college piggy bank

By Michelle P Sharrow, MBA

In this economy it’s hard juggling retirement savings, college savings, and everyday living.  Yet, time flies and the kids grow; naturally moving families closer to high school graduation and college.  While most families may not be able to afford to send their children to college without accumulating student loans, there are a few, painless steps that you can take now that will make a difference later.  Don’t hesitate because you think that you won’t amass as much money as your children will need.  According to The College Board, the yearly costs of books and supplies in 2013 is $1,200.  Four years at that rate is close to $5,000.  With help from sites like Upromise, and Ebates, you can save at least that much and more.  Further, get creative and consider creating your own round up savings program.

Upromise
Upromise has been around for many years and is an excellent means for accruing money for college while you shop, in store or online, or dine out.  Setting up an account is free, and all you need to do is register your store rewards cards and credit cards on the site, which is secure, to start earning money for college.  Upromise allows you to invest your earnings in a high-yield savings account or tax-deferred 529 plan; use it to pay down a student loan; or request a check that can be used for college or other expenses.  There are so many options.

Ebates
Ebates is a well-known cash back site.  When you are ready to make a purchase online, simply visit Ebates, sign in, select the retailer, and proceed with your transaction.  Cash back rewards are available from over 1,600 online stores.  Every few months Ebates will send you a payment via PayPal, or check, or you can have it donated to a charity, organization, or person.  If you opt for a check, the only thing that you’ll need to do is deposit the funds into a savings account for your children, or mail in an extra contribution to a college savings plan.

Your Own Round up Savings Plan
Let’s get creative with college savings.  Bank of America started the round up program years ago, which allows you to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar. Then they transfer the additional amount to your savings account.  Many grocery and retail stores have followed suit by asking you if you want to round up your purchase to donate to charities and other nonprofit organizations.  And, many of us say yes without blinking.  Well, why not create your own round up plan?  Collect your receipts and at the end of each week, round up each purchase to the nearest dollar, and place that extra money in your kids” savings accounts.

There are many ways to increase your contributions to your kids” college funds.  Sites like Upromise and Ebates make it easy for you to save without requiring you to change your daily habits.  You can also create your own method of saving with minimal effort.  Don’t hesitate because you think it’s impossible to save as much money as your children will need.  Even if you only save a few thousand dollars that can at least cover books, supplies, and food.  

Michelle Sharrow

Michelle Sharrow

Michelle P. Sharrow, MBA is a seasoned freelance writer specializing in personal finance. Based in Waldorf, Maryland, she holds a Masters Degree with a concentration in Finance. Michelle provides a monthly column on ways to help families maintain their finances and stick to a budget titled, Budgeting and Savings for Families.

More Family Finance:

http://extension.usu.edu/utah/htm/family-finance

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/healthy-families/family-finances

http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Money/Personal-Finance.shtml
Michelle Sharrow

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