How Much Do You Contribute for College/savings??

Updated on February 23, 2011
L.M. asks from Groton, MA
28 answers

How much if any do you contribute to your child's college and/or savings fund. I decided to become a SAHM about a year ago to raise our son and daughter which has been wonderful however, due to financial constraints we are only able to save $25 a week for each. Although I try to be vigilant, even this amount is difficult at times. Also, does anyone have a college fund set up and if so what kind? They each have a savings account but curious about other options.

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answers from Seattle on


I'm still in school.

By the time I'm done with school, kiddo will be starting.

We call it the "Paying for College Perpetually Plan".

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I am truly in-laws have paid for all of my children's college education. They have 4 years worth of all expenses paid college at any State university. It can be transferred to other state colleges but you have to take a financial hit on it.

We live in WA and it is called GET.

I am eternally grateful!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

None. My daughter is paying for school the same way I did - grants, loans, and working two jobs while going to school.
I would have liked to have been able to provide her with a college fund, but it just wasn't possible.

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answers from San Diego on

I don't put much away, it's THEIR education and I think they should pay for it. I would be more concerned about your retirement and your medical care and or disability when you get older. That should be a priority. That is a big mistake many adults make. Then when retirement comes they can't afford to live a comfortable life. By them paying for their OWN college they will appreciate it more and also take it more seriously. Being a College Professor I see a difference in attitude and seriousness of their education depending on how or who is funding it. I would put away what you can but don't stress over it.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Big picture, what's the plan? Here's the order of priorities. Make sure the household bread winner has maximized his/her disability insurance coverage. The amount offered through work often isn't enough. Second, make sure both of you have life insurance. You want at least 10 times income. Very important that BOTH of you have coverage. Purchase life insurance from the highest quality carriers. Northwestern, NY LIfe, Mass Mutual, Metlife or Guardian. Term life that can be converted to permanent coverage.
Do you have at least three months of expenses in savings?
Are you contributing enough to retirement?
Long story short, you can borrow for college but not for retirement.
I know you asked about college funding but the reality is that for middle class folks, there's a lot of other priorities that should come first.
Daryl Zerveskes has an office in Manchester, NH. He's helped a lot of middle class families get their finances in order. Might be worth looking up someone like him to look at the big picture.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think we are in the minority but we feel it is our duty as a parent to get our daughter out of college debt free. Free ride.... some may say so but she works her butt of in her classes, cheerleader, violinist and babysits.

The year I got pregnant, we started her fund to have $10,000 by each birthday each year. When the market fluctuated, we added more to make up the difference.

Right now at 16 she is fully funded, and we are still funding her because she has aspirations to go to an Ivy league school and be the best.

Some say a college degree is not worth anything... I guess that depends on the lifestyle you choose for yourself and your children.

We believe it is vital and we have post graduate degrees. It does make a huge difference.

We have several sources, 529, numismatics, savigs bonds and regular savings.

Of course we feel it is our obligation to provide this as responsible parents, it is also our obligation to make sure our retirement is fully funded and she has no worries about our care as we get older.

All that said, yes, we are in the minority but college is not an option at our house, she sees it as an extension of her schooling and who wouldn't want to be educated??

You do what you can. Not all families can provide the same but whatever you provide will be appreciated. I can't believe how some parents just let their kids go in debt or just blow it off. Kudos to you for thinking about your children.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

We don't have a set amount that we put aside for it, they each have a savings account and 2 of them contribute now. our 16 year old ds is working and puts some aside each week, our 13 year old dd has had a paper route for 3 years and she puts some aside weekly. My parents had nothing set up for my sister and I and we both paid for our own completely. I have 2 degrees and worked part time during the school year and 2 jobs each summer in between and with student loans I did it. I paid them off within 10 years (maybe less, it was awhile ago now). I totally disagree with Ellis, it is NOT a parents responsibility to pay for college. With 3 kids and their activities and saving for retirement, we just cannot and will not pay for the whole thing. I think kids will appreciate the costs and hard work if they at least contribute some. So, L., you made a choice to stay home and I see that as more beneficial than working to pay for their college funds.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We were very fortunate that my mother purchased the Texas Tomorrow 529 fund the first year it came out. She paid about $4000.

