Many of us graduate from college with student loan debt. In fact, the graduating class of 2011 had an average of $26,600 in student loan debt (Christian Science Monitor). That number increases when students go on to earn graduate degrees. I have both a bachelor’s and master’s, and 12 years after I graduated with my master’s, I am finally a year away from paying off all of my loans.
Scholarships and grants are increasingly competitive. As many young people struggle to pay off their student loan debt, they may resolve to save money for their children’s education so their kids won’t have to be saddled with student loan debt for years as they themselves have been. My husband and I are already planning ways our children can avoid the burden of student loans and enter their adult years financially unencumbered.
If you would like to save for the ever rising cost of college, there are things you can do even if you don’t feel you have extra money. Consider the following:
1. Live in a home just big enough to meet your needs. Do you “need” the 2,500 square foot house, or would a 1,500 square foot house suffice? If you limit the size of the house that you buy, you will save not only on the purchase price, but also on utilities, property taxes and maintenance and upkeep, not to mention furnishings. Add up these costs year after year while your children are young and living with you, and the amount you save could give you money to put in a college fund for your children.
2. Drive a reliable car until it dies. We all have priorities, and if your priority is to help your children pay for their college education, you may not have money to buy a fancy car or to trade up your car every few years. You will save the most money by buying a reliable used car and keeping that car until it dies. Over 18 years, you could save a substantial sum.
3. Make delicious meals at home. Americans love to eat out. In fact, CBS News reported that “at least one quarter of American adults eat fast food everyday.” If a person typically spends $6 on fast food every day, that is $30 a week and $1,560 a year, just in weekday lunches. If you invested $1,560 in your child’s college fund from birth to age 18, you would have $28,080 in principal alone, not even including interest! I am not saying you should never go to a restaurant, but make going out to eat a treat. Learn how to make delicious meals at home. You may be surprised to find that over time you prefer home cooked meals.
4. Curb your travel expenses. Are there ways you can cut your travel costs? If you have several children, would it be cheaper to drive instead of flying? Could you camp or look into a vacation rental by owner rather than paying for a hotel every night? Could you pack some of your food instead of eating out for every meal? Do you or your spouse have to travel for a conference? If so, why not bring the family along for a vacation since the one who is attending the conference will already have his or her travel costs covered?
I am not saying life has to be dull and boring if you are trying to save for your child’s education and don’t have a lot of extra money. However, with some lifestyle changes, you may be surprised that you can find the money to save at least enough money to partially pay for your child’s education.
What is your favorite way to cut expenses to save for college?