9 tips for single parents heading to college

Making it through college can be a challenge for any of us—add to that the responsibility of being a single parent and college can be especially demanding. Dr. Bill Burns, director of the North Dakota State University Counseling Center, and Maggie Pearl, admissions manager at Rasmussen College—Fargo campus, share some of their tips for helping single parents be successful students and parents.

1. Identify your support network. The first thing Pearl tells students is to think about who supports them in going back to school. “Who is your biggest cheerleader?” she says. Tell that person you’ll be counting on them for encouragement when times get tough. There will be days when you feel like graduating from college is an impossible goal and you’ll need someone to both listen and cheer you on.

Also check out the support services available at the college you have chosen. Burns says, “If you’ve been out of school for a while, knowing how to work through the systems of the university can be daunting. Make sure you have a good connection with an academic advisor to help you through the process.” ‘

2. Secure consistent child care. Burns said not having consistent child care is one of the biggest barriers parents face in going back to school. “You need someone to watch the kids so you can go to class and do your work outside of class.” Some schools have child care centers on campus. If they don’t, the student affairs office will probably be able to give you references for local providers.

3. Make a schedule. Time management is a must when single parents go back to school. “Block off your class and work schedule. Block out time for homework,” she says. “Put it on your fridge so your kids will know where you are, what you are doing and when you’ll be available.” Pearl also suggests that having a consistent bedtime for your children is very important so you have time after they go to bed to do chores or homework.

Burns said the ratio of class time to homework and reading vary depending on the class and/or the professor, but a good rule of thumb is that to do well you’ll need to spend 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour you spend in class. “I tell students to think of school as their full time job—if you are in class 15 hours a week that leaves you about 25 hours a week to study. You can still have a life outside of school. People who work 40 hours a week and have children do it all the time.”

4. Communicate. We are all human and things come up. This is especially true for single parents. You can never predict when your kids will get sick or hurt and need you to be home with them. Burns says to introduce yourself to your professors at the beginning of the semester and tell them your situation. “Be someone the professor knows. Even in a big lecture class, that can go a long way.” Then, if something comes up, let them know right away.

5. Don’t overload yourself with work and class. Burns suggests limiting your work hours as much as possible. “Anything more than 17 hours a week starts to interfere with a student’s academic success,” he says. If you have to work more than 17 hours a week to make ends meet, consider taking fewer credits. It may take you longer to complete your education, but you’ll be less likely to burn out and quit along the way.

6. Do your homework with your children. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to do homework with them. If they aren’t in school, have them sit at the table with you coloring or practicing their ABCs. “Your kids will feel like you are doing something together but you are also getting studying done,” says Pearl

7. Let go of parental guilt. Pearl says, “The time that you’ll be in college is a very short period of time in your child’s life.” Explain to your children why you are going back to school—tell them it’s to give them a better life and that you need their support as much as possible. They might complain because that’s what kids do—but in the long run most children not only understand why their parent went back to school, but respect them for doing so.

8. Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and build a social support network. Burns says, “Taking care of yourself will make it all more manageable.”

9. And we would add a ninth tip to the list: Have a financial road map. Stop by for a quick visit with a financial professional (like those at The Village Financial Resource Center) and have a plan for controlling your finances while your in school and make sure that you’ll be able to deal with debt you may incur while in school.

Going back to school as a single parent won’t be easy, but when you are standing on stage at graduation receiving your diploma, with your children watching you with pride, you’ll know it was worth it.

Village financial expert talks about what to do with that tax refund check

Village financial expert Morgan Almer talks about what to do with that tax refund check on “North Dakota Today.”

Watch both parts of the interview below.


Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand ForksValley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks


Looking for financial coaching or consuling (online or in-person)? We’d love to help. Learn more…

Village offers ‘Kids and Money’ course

The Village will host “Kids and Money” class at 6 p.m., April 23, at Dakota Medical Foundation, 4141 28th Ave. S. in Fargo.

Have a positive impact on your children’s values regarding money and watch them step confidently into adulthood—financially capable, independent, and prepared.

You can register online. For more info, call 800-450-4019 or email moneyhelp@thevillagefamily.org.


