Once you have kids, saving enough money for college is a concern for every parent. You want to make sure you are saving enough money to grow into a nice college fund for your children, but at the same time, it’s hard to be able to put back that much extra money each month. I’m here with this guide to help you with effortless ways to save for your child’s college fund. It doesn’t have to be super stressful… all you need is a plan!
How much do I need to save? What kind of account do I save it in? What if I can’t save enough? When do I start saving it?
First of all, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. You are echoing every parent’s thoughts that
What kind of Account Do I Need?
Most importantly, I’m NOT a financial advisor. So, see a financial advisor. Your financial advisor will know best. And they will be able to help you formulate a plan that includes all your money goals, not just saving for college. A financial advisor will know exactly what type of account you need as well as the guidelines for your state.
Types of Accounts
Most people use a 529 account to save for college because it has tremendous tax savings advantages. The money you deposit grows with interest and you don’t have to pay any taxes on the growth of the money (like you would with any other kind of account) AS LONG AS YOU USE IT ON QUALIFIED EDUCATION EXPENSES.
As long as you pull that money out for approved expenses, it’s
You can use funds from a Roth IRA for education expenses as well. There are more guidelines and issues this brings up, but it can be done. So, if you aren’t comfortable putting money in a 529 for education expenses only, you may be more comfy contributing to a Roth IRA for retirement funds. Then you have the option to use those funds toward college expenses.
Put the $ in Something!
Do make sure you have this money in some kind of savings vehicle that will earn some interest for you. Don’t just stick it in a plain savings account. At the least put it in a mutual fund. But AGAIN, I’m NOT a financial advisor. Go see yours and set up whatever kind of fund is right for you!
When Should I Start Saving?
Save early, save often. You should start saving for college as early as possible. And if you haven’t started yet, no need to panic. The reason I say save early is the earlier you begin saving, the longer time the money has to grow. Interest compounds and is your friend!
Let’s do a quick, easy calculation to illustrate my point. If I’m estimating a reasonable interest rate/return, saving in some kind of 529/Roth IRA/Mutual Fund, here’s two scenarios
Scenario 1 – Start Saving When Your Child Starts Kindergarten
If you started saving $100 a month when your child starts kindergarten, you’d have around $14,400 when they turn 18. With expected interest, it would have grown to roughly $21,153 over the years by when they turn 18. So, you’ve made roughly $7,000 in interest.
Scenario 2 – Start Saving At Birth
Instead, if you started saving that same $100 a month when your child is born, you’d have shelled out $21,600, BUT it’s grown an additional $15,000 in interest and is now worth $36,913 when they turn 18.
Interest compounds and grows quickly. That’s why I say save early and often!
How Much Should I Save?
That’s completely up to you. As much as you can, really. To help guide you, there’s a couple of ways to go about figuring out how much to save for college.
METHOD 1: Start at the end goal
You can start with a number in mind, and then do some backwards math to figure out how much you need to save to get there. Let’s say your number you think you want to save for college is $40,000.
I used the calculator at Vanguard and came up with that if I start saving
METHOD 2: Start With What You Have
If having an end goal stresses you out (it stresses me out! That’s a big number!), just figure out what you can spare each month and put that in the savings account and it will accumulate to whatever it accumulates to. It will be some money to help with college and that’s what is important.
I totally nerd
What If I Really Can’t Afford To Save?
But Supermom… what if I truly cannot afford to save for college right now?
If you truly can’t afford to save for college right now, then you simply can’t afford it. You’ll have to maybe save a little
Family and Friends
Let family members know you are saving for college. Maybe they would like to donate/fund some part of the college funds as well. You can always suggest birthday and Christmas contributions from family members. Those can really help out and add up over time. And chances are, you don’t need a whole bunch more toys at your house!
If you come across extra money throughout your year, you can put some extra in the college savings accounts. Maybe you get an unexpected bonus and can set a little extra aside for your savings this year. Or perhaps you host a yardsale or sell some stuff over the course of the year. Put that into the savings account as well.
Other Life Savings
While saving for college is important, you need to also make sure you are saving for other life expenses as well, such as your retirement. Make sure you are properly saving for retirement before you start saving for college. There are lots of ways to fund college. Only YOU can fund your retirement.
This is why I advocate you need to see a financial planner to make sure ALL areas of your financial life are on track.
How to Find the Money To Save For College Funds
Make it Easy
Make the college savings each month an automatic deposit. That way you don’t have to go to the trouble each month of transferring the money. AND that way it’s automatically done for you. You don’t have the opportunity to skip it that month if something else comes up. It’s done. Automatically.
What if I Just Don’t Have Enough My Budget Each Month?
