If you have kids who will start college soon, it’s no surprise to you that more than a third of parents in your shoes told Gallup they are concerned about having enough money to help their kids pay for school.(1) Many want to help but have their own financial challenges to overcome.
How can you get your kids through school and still pay off debt or save for retirement?
We’ve heard from plenty of families who have successfully cash-flowed or are currently cash-flowing their kids’ college while still meeting their own financial goals:
1. Scholarships and Part-Time Work Can Take Your Student Far
Angela C. from Lavon, TX, said she and her husband are on Baby Step 2, so they don’t have much extra money to help cover school expenses. “Our son has a scholarship and works full-time on summer and winter breaks and part-time during school,” Angela said. She and her husband help by providing free room and board so they can continue working their debt snowball.
2. Boost College Cash Through Hospitality
Jenny S. from Moscow, ID, has nine kids to put through college. The trouble is she also has no college fund to help accomplish that. So far, they’ve paid for the first two years of their oldest child’s college with extra income from renting out an apartment in their home to vacationers. “The business is thriving, and I’m blessed to say that I’m saving for my kids’ college exclusively from this money,” Jenny said. “I’m just one year ahead of them, but I’m ahead!”
3. Keep It Local
Janet M., a single mom from Gorham, ME, vetoed her daughter’s first choice of school because it was too expensive. “I would have ended up cosigning a loan for $50,000 this summer,” she said. Instead, her daughter accepted a merit scholarship to attend school nearby. Janet will resume saving for retirement once she has a full emergency fund.
4. Rise to the Occasion With a Sinking Fund
Michael L. from Bluffton, SC, cash-flows college for two kids with a sinking fund. “We calculate the anticipated costs for tuition and books and divide that amount by the number of months left until the next term,” he explained. Then every month they deposit that amount into a money market account. “We just wrote checks for approximately $9,000 in tuition for both kids for the next term.”
5. Study or Test Your Way to Sophomore Standing
Encourage your college-bound high school student to take advanced placement classes if your school offers them. Deric L. from Wilsonville, OR, said his daughter took as many AP classes as she could. That, combined with high college entrance test scores, allowed her to start college as a sophomore, saving them a whole year’s tuition.
6. Cut Your Cost on Books
The days of campus bookstore monopolies are over, and the days of unlimited Internet options are here. Before paying a pretty penny for your student’s textbooks, look them up on Amazon or any of the many used book sites. You’ll end up saving on the price upfront, and it’s likely you can sell them back at the end of the semester or receive credit toward future textbook needs. And remember, don’t overlook the possibility of renting books for cheap!
7. Look Into Tuition Discounts
Avoiding debt isn’t the only benefit of the cash-flow plan for college. It can also mean discounts on your tuition! If you have cash in hand, your school might reward you with a handsome discount for paying in full before each semester begins.
All You Need Is the Right Plan to Make Your Debt-Free Dreams Come True
There are a million different ways to get through college without debt. But one thing’s certain: If you, the parent, choose to take on debt or sacrifice your income to pay for college instead of paying off debt, saving for emergencies or investing for retirement, you will end up with painfully few options as you face your future.
You can feel more confident about facing the college crossroads when you have a clear plan. You’ll know that if you take steps A, B and C, you’ll set yourself up for a secure financial future.