Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Trip to Gainesville ~ Tuesday 7/18/17

I was super tired last night and vaguely remember having cats in bed with me at one time but when I woke up (on my own!) at 7:15 a.m., I was alone.

I'm using up a bottle of old shampoo to wash my hair these days and it smells like yogurt. It's nauseating, first thing in the morning, but it gets the job done so I'll just keep on using it until it's all gone.

I fed the cats, brewed my coffee, made my usual breakfast. I was going to have just a bowl of generic Cheerios with fruit, but I thought better of it since we have a 90 minute trip to Gainesville and then we have to talk to Financial Aid so it might be a while before I eat again... so I made my usual.  I need to remember to pack crackers to bring with me.

I took the comforter down from the laundry rack. I guess that after that initial attempt to jump on it which toppled it, the kittens got scared and no one else tried jumping on it overnight. So now it's nice and dry and I put the rack back in the small gardening shed.

Everything is wet outside but it didn't feel too humid. I checked the rain barrel and it's full, hooray!

I earned a few SB and the PC-based Microsoft Reward credits. My daughter is driving the Focus this morning so I'll earn the mobile credits on the go and also call Greg back who just called me now.

I got an email with the latest electric bill: $300. Gulp.  But the AC has been running non-stop and I've been running it at lower temps since I'm less and less tolerant of the heat as I'm growing older.  Still, it's too high, we need to do something about it! Maybe I'll up the temp by 1 degree.

Well, we're off on our Gainesville adventure!   I hope we get useful answers from Financial Aid :)

... 8 hours later...

So we're back!  Our trip was very fruitful and I'm very glad that we went because we finally have the answers that we need. It took visits to 3 different departments, mind you, but they were all within feet of one another and there weren't any lines.

We left at 9:00 a.m. and stopped by RaceTrac first. My daughter pumped gas for the Focus while I went in to get 3 Sodapalooza refills: two for myself (one for the road and one for lunch) and one for my daughter (for lunch) since I told her that we should go to Subway for lunch so I could be good and get a veggie sub and we wouldn't need to buy drinks (there aren't any RaceTrac stations in Gainesville).  Of course, we ended up NOT going to Subway AND we bought drinks :) Oh well, at least I was ready.  And I completely forgot to bring crackers with me but that was OK.

The drive to Gainesville was uneventful, my daughter drove so I called Greg to say hi, returned a call to my eye doctor's office and made an appointment to pick up my new glasses and get fitted for them tomorrow morning, and earned the Microsoft Mobile Rewards. Then we chatted about this and that, mostly about her plans for college and stuff.

We decided to park at the Reitz Union (i.e. welcome center) parking garage on campus as it was the closest one to where we had to go that actually has visitor spots. I was hoping to get a full day spot at $6 since I didn't know how long it would take us to get our answers, but they were all full so we grabbed a 2-hour spot at $4 and I hurried my daughter along. The thing is, the campus map makes it look like everything is pretty far away but it really wasn't, LOL. I think it was only a 10 minute walk tops.

We first visited Student Financial Affairs. I had told my daughter that I was going to let her speak and only intervene if she wasn't getting the answers she needed or if she forgot to ask something, and she was fine with it.  However, when we got there and the guy said "ask your questions!", she thought he was going to set up an appointment for us to go talk to someone else so she was taken aback and said "Ask my questions? Like, outloud, now?!" and he looked at her kind of incredulously, which was funny. Anyhoo, she asked a question but I could tell he was only going to tell her the minimum and she wasn't pushing back or asking more detailed questions so I did jump in (she really didn't mind) and explained that she was getting a 2+2 prepaid plan, the Academic Scholars level of Bright Futures and the private National Merit Scholarship and we were trying to figure out, given UF's disbursement policy, how much she was going to get back (in actual dollar amount) after everything was paid so she could determine if she'd need to get a job to pay for some expenses or not.