Let’s use me as an example. From my earlier calculations, I need to be saving $155 a month and $130 a month, respectively, for each of my kids. We don’t have an extra $285 in our budget each month!! What are we doing to do??
Don’t panic. There are actually some crazy easy ways to come up with that amount of money each month. Maybe even more than that amount. You just have to get a little creative.
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Ideas To Get You Started: Effortless Ways to Save For Your Child’s College Fund
Here’s some crazy easy and effortless ways to save money each month. And we will tally up our savings at the end of the list.
- Cut out a fancy coffee ONE TIME A WEEK – $5 each, $20/month (Better yet, get a coffee cookbook like this one or research online and learn to make your fancy coffee at home and save a ton MORE money!)
- Pantry Night once per week – Make dinner from stuff you have on hand and don’t buy groceries for that night in your menu plan – $15 each meal, $60/month. Grab “The Art Of The Pantry” cookbook for pantry recipe ideas!
- Home Made Pizza – Twice a Month don’t order pizza and make homemade pizza – $15 savings, $30/month. With this cookbook on the making of pizza combined with a great pizza pan, you might prefer homemade pizza over takeout going forward!
- Use Grocery/Household Good Coupons with a goal of saving $10/week, $40 a month. New to Coupons? Try “The Beginner’s Guide to Couponing” book.
- Online Groceries – I save at least $10 a week not walking into the grocery store. No impulse purchases! I still pick them up at the store, so it’s free to order them online! Estimated savings = $10/week, $40/month
- Menu Plan Around Sales – Make your menu plan around the products on sale instead of menu planning and shopping for ingredients for whatever you wanted. Spend a little time planning and save big. Estimated savings $10/week, $40 a month
- Use online rebates when you shop. I use Rakuten (Formally Ebates). If I need to order anything, I’ll look at the Rakuten website to see where they have rebates available for each day. Most of the time you can get 1-6% cashback at a lot of different stores. They send you money quarterly, and I usually end up with a $25-$35 rebate. That’s quarterly, so let’s estimate that this saves us $10 a month. I’ve heard people rave about Ibotta, but I’ve not tried it yet.
- Pack Your Lunch – Twice a week, take your lunch to work with you and don’t hit a drive-through. That’s likely at least $5 per lunch, so $10 a week. That’s $40 a month! And it’s WAY better for you!
- Bottled Water – Don’t buy it. It’s bad for the environment. Just get a reusable water bottle and save yourself at least $5 a week on bottled water. That’s $20 a month!
- Conserve Utilities – Pay closer attention to your daily habits and you could save some serious cash on your electric, water and gas bills. Turn off lights, turn up the thermostat in the summer and down in the winter, even a few degrees. Take a shorter shower, and don’t run the water while doing the dishes. Use cold water in the washing machine. A few conservative efforts like this could easily save you $10 a month on your utility bills.
- Cable – Want an easy bump in your monthly funds? Cut the cable. Or at the very least call and renegotiate your cable rate. We cut the cable and just have a few streaming services. With that move, we save over $30 a month.
- Contract Bills – review your contract bills at least once a year. Check your cell phone, car insurance, home insurance, home phone, and internet to make sure you are getting the best rate. I’m guessing you could save yourself EASILY $15 a month at least with a few simple calls.
|$20 – Coffee Savings
|$60 – Pantry Night Savings
|$30 – Home Made Pizza Night
|$40 – Grocery/Household Good Coupons
|$40 – Online Grocery Pickup
|$40 – Menu Plan Around Sale Items
|$10 – Online Shopping Rebates
|$40 – Pack Your Lunch Twice a week
|$20 – Don’t buy bottled water
|$30 – Cut cable, keep streaming services
|$15 – Contract bill savings
|GRAND TOTAL = $345 a MONTH!!
Don’t look now, but that’s $345 a month. And that’s EASY changes to make. None of those were even remotely painful. Most of these ideas are simple smart money management.
So, see? Here I am saying we don’t have an extra $285 a month. And we don’t. Apparently, we easily have $345 a month! HOLY COW. And these are EASY changes to make! If you got really crafty, you could save WAY more each month!
Wrap Up – Effortless Ways to Save For Your Child’s College Fund
Starting to save for college expenses seems like such an intimidating task. And hopefully, this guide helps you see that it can be an easy step by step process. Go see your financial advisor (and get one if you don’t have one!) and figure out the best way to save for college for your family. And while you are at it, make sure you are on track for all your other life savings and plans, especially retirement. Then use my suggestions to help you squeeze some funds out of your budget each month to put into those new savings accounts. I hope this guide has helped you and your thinking about college savings! As always, just keep shuffling my friends!
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