Many of us have faced or will soon be facing the point in time when our children are graduating from high school and are headed to college. Often, we just seem to think the costs of college will be something we will deal with when we get there. That is definitely the wrong way to go about planning for college. We want to give our children the best possible start in life and one way to do that is to plan and save for their college education. They may not realize how fortunate they will be if they can graduate with a degree and without debt.
How should you start a college saving’s plan?
Tip #1: Start saving today! Try to find a few dollars here and there in the budget that can be designated for an education fund. Even if it is just a few dollars a week, try to make it happen. Once you get into the habit of putting aside that money each week, you will see that it isn’t as difficult as you may have imagined.
Tip #2: Set up a separate account for college savings. Make it specifically for college costs and don’t touch it unless it is absolutely necessary!
Tip #3: Don’t make the mistake of thinking your child will get a full ride. We all think or at least hope that our children will earn a scholarship to cover the cost of their education, but most scholarships will not cover all costs. Some scholarships cover the cost of tuition and nothing else. Other scholarships cover room and board but not tuition and books. Believe me when I say that I am speaking from experience here. We have a junior in high school so we are currently searching for scholarships. They are difficult to find and to earn.
Tip #4: Use those tax refunds to help fund the education fund. We often want to spend our tax refunds frivolously but take the opportunity to use if wisely. An investment in your child’s future will mean so much more than just unwisely using the money. Be intentional with it.
Tip #5: Talk with your relatives and let them know you have set up a college education fund. They may want to help contribute or may choose to give gifts of money instead of toys or items that children may never even use.
Tip #6: Have the college discussion with your children before their senior year of high school. Begin talking about college options with your children no later than middle school. They need to be aware of how important grades are and that you expect them to do their best and keep their grades up throughout high school and middle school. College saving should be something that everyone is in on and your children will be more likely to understand the consequences of doing well in school if you have that open discussion with them. Make your children aware that you want to help them but they need to help you, too.
Remember to stay focused and determined throughout this process. Work to give your child the gift of a debt-free education. The ability to avoid student loan debt will be well worth your time and effort!