Search options for scholarships
There's "free money" on the table for college students, said Kim Clark at CNN. To secure grants, scholarships, and work/study arrangements, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and "suss out schools most likely to give." Sites like CollegeData.com and MeritAid.com are great for scouting out generous schools, while search engines such as Fastweb.com, Cappex.com, and Scholarships.com can also help you find some of the $11 billion in private scholarships offered every year by foundations and companies. "These lucrative awards have infinitesimal odds," so before chasing after big prizes, "weigh your child's qualifications against the time and effort required to apply."
Short-term health insurance
Are you stuck in the "insurance gap?" asked Beth Pinsker at Reuters. It's a key question for the millions of Americans who are signing up now for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act but may need coverage before their new plans kick in on Jan. 1. One option is short-term health insurance, which is "often used by people between jobs who are trying to avoid costly COBRA policies," as well as those "waiting for workplace, Medicare, Medicaid, and other benefits to kick in." Such plans have average premiums of around $70 per month, charge a $50 copay for doctor's visits, and offer restrictive coverage. Unlike policies on the state exchanges, short-term policies don't cover pre-existing conditions, can turn applicants down "for any reason," and do "not have to meet any minimum government standards." But they can be useful for bridging a coverage gap.
Switching to a quarterly budget
Throw that monthly budget out the window, said Matt Brownell at Daily Finance. While keeping track of your expenses on a monthly basis "sounds reasonable at first blush," there are times when it just doesn't make sense. The biggest problem, of course, is that "not all purchases happen on a predictable monthly schedule." If your spending patterns fluctuate, consider a "quarterly approach to budgeting for irregular expenses." Use a finance-tracking site such as Mint.com, which can let you set saving goals to track "quarterly expenses like holiday gifts and back-to-school spending." If there aren't any big-ticket items on that slightly longer horizon, you can "adjust your monthly budget at the beginning of the month" to give yourself more spending room.