How to Start Saving For College: Tips to Staying On Track With Your Goals and Budget

Quality education is one of the best investments since it has spectacular returns. However, the minimal investment required for a respectable degree is often as high as a small mortgage. The effort is easier for wealthy families but also doable otherwise.  In this guest post, Kayla Montgomery shares her tips for college saving. 

As for my tip: consider getting a quality degree not in the US, but in Europe or Israel. The education is equally good, but significantly cheaper. However you might get less effective alumni organizations.


Many of us are going through the ways of school just looking up to the big milestone of reaching college. Even though there are many different stigmas around college, good and bad, it comes with a hefty price tag. It seems the majority of us have gone to college, would like to go to college, or know a few people that have continued to further their education. 

Whether you’re amongst the crowd that would like to attend college or have kids you’d like to attend college, you may be thinking starting to consider the upfront costs that could hinder your educational journey. As you go throughout life, there are a few things that could help prepare you for this opportunity when the time comes. Keep reading to check out our go-to tips to make this college experience worth every penny (and work hard towards it). 

When to start saving for college

Realistically speaking, you would like to start saving as soon as you can. Depending on the college of your choice, it could cost you a few thousand dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to attend school. Not only that but depending on your degree, you may have to spend extra to stay in school the whole duration for your dream career. 

For instance, some degrees only take two years (commonly known as an associate’s degree), others can take up to 8+ years to master (commonly known as your PhD). Sit down and figure out what you, or your loved one, may have in mind as a profession and base your savings goals on that. Whether things change down the line, you may have already started to save more than you may need for any future decision changes.  

How much should you save?

Now, this is normally different depending on the degree of choice, college of choice, and living situations that could change your monthly expenses. The average yearly cost of in-state tuition is roughly $21,950, which means you should be contributing about $4,900 a year for 18 years. Of course, this doesn’t account for any additional costs similar to textbook expenses, living arrangements, groceries, transportation, or anything else. 

If you or your loved ones have hopes to go to an out-of-state college or one that has a higher price tag than the average in-state tuition, this yearly savings may be different. Not to mention, inflation changes that could happen throughout the years, or any other circumstances that could carry out. If you’re saving for your family that may still be rather little, you may not even have an idea of whether they’d like to continue their education, what college they’d like to attend, or how long they may want to attend. Over the years, stay in touch with you and your family’s goals and aspirations to ensure your finances align perfectly. 

Tips on saving for your kids’ college fund

The great part about saving for your kid’s education is the time you have to prepare. Whist you have plenty of time, you may not want to push off contributing to your family’s college fund. Years could flash by in minutes and you could have forgotten about your contributions until it’s a little too late. Start a savings account and consider contributing as soon as you can. Along with that, read our go-to tips to ensure your family can pursue the education of their dreams. 

Get ahead as early as you can

As mentioned previously above, you want to start as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the better your chances of building the perfect college fund for your family. Not to mention, the more interest you could earn on your contributions and the constant relief that there will be money in your college savings account when the time comes. 

The other benefit of starting to save early on is the ability to focus on other investments without a worry. You would have to cut your retirement savings, stock contributions, or any other valuable investments to save for your family’s education in a short period of time. To make this process even easier, set up automatic contributions to be taken out right when you get paid. 

Figure out your long-term goals

Now, sit down with your family to see where your goals may lie. Are your kid(s) wanting to attend an out-of-state or in-state college? Is a community college of interest? Are there any skills they could capitalize on for scholarships leading up to college? Will they need assistance while they’re attending college? The list goes on. 


Start asking these questions as early as you can. Even if your family is rather small, you can start getting an idea of what interests them the most. For instance, if your kid loves basketball and is good at it, keep up with that sport and see if your kid would be interested in following through with that sport in college for financial support. The early you plan for this opportunity, the better. 

Find the right plan for you and your family 

Once you have your goals in sight, research which plans work the best for you. Starting a savings account comes with many different options. You could have a high yield savings account, or a lower-interest earning account that offers more availability. Not to mention, the loan options you could take out once the educational discussion is top of mind. 


On top of that, there are specific college savings options. For instance, the Coverdell Educational Savings Plans and 529 plans can be great options for long-term investments, but so could a high-yield savings plan. Ensure you do your research before setting up payments to ensure you’re able to earn a profit off your long-term (or short-term) college investments. 

Tips to saving later in the game 

Now, you may not have thought about saving until your family is a little later in the game. Say your youngest didn’t want to go to school until their last few years of high school. And, they have high aspirations to attend a very prestigious college out of state — there are still a few different options. Keep reading to see what tips we may have up our sleeve. 

Save at a different bank and account

If you’re one to like spending money on sparkly things, start a savings account outside your normal bank of choice. That way you won’t see your account go up in value, and you may feel less inclined to spend it once it gets to an appealing value. Even though you may be reaching out to a different bank to inquire about a new account, ensure you’re choosing an account that will still earn you high-yields during this short timeframe. 

Once you weigh your options, consider setting up hefty monthly payments. Treat this as a car payment, or rent to ensure you stick to it. If your youngest family members are a year away from college, considering keeping these monthly payments up until graduation. That way there will be money available if needed through the course of their college education. 

Overestimate vs. underestimating

While you start to make contributions to your family’s future, you may want to overestimate. Once the time comes, it may feel more comfortable to have more than enough in your account than falling short of your wished contributions. Plus, over time, tuition costs could decrease or increase. As you and the majority of us cross our fingers for decreases, always estimate for the worst. 

Consider bumping up your monthly contributions anywhere from $50-100. You and your family may be thankful once the time comes and you’re fronting tuition and textbook costs. If your monthly contributions are starting to become a stretch, consider cutting luxurious expenses out of your budget. For instance, your daily take out coffee may not serve you or your family as much as it could your college savings account. 

Get innovative with your spending plan

Similar to your daily coffee, consider properly adjusting your budget for these changes. If you have a budget that can easily support a hefty contribution to a new savings account, that’s great! If not, brainstorm different innovative ways to adjust to this change. How much are you spending on unnecessary purchases? Which purchases mean the most to you? Which are you able to do away with for a while?

Be honest with you and your family’s expenses to allocate what you need to ensure you’ll have the right amount of money for tuition. If you don’t when the time comes, you may be able to take out parental tuition loans to lend a helping hand. As this may cost you more with interest rates, it may be best to practice saving as much, and as soon as you can. 

To ensure you and your family’s goals are aligned, have the tough conversations consistently, and stay up to date with your finances. Once college becomes a hot topic, you’ll be more than prepared for any situation that may come your way. 

Author Bio:

Kayla Montgomery is a digital content marketer who helps Mint create helpful and compelling stories worth sharing. Her background in digital marketing and creative writing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, writing for her own blog, traveling, and exploring all the in’s and out’s Austin, TX has to offer. To learn more, connect with Kayla on LinkedIn at:


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