Morning coffee and keeping an eye out for credit fraud

By Carol Harrison, Financial Counselor with The Village

Most mornings upon waking I hear, “Coffee, coffee. I need coffee.” Next I hear the sound of the coffee grinder followed by the coffee brewing, the wafting aroma, and finally comes the utterance “Ah coffee!”

But recently we awoke to a different coffee calling. The phone was ringing and on the other end was a representative from a credit card company. He alerted us that there appeared to be fraudulent activity on our account. In the wee hours of the morning while we slept, our coffee gift card had been loaded several times via this credit card. When we checked the account, sure enough, someone was adding money to it in small amounts and then issuing gift cards.

The credit card company had noticed this unusual activity and put a hold on these charges. They notified us, closed the account, and re-issued a new one. In the meantime we contacted the coffee card company, and they confirmed that this was not a system glitch and indicated that the activity was fraudulent. We are awaiting the results of the coffee company’s investigation.

Fortunately, our credit card company was diligently looking out for our best interests. It is not unusual for your credit card company to give you a call to question transactions to your account when they appear suspicious to them and they take quick action. We were not held accountable for the charges as they were all put on hold until confirmation from us.

It’s important to remember that credit card companies don’t always catch fraudulent activity. So be vigilant by reviewing your statements every month. If your creditor doesn’t catch the fraud, it is up to you to identify it and report it.

Got money questions? The Village offers financial coaching

Do you have financial goals, but can’t seem to reach them?

A Village financial coach will help you identify and follow through on the steps necessary for reaching your financial goals. Coaching works because you build a relationship with someone who keeps you accountable through frequent mini-contacts.
A Village financial coach will:

  • Do an initial financial assessment of your situation.
  • Visit with you to determine your financial goals.
  • Create “to-do” lists directly tied to your goals.
  • Determine check-in times.
  • Follow up frequently by phone, email, or in person to document your progress and keep you accountable

More info about Financial Coaching from The Village.

Money Sense: Quick tips for tax season

Before You Prepare Your Taxes…
You’ll need to determine the following:
1. What status will I be filing (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately,
2. What is my adjusted income?
3. Will I itemize or not?
4. What are my correct exemptions?

After You Prepare Your Taxes…
Double check each of the following so you don’t underpay or overpay your taxes:
1. Are your Social Security numbers …

Read the full article here in the “Money Sense” newsletter from The Village.

Why it’s Important to Save Money

Think back to a time when having an extra $1,000 would have made a major difference in the circumstance you were facing. How would the situation have played out differently if you had $1,000 to draw upon? Could you have avoided using a credit card and paying interest, taking out a payday loan, or having to borrow from family or friends? Whatever the situation, when you need to borrow money for unplanned expenses, it usually costs you in more ways than one.

The standard recommendation is to have a liquid savings account containing three to six months of your monthly expenses. Determine this amount by tracking what you spend. Don’t forget about your periodic expenses-the expenses that occur throughout the year, but not necessarily on a monthly basis. Periodic expenses include auto/home maintenance, gift buying, traveling, propane, medical deductibles, etc.

Three to six months of expenses in savings can feel like a very lofty goal for most families. However, having this amount in savings will protect your household from a tailspin if faced with periods of unexpected unemployment, seasonal income shortages, medical expenses, and major repairs.

Adequate savings provides you with a stable financial foundation. Just as a house is only as stable as the foundation it is built on, so are your finances.

Electronic Couponing and Deals

You can save money using the Internet through a variety of websites and mobile apps. Here are some of our favorites.


All of the websites listed here are also available as apps.

• Freebies2deals.com – Created by a mom from Utah with established connections to the best freebies and deals each day. She gives great advice and also matches up store coupons with manufacturers for you. This is a great time-saver for people who want to get the deals of a crazy couponer without spending the time.

• Zulily.com – Deals on clothing for babies and kids

• 1saleaday.com – Various products on sale

• Woot.com – Daily deals

• Retailmenot.com – Coupon codes and deals

• eBates.com – Just about every online retailer is on this site. Once you have an account, you can search by product or retailer, find discount codes, and receive cash back on all your purchases. You get a free $10 gift card to the place of your choice just for signing up!

