality when Things are Tight

When we first moved into our 640-square-foot duplex for Josh to start law school, every single preconception I had about hospitality was shaken to the core. Our kitchen table barely seated three, the trim was cracked and peeling, and there were so many stains already on the carpet that I didn’t need to worry about adding more. You’d never notice.

But rent was cheap and we were trying to get through school without being saddled with a huge burden of debt, so it was worth it. Our grocery spending matched our rent spending. God was really gracious to give us a daughter (and then two more kiddos!) that begged for oatmeal, beans, vegetables, and rice. Kids who turned down fancy breakfasts for a bowl of oatmeal and preferred tomatoes to cookies. That was enormous blessing, but what about company?

At first I didn’t think that hospitality would even be possible. After all, who would want to come visit us? And if they did come, where would they sit?

Especially in this fast-paced online culture, taking time to show hospitality is so important, even when things are tight. Here are ten simple tips for practicing hospitality on a budget.

Answers to the all-important seating question here

Much to my surprise (and amusement) a steady stream of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances has passed through our little white house. I read somewhere that during the early 20th century, as houses started being made larger and larger, people looked back on the homes they grew up in and couldn’t believe how many people had managed to fit into such tight spaces to enjoy such frugal feasts…and had so much fun doing it.

I saw first-hand how true it was. You don’t need lots of space or lots of money to practice hospitality. You just need to share your life with those around you. “Share what you have,” as it says in Hebrews 13:6.

Especially in our fast-paced, online society, taking the time to open our homes and engage with people right around us is so important, even when things are is tight.

Hospitality isn't about impressing your friends or showcasing your home. It's about fellowship and friendship. If you have a limited budget, here are 10 frugal ways to practice hospitality when things are tight.

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10 way to show hospitality when money is tight

  1. Create a welcoming environment using what you have. A scented candle, pretty music or jar of wildflowers add a warm touch and are inexpensive. Use items you have and remember that hospitality is not a Martha Stewart contest!
  2. Open your home, without serving food. If your food budget scarcely lets you feed your own family, you can show hospitality without serving a meal. Watch a friend or neighbor’s children to give them a break. Invite a friend over in the afternoon, just to chat.
If you want to serve food…
  1. Remember, you don’t have to host dinner. Invite a friend for lunch or breakfast or have college girls over for tea (or coffee!) One of my favorite times of fellowship was over brunch. Friends invited several couples over on a Saturday morning and made homemade waffles topped with strawberries and ice cream. It was delicious, simple and fit their tight budget. Hosting a simple tea party is another inexpensive option. It may not be quintessentially American, but it’s awfully fun anyway.
  2. Make homemade cookies or brownies. Whenever you make cookies, make a big batch and freeze the extra dough in wax paper to pull out for fresh hot cookies at a moment’s notice. Many cookie recipes freeze well. These almond crunch cookies were a favorite with the students I tutored. It’s amazing what a plate of cookies will do to open up conversations!
If you are hosting guests for dinner…
  1. Compile a simple rotating company menu. Think through the meals and desserts your family loves. Then make a list of meals that you can serve when company is coming. They don’t have to be expensive or gourmet. Soups, homemade pizza and this Savory Lentil Rice Casserole are delicious, yet budget-friendly.
  2. Keep ingredients for those meals stocked. This will save on gas money and impulse purchases… and relieve a whole lot of stress if you find out mid-afternoon that friends will be joining you for dinner!
  3.  Shop your cupboards and use what you have. Maybe unexpected company is coming and you’re almost out of groceries. Get creative. A missionary shared an inspiring story of a time she only had one onion, some cheese and spices in the house. Company unexpectedly dropped by. Instead of panicking, she turned the onion and cheese into a savory creation that her guest raved about!
  4. Make bread or biscuits to serve with your meal. Homemade baked goods are increasingly rare and enliven even the humblest meals.
  5. Serve water or make your own iced tea. Add sliced lemon to “make it fancy”. Homemade tea costs a fraction of store-bought. I buy a box of 100 tag-less tea bags at Walmart for $1. Using four per quart, that’s enough to make more than six gallons of tea. Better yet, grow your own mint!
  6. Share the load. Let your guest bring a side. If you are hosting a large group, plan a meal that all can contribute to, like tacos. Have each guest bring a filling or two. Or, host a potluck type event.

