Your franchise dream

by Grace aka costofcollege

What it costs to open one of america’s ten most popular franchises

Inspired by this article, I let myself dream a little about having my own franchise business.  I don’t consider myself the traditional entrepreneurial type and I am not interested in any business that deals with food, but I have toyed with the idea of having a Kumon franchise.  The hours seem reasonable and I foresee an ongoing need for their services.

Here’s one list that has Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (I’ve never heard of them) as number one.

The Top 10 Franchises of 2016

Some totebaggers run their own businesses, but most of us do not.  What’s your dream franchise or business of any kind?  And even if you don’t realistically see yourself as an entrepreneur, what business would you be interested in trying if the usual obstacles were magically removed?



159 thoughts on “Your franchise dream

  1. Rhett — Do you envision a large staff handling all the heavy work? Mainly you’d keep your hands clean?

  2. Do you envision a large staff handling all the heavy work?

    Of course, I have it all figured out. Indeed, I have a surefire way of making a small fortune doing it – start with a large fortune.

  3. Coc – we have Jimmy John’s here. Their advertising is very catchy, one tends to remember their ads. I like another local sandwich chain which does toasted bread and has hot sandwich fillings. I don’t think JJ’s does that.

  4. Their advertising is very catchy,

    Unfortunately, their sandwiches are terrible. The only thing they have going for them is that the sandwich is ready 90 seconds after you order it.

  5. We thought about growing olives for oil, but thought better of it. Lavender, near as I can tell, requires an immense amount of labor, so no. Clementines already have giganto corporation acting as a semi monopolist, so once again, no.

    I’ve never really wanted a franchise. They always seem REALLY labor intensive, and good employees are hard to find, and spend a decent amount of time making sure they feel appreciated. After yesterday’s discussion, maybe we should troll the corporate world for employees. As LfB said so eloquently yesterday, there seems to be a lot policies in place to make sure no one feels valued.

  6. OMG our JJ’s is amazing. We get lunch there every Saturday. Super fresh bread, good meat and veggies – love it.

    We have been to others in other towns and quality definitely varies.

  7. Anon,

    If you didn’t really need the money couldn’t you just rent your land to a farmer? You’d have the look of a working farm but none of the hassle.

  8. Super fresh bread, good meat and veggies – love it.

    It’s worse than Subway. Unless you have a JJ that’s orders of magnitude better.

  9. No to owning a franchise and no to owning by own business. From what I have observed with others, you have to have huge commitment on the front end of your time and money. If I had been a business owner the past two years, I would have gone under with all the time I was away dealing with my parents and their issues.

    I think it sounds/looks good when you are hearing about someone who has been successful and is now reaping those rewards. You don’t necessarily see all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get there. Maybe my recent experience is clouding my judgment, but at least at this time in my life, I have no interest.

  10. If we’re talking dreams, I’m more of the Rhett end of the scale — I’m going to go with a quinta in Portugal — e.g.,×1000/public/1448052729/DouroValley-SixSenses-WTG0116.jpg?itok=aUfvuhK3

    If I’m thinking of things that are more likely to be profitable, I suspect the ServPro option would do it. In either case I’d hire out the daily scutwork. :-) I mean, that’s the idea of a franchise, right? To take someone else’s business system and someone else’s labor, and use your ownership/management abilities to put the two together?

    If we’re talking something that I had to do myself, I’d probably try to figure out something with writing, e.g., ghostwriting for people, editing documents, outsourced brief-writing, etc.

    DD was in a Jimmy Johns phase a year ago. I really thought they were the most generic sandwiches I had ever paid for. Totally don’t get it.

  11. uuugggghhhh no way is it worse than Subway, it’s so much better it’s like they’re not even competitors. Subways around here are gross – so dirty and and old and nasty, and grimy where all the little food bins are…

    JJ’s is just a roll of happiness with a side of chips. And really, really good iced tea.

  12. It had always seemed to me like franchises combine the worst aspects of being a business owner and the worst aspects of being an employee.

  13. Rhett – Our Subway is better than our JJ in our neighborhood (meaning the ones closest to our house). However, closer to the office, it is the revers, the JJ is much better. In both cases, the Which Wich is in the middle. The Jersey Mike’s is, at least the 3 we have visited – 2 in our town and one while traveling – beat the other three by a wide margin.

    We have two local/regional sandwhich shops that are good at their specialty, but IMO their other sandwichs aren’t anything to write home about.

  14. ” I’d hire out the daily scutwork”

    From what I’ve seen, from time to time the owner might have to get their hands dirty, so to speak. Your manager quits unexpectedly, an unexpected surge of business, etc. could cause this.

    I think Subway quality varies a bit across different shops.

  15. “It had always seemed to me like franchises combine the worst aspects of being a business owner and the worst aspects of being an employee.”

    It depends. In some cases it could combine the best aspects. Of course i’m an expert on this because I watch The Profit. ;)

  16. So one idea that DH and I are actually tossing around came from a few recent trips. On our Scotland trip, we stayed in a place that advertised like a 3,000 bottle whiskey bar. Turns out, this guy had basically set up a little bar in the back of his B&B, and he had brought up a few hundred bottles out of his own personal collection, and whether he’d offer you something else depended on how much he liked you. And then in Fl on Passe-a-Grille beach, there is a restaurant/bar that is a total Ravens bar, run by a couple that relocated down, and they serve crabcakes and local seafood and have the football games on every week (my mother is a frequent visitor when she is down that way).

    And I thought, you know, our frustration with a lot of casual places is that they don’t have everything that we want — we have an awesome local scotch bar, for ex., with basically microwaved bar food; or you can go fine dining or trendy casual for good food, but no TVs for watching the Ravens game; etc. So we now have fun thinking about what would we do if we could do our own transplanted Ravens pub/bar somewhere, with the kind of food we like to eat and the kind of liquor we like to drink. So you’d have like really good hamburgers, and those big juicy hot dogs, and some green chile burritos, but mixed in with some healthier/vegetarian options (since everywhere we’d want to live there seems to be a huge health food community), and with rotating specials, like beef-and-Guinness stew, and delicious beer on tap, and maybe a few selected wines (because I am not going to know enough to make everyone happy), and scotch and port just because.