So he pulled up her Financial Aid account and told us that he didn't see the Prepaid Fund on it, which worried me. He did say that UF will bill the Florida Prepaid Fund first and then Bright Futures, which usually hit student accounts in early to mid October.  He also told us that students who get Bright Futures Scholarships get automatic deferral on tuition fees so they don't have to pay out of pocket first and then get refunded. That's new since my stepdaughter attended, I think, because I know for a fact that at one point we had to advance her a whole semester of dorm fees and that she was supposed to refund us once she got her Bright Futures scholarship (but then she never did, grrr.). Then he told us to go talk to the Bursar's Office about the Prepaid Fund and the National Merit scholarship since they're the ones that would disburse those funds.

So we went next door to the Bursar's Office and repeated our questions.  There, they confirmed that whatever is left from Bright Futures/National Merit after UF disburses their portion gets given back to the student and they strongly advise to set up their account to accept direct deposit. He gave us a bookmark that explains exactly how to do it. He also gave us specific advice to make sure she asked for "miscellaneous expenses" to be deferred as well, so she doesn't need to pay anything out of pocket first (I guess some people forget to do that?). He said the money earmarked for books can actually be applied to other expenses as well, so we got the impression that no one will actually be making sure that the $300 given for books will actually get spent on books (although, of course she'll be getting books and will more than likely need to spend more than that).  Halfway through talking to him, the guy from Financial Aid came in and asked my daughter to fill out a release form because they'd been talking to me about her stuff (although they really didn't give us any specifics, just answer general questions, IMO) but they really weren't supposed to without her written consent, lol. So she signed the form.  So I still was wanting to know how much money they would charge to the Prepaid Fund so we could then infer how much money she would get back from Bright Futures that would help pay for her rent, etc., so he sent us to a third person who specializes in the FL Prepaid Fund.

There, we repeated our speech about wanting to know about how much they would charge the Prepaid Fund so we could figure out how much she would get back and whether or not she'd need to get a job and the lady said it was difficult to figure out since it was a 2+2 plan and tuition changes every year. From her, though, we did learn several things that were very useful:

  1. Tuition for 2017-2018 is not increasing
  2. She did verify that there is a Prepaid Fund in my daughter's name set up and even though it doesn't appear in her financial aid account, she said that it's normal at this point and that it will appear before tuition is due once the SSN are reconciled.
  3. She said that they will disburse the funds from the "community college" part of the 2+2 plan first and once that's depleted, they will disburse from the "university" part of the plan.
  4. For the "community college" part, they disburse $117.08 a credit hour but once we got home and thought of it, it doesn't make sense since the "tuition only" part of a state college tuition is $81.20.  
On the left Community/State College Tuition rate breakdown (the rate is still the same as 2015-2016's rates).  On the right, UF's tuition breakdown for FL Resident Undergraduates for 2017-2018.  All of those are per credit hour. My daughter plans on taking 14 credits this upcoming semester.
So when we were home a few hours later, we sat down and worked on a spreadsheet to see if we could get the numbers to make sense to us.  The $117.08 for state (community) college hours disbursement makes no sense (I think the lady forgot that my daughter's prepaid fund is a tuition ONLY fund that doesn't cover the extra fees and tuition differential that they tack on) and so we figured we'd use the $81.20 number in our calculations instead.  Once we figured out that, we saw that she should get back, over a year, enough money to cover 10 months of rent, of which 3 months would go for her rent over the summer (she signed a 12 month lease) and she can cover 7 months of the following year (since her dad has some money set aside for her that would cover her rent for most of this year and she has some savings to cover the rest of the year). We'll see if what she gets back in October matches our scenario, keeping our fingers crossed.