Our daughter is now a double major junior in an out of State college (actually up there with you in one of the 5 colleges!).. This plan has paid about $8000. per school year!

With Tuition, room and board.. not counting the Travel, books, health insurance, and money per month for necessities.. her Bill runs $58,000 per school year.

She has always been an excellent student so she qualified for Scholarships and grants..

I suggest you save as much as possible and look into your states college payment plan. It actually looks excellent..

FYI, there is no way our daughter could work and attend this school full time as a double major. She really does spend time studying and doing her work at school. When we wanted to have children this was one of the main reasons we only had 1 child.. We knew there was no way, I could be a SAHM and we could send her off to college and afforded more than 1 child.. We felt we wanted the very best education for her and were willing to support wherever SHE wanted to attend.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

i haven't had a chance to read the other responses so i apologize if i'm repeating anything. if you have the extra money, do one of those state things. i'm in MA and here it's called a MEFA. we take every cash gift she gets (bdays, xmas - $5 from greatgrandpa, $25 from aunt, etc) and put it in a savings acct in her name (plus we put all our change in a bucket and roll it up and that goes in her account too - you'd be surprised how much that can be every few months) then when there's $500 in the savings account, we move it into the MEFA and start again. especially with close relatives - its easier to say "no more toys, money for college please", even if just $20.

By the way, you shouldn't fee bad, at $25 a week, you are probably doing a lot better then the rest of us.

then, remember what Suze Orman says - saving for your retirement is WAAAAY more important. i don't know how old you are, but chances are there'll be no social security when we all reach can get scholarships, grants and having a loan to repay when they're 22 is an excellent way to teach fiscal responsibility. if they know they are paying for college (in part or all), perhaps they'll take it more seriously - not as a god-given right.

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answers from New York on

Nobody paid for mine or my husband's college. We both graduated without loans. Worked throughout college (and masters for me). We appreciated it more. Didn't blow the money on silly stuff. Neither of us had cars as students. We're sending our kids to private school. Giving them a great head start. That should ensure scholarships. If not? Do what mom and dad did. Work your way through college like the rest of the country.
We don't have much savings. We own homes. We concentrate on paying those off. Worse come to worst, we will sell something to help them through college. Not pay for them, but help them. We don't want to be burden on our kids when we grow old and have no income. So we save for our retirement.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My two older sons (5 and 2) are enrolled in a state pre-paid college program. My 5 year old is paid in full and we owe another couple years on my 2 year old's acct. It is 4 years of tuition plus 2 years of room and board. My youngest (6 months) has a 529--we decided against the pre-paid program because it got really expensive. All three kids also have savings accounts. Do what you can--every little bit counts!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I'm from CT and we just got our son a CHET account, it's a 529 account that others have posted about. You can google college savings accounts or programs and I'll bet you'll find what you're looking for. Lots of tax benefits with those accounts vs. just a regular savings account. Congrats to you for making the effort you are to put away what you can when you can. It will definitely make a difference later!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

Why not suggest to grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who give them gifts for various occassions that they consider a gift of a contribution to their college fund instead of toys and "stuff"?? We have 2 young grandsons ( 3 yrs and 1 yr) and we give them gifts for all of the holidays, birthdays etc...and even though we give them actual gifts...we also always include a check for their parents to place in their college fund.
You might also consider savings bonds...check into their maturation rate...and how much you earn in interest.
The best thing you can do to help with their college education is to help them love to learn and explore their world!!! All three of our daughters received very very generous scholarships for everything ranging from fast pitch softball, to scoring well on a particular scholarship test...writing essays on all sorts of subjects...etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We contribute $150 a month total to a 529 plan. It's not nearly enough (we have 4 kids) but we will increase our contributions once our youngest is out of daycare. My in-laws have saved a substantial amount, which will help out a lot when our two oldest, hopefully, start college in 6 years.

