In an era of economic uncertainty and dramatically increasing college costs, many parents find it necessary to prepare themselves financially for their children’s college education from an early age. Fortunately, there are a number of options that can help families prepare for their children’s education expense. These options include:
(1) 529 Plan. This is an education savings plan operated by the state or an educational institution
(2) Savings Account. Start a savings account at a bank for future college costs. Of course a “piggy bank” for your loose change is also a way to save that can add up over time.
(3) Tell you friends and family. Share the details of your savings plan with friends, family, and loved ones, and encourage them to make deposits if they can, perhaps as a birthday or Christmas gift.
(4) Federal Student Aid Programs. Depending on the situation of your family and parents’ income one can also apply for grants, work-study programs, and federal loans;
(5) Scholarships. One can find many different ways to apply for scholarship opportunities through different universities, county offices, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Now your young fresh-faced child has graduated high school and it is the time to choose the field for their future, and which college to enter.
6. College Budgeting. Whether a new or a returning college student, learning smart money management is an important step towards establishing a solid foundation for the future.
Here are some helpful tips for college budgeting and money management:
- Live like a college student: College students should not live like a graduated one with a job.
- Remind yourself why you are there: College student is there for education, so do not ignore your studies and get into trouble.
- Set a budget for your spending categories, besides tuition and books: Food, rent, entertainment, etc.
- Buy used books: Find used books for a better price at amazon.com or ask around from senior students.
- Hit the happy hour: Find free serving places in time of going out.
- Socialize at dorm/apartments: There is no need to always go out, meet your friends in dorm or in the apartment.
- Use a local bank and debit card: Open a bank account near the campus.
- High interest savings: Choose a high interest saving account.
- Budget your spending money for entire semester: At the beginning of the semester, figure out what you have available for spending money each week, and stick to it.
- Consider a part-time job: Regarding your class schedule, find a suitable part-time job.
- Learn to cook: To avoid eating out, learn how to cook, it is healthier and cheaper.
- Used furniture: Find garage sales to furnish your apartment or hand-me-downs.
- Shop at Goodwill: Find local places for your clothing needs.
- Manage your student loans carefully: Do not over borrow and as previously mentioned, save it in a high interest savings account.
- Do not try to keep up with the big spenders: Do not act like your friends, whose parents wine and dine with the likes of Donald Trump or the Hiltons.
- Do not use credit cards: Do not sign-up for unnecessary things and use credit cards.
- Take advantage of free or cheap activities: Participate in free student activities.
- Avoid ATM fees: Use cash or debit cards.
- Get on a campus meal plan: If it is free, take it. It is cheaper than eating out.
- Do not use or bring a car to school — instead use a bicycle: If you are close to the campus instead of using car, use bicycle and/or skateboard it is cheaper.
- Apply for scholarships and grants: Always apply for them, you never know what you may get.
- Live close to campus: The closer you live to campus, the less you will need to drive.
- Get roommates: Share the room and expenses with others.
- Take advantage of student discounts: Look for the places that give student discounts. There are numerous places.
If your child is still a few years away from college, remember that time is your friend, and preparation is your ally. Take a few moments to sit down and evaluate your unique situation and particular needs. Determine what you will need to do to reach your goals and write out a plan of action that can serve as your blueprint for college savings in the years to come.