Practicing hospitality when money is tight

It took me a long time to get comfortable inviting friends over to our humble house and sharing our simple meals. When I finally loosened my grip on pride and realized that true friends came to visit us, not enjoy Pinterest perfection, I found myself nodding in agreement to what earlier Americans knew: it’s amazing the amount of joy you can have sharing “a morsel of bread” in love.

What about you? How do you practice hospitality on a budget? (And have you ever had to whip up dinner for a crowd at the last minute?) 

When Good Things Become Idols

Debt is not a good thing. I am ecstatic to be paying our student loans off. But I am also grateful we had them.

Through them God showed me that even a good thing, like living debt-free, can become an idol. It wasn’t a fun lesson.

Law School Journey

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Our story:

When Joshua and I got married, law school was not on our radar. Health complications barred our original plans and the idea of law school surfaced.

God opened doors, we moved across the country and Joshua started law school.

Shortly before we moved I stumbled across Crystal’s (from Money Saving Mom) original blog. She and her husband had made it through law school without student loans. Their story was so inspirational and I wanted to follow their example.

A non-traditional college course allowed us to earn bachelor’s degrees without student loans. We moved into a very small, cheap apartment. We shared a car. We ate simply. Surely we could graduate law school debt-free too.

As we neared the end of his first year though, nothing seemed to be going right. Savings were running low. I tried numerous avenues, but couldn’t find work I could do from home. I was pregnant with our second child and (highly) emotional.

Josh had worked incredibly hard in school, made excellent grades and was involved in student activities. He applied for summer work and I was confident he would be hired immediately.

He wasn’t.

As the weeks dragged on, I got more and more worried and emotional. I prayed and I pleaded and I cried.

After all, wasn’t getting work a good thing? It wasn’t like we were asking for a Mercedes or anything. The economy was bad, but was I really asking for too much? We just wanted work so we could avoid debt.

God said “no.”

I was devastated.*

In case you didn’t notice,  was the one who was having a hard time here. Josh worked and prayed, but didn’t worry and certainly didn’t cry. Over and over he told me, “Honey, God knows what is best for our family.”

God does know what is best. He knows what we need.

Why I [now] am grateful for student loans

Debt-free living had become my idol. Pride motivated my zeal. I didn’t want loans in our story. I wanted to be able to write a “how to do law school without loans” guide.

God in His wisdom said “no.”

“The borrower is servant to the lender” Proverbs says. But God can use debt to showcase His glory (like in the story of the widow’s oil) or to purify us.

By focusing so hard on avoiding student loans, I let the pursuit of debt-free living choke out the Word. God used those loans to show me that even good things can become idols. As thrilled as I am to be paying off our loans, I am grateful that loans were part of our story.

No matter where we are on the financial journey, whether we haven’t touch debt with a ten-foot pole, are buried in debt, or are just trying to live faithfully with little, God writes the details of our story for a reason.

No two stories are the same. That is part of the wonder of life in His world. He is the Master Storyteller!

[* Want the happy ending? Later that first summer, God did provide work for me to do from home. Joshua was funded to volunteer in an area he felt passionate about. Though we still had student loans when Joshua graduated, we are sending in the final payment this month!]

Linked up at Handful of Heart, Teach Me TuesdaysGratituesdayEncourage One AnotherWomen Living Well

Student Loans Chapter Coming to an End

I have news that I have been bursting to tell you…

Once our tax return goes through we will have enough money to pay off the last of our student loans! Excited is far too mild to describe my feelings. More like I-want-to-shout-and-cry-and-dance (even in Walmart)!

