8 suggestions to spend less on dorm decor and put the savings toward tuition

August 22nd, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

A guest blog by college senior Robert Felton moving picture blog pic 2

Did you know the second biggest “season” for retailers behind holiday shopping is back to school? The average college freshman spends $1,200 on decor and room supplies. I don’t know about you, but I can think of much better ways to use $1,200 then on medusa lamps, hangers and strange wall stickers. I’m starting my senior year of college now, so please hear me out. You really won’t use much of the stuff you buy anyway, truthfully you will throw most of it out when you move into a real apartment. The thing I used most was a laptop computer desk (you know the tray with a pillow on one side so it can rest on your lap). All the stickers, lamps and color coordinated storage cubes were all destroyed or thrown away before I entered sophomore year.


Here are my 8 suggestions to spend less on dorm decor and put the savings toward tuition.

  1. This is one of the big times for retail stores and they push and advertise to make you feel like you need everything – their goal is to sell merchandise. Resist them.
  2. Many dorm rooms come with supplied appliances so check and see if you get a fridge or microwave, because truth be told you do not need another mini fridge.
  3. Any futon you buy will be destroyed before freshman year is over. Do not and I repeat DO NOT buy a new $300 futon. Find a couch from a family friend. Use a crappy old couch or if you really have to, buy a cheap one because people will jump, sleep, spill and vomit on your futon and it is not worth the money to last a few weeks.
  4. Get creative with your decor. Don’t waste your money on wall stickers and mass retailer approved wall art. Everyone will have the same crap. Do a photo collage or get artistic and crafty and do a Pinterest project. This will save you some money and save you from looking like another cookie cutter college student.
  5. You will spend your life either on your bed or your futon so chairs and bean bags are a total waste of money.
  6. A cute waste bin? Really, why? You are spending money on garbage – literally.
  7. If you buy an air conditioner, you are spoiled. People will love you for your AC, but think you are a spoiled brat. Ask your parents if they had AC. I am guessing they didn’t. Part of the fun of growing up is having to struggle. (If living without AC is a struggle). One of my best memories from last summer was my best friend and I fighting to stay cool on a lava hot day. Don’t bother with luxuries, learn a life lesson and have a reason to get good grades. Those good grades will translate into luxuries later in life.
  8. Room decorating is more fun with your roommate and creativity than with store bought crap from major retailers. After moving into my dorm, my roommate and I went shopping and bought some awesome ugly knick knacks from Goodwill. I helped my best friend decorate week by week with pictures we had taken from the school year.

One more final note. You are in college – it is the one time in your life that it is fun to be poor. The kids sitting on expensive computer and game systems miss out on all the real fun. Being freshmen, we went on nature adventures, built snow igloos, did scavenger hunts, went to parties, attended concerts and comedians and joined clubs. Skip on some of the electronics and gadgets, pocket the money, use it for tuition, because in the end you will be happy you did.

What we SHOULD have learned from Jimi Hendrix

August 7th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

Most people who aren’t familiar with the music of Jimi Hendrix think of him as nothing more than a guitar blazing druggie rock star that overdosed and died young when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, before smartphones and Google, in the 1970’s. And he did, but there was so much more to his story.  jimi blog pic

Many believe that Jimi Hendrix was the one of the greatest guitarists ever. I certainly do. When watching him play, it appeared as though he played guitar with no effort. His hands just flew over the strings and music came out. He was left-handed, but played a right handed guitar. He was essentially playing the guitar upside down. And he was still better than anyone playing right side up. He just played and played perfectly while belting out a tune wrought with attitude. He made it look so easy. How many guitarists and singers and songwriters today were inspired by his effort? I’m willing to bet LOTS.

Have you ever noticed that when you are really good at something everyone else around you thinks it’s easy too? You know it’s not. You know what it took to get good – to develop those skills and do things quickly and correctly. But they only see the end result, they see the concert at Madison Square Gardens. They don’t see the practice and mistakes and frustration. They think it’s easy, but its not. To get to where you are you had to put in your time. You learned from your mistakes and didn’t make the same ones again.You failed, succeeded and persisted. That’s how you got good. Everyone can be good at something. You can love doing something enough to elevate yourself to inspire others.

Find something you love to do. Now figure out how to make money doing it. Jimi did.

