Pre-college planning goes a long way to help alleviate monetary stress

stressWhen our children were still in grade school my wife and I sat down and prepared a game plan to attack our then non-existent college funds. We knew that in the next ten years we would have to make some significant changes to our life style if we had any hope of saving or investing enough to pay for at least the first two semesters of a state college for each of our children.

It wasn’t as if we had to suffer untold brutalities to our bimonthly checks or go without many things in order to save what we deemed reasonable at that time. Yet, even though we did cut back on dining out, ran our vehicles for more years, and had more taken out of each check to deposit in specific funds, we did not become recluses. Hermits who dared not go forth to buy anything for fear that the money spent could have instead gone towards the purchase of a textbook in a few years.

We eventually contacted an investment counselor who was very willing to ‘steer’ us in the right direction as far as the “safest and wisest place for our money in the market.” Though we did not drop our entire savings via this avenue, we did deposit enough in each of the kid’s college accounts to buffer some of the college costs shock that we faced with our oldest, and will face again soon with our youngest currently a high school senior.

My wife and I do not have a six figure income. Our lifestyle is not extravagant or overly frugal. Yet, it was evident that we could not plop down $40-$50 thousand dollars for each of our children’s college careers. Therefore, in addition to our pre-college saving funds, we emphasized to both of our kids how important it was to do well academically (more scholarship opportunities), to save a percentage of the money from their summer pay checks (this could be applied towards books or extra-curricular events), and to resign themselves to seeking as many scholarships as they could.

Even with all this preparation, parents cannot know the percentage of tuition increase or textbook costs that may occur from one year to the next. However, having a plan for educational costs and how to pay for them is better than not having one.

Our children plan on working summer jobs while attending college. My wife and I don’t plan on retiring for at least four years. That is the reality of middle-class parenting.


Saving for College