How to Save for College: 5 Small Things Students Can Do Today
It's no surprise that pursuing a higher education comes with a hefty price tag. For the 2017 to 2018 school year, the estimated cost of tuition for a four-year in-state public institution was $9,970, and $35,260 for a four-year private institution, according to College Board. If this trend continues, those numbers will only increase each year.
Other than financial aid — which may come in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans — you might be wondering how to save for college. Here are five small things you can do to put some money aside for your higher ed fund:
1. Hold off on Buying a Car
While you may want to enjoy the luxury and freedom of having your own set of wheels, consider waiting. Instead, try using your parents' car, riding a bike, or taking public transit. This way, you'll save on the purchase of a car as well as insurance, gas, maintenance, and repairs. The average cost of owning a car is $8,469 a year or $706 a month, according to AAA. That's money you could use toward tuition, books, a computer, and living expenses during your college years.
2. Take on Side Jobs
Cash you earn during a summer job, or from an after-school gig, could be set aside for your college expenses. Take up mowing lawns, shoveling snow, or washing cars. If you're stumped on where to start, think of things that are fun, easy, or that you're already skilled at. Then put out feelers and ask your friends, family, and community what kind of services they'd be willing to pay for.
3. Save Extra Cash
Commit to saving a portion of any extra cash that comes your way. This could be from a birthday gift, holiday card, or any money earned from an allowance. Loop in your relatives and family friends by letting them know that you're saving for college. Ask if they'd be willing to gift you cash to put toward your higher education fund instead of gifts.
4. Be Smart About Your Spending Habits
Look for ways to save on everything from clothes to dining out. It's never too early to create a budget, even if you aren't paying bills yet. Think about cutting back on trips to Starbucks or going out to dinner with friends every weekend. Be open and honest with your friends — tell them that you'd prefer to save money, or suggest a less expensive alternative. Chances are other people in your group may be feeling the same, and might even be relieved someone said something.
5. Open a Savings Account for College
If you don't already have a regular savings account, open one at your local bank. Then, create an additional savings account just for college and label it "college fund" or "higher education fund." This will help you envision yourself reaching your goal and keep you motivated. Check in on your progress every month or so.
Figuring out how to save for college doesn't have to include huge changes. By doing small things today, you can make incredible strides and your future self will thank you.