Oh crap! I forgot to save money for college!

July 31st, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

Our first team-written blog. A quick 1-2 punch of advice from the illustrator and author of Lemonade Stand Economics that will help those who are starting college soon…without a financial plan.

ROBERT (21 year old college junior and student business owner)

“I wish I had this book when I was in high school!” is what I have heard at least a thousand times while illustrating for Lemonade Stand Economics. I hear it mostly among my college friends complaining about student loans and how they are too deep in now. I really want to say, “Stop whining! It is not too late.” robert edited

The reason I like Lemonade Stand Economics so much is not because it has a great plan for high school students. I stand behind and am proud to work for Lemonade Stand Economics because of the lessons the author Geof White gives to young entrepreneurs. I am a young entrepreneur. I have faced all the stresses and overcome many strange obstacles. I learned how to interact with customers, organize finances, make (& correct) mistakes and everything in-between. The book  illustrates some of these obstacles and talks about how telling the world you are paying for college can really help your sales. The book explains just how much work it really is and the importance of confidence and dedication. Geof White knows what it takes to make money as a young entrepreneur because he did it.  And I’m doing it too. Actually, there are lots of us around the country making blankets, selling popcorn, mowing lawns and scooping up dog doo to earn money. (Yep, not kidding.)

So regardless if you’re 12 and debt-free or 23 and swamped in debt, it is not too late. You can start something. You can skip the mistakes I made and start making money now. You can also address some of the mistakes you’ve already made and tackle that debt NOW – before you graduate. The debt isn’t going anywhere till you do something about it. It’s never too late to try something new to get rid of it.  What do you have to lose?

GEOF (42 year old business owner, father of two, author and former student entrepreneur)

Does this sound familiar?  “I graduated last month! We had a big party. After four great years of high school I am headed off to college in September. I am soooo excited! I put a lot of thought into where I am going. I toured the campus, chose a major or two to consider, and even wrote down how much it’s going to cost. Oh crap!  I worked at my job all year but, well, I kinda forgot to save much. I planned on saving for college,  I really meant to…but life just happened and now I don’t have anything saved.  Now what? WTF am I going to do?!?  September is in four weeks??!?  Is it too late?  How did I even enjoy my graduation party when I don’t have enough money for school in the fall? FML.”  

If this rings a bell, I have some advice that may help. Geof cropped

It’s NEVER too late to start.  So you got a late start on saving for college…so what?  You are not the only one. Being unprepared financially for college is actually quite common. Don’t let the lack of time scare you.  There is still some time to earn.  Before you start classes…during the semester…and next summer, but get started NOW. Don’t have this same panic in 11 months.

Earn as much money as you can- as fast as you can.  The first decision to make is – Are you going to do something about this situation or are you going to hope it goes away on its own?  Money only falls from the sky when you make it fall from the sky. I call it “shaking the money tree.” Some people shake that tree like crazy and make some serious bank. Others work for minimum wage, earn very little and feel sorry for themselves. Because time is short, you need to earn as much as you can in the shortest amount of time. Then lather, rinse, repeat until freshman orientation.

Be frugal! BE AS CHEAP AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN BE. Sorry, that’s what happens when you don’t plan. You need to KEEP and save as much money as you can this summer. This means don’t spend it as fast as you make it. When you do spend money this summer…spend it wisely. You are a smart kid, you know what is wise and what is not.

The summer is the best time to earn some cash for college. At this point you are saying “Well, how do I do that?  How do I earn as much as I can?” My answer is this. Go read Lemonade Stand Economics (http://www.amazon.com/Lemonade-Stand-Economics) – and read it fast!  I wrote it just for you.  

“Fake it till you make it”

July 17th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

robertLots of questions come to our office and this saying – “fake it til you make it” – seems to be one that young people struggle with. I always felt that “faking it” was similar to “lying.” But I was wrong. I have discovered that “faking it” is a confidence and promise to   the future… it’s not lying.