Mobile Apps

• GeoQpon – Coupons you can scan at the register

• Shopkick – Find coupons and earn points toward gift cards

• Smartphonemate – Earn credit at Amazon.com just by having the app open on your phone ($3/month) or tablet ($5/month)

• Gasbuddy – Lists all gas stations in the area, along with prices. You can update the prices as well and earn entries for a free gift card


Use Back-to-School Shopping to Teach Financial Responsiblity

With school starting up again the wallet is opened up all too frequently. You have the regular supplies such as pencils, papers, books, folders and backpacks. It then goes to registration fees for this and that. And then can come the “big one” depending upon the child. Clothes.

I had two boys who were not in any way shape or form up on the latest trends – nor required a closet full of clothes and shoes. It was typically me trying to force them into some new jeans because they had so many holes from wear…(and skateboarding falls.)

The idea of giving your child a “set amount,” as Mary Hunt discusses in her article below, and letting them deal with the consequences is a fabulous tool to start them at a young age learning about setting goals and handling their money.

Good luck to everyone as another school year approaches.

The Joys of Raising Financially Confident Teens
By Mary Hunt on 08/15/13

Dear Mary: I just read the letter from 13-year-old Abby about teaching kids financial responsibility.

I did this with my daughter when she was just a little older than Abby. Prior to that, she wanted name brand jeans, clothing, shoes…whatever she thought all of the “cool” kids had.

She wouldn’t step into a thrift shop or discount store. It was a constant battle until I decided that she would have a clothing/necessity allowance.

I gave her a set amount of money each month to cover those expenses. If there was an event coming up she would need to save ahead to pay for whatever she needed, including her prom gown and all the accessories.

It worked wonderfully. She learned to sit down and figure out what she really needed and then budget for it.

She began shopping at thrift stores and discount stores to save money. She learned to make long range plans. She still dressed fashionably but did it by stretching her money to buy what she needed. It was a valuable lesson that I wished I’d started earlier! –Margaret, email

Dear Margaret: The longer I live the more convinced I am that the only way to train children to be financially confident in ways that will extend far into their adult years, is to give the ability to make their own independent financial decisions while they are still young—then requiring them to live with the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. Those lessons, as you may have experienced, can be harder on the parents than the kids because we so want to bail our kids out to make sure they suffer no pain. Suffering the consequences for the decisions we make is the best way to make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes in the future. I applaud your decision to give our daughter the opportunity and the mandate to manage money while she was still over the safety net of your home.

Dear Mary: I have a question with credit cards and electronic devices. I am not sure what would be best. As a general rule, I completely agree with you about no credit cards for kids. However this generation of modern electronics has me in a quandary. My daughter (age 14) has earned enough money to purchase her own eReader (I am so looking forward to fewer books cluttering her room!). In order to use the device to download things she must have a credit card on file. She is a responsible young lady and I have no fear she will abide by rules I set. Thanks for your advice on the best way to handle this situation. –Kathline K., email

Dear Kathline: I suggest that you add your daughter to your existing credit card as an “Authorized User.” The company will issue a credit card on your account with her name on it and she will have full access to charge to the account, without any legal responsibility for repaying the credit card balance.

And she benefits in another way: As an authorized user, your good credit history will begin show up in her credit file. Even at her tender age, she will begin to build a good credit record by piggybacking onto your credit history. Sounds like nothing but good, doesn’t it? There are potential downsides for you the credit account holder and for her, an authorized user.

As an authorized user she could go crazy and charge up the account to the limit, without you knowing. She would have no legal obligation to repay the debt and you would have no recourse to make her. Her potential downside is that your credit behavior as the account holder could take a dive sending all kinds of negative information to her account. While these possibilities exist, I would say the chances of things turning sour would be slim to none for you and your daughter. Congratulations for having raised a your daughter to be responsible enough to have earned your trust in this way. I wish you both the best.

This column The Joys of Raising Financially Confident Teens is posted at Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate blog.