COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

Savingforcollege.com

7 money management tips to save more for college
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/7-money-management-tips-to-save-more-for-college-803

Posted: 2015-07-12

by Tyler Bowman

College costs have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the College Board, one year at a public, in-state, four-year institution averages $18,943. For a private, four-year, non-profit school, the number more than doubles, at $42,419. With those figures in mind, it's easy to see how important it is to start saving now for your child's college costs. If you haven't yet begun, or you're looking for ways to boost your saving efforts, the following seven money management tips can help get you off on the right foot.

1. Budget Your Finances - The best way to save more money for college is to begin budgeting your finances. There are several online resources available, including Level, Buxfer, and Mint. Input exact amounts for fixed bills like Internet and cell phone service, and reference your credit card statements for help with variable expenses, such as food and entertainment - many cards categorize your spending for you. Don't forget annual expenses like property taxes, and put a line in for college savings even if you aren't currently setting anything aside.

2. Lower Monthly Bills - Next, work on lowering your monthly bills. Adjust your thermostat both in the summer and winter (your goal should be 78 and 68 degrees respectively), and make sure your ceiling fans rotate in the proper direction - counterclockwise in the warmer months and clockwise when the cold sets in. Call your smartphone provider and ask for a usage breakdown for the past three months. If there's a cheaper plan available that still meets your communication needs, switch to it. Think about dropping your home telephone line, as well - you may find you don't need it.

3. Reduce Personal Spending - Even if college is a long way off for your kids, you won't be saving for it forever. In the interim, though, curtailing your personal spending can be a big help. If your wardrobe covers all your needs, don't feel you have to snag a trendy new outfit. And, just because the new Samsung Galaxy hit the market doesn't mean you have to buy it. If your current electronics are functioning well, hold onto them and leave that money in your wallet.

4. Pay Down Credit Card Debts - If you've got credit card debts, they're going to have a serious impact on your ability to save for college. To get rid of them, total your balances up and choose a pay-down plan. The "debt snowball" method involves paying off the smallest debts first, while the "debt avalanche" approach centers on the cards with the highest interest rates. Use the former if you think the motivational boost of crossing debts off your list can help, and the latter if you simply want to save as much money as possible.

Choose a monthly amount to send in based on your budget surplus, and set short- and long-term goals. For example, if you're $6,000 in debt and can afford a $200 monthly payment, that equates to a 30-month long-term goal. Each time you knock $1,000 off your balances, pat yourself on the back with a ballgame or a meal at a nice restaurant, which can help keep you motivated to stay on track.

5. Cut Food Costs - Clip coupons from your Sunday paper and organize them by food category rather than expiration date. That way you won't be tempted to use one just because it's expiring. And, only look for deals on foods your household currently consumes - otherwise you're spending money instead of saving it. Like to eat out at restaurants? Replace one or two trips per month with family cook-in nights. If you purchase all the ingredients for pizza or lasagna, the whole family can participate in putting it together. Cook in bulk and freeze the leftovers to cut down on the time you have to spend in the kitchen.

6. Refinance Your Home Loan - If you're currently paying 6% in interest or more on your home loan, you can save thousands of dollars by refinancing. Interest rates are in the 4% range for 30-year fixed loans and in the 3% range for 15-year fixed. If you reduce your monthly payment by $200, that's $2,400 more per year you can set aside for college costs. Use the website Zillow to find at least three qualified mortgage professionals in your area and get quotes from each - interest rates and closing costs do vary from bank to bank.

7. Use a 529 Plan - A 529 plan is a great tool to maximize your college savings. Generally, there are minimal opening deposit requirements, if any, and maximum contribution amounts tend to be very high. Many states allow you to deduct your contributions on your tax return - and even if your state doesn't feature a plan, you can get involved in a 529 from another state, no matter where you live. Earnings are not subject to federal tax and withdrawals are also tax-free, as long as they're used for qualified education expenses.

As a parent, you might be wondering how you can set aside all this cash and save for your own retirement at the same time. It's certainly a valid concern. However, if you get serious about managing your money better and making smart spending decisions, it's more than possible to do both simultaneously. I was pretty far behind my retirement savings goal when I had my first child several years back, but by employing the above tips I am now on track for a financially stable retirement along with a fully funded education for my kid. Get going on this today and you can be too.

Do you know of any other money management tips to save more for college?