When I started Never Lost Jewelry a few years ago, I had to drop a couple hundred dollars on supplies before I could even start making and selling jewelry to earn money. People were all, “What are you doing? You’re not going to make any money and you’re never gonna stick with it.”  And they were wrong. I couldn’t promise anyone I was going to make money, nevertheless I needed to earn money to pay for college. I was confident. I loved making jewelry and I stuck with it. So even without knowing anything, I told the doubters I was going to do great. I was “faking it.”  Even after my first few shows where I hadn’t earned much money at all, I was still telling my friends I was doing great, not because I was, but because I was confident.  I knew I was going to do great.

You know what? After telling them time after time I was doing great, I did start making money.  Then I started making more money. More money than the doubters earn.

I stuck with my plan and I was confident with my idea. I was determined to earn enough money to pay for college and  I really did fake it, but now I’ve made it.

Why your “honey-do list” is ruining the youth of America

July 10th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

honey-do-listIf you are a married man, you have a “honey do” list. It’s mandatory. When you say “I do” it also means that “I will” complete the summer “honey-do list” each year until death do us part. Some years the summer honey-do list is relatively short. Mow the lawn, clean the windows, fix the leaking sink. Other years there are big jobs on there. Paint the house, re-mulch the mulch, clear out the brush in the back yard or heaven forbid…clean out the garage!    

I read a book a long time ago, back when I had hair, that said “The most successful people are those that can delegate well.”  When I read this I was a bit skeptical… but now, as I am older, wiser and yes, balder, I see where that author was coming from. I can still do everything myself. I am physically able and quite handy. But is that the best use of my time?  It seems like every day goes a little faster and my spare time to perform the list is shorter and shorter. If only I could get over the incredible sense of accomplishment each task gives me (wink wink)… and delegate.  

Okay, gentlemen, I know you love your “honey do” list as much as I do. So here’s the plan. Find a responsible high school or college student and hire them to complete your “honey do” list. When your wife questions you (and we all know she will), go ahead and tell her the truth. You are hiring a responsible young college bound student that is paying for school without loans. This student will complete your “honey do” list and you will make sure they do a good job.

When your wife asks, “How much is that going to cost?” (and again, she will), just say this:  “What is the cost of giving business opportunities to the leaders of the future? What happens if every man does his own “honey do” list and no college bound students are hired?  What will happen to the work ethic in America if no one gives the ambitious young student an opportunity to work and prove their worth? By me doing my honey-do list I am telling the youth of America to stay in the basement and play video games!”

[cue flag waving in the breeze and the Star Spangled Banner playing softly in the background]  

Delegate your honey-do list!  Believe in the Youth of America! It’s a Honey-Do Revolution!


Don’t be a dream killer!

June 27th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

Life is busy. Sometimes too busy. I can’t remember the last time I drove down the road without one eye on the clock checking if I will make it to the next appointment on time. Every summer as I drive I see kids with lemonade stands and even if I’m running late, I stop every time. Not because of the name of the my book, but because I’ve always stopped at every lemonade stand. I mean c’mon, cute kids with little cups of lemonade for a quarter…how can you NOT stop?!?  Here is why I stop at every lemonade stand…and why you should too. 20130626_093634 

As the person driving down the road the lemonade stand is a card table with kids waving on the side of the road. To pull over, grab some change, stand there and make small talk with the supervising parent while the kids sloppily pour a half full glass of lemonade for you could be construed as inconvenient…especially if you are on your way somewhere.  

As the kid running the lemonade stand the situation is much different. To a kid that lemonade stand represents excitement. They got to make lemonade and now they are going to get paid for their effort!  (Even though many times it’s more work for the parents than it is for the  kids.) Kids are excited to sell that lemonade. That excitement is no different than when a small business opens and that first customer walks in the door. That kid selling lemonade isn’t in a hurry to get to get to work. That kid is working…and they are excited about it. That’s where many kids learn their first lesson about work and business…at the lemonade stand.   

What message are we sending the future of America by not stopping?  What happens if no one stops at a kid’s lemonade stand?  What message did us “busy driving people” send to that kid who made the lemonade, crafted a sign, waited all day in the sun to earn nothing for the effort?  Will that kid be likely to set up another lemonade stand if no one stopped at the first one? What will that kid think when they are older and have a good business idea?  Will the doubt of customers showing up kill that business dream?  