    The key is that it would have to be a retirement hobby, because it only works if you don’t actually have to make money off of it. Basically, it’s an excuse to deduct the full-sports cable plan and air hockey/pool tables, and for DS to buy as big a TV as he wants. :-)

  17. I have tried the bigger sandwich chains and found them to be all lacking, mainly because the two local shops that I frequent offer the hot filling and toasted bread. Quiznos used to be decent but they closed their location.
    Rhett – I used to like Cosi when I worked in Boston. I was waiting for them to appear here :-).

  18. Becoming a multi-location franchisee is a good way to build wealth depending on the franchise. Reduces your cash outlay, known business with national advertising subsidizing your local efforts, etc. If you are a good operator, you can do well. I have looked at it and have also looked at scaling up other regional businesses into national franchises. Involves too much of working with the general public for my taste but if I could acquire multiple locations and either hire a GM or have DH run them, I would consider it. I would rather buy their debt at a discount in a downturn and if that turns into the opportunity to own the business, then I would manage it.

  19. houston – if you are on today, The Chocolate Bar on Alabama would make an excellent franchise as long as they could maintain the quality. The concept is fantastic and the quality is high. Not sure of its profitability but it seems to do well. It is our must visit stop in Houston every time. Was at your zoo recently too – really great updates!

  20. I think the reason Chick fil A service is so superior is because what the company refers to as franchises really are not. They only license franchisees who have worked for them already, you can only own one location, you have to be present full time, involved in your community (church is a major plus). And then if you’re approved, the franchise only costs $10,000.

    The best subs come from Wawa.

  21. Lark – I hadn’t seen your comment when I wrote that. Is what I wrote true? It’s what I’ve read about the company, including their own publications.

  22. Lark – yes – those are little goldmines even though on its face, the economics of the franchise structure give a large proportion of your profits back to corporate (more so than many other franchise companies). I think I recall that corporate owns your real estate. While I am not aligned with some of their corporate beliefs, the franchisors do a lot for kids at risk and I appreciate that they have stuck to closing on Sundays.

  23. You can own multiple ChikFil A locations – I know someone who owns two and son in law owns another in adjacent town. He is a long-time affiliate of their corporate structure.

  24. “It had always seemed to me like franchises combine the worst aspects of being a business owner and the worst aspects of being an employee.”

    That is how it seems to me.

  25. Lark,

    Chick-fil-A has a distinct franchise business model. The franchise fee to join Chick-fil-A is a very accessible $5,000. Chick-fil-A corporation will pay for land, construction and equipment for a restaurant, then rent it to the franchisee for 15% of sales plus 50% of pretax profit remaining. Therefore, startup costs are very low, in exchange for higher-than-usual monthly payments.

    Chick-fil-A also prohibits most of its franchisees from opening multiple units, which can limit franchisees’ potential profits.

    The up front is low but the ongoing costs are high and the upside potential is severely limited.

  26. I agree with RMS. Owning a franchise is making a deal with the devil because you really, really want to be able to call yourself a business owner, but there’s no way you’d have the resources to start something up yourself.

  27. Your store will be closed on Sunday to give employees a day off to rest or worship, although you may have some discretion to allow work on Sundays when it comes to charitable activities. You will not be allowed to select your location, nor to open multiple locations. You will not own the property upon which the store is located, nor can you sell it or pass it on to your heirs – so if you want a business you can sell someday as part of an exit strategy, Chick-Fil-A is not for you. You will not own or receive any equity in your business. The franchisor will provide you with all your equipment, renting everything to you for 15% of your unit’s sales. And, you will also have to surrender a whopping 50% of your monthly net profits (pretax profits) to the franchisor. In comparison, other franchise brands charge from 5-10% of gross sales.

    It seems more like being a low level manager with the majority of your income being bonus vs. any kind of small business owner.

  28. I would add that I assume you are required to buy everything: cups, straws, chicken, buns etc. from Chick-Fil-A so they entirely control what if any profit you’ll be able to realize.

  29. Rhett – I assume all that is true. But this family owns one in a large city, and does very well, and was desperately hoping to be able to have another in a different city. I don’t know the family well enough to ask for details, but they did say, when they were applying for the 2nd, that it’s rare to be able to have more than one. And in fact they didn’t get the 2nd one.

  30. Rhett -that’s going to be the case with almost any franchise. That’s how they maintain consistent product. I looked at a hardware franchise and they do require that you sell their product but don’t take any participation in sales that aren’t their product. So if I am in a nice neighborhood and want to sell high end holiday decor in my boutique style hardware store, I keep all of the profits from that but also can sell their lines of tools and paints. The capital costs for that franchise were not huge and net worth requirement was about $300,000.

  31. I don’t care for any of the big sandwich chain, like Subway or JJs. The sandwiches seem so bland and not to my taste. I would just rather make one at home. On the other hand, I do really like a nice meatball parm grinder from a pizza shop

  32. If you didn’t really need the money couldn’t you just rent your land to a farmer? You’d have the look of a working farm but none of the hassle.

    As it happens, most of our landlords are from the Bay Area. Apparently, it is a thing to take your Silicon Valley money and buy a farm.

  33. Cordelia,

    If your comfortable with giving an estimate, what is the price per acre and the rent per acre, roughly?

  34. Sometimes I have thought owning my own business would be a good thing; franchising is just a fairly easy way for people to get into that situation. I have a friend who runs a business brokerage so I get his periodic emails showing what’s available in our area, standalone businesses, not franchises. Over time what appeals to me as an investment/owner-operator:
    – Laundromats

    If I were to go the franchise route, home health care looks good. Another friend has one of those in Palm Springs.

