Saving for college is the best way you can reduce student loan debt. But with more than three-quarters of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes saving for college seems out of reach. Regardless of your income, you can help your kids reduce the amount of student loans they will need to borrow. Here’s how:
Get a job working for a college. If you’re in the market for a new job, or are otherwise flexible, look for a role at a college that awards free or discounted tuition to children of employees.
Put nearby colleges on the top of your child’s college list. Living at home during college will save your child thousands of dollars a year. Outside of paying their college costs or scoring an employee discount, this is the most financially beneficial thing you can do.
Stash their holiday presents. If your kids are young and receive money as a gift, sell them and put it in a college savings account. For older kids, encourage them to save part (or ideally all) of their gifts for college.
Ask friends and family to give the Gift of College. When family and friends ask what to get your child for a birthday or holiday, request a Gift of College savings card instead of another toy or store gift card.
Sell your stuff. Get rid of your clutter and boost your college savings at the same time. Our guide for selling your stuff for extra money lists how to save everything from clothes and toys to old electronics.
Use a cash-back credit card. There are so many options when it comes to cash-back rewards for credit cards. There are even credit cards that will link your cash back right to a 529 college savings account. Put any cash you receive into a college fund.
Save any windfalls. Anytime you get an unexpected lump of cash – such as a holiday bonus at work, a gift, an inheritance or a tax refund – save it for college.
Sign up for Upromise. Upromise allows you to sign up for free, shop through their links and get a percentage of your purchase as cash back. You also get cash back from dining. You can even ask your family to register their credit cards to shop through the referral links for more cash back.
Need help creating a budget? Quicken is a budgeting software that allows you to connect your accounts and automatically categorize spending. Create a personalized budget and track and manage your spending.
Use other cash back sites. If a store isn’t on Upromise, shop Rakuten, which also gives you cash back. IBOTTA is an app that gives you cash on specific grocery store purchases, as well as department stores, travel and more.
Be supportive of your kid’s talents. Whether musical, artistic, athletic or academic, helping their talents flourish could increase their chances of winning a scholarship. Depth matters more than breadth. Help them be excellent.
Help them apply for scholarships. Once that time has come, encourage and assist your child in their scholarship search.
Research affordable colleges. There are colleges that offer free tuition. In-state public colleges are going to be more affordable than out-of-state and private colleges. Talk to your children about the benefits of community college for the first two years.
Encourage your children to take AP classes. If your child successfully completes an Advanced Placement (AP) course in high school, this could count as college credits, thus saving money.
Fill out the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your child’s ticket to grants and scholarships, which are free money, as well as federal student loans, which come with better benefits than private loans. It’s also how they can be approved for federal work study.
Suggest saving money from employment in high-school. Help your kids find a part-time job or partake in gigs for cash, such as walking dogs, tutoring or babysitting.
Have the student loan talk. There are many things your kids should know about student loans. Explain how student loans work, and stress that they need to stick to a strict budget in school to avoid borrowing too much.
Consider cosigning their loans. If they are taking out private student loans, cosigning could help them secure a better interest rate. Most experts will tell you to be sure to opt for federal loans before private loans, since they come with benefits including, income-driven repayment plans, deferment options, and potential for forgiveness. Keep in mind there are risks and questions you should ask before cosigning.
At Savingforcollege.com, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.