College: a place many parents are dying for their kids to attend, but don’t want the deal with the debt of sending them there. No matter how good your intentions are, or how much you swear to yourself this year will be the time you start, sooner or later, your child will grow up and likely need some assistance in the financial department to attend school. With fewer families saving for college each year, there’s simply no denying the fears of not having enough.
Whether you’re late to the party or trying to stay ahead of the game, these practical college savings tips will make your son or daughter’s academic future more of an affordable reality.
Tip 1: Start as early as you can. It’s no secret that the sooner you jump on board with saving for your child’s college, the better. Not only can you capitalize on compound interest, but it also gives you a leg up on the whole savings game. If possible, make the commitment to utilize an investment plan in your kid’s name as soon as he or she has a social security number.
Tip 2: Choose a college savings plan. Did you know, in most cases, you can open up a 529 college savings plan—or another investment outlet -- for as little as $25? (Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.) There are tons of college savings accounts and plans out there that are at your fingertips. Speak with your bank, or head to Savingforcollege.com to learn more about the different college savings options and how to get started. Each has their own benefits -- including some with tax advantages -- and drawbacks.
Tip 3: Nix the general savings account. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with stashing away some money in a regular savings account until you made a decision on a college savings plan, but let’s not make this a long-term practice. When it comes to your kid’s college, you’re going to want to see a nice return on your investment and, unfortunately, your everyday savings accounts don’t have an annual percentage yield (APY) that will give your endeavors the best bang for the buck.
Tip 4: Commit to saving monthly. Whether you allocate a certain amount of money from each of your paychecks or make the promise to invest every month, your demand for a healthy college savings is nothing without supply (funds).
Tip 5: Rethink where your money goes. If actions speak louder than words, where you spend your money tells more about what is and isn’t important in your life. Yeah, you can purchase $100-$200 kicks for your son or daughter, but if you’re serious about trying to save for their future, that might not be the best use of your money. Creating a budget tends to shine light on where you overspend and areas where you can cut back.
Tip 6: Get help. It really does take a village to raise a child—and the same goes with sending said child off to college. There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and loved ones to gift your kid with money for his or her college savings plan for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.
Tip 7: Be smarter about shopping. Should you decide to sign up for a 529 college savings account, you, dear friend, just made shopping a whole lot more enjoyable. Upromise by Sallie Mae is an online destination that allows you to shop your favorite brands using a tracking link, where you can earn a percentage of cash back for your child’s college savings plan. Utilizing a resource like this helps put you one step closer to your goals.
Tip 8: Consider investing extra income. Tax refunds. Bonuses. Side hustle dollars. These are just some areas you can utilize to fuel your child’s college account. The more you can pad your monthly and annual investment, the better.
Tip 9: Don’t stop when your kid is in college. Just because your son or daughter is enrolled in college doesn’t mean you need to come to a complete stop in the savings department. You can still keep on funding certain college investment plans.