  35. Can I hijack a little? My DS1, who is 11th grade, is interested in taking a crack at the SAT on the Jan 21 date. I think I have gotten the advice before on this group that he should take the SAT that early so there is time to get the scores and prepare for the next iteration. But there are things we don’t understand so now I am getting cold feet.
    1. Why is the essay optional? Should he do it? He was told by the school counselor that no one ever takes it.
    2. If he takes the SAT now, will the colleges see the scores? How does that work?

  36. As far as I can tell, all of the SV folks wants farms for the tax breaks (be like Trump – get the NOL thing going). They kind of run it with a bit of a profit-motive but not really. Grow some grapes, have a fun story to tell, get a tax break and some valuable land.

  37. As far as I can tell, all of the SV folks wants farms for the tax breaks (be like Trump – get the NOL thing going). They kind of run it with a bit of a profit-motive but not really. Grow some grapes, have a fun story to tell, get a tax break and some valuable land.

    Yeah, no.

    They are making money.

  38. Come to think of it, lots of people on here are in professions in which they *could* hang out a shingle, if they desired.

  39. Why is the essay optional? Should he do it? He was told by the school counselor that no one ever takes it.
    2. If he takes the SAT now, will the colleges see the scores? How does that work?

    11th grade DD took the SAT in November. From what I understand the essay isn’t really optional. All the schools DD is interested in require it.

    2. It depends. Some schools want to see all scores. Some schools will look at the superscore, where they pick the highest score in each category from each test taking.

    DD took it cold, without prep in November and now she is incentivized to prepare. So, I’m counting that as victory.

  40. Mooshi

    He should take it in Jan — good for him to have the idea. Have him NOT send his scores to any schools (you have this option when you sign up). That way, they won’t see the scores. As for whether he should take the essay now, I’d say NO if this is just practice, because he won’t get any feedback. So, it’ll just be a writing exercise and he could do that on his own or in English class.

  41. As for whether he should take the essay now, I’d say NO if this is just practice, because he won’t get any feedback. So, it’ll just be a writing exercise and he could do that on his own or in English class.

    I would disagree with this advice. DD did the essay. Halfway through, she realized that she was answering incorrectly, erased it, and rewrote it in the remaining time. Next time, I would bet money that she will read the question carefully and answer thoughtfully so that she has the entire time. It probably depends on whether your son can learn from others’ mistakes or he learns from his own.

  42. OK, Cordelia says some schools want all the scores but Risley says we can choose not to send scores. This is what is making me nervous about this!!! If schools are going to see scores, even with a retake, I want him to wait so he is more prepared.

  43. Ah, I overlooked that he’s in grade 11, so maybe this isn’t merely practice. I’d have him take the essay as some schools do require it. Still don’t list any schools on the “who should we send your scores to?” Pay the extra fee later to send the scores to the schools he applies to. I’m not aware of any school asking to see all the scores from all the tests you’ve taken unless a kid *wants* to superscore. My understanding is that if you take it and bomb it, you never need to share those scores.

    For instance, my kids all took the ACT in seventh grade. Their scores show up when we go to the ACT website, but no way are we sharing those scores with schools and so far, none of the 20 or so total schools my kids have applied to (collectively) has ever said “Show me ALL your scores.”

  44. “1. Why is the essay optional? Should he do it? He was told by the school counselor that no one ever takes it.
    2. If he takes the SAT now, will the colleges see the scores? How does that work?”

    1. Some schools recommend or require the essay. I’d recommend you check directly with with schools in which he’s interested.

    2. Schools only see scores if the student allows it. In some cases the student can select to release only some scores — Score Choice.

    Colleges cannot opt out of or reject Score Choice. Score Choice is a feature available to students. However, some colleges require students to submit all SAT scores. Be sure to check college websites to learn more about their score send policies.

    Colleges set their own policies and practices regarding the use of test scores. The College Board does not release SAT test scores without student consent. Colleges and scholarship programs receive only the scores applicants send them.

    I hope Finn sounds in to confirm and give his perspective.

    This California talk reminded me I’m re-reading East of Eden and enjoying it immensely. I think I originally read it in school about 100 years ago.

  45. Cordelia – you make a good point about taking the essay for practice. Not for the feedback, but to practice doing an essay that’s timed, etc. I can totally see doing it for that reason.

  46. They are definitely making money. But they huge depreciation expenses, including for some assets that don’t depreciate in the time period allowed by the IRS. I had lots of clients who did this when I worked in SV. It isn’t a confidence that these guys who got rich doing other finance things all want to then be farmers.

  47. Fair enough. I looked it up and in 2014 CA irrigated crop land was $12,100/acre and the average rent being $405. A 3.3% return before expenses…property taxes and insurance…? I’m not sure how that works.

    The math works if someone is buying with cash, since that rate is significantly better than a money market, and it can be relatively low effort once the property is bought.

  48. But they huge depreciation expenses,

    But you can’t depreciate land. What are they depreciating?

  49. They are definitely making money. But they huge depreciation expenses, including for some assets that don’t depreciate in the time period allowed by the IRS. I had lots of clients who did this when I worked in SV. It isn’t a confidence that these guys who got rich doing other finance things all want to then be farmers.

    I don’t know hardly anything about other industries, but isn’t the depreciation expense available to any capital intensive business?

  50. Rhett,

    It’s not clear what the landlords are depreciating, unless they have an ownership interest in the trees, machinery or irrigation systems.

  51. MM – DD#1, also 11th Grader took the SAT in October. Here is our experience/advice received:

    1. There are websites that tell you which schools require the essay and which ones recommend the essay vs don’t care. Per our HS counselor, require and recommend both basically equal require. If your DS1 is planning to apply to a school that either recommends or requires, he should take the written part. My DD1 has no clue where she wants to go, so she took it in hopes if she did well enough, not to take it again!

    2. You choose whether or not to release your scores and to which schools each time you take the test. We did not release our scores. You will then have to pay to have your scores sent, but unless you are clear on where you want to go, why send them was our thought. Also, we took both ACT and SAT – she does better on the ACT, but not all schools accept it. Again, we didn’t send it any where.

