BE Smart > Money

Financial Planning for College Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

With proper planning and budgeting, paying for college doesn't have to drain your finances

Paying for college can often feel like a necessary evil. Costs continue to skyrocket and education budgets across the country continue to tighten leaving many to wonder how they’ll find it possible to pay for higher education – a must have in today’s economy. If college is on the horizon for you or a loved one, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep costs reasonable:

1. Start as early as possible: Setting aside some money for a college savings plan as early as possible is the best way to go about paying for higher education. The best way is automatic investment in a 529 Plan, which allows parents to sock away cash in a tax-deferred account until the child is ready for college. Most parents can choose from two options: a prepaid 529, which allows parents to buy tuition at the current rates. The second option is the savings plan, which allows parents to invest in different options as they see fit.

2. Do Your Homework – Literally: If starting early is no longer an option, or if you’re the one paying for school, there are plenty of merit based scholarships available for people who made high marks in grade school. In fact, there are scholarships for just about anything (Lefties attending Juniata College, here you go. Little People of America…you’re welcome. More of a tall than a small? There’s money for you). But, many organizations reward high academic achievement, so study and encourage others to as well.

3. Don’t Snub the Small Amounts: A $250 scholarship from the local Rotary club may not seem like a drop in the bucket, but in actuality, pays for part of the fees that go along with tuition or at least cover the cost of a textbook.

4. Be open to Community College: Most of the fundamentals that freshman take their first year are available at the local community colleges for a lot cheaper.