The college years can put a strain on any parent’s pocketbook, but you’d be surprised how a few simple changes can help you build nickels and dimes into college-cash dollars.
Being Nickeled and Dimed. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say they’re being “nickeled and dimed to death.” A lot of people tend to overlook the nickels and dimes that fly out of their wallets on a daily basis; and you might be surprised to learn just how much your daily coffee fixes add up to be each year. (Hint: one $3 coffee x 5 days a week x 52 weeks = $780 a year). In fact, the cost of coffee has coined the term “the Latte Effect,” meaning the draining effect that little purchases and fees have on your spendable cash.
Take Back Your Lunch Money. Many parents worry that covering the cost of college will mean huge lifestyle changes-pulling out a lot of savings, giving up a long-dreamed-of retirement, or racking up more debt-but you can actually keep quite a bit of what becomes “lost money” in your wallet. Simple changes can free up more cash – you just need to figure out what frivolous expenses you can slim down. Going out to lunch every day? Brown bag it once a week and you could save another $500 or so (more if you spend more than $10 a day on lunch). After all, making little changes now beats giving up a year of retirement!
Reap Your Cash Rewards. If you use credit cards for everyday expenses, why not find a good credit card with a cash back reward? If you’re inclined to use it and pay off the balance each month, look for a card that has no annual fee, and offers a cash back of at least 1% (but more than 1% is ideal). Jay White over at the “Dumb Little Man” blog wrote a really helpful article about how to get the most out of your credit card rewards.
Use Coupons and Shop Weekly Specials. Grocery stores typically rotate categories of items they put on sale each week. Stock up on the items that go on sale, especially when you can save 20% or more. Coupons found in the newspaper or circulars can many times give you the chance to purchase items at half price or less. Some markets even offer double coupons which can result in you getting items for free! I have found that our family saves over $150 per month on our grocery bill by paying attention to what things have a coupon or are on sale at any given time.
Bury that Treasure. Now that you’ve saved money on things you buy and built up your rewards points, don’t give in to the temptation to spend it! Accumulate the dollars and cents you’ve saved by setting up an automatic monthly savings plan you earmark for college and let it compound with earnings!
All the best,