10 Easy Ways to Save Money for Your Child’s 529 College Fund
This post is part of a campaign sponsored by Scholarshare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan. It’s the second in a series of four posts during College Savings Month. Check back each week to read the rest!
Saving for College can seem like an overwhelming task, especially with some colleges and universities charging tens of thousands of dollars per year in tuition. The way to make it manageable is to break it into small chunks over the long haul.
Last week we posted about taking the College Savings Pledge, and promising yourself to save even a little bit each month in a 529 Plan like Scholarshare. Because if you take it step by step, and break it down into an easy plan that your whole family can get on board with, you’ll be able to add money to that fund and watch it grow.
If you haven’t taken the Pledge yourself, click over and do it for sure, because Scholarshare is giving away $500 in College Savings to five winners this week – and each week in September – as part of their annual Sweepstakes.
Ten Easy Ways to Save Money
So, now that you’ve promised yourself to save money, here are a few tips on how to do it:
1. Stream and Save
Ticket prices at the movie theater can range from $10 to $20 each, so taking a family of four to the movies could easily cost $50 – $80, not including popcorn! Contrast that with a streaming service like Netflix, which costs $12/month for the deluxe package, and which lets you watch way more than one movie, not to mention all the great TV shows you can stream as well. That’s a savings of at least $38 – and it’s an easy choice to make to save for your child’s college costs.
2. Thrift Store Living
Why buy retail when you can buy great things on the second hand market? New clothes, depending on which are your favorite stores at the Mall, can be quite expensive, and many people spend quite a bit on their wardrobe. I happen to love my local Thrift store, and I often find clothes there that still have the tags on. That means I can save 50-90% off retail prices, and not just on clothes: I have bought purses and loads of costume jewelry at Thrift stores, and I’ve never paid over $15 for any of them. Bonus: some of the Thrift Store items I find are very unique, which means I’m not going to see the same blouse on another Mom at my kids’ Back to School nights.
3. Trader Joe’s to the (Foodie) Rescue
Trader Joe’s is a terrific way to save money and still be a gourmet. Instead of a meal out at a restaurant, which for my family of four could easily cost over $100 (especially if mom has a glass of wine, ahem), I can cook a meal at home with ingredients from TJs that taste like we went out, at a fraction of the cost.
4. Club Store Savings
Of course there are ways to save big money on the basics at stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. If you’ve got the space to store items in bulk, you can really go to town on the savings. When my kids were wearing diapers, Costco prices couldn’t be beat, and we came home with many a giant box. The club membership can also save you money on food, especially staples, and on filling up the gas tank, too.
Far be it from me to ask anybody give up their Triple Venti Soy Lattés, but consider this: if you skipped one or two per week, depending on your caffeine needs, you’d be saving at least $5, which really adds up over the course of a year. Switching to brewed coffee at Starbucks, or even making your own at home, could mean even bigger savings.
6. Personal Grooming – Hair Color
There are so many ways to save when it comes to personal grooming, because the cost of maintaining one’s Look is outrageously expensive. But do not fear that I’m going to suggest you Go Native. On the contrary, I prefer my grays covered , so all I want to do is help you save money while doing it. Prices at salons can vary from $50-$150 (or more), depending on whether you’re doing roots or highlights, or if you visit a celebrity salon. Please note that many of my close friends are hair stylists, so I’m not suggesting we abandon them altogether, but giving up even one color at the salon every three months to do it yourself at home can save you big time. My preferred box costs $8, which means I’m saving $42 minimum, multiplied by 4 quarters, is $168. Not a bad amount to add to my sons’ college savings for the year. And my friends still keep their jobs.
7. Personal Grooming – Nails
I love getting a mani-pedi and consider it to be about the cheapest pampering treat I can give myself, but even that cost can be trimmed. With manicures costing $15 and pedicures $20-$25, it can add up to a pricey afternoon, especially for something that is bound to chip off in a few days. Enter the Polish Change: my local nail spots will change the color for $5, which is a huge savings – and bonus: it takes only a fraction of the time.
8. Moms Night In
I love my friends, and I love having a night out with them, enjoying a glass of wine (or two), some delicious food and a lot of laughs. But it usually costs me about $75, because we inevitably choose a fabulous restaurant and order expensive food & drinks. Those kind of nights are really great, but we’re talking about prioritizing savings here. The truth is that being with the gals is my favorite part of the whole experience, so what about having the same fun but having it at one of our houses instead? If we each bring an appetizer and a bottle of wine, we could spend a lot less money and still have a ball.
9. Shop The Sales
Retail shopping is great, but why pay full price, I say? Stores will help you buy things for less by giving you special coupons and special times to buy. I have a favorite clothing store that regularly gives out a coupon for big savings when you come back and shop again in a few weeks. I took advantage of it recently and basically got a pair of jeans for free when I bought another pair. And supermarkets are famous for their “loss-leaders” when you can get a bargain on whatever they are promoting that week. Taking the time to read the ads and shopping on the “bargain schedule” can save a ton of money.
10. Skip It: Want vs. Need
One of the best ways to save money is to get very clear about Want vs. Need. When you need something for yourself or your family, then you need it and you need to get it. No question. But a lot of things we buy are actually things we want, but could actually live without if we were really honest with ourselves. Remember that when you’re shopping online or when you’re at the Mall: is buying that thing more important than the College savings fund you are building? That kind of evaluation can make all the difference.
Add Those Savings to a Scholarshare 529 College Savings Plan
Now that you’ve got some new ideas about how to save money, we hope you’ll give some of them a try. Or if you’ve got a tip or two of your own you’d like to share with us, leave a comment below or let us know on Facebook.
But however you save money, don’t forget the key step in building a College Savings fund: put the money you save in a 529 Plan. Once funds are placed in the account, investment earnings, if any, are not federally or state taxed, if withdrawn to pay for qualified higher education expenses. Scholarshare, California’s 529 College Savings Plan, is a terrific way to build up a fund for your children’s College expenses, and we hope you’ll join us in taking the College Savings Pledge this month.
Check out the other posts in the series:
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder of MomsLA.com She is a Scholarshare customer and has been since 2001. MomsLA, LLC co-Founders Yvonne Condes and Sarah Auerswald, and their immediate family members, are not eligible to win prizes in the Scholarshare 529 sweepstakes. This post is part of a sponsored campaign. It’s the second in a series. Check back each week this month to read more!