 

Student Loans Paid

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Sometimes the three years of scrimping and saving during law school seemed to stretch on for ever. Sometimes I didn’t want to put nearly every spare penny since Joshua started his clerkship toward paying the loan. There have been many times that I wanted to just quit.

Yet during this journey God has been so good to us. We have been blessed and encouraged and inspired time and again.

  • Blessed by unexpected gifts on days when the boost was greatly needed.
  • Encouraged by reminders that God is sovereign and holds our future in His wise hands.
  • Inspired by your stories of sacrifice and giving and debt-free life.

This chapter of our lives has been filled with many lessons, but I am so glad that it is coming to an end.

To celebrate (and channel my excitement into something more productive than dancing in Walmart), I’ll be hosting a series of give-aways on February 29th and March 1st from some of my very favorite resources!

Some of you are probably thinking, “what’s so exciting about just paying off a student loan?”

I know, I know! It’s not like we’re paying cash for a house or a trip to Europe.We’re all on different stages of the financial road. Even the little milestones are worth celebrating though, right?

Won’t you celebrate with us and join me for the the upcoming giveaways?

Answers to Common Questions about Distance Learning

Today, I am wrapping up the “How to Get Your Bachelor’s in Less, For Less” series with some common questions we are asked. For those of you who have already been through college or aren’t planning to attend, thanks for bearing with me these past six Fridays!

If you’re just joining us, read the first five parts of the series:

Commonly asked questions about distance learning

Does earning a degree through distance learning hurt your chances at grad/law school?

Joshua and I originally earned our degrees because we wanted to go to China to teach. At that time at least, we were told it didn’t matter where we got our degrees (or even what major we chose). However, health complications closed that door and we decided to look into Josh attending law school. He took the LSAT (entrance exam) and then sent out applications to dozens of schools. We honestly had no idea how schools would look on a distance degree.

We were pleasantly surprised that even well-known law schools didn’t bat an eye. In our case, having a distance degree didn’t hurt his chance at being accepted to law school or being offered scholarships. 

If you are planning on obtaining a grad or law degree, I think distance learning is actually a really wise choice in many cases. Distance degrees are so much cheaper and will help avoid student loans. They also allow you more time to focus on preparing for further schooling.

Can high school students take CLEPs?

Yes! It’s a great way to start college with some of the basic courses already behind you. The College Board (official CLEP center] even devotes part of their site to home school and high school students!

Can you get scholarships or grants for distance learning?

Yes! I’m not sure if this is a new development or not (we didn’t know about it!) but when I was researching the three major distance colleges for last week’s post, they all had a financial aid office and offered numerous grants!  (Read that post for links to their financial aid offices.)

You are a homemaker, why did you get a degree (and was it worthwhile)?

Being a homemaker was my dream since I was a little girl. I hoped and prayed that I would get married. I am the oldest of eight and spent countless happy hours learning how to run a home from my mom.

My parents home schooled my siblings and me and placed great value on a good education. They sacrificed their time and money to ensure that we received the best schooling they could provide. Geting a college degree was something my dad highly encouraged. He knew that I wanted to home school someday if I was blessed with children. In our state growing up, there were no educational requirements for parents who wanted to home schooled. But none of us know where God will lead in the future or what laws might be put in place. We agreed that having a bachelor’s degree would be a wise move in case it were ever required for homeschooling.

Plus, if Joshua never did ask to marry me (since *he* is the one I was praying would ask, you know!) I could use that degree to teach in China.

While I wanted to get my degree, I also wanted to be a homemaker someday. I didn’t want to saddle a future marriage with student loans. A distance degree was the perfect answer. It allowed me to learn at my own pace, pay cash and not wind up with loans for a degree I might not need or use!

