Today’s college costs are skyrocketing. I did not think about this major detail when my children were little. But now my what-seems-like-yesterday newborn Jared is 18-years-old and graduating from high school. We’re facing college expenses of $20,000 for his first year. I thought we had years to prepare and save money for the next chapter in Jared’s life, but those years have flown by! Though we had some money set aside for him, panic set in as I realized we were not prepared for this huge expense.
Thankfully, his grandmother thought well in advance and our son has one year of college paid for. In hindsight, it would have been helpful had we started saving sooner, enabling the money to grow. But my husband and I were in the thick of raising our children, not thinking about what would happen when they were ready to leave home. We were struggling financially as most families do, trying to pay for child care and just make ends meet.
This was an “aha” moment for us. We were unequipped and unprepared with our oldest son. But we still have time to save for our younger son, Jansen, and come up with creative solutions. First, I researched the available options for college savings funds. We then developed a plan to “beef” up his college fund. For each pay check going forward, I am putting a small sum of money into a college fund for him. In addition, for future tax years, the entire tax refund will go into Jansen’s college fund instead of spending it on material things. By setting aside money, no matter how small the amount, over time these contributions will add up. Finally, I have asked grandparents and relatives to contribute a small amount of money towards college in lieu of birthday and holiday gifts.
The mistake we made was not saving early enough. But I’ve learned that having a college savings plan, no matter how small, is better than nothing at all and will ensure investment towards my children’s future.