    3. About whether they see them all or not…
    …hopefully that link came through as well. It depends on what the school requires you to send, some require all, some just highest score, etc.

    4. Counselor asked what math DD was in. He said if Alegbra 2 or less, to wait until spring to get more of the math under your belt or get some math tutoring focusing on what you haven’t learned yet. If completed Alebra 2, then timing/tutoring was not as much of an issue.

    5. DD used the SAT Prep Black Book by Barrett that was recommended by a friend.

  52. MM
    You get 4 score “sends” included in the price of each SAT, but you do not have to send anywhere. Once in the actual college choice mode you can order up scores to be sent separately. I think the cost is ~$11/school you’re sending to. You also have the choice of sending all scores or just e.g. the October of senior year scores. I have found (1) most schools want all scores, though I don’t know how they police whether you’re including all (2) many/most superscore or at least take the highest single-test-day result, so no real harm in including all. (3) not many schools actually use the essay except for placement in the initial writing class, IME. Many don’t use it at all.
    Essay: agree 100% with Cordelia. Just the pressure of having to collect thoughts, *briefly outline* then deliver a finished product under a short time deadline is good practice.

    Overall, good idea to take in Jan; don’t send the scores. If he does great, one-and-done. Otherwise, experience to build on.

  53. I guess I see it as practice since he is 11th grade, but things must have changed. Man, in my day, I took it ONCE, in the fall of 12th grade. All my friends and I took it together. I took the ACT then too, in an even bigger crowd since the ACT was more popular.

    The language about being able to opt out of sending scores but schools being able to require you to send them is making my head hurt. And aside from three SUNY’s, I have no idea where he will apply. Do most kids already know at this point?

    I believe he took Algebra 2 last year. He is in something called pre-Calc now.

  54. Oh, and I second Austin “Black Book” by Barrett, available for both SAT & ACT, to everyone. Very helpful to DS2.

  55. Mooshi, besides the timing aspect, another benefit of doing the essay would be to get a feel for the scoring, even without feedback. If he thinks he wrote a great essay and gets a mediocre score (or vice-versa), that’s already worthwhile information. He’ll be there, the cost of the test is the same–why turn down one part of the package? I know your DS1 is brilliant at math, but can’t remember how he is at writing. For mine, seeing the score the first time around could be a helpful kick in the pants before anyone sees.

  56. If he’s in pre-calc, he’s completed Algebra II /Trig.
    Most kids do not know where they want to go at this point of Junior year. My youngest knew one place for sure, but the next ~8 months, including summer campus visits, college fairs in your area (see: and mark April 24 on your calendar; there should be others), college visits to his HS is when he formed his list.

  57. MM – Our school encourages leaving time to improve your skill. DD is taking 6 AP classes and didn’t want to have to push her retake into late Spring. After talking to her counselor, who knows she has two HSS on her possible list, did not think she needed to retake either test.

    When you look at the essay when you get your results back, you get the prompt, a scan of what you wrote and the score (2 graders, grade each component on 1-4, then add together). So, you can take the test to a tutor to get feedback on what you did and how you could do better.

  58. Rhett – equipment, buildings, livesyock, etc. At least at one point vineyards had some special tax rules to make them more attractive. And, if I am remembering correctly, certain things could be depreciated greatly in the first year. I don’t know. Seemed like a lot of work to me, but it also seemed to be something more than one person did.

  59. He is a good, if somewhat pedantic, writer. The college essay is going to kill him because he is really bad at getting that personal, “this experience changed my life” tone of voice the colleges all seem to want. He doesn’t crack under pressure, either, unlike DS2. Also, I thought it cost more if you do the essay. And why don’t they get feedback?

  60. You can / should target February and April HS break weeks to go see some colleges. I know those breaks will not coincide with your employer’s spring break week, but lots of colleges know HS kids are out of school those weeks and are geared up for them. MLK day may not be the best day to visit colleges, even though it’s a day off from school for HS; a lot of them now don’t have classes that day even if the students are on campus.

  61. Mooshi, I think you will notice a lot more kids taking the ACT in the northeast vs. years ago. Most of the kids that I know take both unless they completely aced one. My neighbor got a perfect score on the ACT, so he never took the SAT. He found out before the beginning of senior year that he was a NMSF based on his PSAT score. He was required to sit for the SAT if he wanted to try to move to the finalist round.

    A lot of people around here started to look at the ACT when they started to “change” the SAT and it wasn’t clear what the changes would look like for future exams. It used to be all SAT around here, but that has changed, and people seem to take both if they think they might be stronger on one.

  62. We are all talking about food franchise. DH talked to someone who owns multiple Papa Johns and obviously is very happy with their experience. We have been casually tossing around the idea. I am still torn between a franchise versus investing in apartment building etc. Technically I could hand my shingle and still be able to manage something on the side. At this point we are looking for a partner for real estate investment.

    What about investing in “service” franchises like senioe care etc?

  63. Traveling during the semester is not an option for me, especially since I have to be at a major conference during one of those weeks. DS1 doesn’t have much interest in any of this, other than saying that there was no way he would go to SUNY Binghamton after we spend a night at a motel next door to the entrance and realized that the immediate area was beyond sad

  64. We certainly can look at SUNY Stony Brook any time, though. and maybe SUNY Albany, especially if we decide to go up to see some minor league hockey. RPI is right there too, although I doubt he can get enough merit aid to go there, if he can get in at all. Queens College is right down the road, another easy visit. But SUNY Buffalo is a haul.

  65. Austin, am I understanding correctly that “leaving time to improve your skill” means taking it early, so you can redo it if necessary (or does it mean the opposite–get good and ripe, take it late)?

