5 Tips for Easy College Savings
When you have a baby, there are many initial financial concerns, especially when a family is still working hard just to make ends meet. College savings on a tight budget may seem like something you'll do later when the kids start elementary school but time goes by so fast. The reality is by the time today's toddlers are in college, the costs of higher education will be outrageous.
To get a jump start on saving money for college, here are ideas for starting to save when kids are still young and money's still tight. Also check out our 40+ College Resources for Parents and Students to get more information.
Choose the Right Savings Plan for College
You can start the account in your child's name to save on taxes but be warned — if you are later eligible for financial aid, it can be cheaper to have the funds in your own name. Colleges expect contributions toward tuition to be 5-6% of your assets each year. Assets in a child's name are marked considerably higher at 20%. Savings bonds are also affected in this manner.
Balance the Budget
The earlier you start, the smaller increments you can deposit. If your child is still in elementary school, work through your parenting budget to find at least $50 a month to invest into a college account. Make a serious commitment to socking away $50 each month until the college years loom. It may seem like an insufficient amount but in 18 years time at 6% interest a year, that $50 a month can be worth around $20k.
Invest Extra Cash
Any windfalls in money (bonuses, inheritance, etc.) should have an allocation right off the top of at least an additional $50 to invest, if not more, into the college account. It can be easy to find uses for "extra money" but $50 is rather small and you'll feel better making that extra deposit during the month.
Automate Your Savings Plan
Psychologically speaking, you can save more when you see less. Talk to your payroll department about having $25 a check (if you get paid bi-monthly) deposited directly into the college account. After a month or so, you'll likely never even notice it is missing.
Look But Don't Touch
It's great to track your progress and see that $50 start adding up but don't touch it, not even for emergencies. Start a similar plan where you deposit money into an account for emergencies like home or vehicle repairs. Since you have been dedicated to the savings process, a second account should be just as simple. It can be tempting to withdraw the money but consider instead how good it will feel when your child is getting ready to go off to college without additional financial stress on them — or you.