Want to know how to start saving for college? Here’s how to easily start saving for college thanks to my Your Sunny Day partner SunTrust Bank. #MySunnyDay
Last week we celebrated Blake’s first birthday, which of course was so exciting! As Craig and I were discussing what to give our little guy for his first birthday there were a bunch of things I had in mind. An aesthetically pleasing shape sorter, a very cute pull toy and even a jelly bean ride on toy. The most important gift however was one you won’t find sitting on the shelves of a toy store. It was a college savings fund.
Graduation is meant to be a time of extreme excitement and celebration but that sunny day you always dreamed of can feel pretty cloudy if it’s overshadowed by worry, stress and debt. It’s not that I expect to send our kids off to college with every cent already put aside for their entire education, but I also don’t want to see them experience the crushing amounts of student debt you hear about. So as someone who is not a financial expert but just another parent who wants the best for their kids here are my tips to make saving for college easy. At the end I’ll show you how this has worked for us so far. Hint, it’s REALLY worked!
If you ignore everything else you read here, totally fine! But if there is one thing I can say about saving for college it’s JUST START. Don’t let the articles about the rising costs of college, or hearing that some friend has saved some massive amount you feel you can never possible achieve deter you. If you open a college savings account with the minimum deposit required you’re putting yourself ahead of the game by at least putting yourself IN the game.
Starting while your child is young gives you the gift of compound interest. Which is kind of like the amazing opposite of credit card debt. You know how if you don’t pay a credit card balance it accrues interest and increases the balance you owe in a vicious cycle? Compound interest in college savings works the exact same way except this time you’re SAVING more and more as that balance increases. Go you! So start. Now. Soon. Early. If your kids are older, don’t kick yourself and feel defeated, just start now!
Calculate And Breathe.
Once you’ve gotten yourself in the mindset of YES! We’re doing this! You’ll want to figure out about how much you want to put aside each month. Here is where a college savings calculator is incredibly helpful. I’m good with numbers and I’m fairly certain trying to figure out how much to save without one of these calculators would make my head explode.
Now, once you’ve plugged in those numbers and that calculator has helped you figure out how much you need to save each month take a minute and breathe. Here is where I think a lot of people freak out and miss out. There is a good chance that the monthly amount you calculated that you need to save feels sizeable and intimidating if you’re trying to save for a four year college education in full. Here is where you need to remind yourself that if that monthly number is out of reach that is totally okay. But don’t let it be an excuse to close out the window, wave your white flag and walk away.
Instead, do this. Take that number and divide it in half, into quarters or whatever you feel you can stomach and write that number down. Okay? Ready for the next step?
Make It Painless.
If you’re not doing the backstroke in a pool of money then putting money aside each month can be tough. So the key is to make it painless and not rely on you making a conscious effort to do so each month. Here is where technology is great. Let automatic transfers work for you. Remember the number you wrote down that felt doable? Take that number and setup a recurring automatic transfer each month for that amount. The money will go straight from your checking account into this college savings account.
Now whip out the smart phone, calendar or whatever you use to ensure you don’t miss important dates and set yourself three alerts to “Check college fund payment.” Set one for three months out, one for six months out and one for a year out.
Grow As You Go.
Hopefully you won’t be feeling the pain of that money magically making its way into your college savings fund those first three months. If it hasn’t really affected you then that’s a great sign!
When those alerts go off it’s time to asses the state of your budget and if you think you can increase the amount of your automatic transfer. This doesn’t have to be some long drawn out process. If you’re not feeling squeezed by your current automatic transfer amount, you should increase it a bit at three months. Repeat this process at six months and twelve months. If the number you initially calculated to save had felt out of reach odds are you’re making your way closer to it. Which is cause for celebration…
Celebrate and Repeat.
Yes, you get to do a happy dance! Treat yourself to an ice cream cone, a pedicure, a trip to the bathroom without someone crying or clawing at the door (who am I kidding! That will happen when these kids are finally IN college) In all seriousness though, you deserve a little celebration. By starting your college savings you’ve just given your child an amazing gift.
From now on consider checking in every six months to a year to see if you are able to continue to bump up that amount you are contributing monthly.
The reason I feel pretty passionate about this is that Kayla who is six was born in 2009. AKA the (almost) end of the world. Times were beyond scary watching companies that seemed too big to fail do just that. We started a college fund for Kayla however small it was to begin with and increased as we could over time. Even when times were tough we kept contributing. In fact, we’re probably due for another increase so this is a reminder to me as well! I recently took at a look at what we’ve managed to save for Kayla and that number is over $30,000. $30,000 that will be added to each month and continue to accrue interest over all of the years left before she graduates.
At six she officially has more money saved for college than I EVER had at 18. And that is something to celebrate. Craig and I could have easily not started that college savings account and been at zero today. But we did it and now OMG it feels good! So now we’re doing the same for Blake. Well actually as it turns out Craig started it months ago while I was still in a newborn haze. It turns out that our present to Blake on his first birthday is a sweet toy drum and that he already has a couple thousand dollars saved.
Want to save these tips on how to start saving for college? You can pin the image below and they’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust Bank. The opinions and text are all mine. #MySunnyDay
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