Then I told her we needed to work out a "worst case scenario" for 2018-2019 to see what she would get back then, since the state budget for 2018-2019 wouldn't be approved until June 2018, if it follows this year's pattern so she won't know until then how much Bright Futures would cover and if the "worst case scenario" did come true, it might be too late for her to get a job by then for the summer if it ended up being that she needed one.  I always an advocate to plan for the worst.  Actually the worst case would be if Bright Futures were completely eliminated, but with a Republican legislature in place that was already pushing to make the Academic Scholar level covered at 100% forever (and not just the one year, which is what our Republican governor agreed to), I'm thinking chances of that happening are slim.  So for us the "worst case scenario" would be if the funding went back to this past year's level, which means that her Bright Futures would only cover $103 per credit hour (instead of $213 right now + $300 a semester in books) and that's it.  In that scenario, her tuition would still be covered at 100% by the Prepaid and Bright Futures, and she would still get $500 per semester from her National Merit Scholarship that she could spend on books. But she wouldn't get ANYTHING back and she'd still need to come up with 5 months of rent for the year, assuming that she didn't blow ANY of the money that she said she would set aside from the first year.

So this was really helpful because I was able to demonstrate to her, with "real" numbers, that the reality was that THIS coming year, she needed to not only be serious about keeping ALL of the money she was getting back, but that she also needed to be serious about being super frugal. Her dad is going to give her $60 per week for food, which is more than enough. We discussed how she should earmark a certain amount (say $10) per month for entertainment such as going to a movie, and then be very frugal with her grocery shopping so she can save as much of the $60 as possible. Also ask for birthday and Christmas presents to be cash only and save it.  I pointed out that he wouldn't give her that money over the summer, so any outings she wanted to take with friends would need to be paid for by her and, without a job, she wouldn't be able to do anything. It's a hard and depressing thing to face, but better than using loan money to finance your housing because you blew all your money on eating out and having fun, IMO.  She seemed to take it to heart, we'll see how she does. It helped illustrating why I was so annoyed when she decided to just go buy toilet paper because she was bored (in the end she didn't buy it!) and I drilled into her that she needed to shop Mom's pantry (and cleaning supplies) first when she came to visit and keep as much of the cash she was given as she could :) She already knows that I'm not going to make her pay any of the car insurance while she's in school, her dad is paying for her phone plan, I told her to charge any clothing that she needs to my Discover card. And I'll send her care packages too.  So she'll be OK if she saves.

Anyhow, back to our UF visit.  After we left the Financial Affairs building, we were accosted by some students who were pre-selling tickets to the Gator Growl, which is a week-long event with various concerts and activities that take place during Homecoming Week.  I decided to buy a ticket for my daughter to encourage her to go have some fun, as I'm assuming most of the students will be participating in the festivities.  I certainly don't plan on going there that week, it's a madhouse!  She didn't want a VIP ticket (which was $50 and would have given her a reserved spot in the mosh pit and access to an air-conditioned ladies' room!) so I just bought the basic $15 ticket for her.  I told her she didn't have to go if she didn't want to, but being at college is also a chance to have a social life, right?

By the time we got back to the Reitz Union building, we still had about an hour on the parking clock, so we stopped by the bookstore.  I was hoping to find a "College of Engineering" car decal but they didn't have any. They had a College of Engineering T-shirt but she didn't want one.  I wanted a "Mama Gator" T-shirt to match Greg's "Papa Gator"'s, but I didn't like the design. They only sell dowdy T-shirts for parents, not the V-neck thinner and softer ones that I prefer, so I saved money by not buying anything.

I liked that one but Youngest Son would never EVER wear it.I'm hoping that he'll one day be a Gator himself, though.

From there, we drove to my daughter's apartment complex. We couldn't get in to see her specific building since it's gated and we didn't have the security code, but we could walk by the clubhouse. I went in to ask some questions about where she could keep her bike, etc.  The apartment manager said it was safe and they'd never had any problems with bikes being stolen. However, we don't think she'll be biking because campus is about 5 miles away. It would take her just as long to take the bus that stops right in front of her building (it takes that long for the bus because she has to catch it from her side of the road since the road seems too busy to cross to catch the bus on the other side, but then her bus has to drive all the way to the Mall, and then turn around and come back and pick up across from her apartment complex and then make its way to campus). The bus is free and she wouldn't get sweaty so it might just be easier to catch the bus.