Buying a cup of lemonade does make a difference! All it takes is a few adults to stop, have a refreshing cup of lemonade and talk to that kid about the lemonade business. The last lemonade stand I stopped at the little girl insisted on giving me a receipt. (see pic)  Hearing what these kids have to say is amusing at the very least. Lemonade stands aren’t about lemonade. They are about kids, and business, and dreams, and having fun. All for a quarter and 5 minutes of your time.

And that’s why you should feel guilty the next time you drive by a lemonade stand!  It’s a Lemonade Revolution!

What your grandma’s smile really means

June 24th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White


You gotta love your grandparents. Sweet wrinkly old people that send you a five dollar bill in a card every holiday. We laugh at their ways… in a loving way. We roll our eyes at them sometimes. It’s hard to imagine your grandparents when they were young. Were they wild or reserved? Did they work hard or were they slackers? Maybe they were just like us? You will never know because you weren’t there to see it. The stories they tell you may have been affected by time and memory, again you will never know.

Sometimes these sweet old people give you advice on life. To which you listen and return a smile and say, “Okay, Grandma.” You think your grandma is smiling back because she loves you.  And she is, but she’s also smiling back at you saying to herself, “Darn fool, I know you are smiling at me and blowing off my advice so I’m gonna fake a smile right back at you!”

Your grandma’s advice may be antiquated and not remotely relevant to your life in 2013, but the fact is that she knows more than you. Maybe not about texting or Call of Duty, but the way her generation lived could be some of the best financial advice you will ever receive.

Your grandparents lived in a time when the only debt incurred would be a mortgage on a house and maybe, and I mean maybe, a car loan. Your grandparents would save up and pay for everything. Simply put, they lived within their means. They spent less than they earned. If they didn’t have the money for something they went without.

Then came your parent’s generation – MY generation. WE grew up with borrowing and debt as the norm. Need a car? Get an auto loan. Need furniture? Take the 0 down, 0% payment plan. And credit cards? Yeah, most of your parents are carrying a pocket full of them, often with big balances. No one saved up to pay for anything ahead of time. We just whip out the credit card and worry about paying for it later when the credit card statement comes. What great role models for their children – YOU!   

Your grandparents have watched their children struggle financially. They see the stress not living within your means will bring. They smile at you because they love you, and they smile at you because they know you don’t really listen to them, but you should.  

My advice:  If you do have a grandparent that is still alive (and many of us don’t), I suggest you sit down with them and talk about money. It will do as much for them as it does for you in terms of spirit and connection… and if you listen carefully and learn, not only will your financial life be less stressful, you will have the satisfaction of knowing your grandmother’s smile is simply full of love for you. Let your cousins have the, “You’re a fool” smile.  

The reality of life after graduating with $50,000 in debt

June 20th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

A guest Blog from Sarah at 20somethingbudget.com

When my husband and I first met in 2008, he was finishing his education at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a private college with tuition costs of over $25,000 per year. Needless to say, he graduated with a ton of student debt – over $50,000 to be exact.

He also carried about $5,000 in credit card debt and a $20,000 auto loan… giving him a grand total of $75K in debt the minute he left college. (Holy crap, right?)

My husband was very fortunate in the sense that his paid internship turned into a full-time job upon graduation. Few people are given that opportunity these days. Still, even with both of us working full-time, shelling out $1,000 per month (minimum) towards his debt was an incredible burden for both of us… both financially and emotionally.

What exactly does it feel like to be that heavily in debt?        9694511_s                                                 

Being heavily in debt means working three jobs and cutting back on every possible expense, for the sole purpose of making loan payments. Yes, we have found ways to have inexpensive fun… but knowing that your entire paycheck goes to bills and loan payments is an incredibly unfulfilling way to live.

 It means not being able to take risks – like changing careers, starting your own business, or taking time off to travel the world – because the thought of losing even one paycheck makes you physically ill.

 It means putting off major goals like buying a house, having children, or saving for retirement… while listening to constant reminders from friends and family that “your biological clock is ticking.”

 In short, being in debt means putting a lot of things on hold until that burden is gone. (And yes, some graduates will still be paying off their student loans well into their 40s.)

Four years after graduation, we have paid off my husband’s credit card and auto loan in full. We’re definitely proud of these accomplishments, but still have a long way to go. Despite making all of the minimum payments on his student loans on-time, we have made almost no progress on that front because the majority of our payments go to interest. (Example: One private loan started at $7,000 and is still at $6,975 after 40 payments. How is that even possible?!)