  66. Also, you haven’t had a sandwich until you’ve been to Zingerman’s.

    Having said that, when DS was still here, we could time our watches to his midnight stomping up from his basement lair to the door to greet the Jimmy John’s delivery guy. 7 nights/week for his senior year in HS. Not good food to an adult, but wonderful to a 17yo boy, and can’t beat the “freaky fast delivery” they’re so proud of.

  67. S&M – taking and doing well on the SAT and ACT require the kid to know e.g. Alegbra II and other material but also how to take the test (“how to play the game”). So taking the test >1 enhances the test-taking skillset, even if the kid doesn’t know much more academically the 2nd time thru.

  68. It’s worse than Subway. Unless you have a JJ that’s orders of magnitude better.

    I agree with Lark, our JJ is excellent, much better than Subway. They have the best bread around.

  69. I think the best sandwich chain is Rising Roll, although the one closest to us closed. I would never own a franchise, it just seems like too much work. I’m selling Beautycounter now because I love the products and my goal is for that to eventually cover kid activities. DH used to dream about doing something with wine but now if we were independently wealthy he’d probably do carpentry.

  70. JJ: nothing special; I actually like Subway (much) more since I can get a toasted sandwich.
    But if I’m around here and buying a sandwich, there are so many other places that are better.

    Places I really like for sandwiches:
    Genoa Importing, Loudonville, NY
    Voltaco’s, Ocean City NJ
    Tony Lukes (several Philly area locations; the one near the stadiums has character)
    Melt (Cleveland area)
    Caplansky’s, Toronto

  71. I like Subway’s “assembly line” system, but don’t really like sandwiches. Moe’s has a similar system, and we like to go there.

  72. Anybody else have a Favo Pizza? Assembly line a la Subway, Moe’s, Chipotle applied to individual size pizzas. We really like it.

  73. Mia: I agree on the Chocolate Bar. Amazing hot chocolate!

    Mooshi: I outsourced all these questions to the SAT prep coaches. They seemed to give DS good advice, because he seemed well prepared. He did the essay.

  74. We don’t have a SAT prep coach. DS1 prepared for the PSAT with a practice book and I assume he will do the same for the SAT

  75. Fred, correct. I was uncertain of what the counselor at her kid’s school had said. Guess I’m just not clear on how you know. Must be a connection between you two that I didn’t know about.

  76. Another vote for doing the SAT essay–it’s graded differently from a school essay (more emphasis on quantity rather than quality of writing). That can take some practice.
    DS used a coach for a tutoring session just on the essay, as he is not a natural writer. The coach gave him a bunch of tricks, which apparently worked.

  77. Louise, it depends so much on the kid (learning style, motivation, how much s/he really knows). Also where the kid wants to go…maybe their great grades are enough to get in with just ok scores, so a book could be enough. (I know…heresy)

  78. SM – my opinion based on experience thru getting 4 kids into college (including me!)

  79. MM, 11th grade may seem like practice, but consider that, a year from now, he will be just about done with his applications. It’s good to find out ASAP how the standardized test score part of his application will look, because it will help him either narrow or expand his likely list.

    Please don’t sweat the college application essay thing. Admissions staff does not spend nearly as much time as many imagine scrutinizing the essays. The crush of applications prevents it. It’s nothing like the attention that a teacher gives grading an essay assignment.

  80. I guess you decided against the group tutoring idea.

    I think taking the SAT test now is a good idea, although back when my kids were in school they GC recommended to wait until spring of junior year.

    Since at least one of his schools recommends the essay, he should do it.

    I would not worry too much about which scores the colleges see. I believe most super-score, and I doubt the state schools spend much energy focusing on lowest vs. highest scores. Unless you want to save money, I’d just wait until he applies and then send the scores according to the schools’ policies.

    I also suggest taking the ACT to compare scores. Our GC told us that most of her students did better on the ACT.

    BTW, the collegeboard changed its policy on allowing accommodations. This is a big deal.

    Beginning January 1, 2017, the vast majority of students who are approved for and using testing accommodations at their school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved for taking the SAT®, PSAT™10, PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT Subject Tests™, and AP® Exams.

  81. S&M – When we talked to the counselor, when to take it is really about your kid. But, in general, taking it early allows time to take it more than once. However, for some kids it is about giving them enough time to get the math part or test taking strategies down.

    As DD had taken the ACT in the 7th grade, took the PSAT as a freshman and a sophomore (junior PSAT was after she took SAT), and she’d take 3 free practice tests (1 PSAT, 1 ACT, 1 SAT) offered by tutoring companies, she felt pretty confident about taking the tests given her practice scores.

  82. this guy had basically set up a little bar in the back of his B&B, and he had brought up a few hundred bottles out of his own personal collection

    We stayed at a small hotel in Vermont a couple of years ago where the guy was clearly a cocktail enthusiast and used the small bar / restaurant as an excuse (plus write-off, I’m sure) to collect an impressive array of hard-to-find liquors, bitters, etc., used in some of the classic cocktails that were being revived mostly in those speakeasy-looking bars in Seattle and NY and other places that are not surrounded by farms and with a view of llamas.

  83. A lot of the 11th graders in my DDs school are taking ACT/SAT prep as a class, but it does have an extra fee. DD does well generally on standardized tests and her test scores, per the GC, are good enough even for applying to an HSS. I was concerned that they might be borderline.

    DD decided to use a SAT book, but took the ACT without extra prep. If the scores needed to be improved, we’d have been looking for at class.

  84. Fred, my opinion, based on no recent experience, is the same as yours. But if someone who deals in these things every day has reached a different conclusion, I’d be interested in hearing how they got there. I might learn something!

  85. Is it late enough to report on the holiday party that I attended last night? 2 cheek kisses/side hugs. It was terrible. Another party tomorrow night. Gross!

  86. Speaking of SAT, any thoughts/experience with Khan Academy as a prep source? DD definitely needs help and is actually spending a fair bit of time on KA weekly, on both subject-matter stuff and SAT-prep stuff, but wondering if we should look for some sort of outside tutoring/class support as well, as she is *not* an intuitive standardized test taker. I am not looking for scholarship-level scores, more like “please don’t disqualify me from a decent engineering program” performance.

