September is National College Savings Month! As we send young children back to school and participate in homecoming celebrations and class reunions, we inevitably look toward the future. Thinking about the cost of sending your child to college is overwhelming, especially with tuition, fees, and other related expenses on the rise. Not to worry, if you take the time to do a little research and plan ahead, you can score big!
Develop a Game Plan
Getting into a reputable college or university depends on more than a good GPA and resume of extra-curricular activities. A high ACT or SAT score can result in scholarships and merit-based financial aid that is otherwise inaccessible. Prep courses can range from $100-$1,000 depending on the method of study and instructor’s level of experience but offer the potential to boost your child’s score hundreds of points, which may be worth the investment.
Don’t forget to account for the exam fee which can range $45-$60, in addition to any charges for late registration, changes to test date or location and access to post-exam reports. Develop a plan of action to save for these expenses, so you’re prepared when they arise.
Run the Offense
The summer before your child’s senior year is the perfect time to start visiting the colleges and universities they are interested in attending. The average family investigates between two and 15 schools, spending approximately $3,000-$4,000 per school on applications, tests, and of course, the visit.
However, there are ample opportunities to reduce travel costs. Consider a lengthy road trip that takes your family past two or three schools in one trip! If you are part of a reward program, you could leverage points for free flights or hotel rooms. Always pack breakfast bars, light snacks and use reusable water bottles to reduce food expenses!
Purchase the Right Equipment
Avoid repair and replacement fees by buying the best technology you can afford. The cost of a new laptop, cell phone, and other technology like printers, calculators, headphones, and chargers can total a few thousand dollars. Watch for sales all year long and sign up for coupons to ensure you get the best deal possible.
The advent of technology in universities has significantly altered the cost of textbooks and their ability to be resold at discount prices. Textbooks come with codes that grant access to supplementary materials such as workbooks and practice tests. The catch is the code’s expiration at the end of the semester. To ensure your child has the tools they need to excel, a textbook allocation of at least $1,200 is recommended.
Many families invest significant time and money in club sports, marching band, and dance teams throughout a child’s youth, in hopes to have the opportunity to participate at the college level. Membership in these organizations can range from $100-$1,000 per month per child, depending on skill level.
Tackle the Fundamentals
Another important expenditure to plan for is room and board, which can range from $10,000-$13,000. Consider public transportation rather than parking a car on campus to reduce expenses. Selecting the appropriate meal plan will help your child avoid the cost of dining out while building comradery with other students. Options start around $3,000 per year. Encourage your child to bring food storage containers to the cafeteria, so they have snacks or leftovers available for late-night study sessions.
Hit the Concession Stand
Send them off with plenty of water bottles and a great coffee maker could save up to $10 per day! Instead of paying for cable and Wi-Fi in the dorm room, encourage your student to spend more time in the library or common areas where these services are free! Finally, don’t forget to budget about $3,000 for personal items, clothing, and entertainment.
Travel expenses are often overlooked when planning for your child’s college education. Getting to and from school at various times throughout each school year can range from a $75 tank of gas to a $700 plane ticket. Ask your student to carpool with university friends from your hometown or utilize those reward points for their plane ticket.
You’ve successfully created a plan for your child’s college expenses. Well-done! But don’t forget the extra point. SmartyPig, allows you to create individual savings goals and set up automatic deposits. The easy-to-use platform and high-interest rates motivate you to save more so you can achieve your financial goals. Don’t fumble the opportunity to send your child to college worry-free. Start planning and saving now!