How to Save More Money for College

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

August 25, 2020

Saving for college can be a challenge, but there are many ways you can easily increase the amount you are saving for college. Whether you don’t have enough money to save for college and haven’t even started yet, or you just want to see your college savings grow faster, here are several ways you can save more for college. 

Check out these simple ways to save more money for college.

First step, Maximize Your College Savings.

Maximize Your College Savings

Maximize Your College Savings   

Maximize Your College Savings

Compare college savings options to see which is right for you. There are several options when it comes to ways you can save for college, including:

Each type of account offers pros and cons, so compare each to see which is right for you. Learn more about each option and their benefits and drawbacks.

If you’re opting for a 529 plan, compare plans. More than 30 states offer a state tax benefit for contributing to a 529 college savings plan. Learn what your state offers to residents who contribute to a 529 plan. Besides tax benefits, you’ll also want to compare any fees, total expenses of the plan, available investment options and how responsive the plan is. ranks the best performing 529 plans to help. 

Next Up: Get Help From Others

Get Help From Others

pile of money

Get family and friends involved. Tell your family and friends to take whatever they were planning on spending on a holiday, birthday or graduation present and give a gift towards college instead. Family and friends can sign up to be a free Upromise member, where they can shop and dine to earn cash back towards your child’s college fund. 

Join CollegeBacker. When you join CollegeBacker, you get a customizable gifting page with an easy to remember URL, if your plan is eligible for linking. Friends and family can give a one-time gift or even be added to give recurring contributions. The link can be sent via text, email or social media. 

Get 529 company match, when available. More and more companies are beginning to offer a match contribution for employees that contribute to a 529 plan. Ask your human resource department if this is an available benefit. 

Next Up: Grow Your Savings in Simple Ways

Grow Your Savings in Simple Ways

Person using a smart phone

Shop through Upromise. When you sign up for Upromise, you have access to their shopping portal. Shopping through their links allow you to earn cash back on everyday purchases. Percentages vary by store and may change.

Shop through CollegeBacker. Similar to Upromise, CollegeBacker has a Backer Bucks program. Simply shop online or on the mobile app and earn a portion of your purchase towards your college savings. Popular brands include Ace Hardware, TurboTax, Party City and Walmart. New partners will be added every month. 

Take advantage of promotions. Plans often offer sign-up bonuses or promotions, especially during May for 5/29 day and September for College Savings Month. 

Use a cash rewards credit card linked to a 529 account. Cash back credit cards let you earn a percentage of your purchases back to you in cash. For college savers, there are a handful of credit cards that allow you to direct these cash back rewards directly to a 529 college savings account. These cards include: 

  • Upromise Mastercard
  • Fidelity Rewards Visa
  • College Counts 529 Rewards Visa
  • Bright Directions 529 Rewards Visa

With the Upromise Mastercard, when you link a 529 plan, you earn a 15% bonus on your cash back.

Use any cash back credit card. If these college savings rewards cards aren’t for you, or you already have a cash back credit card, you can use one of the dozens available. As with any credit cards, be sure to pay off the balance in full every month. If you’re paying interest on your purchases, it’s defeating the whole purpose.

Dine with Upromise. If you have a Upromise account, you can link your credit cards to their Dining Program. When you dine at participating restaurants, you can earn a percentage of your purchase towards your college savings plan. 

Explore other cash back rewards. Besides Upromise and CollegeBacker, there are other sites that offer cash back shopping. These may not be directly linked to a 529 plan, but you can still earn cash for college. These include Rakuten, Ibotta, and Groupon. 

Put unexpected cash towards college savings. While it may be not as often as we’d like, there are some instances where we receive money we weren’t expecting – a bonus at work, a gift, rebates from products, an income tax refund, a sign-up bonus for a new service or for referring a friend, winning a contest, and so on. You can put these little windfalls towards your college savings. 

Next Up: Stay on Track

Stay on Track

pile of coins

Automate your contributions. Many plans offer the option to automate contributions. This is a simple way to “set it and forget it” when it comes to paying for college. Even if it’s small, making consistent contributions will add up.

Start early. The earlier the better when it comes to saving for college. The sooner you start, the more time your money will have a chance to grow. College may seem far off, but start now even if it means starting small.

Don’t get discouraged. Is your child already in high-school and you feel it’s “too late” to start saving? Or is your savings not quite where you thought it would be by now? It’s never too late to start saving! Every dollar saved is one less they’ll need to borrow. You don’t need to necessarily pay for every penny of college costs to make a significant difference. 

Keep your eye on the prize. Remember why you are saving for college and what your motivation is for this. Have clear goals – monthly, yearly and big picture.  

Cut college costs. As you are saving to pay for college, don’t disregard familiarizing yourself with ways to reduce the cost of college. When your children are in junior high, you can already start discussing applying for scholarships and choosing an affordable school. When they are in high school, start learning about the FAFSA – the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – which can provide grants (free money for college) and opportunities to participate in a work-study program. 

Trim Your Budget. Analyze your spending to see where you can find additional money for college saving. Use less water to reduce your water bill, and turn off lights and other electronics when you’re not using them. When it comes to grocery shopping, stick to a list. Shop what’s on sale, skip convenience items, and buy in bulk for items you use often. Reduce dining and ordering out and cook at home instead. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use, and compare current rates for internet. Use coupons or promo codes whenever you can. 

Earn More Money. If you aren’t saving for college because you don’t have enough money, explore possibilities that can increase your income. Sell items you don’t use anymore for extra money. Consider freelancing or turning your hobby into a side gig for cash.

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At, 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.

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