After that we went to lunch.  She loves Perkins so we ended up going there. I picked a chicken salad sandwich that supposedly was only 350 calories (I have my doubts) and a side order of fruit for 70 calories. I drank coffee because I had only had one cup in the morning. My daughter had breakfast and a glass of milk. When we got the bill, I realized that I paid $2.29 for the coffee so I asked for a to go cup and filled it up with most of the coffee left in the pot and brought it home.  I signed up for the Perkins e-rewards program since it's likely that when I go visit my daughter, we'll end up at Perkins again. She just loves eating breakfast and we haven't had a Perkins in Clermont in several years.  I charged the $30.21 bill to my Discover for 5% back in Rewards.

From there, we drove to Trader Joe's.  I spent $28.01 and charged it to Amex for 3% back in Rewards. I had brought my own bags so we were able to enter a raffle for a gift card and I had my daughter put her name and phone number on the ticket.  I bought:
  • 2 mini cartons of UHT Whipping Cream ($1.29 each)
  • 2 jars of salsa verde ($1.99 each)
  • A container of psyllium husk ($6.99) because I have several diabetic baking recipes that use that ingredient and I wanted to try some of them
  • A container of chocolate cat-shaped cookies for Youngest Son (I always buy those for him when I go to Trader Joe's!) at $2.99
  • A container of Trader Joe's Reduced Sodium Liquid Chicken Broth envelopes (12 envelopes = 12 cups) for $3.99, just to try it instead of Better Than Bouillon
  • A box of frozen macaroon assortment (12 macaroons) for my daughter and myself for $4.99 (they are delicious!)
  • A sleeve of pretzel bagels because Pixel recommended those to me months ago and I've been wanting to try them ($2.49)

And then we drove home. We got home at about 4 p.m. and had a snack of macaroons (I heated up some of my coffee and I still have plenty for tomorrow morning!). Oh yum.

And then we spent the rest of the afternoon working on our spreadsheet and chatting about her future finances. It was a very fruitful day!  But nothing was done in terms of chores. Oh well.

I fed the cats. I didn't feel like cooking but we had that chicken that I had roasted. My daughter said she'd make a chicken sandwich later so I made myself a plain chicken wrap and had 12 cherries. I need to calculate my approximate exchanges for the day to see what I'm still missing!

The cable that I keep downstairs to charge my phone is dead. Ugh. It was the genuine Apple cable that I bought in France back in 2015.  My generic Chinese cables bought from Amazon prior to 2015?  They still work fine to charge the phone, although back in 2015 I had to buy a genuine Apple cable because the Chinese ones weren't letting my laptop recognize my phone as a drive when they were connected. So I might need to splurge for a "real" cable again.  Better than having to order a new phone, which I feared I'd have to do when I plugged it in and it wouldn't charge at all (the phone was also dead, hence my initial panic. My phone never dies because I really don't use it all that much and I charge it every night!).

Greg called me at about 8:15 p.m.  He and our son are now in Virginia Beach. They are camping tonight and they love the campground. There is a giant chess board!  They had a good day and seem to be having fun. I hope they're not too hot camping tonight.

I'm late commenting on blogs and posting and replying to comments left for my own blog, I'm very sorry! I'm not sure if I'll get to any of those tonight.

My daughter has been communicating with her roommates about who is bringing what.  One of the other girls is going to bring a vacuum cleaner so I don't have to buy one. My daughter likes the toaster oven that we have so we'll go to a thrift store tomorrow to pick one up for the apartment, and she also wants some cleaning supplies so we'll swing by Walmart and Dollar Tree I'll use some of my gift cards. So we'll be out and about again tomorrow.  Her move date is coming up fast, less than a month to go!