  87. LFB: It will not surprise you that I advocate for a class or a tutor. I’d rather spend the money and make sure your daughter is as comfortable as she can be with the test.

  88. Fred, for older child, I think a personal SAT coach may be best. I haven’t gone through the process myself, so can’t offer specific advice.
    Also, I think one on one interaction would be more beneficial in his case. With Kid # 2, I am pretty much on auto pilot because I have been to the dance once already.

  89. Mooshi, BLUF: my suggestion is he absolutely take the SAT in January, and take the essay.

    And make sure he knows to answer every single question, even if he has to randomly guess. The College Board now penalizes not guessing.

  90. WRT SAT timing, my suggestion is that January of junior year is the absolute latest time to take it for the first time.

    Here’s the logic, working backwards:

    – Typical early application deadlines are about Nov 1. iI’s a good idea (IMO) to have identified your early app schools no later than the end of September, so there’s adequate time for to make sure LOR, transcripts, and test scores all get submitted in time, and to fill in the apps and write the essays.

    -The earliest test date in the school year is October, which is so close to early app deadlines that it’s impractical, which suggests all testing should be done by the end of junior year. Doing so also facilitates doing college research over the summer.

    -I suggest setting aside the May and June test dates for subject tests. Also, the May date isn’t optimal for any kid taking AP tests, since it’s right in the middle of AP testing, and the June date falls right after finals for many kids, and can also conflict with family travel plans.

    -That leaves the March test date as the last test date. So if you want your kid to have a chance to take it again to improve scores, the January date is the absolute last test date which gives him a chance to retake in March.

    My suggestion is that the first sitting should be no later than fall of junior year. DS’s first sitting was in fall of sophomore year, and I will push DD to study this summer and take it this fall, probably in November, fresh from her PSAT experience.

  91. WRT the essay, some schools require it, some recommend it, and some do neither. You can find this on the schools’ websites.

    I’ve read that when schools recommend, but do not require, the essay, what it really means is that if you are not URM, you need to take it. Not requiring it opens the door to more URM applications. Similar logic applies to subject tests– if you are not URM, and the school to which you are applying recommends subject tests, you put yourself at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t take them.

    Since your DS isn’t locked in to any particular schools at this point, I think it makes sense to take it, as that will keep the most options open for him.

    Caveat for essay discussion beyond this: My experience and research on this is mostly with the older SAT, so this may not all apply to the current SAT.

    ITA with Austin on the essay. At least on the older SAT, the essay scoring was not like a regular essay; there are rubrics against which the essays are scored, and those are quite opaque. It is totally possible, and probably quite common, for some really crappy essays to outscore some outstanding ones.

    With the older SAT, one of the rubrics was length. Short, concise essays did not get good scores.

    Another rubric was citing examples to back contentions. There was no checking of the veracity of the examples, so they could be totally fabricated. I.e., better to make something up than to not cite anything.

  92. ” I am still torn between a franchise versus investing in apartment building etc. ”

    I’ve read that a real estate business that can be lucrative is storage, which could be a franchise. If you’re starting with unbuilt land, it would seem that the building costs of a storage facility would be lower than apartments (less plumbing and electrical, no windows, perhaps no HVAC), there are fewer problem tenants (and tenant problems) to deal with, and the $/area can be higher.

  93. Mooshi, as Fred mentioned, any time a kid takes an SAT, whether it’s the general SAT of the subject tests, included in the fee is having up to 4 score reports sent.

    You might want to send one report to the NMSC. If he becomes NMSF, he’ll need an SAT score report sent as part of the process of moving to NMF.

    You might also send some of the other 3 reports to safety schools. The reports are use or lose, and you can’t wait for his scores before deciding how to use them, so I suggest using all of them, especially to schools that your DS may be considering that are not very selective, or schools at which his PSAT scores suggest he’ll be in the top quartile.

  94. Mooshi, I suggest your DS set aside part of his winter break to prepare for the SAT.

    Khan Academy has a free prep course about which I’ve heard good things. DS prepped primarily by taking pracitce tests that he downloaded from the College Board website and got from his college counseling office. I also suggest some time be spent researching essay rubrics.

    Good prep for the January test could well obviate the need to retake in March.

  95. I just found out that all of his friends are going to do both Jan and March, so that seals it. He used the Khan Academy for the PSAT and liked it, but he also used a prep book. I think scores are out in another week or two. I hope he didn’t end up doing worse this time than last time!!!

  96. Mooshi, here is been worrying about missing it when scores come out. I’m sure that if I hang around here, I’ll know immediately when they’re released. We did no prep this time. If he’s close to the NMS cutoff, we’ll do a few small preps over the next few years until he takes that test. Otherwise–if he’s clearly above the cut or clearly below it-we won’t bother.

  97. LfB, at most land grant engineering schools, I’m pretty sure that you get admitted to the engineering program your junior year and that your ACT/SAT scores only affect your admission to the university. My gut says people need at least a 30 on the ACT math in order to perform at a land grant engineering school and a 27 composite. You can test the source of my assessment by pondering where my gut ends.

  98. LfB, I suggest your DD take a practice test or two, under real, timed conditions, as an assessment which can help you decide if, and how much, additional prep makes sense for her.

  99. SM, my understanding is that the new SAT and PSAT are more tests of what’s been learned than of innate reasoning ability, relative to the prior versions. This suggests that even without prep, you should expect to see scores increasing over time.

  100. The writing rubric is on the college board website. However, I linked to it from the test score page. And, PSAT score release I believe is 12-12 scores released to students online. Each year she has creeped closer to our state’s cutoff. Only time will tell.

  101. We test drove the CX-5 and Outback tonight. The CX-5 is pretty nice, but the Outback (higher trim level) is luxury car level. It’s a few thousand more, but what a difference. But it’s amazing how similar it is to our 15 year old one.

