SET with MET
Here are some ideas you may not have thought about.
We’ve all heard the advice to cut out fancy coffee drinks and eating out in order to save money, but what if you have already done that and you still are not hitting your college savings goals? Let’s explore some offbeat ways to find/make money to save for college.
The key to these strategies is to make sure you actually use this extra money to save for college. Michigan Education Trust’s (MET) new Pay-As-You-Go option is a great way to use this money to purchase college credits at today’s prices for use on future tuition. Once the contract is open, you can contribute money to it at any time, in any amount ($25 or greater). Whenever you make additional contributions to the contract MET will calculate the number of credits, or fraction of credits to be added to your credit hour balance.
Ideas that require little to no extra work
So, what are some easy things you can do to find extra money for your college savings account?
Every time you have extra coins in your wallet, or pocket, add it to a change jar. From my experience it is good to find a change jar you can’t actually reach your hand into, I use a large vase, this way you will be less tempted to dig into it and use that money for something else. Once every couple of months take the change into your bank and deposit the money. Avoid using the coin machines at stores because they take a percentage of your total. Both my credit union and my previous bank offered to exchange coins for free (I didn’t even have to divide them into coin rolls).
Not a cash person? Some banks and credit cards will offer programs where they round your purchase to the next dollar and deposit the “change” into a savings account.
Your change could add up to a couple of hundred dollars extra each year.
Many credit cards offer rewards, why not use those rewards to save for college? Instead of using the cash back as a statement credit, take the money and deposit it into your Pay-As-You-Go contract. Just make sure you do not keep a balance on your credit card statement from month-to-month. The interest fees will eat up any benefit you may have earned. In addition, when looking at opening a cash back credit card look for one without an annual fee. It can take a lot of purchases to make up for any annual fee you may have to pay.
Do you need to hire someone for car or home repairs? Many companies will negotiate a discount if you agree to pay in cash instead of putting it on a credit or debit card. You save the company credit card processing fees, the company passes those savings on to you and you can put the difference into your college savings account.
Do the same with your cable, internet, phone bills, etc. You see the ads all the time offering great low rates for new customers, but you are already a customer? Call your company and see if they will lower your bill. You may not be able to get the same rate as a new customer, but you will save money off of what you are currently paying. Better yet, cut the cord. I recently cancelled my cable and switched to streaming. Instead of paying $90/month on cable I now pay about $30/month and have more viewing choices than I could ever need! You could also utilize your local library. Libraries offer free movie rentals—I always thought the movies at the library were old, educational movies, but they have new releases too.
I really did not think I could cut my grocery bill any further, but I found a way to save an additional $40/week. I started writing the prices next to the items on my grocery list, once I finished the list I would see how far away I was from my goal total. If I was really far away from my goal, I looked at items I could cut or replace with different options. Replace the $4.00 pack of yogurt with the $2.00 pack of applesauce—easy switch. While at the store I would compare brands to see how I could meet or beat the price I wrote down. It was easier to narrow down my list before I was standing in the grocery aisles and I noticed a difference in my budget right away.
Ideas that require a little more work
These ideas may require a little more work than the other ideas, but the payoff might be more too.
Interest rates are at record lows right now. Talk with your mortgage company to see if a refinance would benefit you. You will want to do the math to calculate how closing costs would affect your bottom line, but you could come out ahead. You could then take the monthly mortgage payment savings and put it into your college savings plan. That is money you are already used to spending each month, this just redirects the funds. Plus you might save a lot on your mortgage over the life of your loan because of the reduced interest payments.
I’m not talking about getting a part-time job at the mall. These days there are a million ways to make extra money on the side. This website gives you 68 of those ways. You could do everything from selling items on Amazon and eBay to repairing computers and filling out online surveys. The time commitment and pay will vary depending on what you do, but it could be a great way to make some extra money.
It is time we all stop the excuses, there are ways to save for college. Every dollar you save now is going to be less that your child and/or yourself will have to borrow (and pay back) for their education in the future.
Learn more about MET and the Pay-As-You-Go plan at www.SETwithMET.com.