If you’ve gone through the steps to figure out how much college might cost, you have probably discovered that it’s an intimidating number. In most households, there isn’t much left over at the end of each month to save money for college. Unless, of course, you’re willing to work extra to bring in some more income or cut your spending to make room in your budget. While working more might seem like a good idea because your lifestyle doesn’t have to change, quality of life will suffer because one or both parents will spend more time working. It’s been my experience that you can work extra for only so long before burnout sets in. So, let’s look at possibilities for finding some hidden money that already exists in your monthly budget.
For starters, look at your cable bill and television usage. If you cut out those premium channels, that could save $30 per month. Are you spending a lot at Redbox? Each trip is a dollar plus tax, but the hidden cost is in the amount you spend in gas to pick up and return the movie. Look at Netflix, Vudu, or Hulu if you are a movie buff and save these fees. Or, if you’ve subscribed to these services but aren’t using them, consider cutting them off. Average savings $15 per month either direction.
Cutting off your home phone, considered radical just a few years ago, is becoming easier with the number of minutes included in cell phone plans. Take this step to free up another $40 per month.
While you’re looking at your cell plan, make adjustments to ensure that you aren’t paying overages or that you aren’t paying for more services than you are using. Average savings $25 per month.
If you eat out every day for lunch, you’re probably averaging $40 per week on lunches. Each meal you can take from home can save $8 per day. Do this just twice per week and you can find another $64 per month. If both parents work and can do this, that makes $128 per month. OK, I’ll admit that the food you take for lunch isn’t free, but I still think you can save $100 per month.
Go back to food for a minute. There are families that spend more in eating out each month than they do on groceries. Let’s say that your family eats out three nights per week, two fast food and one sit-down meal, at a cost of $30 per night for the fast food and $60 for the sit down meal. Trade in the fast food meals for eating at home and save $240 per month. If fast food is a reality because of activities, then trade in the sit down meal. Either way, the impact to your budget per month is the same. Subtract the cost of groceries you’ll spend instead and you can still save $160 per month.
What services do you pay for that you just don’t use? What about that gym membership? That could be $80 per month by cancelling it and instead walking the neighborhood with your family.
Mom and Dad, maybe you both could look at your hobbies. Dad, do you fish or golf once per week? Mom, what about the night out with the girls where you scrapbook, paint, or do some other hobby? What if you cut those in half an instead moved to twice per month? If each outing averages $25, then this could lead to $100 a month to add to your budget.
Consider couponing. You don’t have to go to the extremes that you see on TV but there are ways to save money on your weekly grocery bill and dining out. Guys tend to be more reluctant than the ladies towards coupons but these can save a bundle. I can often eat lunch for $4 per day using a coupon. Just be sure to shop and buy in the same patterns that you always have; don’t let coupons be an excuse to buy more. Possible savings – $50 per month.
Combine your trips. With gas at $3.30 per gallon or more, each trip needs to count. Eliminate two runs to the grocery store per week; if each takes a gallon of gas this saves roughly $25 for the month.
Do the same thing for getting your kids to and from school. Use the bus or find a carpool buddy. If you can save half of your school trips, this could save each mom another $25 per month or more.
Nothing radical or painful here, just some good common sense ways to spend more wisely and find money to save for your child’s college. Pay attention and you might find the money already exists in your budget. What are some other ways that you’ve found to save in your home?