A 529 plan is hands down the best choice for college savings. A quick google search will tell you all of the benefits. Do make sure that if you have t choose between saving for retirement and saving for college, retirement comes first. You can finance a college education, you can't finance retirement.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

I started out with just putting $250.00 in a 529 college savings with my credit union - when the market crashed so did that. But in hindsight - fortunately I just started it up so - another 13 more years ahead it should have something in it. In addition we set aside $5.00 a week for my son - this account is for school things - like future field trips, private school, a car and the rest to his college fund. We used part of his account money to pay for his pre-school this year. I know it's not a lot each week but I am the only one working in my family right now. But it's a good start.

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answers from Phoenix on

Not a penny yet. Part of me feels guilty, but I am still paying my student loans because my parents did not help me at all. And yet I made it through school with great grades and working. I think they can do the same thing.

I work pt, and only when my husband is home. We do not pay child care, but figured out once that child care is about as much as tuition at some colleges. So, when the time comes, if I can, I will help out. My goal is to let them pay their way and to pay their student loan payments with them. They pay the minimum per month and I will match it. Loan will be paid off much sooner that way.

Plus, I don't think a college degree is as valuable as it once was so they don't have to have a 4 year degree. I still don't know what I want to do for a career, and here I am with a degree that I don't like working with.

I really don't understand why we are made to think that it is our responsibility as parents to foot our childrens college degree.

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answers from New York on

So far, nadda. However, my sister is saving $25/week for my son now. So once I return to work in a few years, I will contribute as well. Just with the $25 that equals close to $20K by the time he's 18. So don't stress now. You are putting something aside and in time, you will be able to do more. You are doing your kids a great justice to their future by being there for them now.

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answers from Boston on

My father has set-up a 529 for our daughter - Bank of America offers one that the student can use it for tuition of whatever type of school including vocational - you don't want to limit the possibilities. My in-laws contribute (as opposed to setting up another account). We, i.e. my husband and I, strive to contribute $1200 a year as well. All savings bonds are in our fire safe box from her christening, etc. All monies she gets or we have extra change go straight to her piggy bank - it's a great thing to start immediately. I'm an in-the-middle kinda gal when it comes to paying for college tuition. I was blessed that my parents and grandparents paid for most of my undergraduate degree to a private Jesuit school. So, I graduated with about $15K. It was enough for me to realize the value of money, and I wasn't wasteful when I was in school. Then, I was on my own when it came to pursuing my JD. I'm still paying the two off, and yes, would I like someone to pay it off, of course. With all this said, I agree with the others about putting money toward retirement first and foremost. On it's face it may seem selfish, but it's not. Don't beat yourself up about not making a month or figuring out what works for you as the economy twists and turns. Good luck!



answers from Youngstown on

We have nothing set aside for our kids college. I am a stay at home mom and feel that is more important than worrying about future money for college. My husband's income is small and we are on a tight budget. We just found out #3 is on the way and this was a huge surprise which will make things more difficult financially. My parents didn't save for my college and I made it on through by working and with loans. We hope to have my loan paid off with in two years.



answers from Providence on

We also do $50/month. It's not much, but it will at least help pay for a little bit that first year of college. Like others have said, I paid for school on my own, and made it. I would like to help out my son as much as possible, but can only do so much.


answers from Minneapolis on

My parents covered my college tuition for which I will be eternally grateful (tho I also worked 20-30 hrs a week to cover my living expenses/car/etc.). But my husbands parents did not. He quit due to financial obstacles at 19 and did not return until after we had our first (at 30). Guess who is paying for his college education -- ME! I fume with every payment because every dime should be going to my children's college fund. Instead, I am taking care of someone else's parental obligations.

