A few months after my son was born, I heard some startling numbers. It will cost approximately $200,000 to send a child to a public in-state university in 18 years. The numbers are scarier as you go up the college chain. It will be $400,000 for a public out-of-state or private in-state school and a whopping $600,000 for out-of-state private schools. Needless to say, we will be heading back to Georgia so that my son can attend the University of Georgia under the $200,000 price tag (HOPE notwithstanding).
Needless to say, hearing those numbers really made me stop and think. It is shocking how much a college education costs. My husband and I both worked our way through college and are still paying for it now. We said over and over that we wanted to give our children a head start and to be able to pay for their college education out of our pockets instead of theirs. So those numbers were really sobering. We have 18 years to have $200K minimum for our son. How can we begin to save up that money?
Well, for starters, we are hoping that we do not have to pay all of it. That number is the cost of attendance. That means that it includes tuition, fees, and books but also adds in the cost of housing and other living expenses. We are hoping that our son will learn from our example and will live frugally. At the very least, we expect to give him money every month, and if he wants to live extravagantly, he will have to get a job to cover the rest.
As for tuition, we are going to provide every opportunity we can for him to learn more and do more so that scholarships will come knocking. We will make an effort during his high school years to get him moving in the direction of scholarship competitions. Had I known about all of the scholarships out there, I would have paid far less for my college education.
We also are starting a website for our son. We have decided that we will set up a website and make money from it through affiliate marketing. The proceeds from that site will be deposited directly into an account for his college expenses. While you may not be interested in starting an affiliate marketing website, you may be interested in coming up with other ways to make additional income. You could have a yard sale once every three months. You could sell online. You could make crafts and sell them at the annual craft fair in your town. Take whatever money you earn from extra income sources and funnel it to help pay for college.
We also have made a commitment to begin putting away $500 a month by the time our son is three. While we are not there yet, we are preparing ourselves to be. Right now, he is one. We are paying off our debts as quickly as we can and putting a small sum of $10 per month into his little savings account. We also will deposit extra income into it. We are making plans so that in two years, we will not have debt and will have the disposable income to pour money into both retirement accounts for us and a savings account for him.
It is all in how you think about money. I am shocked that neither my parents nor my in-laws had any money put away to cover our college funds. Instead they spent money on things that we did not need. I got toys and clothes and shoes that I never needed and could have easily done without them. I try to remember to ask myself if my son really needs something because it is cute or the new craze before I buy it. Although he certainly is not hurting for toys, games, or books, he does not have so much of those items that he is not going to be able to enjoy heading into his adult years without the burden of school debt.
We have record student loan debts in this country, and I believe that we owe it to our children to give them the chance for a better future.
By Julia Mercer