What about you? If you’ve earned any college credit through distance learning, I’d love to know your experience! 

linked up at Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday

Thriftiness is…

  •  saying “no” to today’s want, so we can say “yes” to tomorrow’s need
  • a vote that money cannot buy happiness
  • delayed gratification
  • homemade food and hard work and dirty hands
  • learning from a child, that what we have is more than enough
  • wisely stewarding what we have been entrusted with
  • not a contest
  • “living simply in order to give generously”
  • a belief that more stuff is not always better
  • an adventurous challenge (super glue and needle, anyone?)
  • contentment with where God has placed us
  • choosing our own dreams, rather than letting Mrs. Jones choose them for us

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Thriftiness is one of the many ways women can build their homes. Thursdays at Feminine Adventures will now be devoted to all things thrifty: tips, ideas that worked (or didn’t) work, and embracing where God has placed us. I would love to have you join us!

Why do you choose to be thrifty? What are your family’s dreams? 

linked up at Hearts 4 Home ThursdaysFrugal Friday and  Finer Things Friday

The Three Major Distance Learning Colleges

If you’re just joining us, read the first four parts of the series: 

Most students can benefit from taking at least some CLEP or DANTES exams. Thousands of colleges and universities across the country accept them. Testing out of a course is cheaper, allows you to study at your own pace, use your own (often free!) textbooks and saves time. It is a wonderful way for high school students to get a jumpstart on their college education or for any student to speed up the time until graduation.

However, some of you may wish to earn a degree entirely (or nearly entirely) through distance learning methods. This is the route Joshua and I took, and why we were able to obtain our bachelors degrees for considerably less than $5,000 each.

photo by Mary Gober

There are three major distance learning colleges: Excelsior CollegeThomas Edison State College and Charter Oak State College. These colleges all hold to a similar belief: you don’t have to sit in a classroom in order to learn.

They are geared toward adult learners and self-motivated students. Each college offers some degrees entirely (or almost entirely) through distance learning methods. (Though obviously some degree programs, like biology, require courses with hands-on lab credit which you can transfer from a local college/university.)

They award credit for CLEP and DANTES exams, prior-learning assessments as well as other lesser-known credit-by-examination tests. [Read more about Excelsior’s ECE (which even offer some nursing exams) and Thomas Edison’s TECEP exams.] Each college also offers its own online classes.

The colleges charge per year of enrollment. Upon enrollment, they evaluate your previously-earned credit to see what classes or exams you need to complete your degree and offer telephone support. Enrollment does not actually pay for any courses.

What we, and many other students do (after choosing a college) is look over their accepted exams and take as many as possible before enrolling, so that we only had to pay for one year of enrollment.

Once enrolled, we completed necessary exams and took any courses that college requires. For example, Excelsior, which we “attended”, requires their 1-credit-hour Information Literacy course in order to graduate.

Below are links to important aspects of the three major distance learning colleges. If you are interested in pursuing a distance degree, I highly recommend the Degree Forum (it appears to be down at the moment!) for much, much more information.

Excelsior College

Naturally, I’m rather biased towards Excelsior since that is where we graduated!

Thomas Edison State College (TESC)

For students who want a mentor to guide them through the distance learning process, College Plus! works with Thomas Edison to coach students to a degree.

  • Degrees offered
  • Ways to earn credit: They offer their own credit-by-examination exam (TECEP) as well as accepting credit from numerous other sources
  • Cost: One year of enrollment at TESC is $2,858.00 for out state students ($1,533.00 in NJ) with a $272 graduation fee and various other fees.*
  • Financial aid: TESC students can apply for numerous scholarships and grants (including the Pell Grant.)

Charter Oak State College

Unlike the other two, Charter Oak offers enrollment on a semester, not yearly, basis.

  • Degrees offered
  • Ways to earn credit
  • Cost: Enrollment is only $220 per semester, but you are required to take at least six credit hours through them at $220 per credit-hour *
  • Financial Aid: Charter Oak students can apply for numerous scholarships and grants (including the Pell Grant.)
*prices current as of Feb.2, 2012, to the best of my knowledge. Please do you own research before deciding on a school! 


Next week I’m wrapping up the series with answers to common questions we receive. Have a question? I’ll do my best to answer it. Did you earn your degree non-traditionally? I’d love to hear about it!