 In summary, if anyone tries to tell you that student loans are “good debt” or “an investment in your future,” ignore them. Even if you are fortunate enough to land a great job the minute you step off-campus, having a significant amount of debt right out of college is a burden that you don’t need.

 Yes, tuition costs are rising well above the rate of inflation. Yes, it’s becoming more and more difficult to pay for college on your own every year. However, it can be done – and the sooner you start planning, the better.


To all those people who wished they had done things a little differently

June 11th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

I get asked all the time, “What is Lemonade Stand Economics about?” to which I say, “It’s a book that teaches high school students how to work for themselves and pay for college without the  loans by earning far more than minimum wage.” When an adult asks me that question 9 times out of 10, I get the response, “I wish I had that when I was young.”  It’s like a proclamation of relevance for the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” However, when I tell students what the book is about I get a different response. I almost always get, “That’s cool.”  Half the time I think they are saying that’s cool to the fact that I published a book – regardless of what it’s really about. blog pic

The difference between the response, “I wish I had that” and “That’s cool” is pain. High school students have no concept of real financial pain – YET.  Maybe they see their parents struggling to pay bills, but they do not know the relentless pain of bills coming month after month in your own name. Adults, especially parents, know this pain. They know how hard it was to pay for their own college education (and now a house and a car and braces and property taxes…) and they know how painful it is to see that student loan bill arrive each month for 15 years…That’s 180 times that student loan bill arrives after throwing their mortar cap in the air at graduation. To throw salt in the wound, often when parents react with the “I wish I had that” they have children who are approaching college age much more quickly than they anticipated.  

To all those people who wish they had Lemonade Stand Economics to read back when they were in high school, to all those people who wished they had done things a little differently to make paying for college easier, you can not go back and change your history, but you CAN change the history of a high school student in your life. Don’t let your son or daughter, nephew or niece grow up to say, “I wish I had that.” A copy of Lemonade Stand Economics costs less than $15 on amazon and can change the life of a high school student this summer. Right now.


Click here to purchase Lemonade Stand Economics on Amazon

Click here to purchase Lemonade Stand Economics and support NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation



Robert’s Toolbox for Graduation

May 29th, 2013 Submitted by Geof White

robert editedMy graduation party was a blast! There was a ton of good food. Everyone got their invites, so no family drama, and all my friends stopped over to say congratulations. It was so much fun that I almost (keyword almost) forgot all about the gifts. Later, after my family and friends had left, while opening my cards and counting the money, I noticed someone had given me an actual gift in a big square box. I ripped it open only to reveal a toolbox full of all kinds of strange looking garage type tools. At first I was like “A toolbox for Robert? HA! When would I ever use that?” At that moment, I wished they had given me money until…

When I packed up the car to go off to college, I deliberately left the toolbox behind thinking I would never use it. However my parents knew better (as begrudgingly I admit, they often do) and slipped it in a small corner between my clothes and jewelry supplies. When unpacking, I was quite annoyed that I had to lug that tool box up three flights of stairs to my room. After the year started, boy did my I change my mind about needing that toolbox. That freshman year I was making and selling jewelry. The clients and shows started asking for me to provide displays. They wanted unique suit cases and wooden boxes for my jewelry to be displayed on. I opened up the tool box and started making boxes, chairs and using the drill to make my jewelry even more interesting. I ended up having stores purchasing some of my displays for themselves… and my jewelry was selling even better.

When I first got this toolbox it seemed useless and dull, but it ended up being making me more money than any amount written on any of the graduation checks I received that glorious day. My future was better because of that toolbox. I always say that Lemonade Stand Economics isn’t just a book. It’s a tool. Lemonade Stand Economics is just like my tool box. It is not the most exciting thing to open on graduation day, but it is a tool that can help your son, daughter, nephew grandchild or friend when they need to get out of a tough financial situation – or avoid one –  in the future. It is the tool that will help them earn more than a check for $20 ever will. It is a tool that can change their life

I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Nugent for giving me that tool box. I know I probably did not write you the most enthusiastic thank you letter, but I hope you now know what a great and valuable gift you gave me.

Robert Felton