Easy College Saving Tips
How to Make It Easier to Save
1. Save early and often. Start saving the day the baby is born, if not earlier, and save as often as you can. The sooner you start, the more you can take advantage of compounding to watch your savings grow. It will also help you get into the habit of saving.
2. Save as much as you can. If you don’t think you can afford to save, start small. You will find that you will adjust your spending habits, and can gradually increase the amount you save. Don’t worry too much about starting small; since the compounding of interest over time will help your savings grow. The first step is to get into the habit of saving.
3. Save regularly. Rather than save money at random intervals, try to save a little every month. The more frequently you can save the better, but at the very least save once a year. If you can save with the same frequency as you receive your paycheck, you will find it easier to get into the habit of saving.
4. Make saving automatic. Sign up for payroll deduction or ask your bank to automatically move money from your checking account to your savings account every month. Many state section 529 plans have options where you can have money transferred from your checking account every month. If the money isn’t in your checking account, you’ll be much less likely to spend it.
5. Earmark savings for college. Use a special account designated for college (but in the parents’ name, not the child’s). This will help you save, because it will motivate you to save.
6. Establish a goal. If you specify a savings goal, you’ll be able to measure your progress toward that goal.
7. Invest windfalls, don’t spend them. If you should get a windfall, such as an inheritance, winning the lottery, a large income tax refund, or a bonus at work, put it in the college savings fund. It is better to save than to spend.
8. Increase the amount you save each year. Increase the total amount you save each year by at least 5%. So if you save $100 a month this year, you should save at least $105 a month next year. This will help your savings keep up with the college tuition inflation rate. When you get a raise, increase the amount of money you save.
9. Ask relatives to help. Set up a section 529 plan, and ask relatives (especially the grandparents) to contribute money to the plan. 60% of grandparents say that they would contribute to a section 529 plan if asked, especially since they know the money will be spent on the child’s education.
10. Redirect old regular payments towards the savings goal. Whenever you have a regular payment that stops, try shifting the money you were previously paying into college savings. Since you were already used to spending that amount, saving it should be relatively painless. For example, when your children enter kindergarten, redirect the money you were previously spending on daycare to college savings.
11. Review your living expenses. Create a monthly budget that reflects your actual spending habits, and try to identify living expenses you can cut. Any time you cut your expenses, redirect the money toward savings. For example, if you turn down your thermostat to save on heating costs, put the money you save in the college savings fund.
12. Use it as an opportunity to teach your children. Involve your children in the investment decisions. Since it involves their future, it is a good opportunity to educate them about the benefits of saving. For example, you could allow them to manage a small portion of the investment portfolio and track its growth. Some parents will even set up a “matching” plan, where money the child saves for their education is matched by additional money from the parent. Delayed gratification is a hard concept for younger children (and even some adults) to appreciate, so encouraging it early will help establish good habits. You will also find that acting as a role model for your children will make it easier for you to save as well.
Before you start to save for your child’s college education, get the rest of your finances into good shape. Pay off your credit cards (and get rid of them if you’ll be tempted to run up the balances again) and maintain a cash reserve equal to six months salary as a cushion against job loss. Be sure to save for your retirement as well, maxing out the employer’s matching contribution.
Taken with permission from AllProDad.com