    And I also found it interesting how small the Mazda show room was and how empty it was – we were the only customers there. When we were car shopping 5 years ago, we looked at the CX-9 at a different dealership and it was the same – a very small showroom with no customers.

  102. LfB, isn’t your DD a junior?

    If so, and if she hasn’t already taken the SAT, the same advice applies to her as to Mooshi’s DS– prep over Xmas break, and take the test in January. The practice tests taken as an assessment will also serve to prepare her.

  103. A good friend quit his corporate job for a franchise (more like ServPro than fast food). He was looking for a way to run his own business without having to start from the ground up. It was a great fit, but admits it was long hours. Often having to fill in when employees didn’t show up. Eventually he got tired of it and it took a few years to find a buyer and that’s when the financial payout occured. He now owns apartment buildings.

  104. @denverdad – my in laws have been Lexus loyalists for the past 20+ years and assumed they would get another one. But because they live in the mountains, we told them they should at least test drive the Outback. They loved it so much they bought it same day. I haven’t driven it, but I think it’s a great looking car.

  105. DH is self-employed. DH has a very specialized job; he is a licensed soil scientist and a PE. Competition is low but demand is high. He likes what he does and is very happy working for himself. I think the key to being a successful small business owner is to find something that no one wants to do or to find something that only a few people know how to do.

  106. @Finn: no, she’s a sophomore, which is why I am paying a little closer attention and wondering about options beyond Khan.

  107. Lark, we’re definitely getting the Outback. I’m waiting to hear back on my Costco request.

  108. Even using Costco, buying a new car is sheer torture. You don’t have to negotiate price, but then they still try to sell you on protection plans, the extended warranty, etc. And you have to deal with the financing. We were there for over 2 hours. They gave us $500 for trade-in on the old Outback. DW wanted to tell them about the issues with it and I had to shut her up before she did :) Then when we were getting ready to leave, the sales guy said the low tire pressure light was on but there weren’t any mechanics left to check it but it should go off within a mile. It’s still on today, and I even tried putting air in the tires, so we need to take it back tomorrow to get it straightened out. Aside from that, it’s freaking awesome.

    On the cool side, Subaru started a promotion Dec. 1 that we weren’t aware of and we got two season ski passes to Copper Mountain. I don’t know how often we’ll use them, but it’s a nice bonus.

  109. Buying a car is really a pain, and I am glad you love the Subaru. The low tire pressure drove us nuts during the 13 years that we owned a Subaru. I got sick of the light coming on whenever the weather changed, but I learned how to check the tires myself at Mavis. It was really cold one day, and I just figured that it was the weather so I ignored the light….it was the one time that I really did have a nail in the tire that caused a flat!

  110. Two hours at the dealer is bad, but not horrible imo. We bought a Subaru last year using Consumer Reports, and iirc just the basics of doing the paperwork and checking out the new car took at least an hour. The entire process was relatively painless. However, we dealt with a great dealer/sales team. Their pitch for extended warranty was only a 5-minute conversation.

    The old city vs. suburb debate:

    Suburbs Outstrip Cities in Population Growth, Study Finds

  111. @DD — congrats! Glad you have one car decision taken care of, at least. :-)

    And it looks like DH’s car is fixable — some plug or gasket or something blew on the heating/cooling system, causing it to dump all of the coolant into the car. Still don’t know the underlying problem/solution that he originally took it in to the dealer for (my side had no heat), and it’s going to be a $$ repair (still needs timing belt and new battery). But I’d rather repair than buy for at least the next few years (I realized that if we can make it 2.5 years, DD will be off to college, and we can probably get by without a 3rd row, which opens up a whole universe of vehicles that I actually *like*).

  112. Lauren, the light on the highlander has been driving me crazy for 5 years now. But one time it kept coming back on for about two weeks so I finally took it in a d they found a slow leak. So it was useful. I just wish they made it so it tells you which tire is low. And apparently on the subaru, you do have to drive for a bit after filling the tires for the sensors to reset, which s really annoying. On the highlander it resets immediately so you can check it while you are doing the air.

  113. You should see if the new Subaru has a screen that will show you the pressure in all four tires. Both of our cars have this now, and it makes it a little easier to see if one tire is really off.

    I am at Quest with one of my parents. I’ve been here for 30 minutes and I had to help 5 people sign in for a test because the registration is an iPad.

    They ranged in age from 1926 to 1942.
    They all had to ask for help and there are no Quest people here to help. Registration desk is empty and just the iPad. My parents have iPhones and iPads so they could have registered, but I felt really bad for these folks. It’s clear that the bulk of their patients are seniors and many were upset about this system.

  114. My Honda tire light comes on if (1) there really is low pressure, but it doesn’t say which tire and (2) if we have more than a 30 degree drop overnight at least until you drive a bit. We have a couple of Discount Tire stores near us. They all have a bay just for free tire pressure check. I LOVE it on cold rainy days like today. Pull in, they check the air, add if needed and I am on my way!

    Experienced the same thing as Lauren with iPad check ins. My mom’s problem was that she was legally blind, so only the large touch screen check ins could she handle herself.

  115. Ivy – a question for you on schools in your area. Do people who live in the city send their to public schools or is it all private schools ?

  116. Lauren, you did a good deed. Did the iPad sign in ask if the patient wanted an HIV test? I noticed this at a recent touch screen sign in. It’s NYS law that the question must be asked and I could see people inadvertently requesting them with those types of sign ins.

    My tire pressure AND engine check lights intermittently illuminate on my 2001 Ford, but I haven’t noticed on my 2016 Subaru.

  117. We are here for a two hour glucose test, so new people keep coming to the lab. I think I have helped 10+ people. Another woman helped a few people. This is a greta way for Quest to save money, but so ridiculous that they didn’t realize that most of these people can’t use an iPad. Luckily, no HIV test. just name and DOB.

    There are some regulars, and they told me that this iPad is new because they’re all used to the sign in sheet.

