College is expensive and it only looks like costs are going to continue to climb. I’ll support whatever path my daughter chooses, but if she chooses a higher education, I want to have her back. I want to have a college fund built up to defray the costs. Now I would classify my family as middle class with not much money to spare at the end of the month. So I needed a plan to realistically save for her college, knowing I likely won’t be able to cover the total cost (not when it’s a bare minimum of 40k+ for four years).
As a part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have aimed to save $5,000 to go towards a house downpayment. I’ve redirected some of that effort into Jocelyn’s college fund. Here’s how I’m going about it:
It is NEVER to early to think about college. I realized this around Christmas, as I thought about how quickly she was growing. Soon she’d be a year old, then 2, then 5, then 15. I knew time would get away from me, so I started immediately!
Once you start it’s easier to continue because “the college fund” no longer seems as daunting once you’ve taken action.
Axe a Habit
I picked a bad and equally as important, a costly habit that I needed to kick. After giving birth to Jocelyn, I fell back into my Diet Coke addiction. I just love Diet Coke, ok? But I know that plain water is far superior to sugar and caffeine and knew I needed to kick it. I was drinking about 3 cans a day. I was downing a 12 pack in 4 days, so I was spending about $1 a day on soda. Now that I’ve quit I am investing this money in Jocelyn’s college fund every month.
That contribution alone will net almost 7,000 by the time she is ready for college. It’s a win for the whole family!
Find other fun small ways to contribute. Make it known to grandparents and other family members that there is a college fund they can contribute to if they would like, as your child gets older and harder to choose gifts for!
Since we’ve only recently started her college fund, we’re still using our savings account, but we’re looking into a 529 plan in the near future. These plans are better than opening a saving’s account in your child’s name because that savings account may drastically reduce the financial aid they may receive from the government. Having assets in the parent’s name, with a beneficiary, is a better choice. A 529 plan is also a tax-free choice that can sit there for years. The money can also only be used for educational expenses, like tuition, room & board, books, et cetera tax-free. If it’s used for non-education expenses there it becomes subject to taxes.
So start planning for college early and find simple way’s to contribute money. Best case scenario, higher education becomes free and that money can be used for retirement or even passed on to be your child’s down payment for a house. Worst case scenario, you don’t reach your saving goal and can only cover a semester of tuition and fees.
But guess what, it’s a semester of tuition and fees that your child isn’t going to be burdened with for the next 30 years. You’re helping give the gift of financial freedom by starting a college fund.