About the author:

Tyler Bowman writes about strategies to save more money and invest for education and retirement.


College costs have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the College Board, one year at a public, in-state, four-year institution averages $18,943. For a private, four-year, non-profit school, the number more than doubles, at $42,419. With those figures in mind, it's easy to see how important it is to start saving now for your child's college costs. If you haven't yet begun, or you're looking for ways to boost your saving efforts, the following seven money management tips can help get you off on the right foot.

1. Budget Your Finances - The best way to save more money for college is to begin budgeting your finances. There are several online resources available, including Level, Buxfer, and Mint. Input exact amounts for fixed bills like Internet and cell phone service, and reference your credit card statements for help with variable expenses, such as food and entertainment - many cards categorize your spending for you. Don't forget annual expenses like property taxes, and put a line in for college savings even if you aren't currently setting anything aside.

2. Lower Monthly Bills - Next, work on lowering your monthly bills. Adjust your thermostat both in the summer and winter (your goal should be 78 and 68 degrees respectively), and make sure your ceiling fans rotate in the proper direction - counterclockwise in the warmer months and clockwise when the cold sets in. Call your smartphone provider and ask for a usage breakdown for the past three months. If there's a cheaper plan available that still meets your communication needs, switch to it. Think about dropping your home telephone line, as well - you may find you don't need it.

3. Reduce Personal Spending - Even if college is a long way off for your kids, you won't be saving for it forever. In the interim, though, curtailing your personal spending can be a big help. If your wardrobe covers all your needs, don't feel you have to snag a trendy new outfit. And, just because the new Samsung Galaxy hit the market doesn't mean you have to buy it. If your current electronics are functioning well, hold onto them and leave that money in your wallet.

4. Pay Down Credit Card Debts - If you've got credit card debts, they're going to have a serious impact on your ability to save for college. To get rid of them, total your balances up and choose a pay-down plan. The "debt snowball" method involves paying off the smallest debts first, while the "debt avalanche" approach centers on the cards with the highest interest rates. Use the former if you think the motivational boost of crossing debts off your list can help, and the latter if you simply want to save as much money as possible.

Choose a monthly amount to send in based on your budget surplus, and set short- and long-term goals. For example, if you're $6,000 in debt and can afford a $200 monthly payment, that equates to a 30-month long-term goal. Each time you knock $1,000 off your balances, pat yourself on the back with a ballgame or a meal at a nice restaurant, which can help keep you motivated to stay on track.

5. Cut Food Costs - Clip coupons from your Sunday paper and organize them by food category rather than expiration date. That way you won't be tempted to use one just because it's expiring. And, only look for deals on foods your household currently consumes - otherwise you're spending money instead of saving it. Like to eat out at restaurants? Replace one or two trips per month with family cook-in nights. If you purchase all the ingredients for pizza or lasagna, the whole family can participate in putting it together. Cook in bulk and freeze the leftovers to cut down on the time you have to spend in the kitchen.

6. Refinance Your Home Loan - If you're currently paying 6% in interest or more on your home loan, you can save thousands of dollars by refinancing. Interest rates are in the 4% range for 30-year fixed loans and in the 3% range for 15-year fixed. If you reduce your monthly payment by $200, that's $2,400 more per year you can set aside for college costs. Use the website Zillow to find at least three qualified mortgage professionals in your area and get quotes from each - interest rates and closing costs do vary from bank to bank.

7. Use a 529 Plan - A 529 plan is a great tool to maximize your college savings. Generally, there are minimal opening deposit requirements, if any, and maximum contribution amounts tend to be very high. Many states allow you to deduct your contributions on your tax return - and even if your state doesn't feature a plan, you can get involved in a 529 from another state, no matter where you live. Earnings are not subject to federal tax and withdrawals are also tax-free, as long as they're used for qualified education expenses.

As a parent, you might be wondering how you can set aside all this cash and save for your own retirement at the same time. It's certainly a valid concern. However, if you get serious about managing your money better and making smart spending decisions, it's more than possible to do both simultaneously. I was pretty far behind my retirement savings goal when I had my first child several years back, but by employing the above tips I am now on track for a financially stable retirement along with a fully funded education for my kid. Get going on this today and you can be too.

Do you know of any other money management tips to save more for college?


About the author:

Tyler Bowman writes about strategies to save more money and invest for education and retirement.


 

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