My children will be working full time and taking out student loans to pay for college. By no means will they be the only ones doing so but it still cheeses me off. The best we will be able to do is get them thru their 1st year.


answers from Barnstable on

None. My parents told me they had nothing to give me and it made me work all the harder. I went to an Ivy League school that (more than 17 years ago) was $38,000 A YEAR (a total of $152,000 for 4 years). I went almost entirely on scholarships and worked 3 different campus jobs and ended up only owing $15k in loans.

For my kids the same rules apply: if you want it bad enough, you will find a way. Especially since that same school will most likely be around $56,000 a year by the time my daughter is ready to apply . . .

FYI L. - I went to Mount Holyoke in S. Hadley!



answers from Springfield on

I recommend looking into tax credits and incentives for saving for college through your state's savings plan and try to maximize your tax credits through your contributions. In Vermont, for example, each individual can contribute $2,500/year and receive $250 in tax credit ($5,000/$500 per couple filing jointly). So we try our best to do that--our state is basically giving us a 10% subsidy for the savings account!

But I am now rethinking this in light of the information below about saving for retirement first. We put in $300/month for retirement but will try to stretch that to $400 so we can match our retirement with college savings. It is a stretch for us--but we do not pay for cable, cell phones, and expensive vacations. We do everything we can to save and have fun for less. It will be easier if we decide to go with public education, maybe after a year or two of private school at the beginning while he is so young. Right now we pay $700-900 per month for preschool. I figure after that is done we'll be able to add more to our retirement account but there will still be summer camps/after school care and all of that! I hear children get more expensive as they get older so I am trying not to "bank" on the extra money later on. And this is all assuming there are no more children and we can retain our jobs.



answers from Chicago on

We do $120 a month per child. My parents also contribute $600 more a year. And any monetary gifts also go into this account. It's a state college fund plan.



answers from Chicago on

save as much as you can. Any at all will help.


answers from Lansing on

Even though it doesn't seem like much, I have $5 taken out of my paycheck each week and put into my daughters savings account. But, I figure $5 times 4 weeks is $20 times 52 weeks is $1040 times 18 years is $18720. Plus, adding in her savings bonds she has and will continue to get and her birthday and Christmas money she gets, plus the interest the account makes...she will be doing ok when she turns 18 :)

My only stipulation with that money will be she can't just blow it on stupid stuff. It won't be just handed to her. Hopefully she will use it towards college. And I disagree with 3princes1princess. A college education is valuable. Whether it helps your get a job or not, continuing your education is a very valuable thing. IMO, people should never stop learning or an education.

My parents didn't pay for my college and I couldn't get any help because they made to much money, I also couldn't take out a loan because I had no credit. Luckily, I have a great job, and one of the benefits is 7 grand each year for college and it also gives 2 grand a year for dependents.

And it's funny, because in hindsight, they wished they would have paid for my college, because they paid for my (older) sister to go to cosmetology school.



answers from Boston on

I think it is getting more and more difficult for average people to pay the unbelievable cost of college. If you are not saving 15-20% of your income for retirement then most of the financial experts I've heard say you should not be putting anything aside for college. You need to fund your retirement first.

We do fund a 529 plan after we save for retirement and put any gift $$ she gets in there. I don't think MA gives any tax incentive for it though as some states do. My husband makes a good wage, but even with constant saving, it will not be adding up to anywhere near what they'll need unless they are going to state schools. So managing the expectations of the kids is a good thing to consider at an early age. Something you can do that doesn't cost you is get a credit card that puts a percentage of charges into a college savings account. I was surprised at how much that actually can amount to and it is free money (well unless you buy things you can't afford in the first place, of course).



answers from Cleveland on

my daughter has a savings acount and ANY money she gets go into it, she has a piggy bank that extra change goes into for her and once a month or two i roll it and put it in her account, once i get a job or she starts school we will probably put 50/pay in her account for her

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