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Six savings tips to boost your college savings

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Setting aside money for your children’s higher education can seem daunting. With all of the statistics tracking and projecting tuition growth, there are enough numbers flying around to make your head spin. While it might seem scary, getting out in front of the high cost of college expenses is the best way to be prepared and secure peace of mind. Whether you’re thinking about starting to save or you’ve been saving for years, consider these tips to boost your savings.

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1. Get a piggy bank
No, seriously. Okay, maybe a change jar or something if you’re worried that a piggy bank might damage that tough guy image you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. It might sound silly but if you’re in the habit of paying in cash you’d be surprised to find out just how much change is destined to end up in your couch or under the beaded seat cover in your car. If you throw that pocket change in the jar every time you walk in the door you may end up with a serious contribution to your savings, and when it’s all said and done, every penny counts. This is also a great way to get you children involved in their college savings as well. You can teach them the value of saving while also reinforcing the fact that their education is an investment that they will be contributing to throughout their lives. Just remember, a good education is like a bad tattoo, it will be with you forever.

2. Log your spending
Before you can decide how much to save, you need to know what kind of budget you’re dealing with. Try logging all of your spending for a month. Just how much money are you spending on leather jackets and hair products? This will help you find out which expenses are essential and which might be flexible. Do you really need to keep your membership to the “Studded Leather Bracelet of the Month” club? Once you’ve decided which of your expenses are non-essential, search for patterns. Find purchases that you routinely make and try to find habits you can change.

3. Consider a sacrifice
Now that you’ve examined your spending practices, what can be eliminated? We’re all familiar with this example, but take coffee for instance. For many, treating themselves to a cup of coffee on the way to work is the customary way to kick start the day. But when the average cup of coffee comes in around four dollars, it can add up quickly. When you get the urge to stop for coffee, reward yourself instead with a mental high five, knowing that every coffee skipped is a step towards a brighter future for your child. Shall I scare you with some math? Okay, if we start with $4 a day, 5 days a week, that comes out to $20 a week. That’s about $80 a month, and $1040 a year ($20/week for 52 weeks). Add that up over 18 years and you’ve got $18,720. That’s some serious foam for your soy lattes. That old coffee maker sitting on the counter is starting to look like a golden goose. With all those savings you don’t have to feel guilty about rewarding yourself on the weekend with that grande, double shot, extra whip, soy, mocha, latte with four pumps of peppermint.

4. Get a token
One good way to keep savings in mind is to carry a reminder. Establish a token that represents your goals and keep it with you. It could be a picture of your child, an education themed key ring, or graduation tassels hanging from the handlebars of your motorcycle; but whatever you choose, carry it with you daily. This way when you reach for your keys in your pocket or catch a glimpse of the tassels dancing in the wind as you barrel down the open-road, you are reminded of your goals to be prepared to provide your children with the kind of education that can open doors.

5. Payroll deduction
Establishing a routine for putting money aside regularly can be challenging. For some people it’s easier to come up with a plan and automate it. If this strategy better complements your budgeting style, GET offers payroll deduction as an option through participating employers. With payroll deduction, deposits to your account can come directly out of your paycheck. This way it’s one fewer thing to worry about when you’re managing your monthly finances. Many employers already offer payroll deduction but if yours doesn’t, it’s very easy to set up and can be done at any time. You can find the materials and information at www.get.wa.gov.

6. Reward yourself
Saving for college is a big deal. It takes foresight, planning, and dedication. It may be a long road but starting early is the best way to ensure that you and your family are prepared for that next big step. But don’t forget to reward yourself from time to time. After all, your perfectly crafted cool-guy persona wasn’t built in a day either. Patience Fonzi, patience.

Save today. Secure tomorrow.

Written by Dan Payne

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