  118. My tire pressure indicator shows the tire which is really helpful. I have gotten a couple of nails in different tires. One time I had a nail that was causing a leak so the light was coming on every two weeks or so. I knew there was something wrong vs. the light just going off.

  119. Lauren, the display doesn’t tell you which tire is low. But DW said the light turned off on her way to work this morning.

    That’s really dumb with the iPad check in. I did some clinical hours at a walgreens clinic a couple of years ago and they have kiosk check ins. The NP had to help about half the people with it.

  120. When I got my flu shot at the CVS Minite Clinic I had to help out a bunch of the seniors trying to check in. Eventually the manager came over and helped.

  121. We have TPMS on our 2011 and newer cars and it says which tire; on a t least 2 the info center has a screen on which you can see the pressure in each tire.

  122. Austin, you mean they have someone just waiting there, ready to check tire pressure whenever someone pulls in? How bizarre, especially when contrasted with the med testing place that can’t manage to have someone available to help out with a new system. If they are there and waiting, I can see that it could be faster than doing it yourself (depending on how messy your glove compartment is, lol)

    Two hours is how long it might take me to research a car purchase, but no way do I want to spend that kind of time in the showroom filling out paperwork. Why can’t they figure out a way to make that process more efficient? Do they think that people somehow think they’re getting better service (or a better car) if it takes longer?

    LfB, glad it’s fixable! Only time I’ve had an issue with AC not working on one side only was in an Accord. Turned out there was a duct that went to the passengers side front airvents that could be kicked out pretty easily by someone sitting in that seat.

  123. S&M – Yes and no. The bay is only for that. No one is assigned just to that bay, but I have never waited more than a couple of minutes. Given that I have had to drive to multiple stations in the past to find one that has an air machine at all or one that works, waiting a few minutes is faster that the driving around. And, you have to have quarters for the machine. Once our city went to credit/debit card parking meters, I am not as careful about having quarters in my car/purse.

  124. I think 2 hours is ok. For our last 2 cars we spent at least 45 mins in each with the sales guy showing us all the new stuff (since these cars were replacing cars that were 10+ years old) and how it works. And I took each on a 10-15 min test drive (cut the deals remotely after trying different cars locally). Absolutely no fuss about extended warranties, etc. They had sent me all the options I had for those and their prices and I had told them to draw the paperwork with nothing for any of that. At one we financed thru the dealer for benefits similar to what Milo described some time back, the other we had the check from our credit union in hand. The one we financed took a little longer. I’d say it took 90-120 mins each time, but no BS. These were Audi & Infiniti dealers, so maybe those are different demographics than Subaru, where a much higher % of money is made on the extras?

  125. IIRC the fastest car-buying experience we had was with the MDX – it was a certified pre-owned and we paid in cash. Every other time the lease/financing paperwork takes FOREVER.

  126. When I got my last car, it was about 2 hours, but they also do an inspection where they have to sign off that everything worked before they handed you the keys. They do this once you decide on THAT particular car. They also vaccumed the inside and washed the outside. Yes, we spent a good deal of time with the person going over all the new features.

  127. Fred, I would love it if it told which tires were low. It’s really annoying on the Highlander because the spare is tied in to the TPMS, so you need to crawl a bit under the car to check/fill that one as well.

  128. I test drove a couple cars, went home & made up my mind. When I went to buy the one I chose (used), I had a trade-in and did not finance the rest. And it still took forever and a day.
    When I was honing in on a car and negotiating price, the sales guy “asked his manager” a couple things, leaving me alone in his office. I think that worked better as a pressure tactic before we all carried cell phones, lol

  129. “still needs timing belt and new battery”

    I would think those are items that would be part of your normal maintenance schedule that you should anticipate as part of your cost of ownership, and not necessarily as signs that your car is falling apart and needs to be replaced.

    IME, the timing belt replacement interval was about 60k miles, and batteries typically last about 5 years and are easy to replace yourself.

  130. “he light on the highlander has been driving me crazy for 5 years now.”

    “It’s really annoying on the Highlander because the spare is tied in to the TPMS, so you need to crawl a bit under the car to check/fill that one as well.”

    I can see how the spare would be annoying, since you don’t need to keep it inflated if you keep a pump in your car. OTOH, actually having a spare is something a lot of cars don’t have these days.

    The light in my car doesn’t tell me which tire, but I’ve found it very useful. Typically it alerts me that all tires need to be topped off. When only one tire needs air, that’s always been due to a leak.

  131. “I would think those are items that would be part of your normal maintenance schedule that you should anticipate as part of your cost of ownership, and not necessarily as signs that your car is falling apart and needs to be replaced.”

    Well, yes. My point was more that it’s still going to be a bad repair bill, because in addition to what did blow up, we have the other routine stuff. Plus that timing belt is particularly galling, because the design requires removal of the whole engine, turning a $1K repair bill into a $3K one. Which, in turn, goes back to part of the reason DH was PO’d even before things blew up.

  132. “timing belt is particularly galling, because the design requires removal of the whole engine, turning a $1K repair bill into a $3K one.”


    That’s the sort of poor design you’d like to know about when you’re making your buying decision, so you can factor that $3k every so many miles into the cost of ownership. IIRC, with our old Accord and its 60k mile timing belt replacement interval, the cost was less than $500.

    Your car’s design reminds me of the old Vega, which required the engine to be lifted to change the plugs, and this was back when plug replacement intervals were a lot shorter than they are now.

    BTW, if might be a good time to consider replacing belts, hoses, plugs, etc., that might be easier with the engine out.

  133. “BTW, if might be a good time to consider replacing belts, hoses, plugs, etc., that might be easier with the engine out.” — Good point. I will mention it to DH. (Or maybe the cost is so high in part because they do all of that proactively given the stupid design).

  134. I have run businesses for myself in the past but have to completely agree with the franchise route. Now working at Just Shutters I can 100% attest to the fact the support and guidance you get with a franchise is so much more beneficial than starting it alone.

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