I went to clean the litter boxes after dark, but it was really time to completely wash them so I did that in the dark outside. My favorite thing this week?  The hose!  I had to use 3 trash bags to gather the contents but I ended up with 5 empty jugs of cat litter that I fill up with rain water tomorrow :) And the cats were very happy to have really fresh litter to walk into!

OK, I'm going to end this post with pictures of the cats because I've run out of things to say, ha.

New Kitty jumped on the couch all by herself tonight, she was so desperate for a petting!  So I loved on her, and got covered in cat hair again!  I have GOT to brush her soon.

Earlier, Princess had come to claim her favorite spot next to me. She had missed me so really wanted to gnaw on my fingers before she fell asleep. It's like my fingers are her pacifier. Yes, I usually let her do what she wants. But she is quite rough so I just give her my knuckles.

Then she sniffed and licked my arm

She heard one of her brothers have a little snack and just HAD to see what he was doing!

And then the gnawing resumed!

I was hoping she'd just fall asleep suddenly, as she always does, but...

She heard another noise so she had to go investigate... she wasn't back for several hours!

Meanwhile Explorer is much more "zen". He just wants his chin scratched...

And to be pet. I like to indulge him. His coat is so soft!

I stopped for a minute so I could type something, so he laid an inquisitive paw on my thigh to urge me to resume the petting :)
I'm dead tired so I'm headed up to bed. I hope you all had a great day!


  1. I so glad you were able to go and ask questions about your daughter's financial aid situation. At least you have something to go on and plan accordingly, now. Good that you were able to sit down with her and help her make a budget.

    My daughter loves the pretzel bagels from TJ. She shops there on a regular basis as there is a store right next to where her bus stop is, on her way home from work! The other grocery store means two bus rides away. I must ask her if her store, too, has the frozen macarons. She loves macarons.

    Love the pictures of the kittens, especially Princess gnawing away on your fingers! Dancer tries, too, but he isn't gentle and he bites rather than gnaw, so I don't let him!

    Lunchtime Bless

    1. Ooh, having a TJ so close would be so dangerous for me, LOL. Right now I'm trying to convince myself NOT to try to convince my daughter to drive into Orlando with me today so we can go to the TJ there and get more macaroons, LOL.

      Princess isn't gentle either when she has my fingers in her mouth, but I can wedge my knuckle in the spot between her molars and her canines where she has no teeth so she looks like she's gnawing but she's really not biting down on anything. Plus she's purring at the same time, it's just too cute! This morning though, she was licking and nipping me, trying to get me to wake up. Luckily for me, I know that the gently, sweet licking is usually immediately followed by a harder nip so I was ready for that!

      Have a great day Bless! I'm very late commenting on your blog, I'll try to get to it today!

  2. I hope you ended up liking the pretzel bagels! I love macaroons...I'm overdue for a visit to Trader Joe's. Sadly, the closest one to us is in Tampa. :-(

    The cats were very happy to have really fresh litter... probably so happy that they had to use the litterbox right away? That's what my Smokey used to do - wait until I cleaned out her box, then jump in and produce some really stinky turds, and I'd have to clean it again.

    1. I just happened to be going to Gainesville today to drop off the bulk of my daughter's stuff at her apartment (she moved in yesterday) and I had on my list to stop by Trader Joe's to get macaroons, pretzel bagels, etc. But all the other shopping, the crowds, and the heat did me in and I ended up skipping TJ altogether :( I don't want to drive to Orlando just for that too, so I'll probably wait to go back to Gainesville (I have to drive my daughter back after Labor Day Weekend but with my luck it'll be closed on that day!).

      Yes, the cats DID jump in right after I changed the litter. It's kind of infuriating, isn't it? Much like when you've finally done the dishes and you step away from the kitchen for a second and when you get back,someone has put a dirty cereal bowl in the sink!


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