Guest Post and Giveaway: Affordable Strategies for College Day 2

This week I’m featuring guest posts by Ellie Kay who is known as America’s Financial Expert.  Ellie has been a well-loved speaker at our Hearts at Home conferences. Today’s post focuses on creative savings strategies for future funding of your child’s college education.  Don’t forget we’re giving away six books this week! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on today’s post!

Invest in Creative Savings Methods

      Before we discuss traditional financial savings plans to pay for college, let’s consider the fact that any way you get college paid for that does not involve a cash investment is more money in the bank for you and your student. The following ideas are ways to pay for a college degree through plans that are available for those who are forward thinking and purposeful in their desire to provide a debt free college experience.  We’ve used several of these for our kids and every $1,000 that we don’t have to spend on tuition, college credit, books, room and board is $1,000 that will counter the huge student loan debt that most parents assume as par for the education course. It’s an adage I’ve used before:  a penny saved is more than a penny earned—especially when it comes to paying for college!

Giving Matters!

    Here is where some of your child’s giving pays off.  When you’ve trained your child to give back to the community, don’t let those good deeds go unrewarded.  Organizations such as Teach for The Peace and all offer educational service awards to students seeking cash and a way to make a difference in the world. The best part is that unlike other scholarships and grants, these service awards won’t affect any federal financial aid eligibility. Even if your student has already acquired student loans, organizations including the Army National Guard, National Health Service Corps, and the National Institutes of Health all sponsor loan forgiveness programs that turn borrowed cash into free dough in exchange for post-graduate service.

Free Money!

    You can open a 529 account for any beneficiary, or gift money using Ugift into a Upromise Investments 529 plan. If you don’t already have a 529 plan, then you are really missing out because the contributions can benefit from tax deferred growth. Also, gifting into one of these plans may also mean that you can possibly take advantage of your state’s tax deductions. Just check to see if you are eligible for states income tax deductions or credits for saving for college. For example, parents and grandparents can contribute as much as $13,000 ($26,000 if married filing jointly) into a 529 plan without incurring gift taxes. A special rule allows married couples to gift up to $130,000 ($65,000 if single) as long as no additional gifts are made to that beneficiary over a five year period.  This also applies to recent college grads who might appreciate a meaningful gift to help pay a student loan payment. Plus, you don’t have to be a parent or grandparent to participate, other friends and family can make contributions to your child’s 529 plan by gifting money or by buying gifts, which brings me to my next point—how to save money by spending money.

     Most people, know about Upromise from signing up for their buying program. I’ve been participating for years by going to and then purchasing through participating online retailers. These are stores where I would shop anyway and I get anywhere from 1% to 25% back for the purchases I make. And our family isn’t the only one doing this. Last year, during the holiday season Upromise members received $12 million in college savings rewards from eligible holiday spending. Because membership is free and members have collectively earned $575 million in college savings from purchasing items online or even by buying gas or groceries. I book a lot of travel for my business and often find myself eating out—all these are also included toward my children’s 529 plans.

Double Dipping: College Credit in High School

 AP and IB

    Several of our kids take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes throughout their high school semester. These are college level courses that are offered at their high school.  At the end of the year, they take a test to see if they score high enough to get college credit. The cost of the test is more than offset by the value of the college credit that will be awarded to your student if they pass.  It is important to note that not all colleges accept these credits, so it will be important to check with the admissions office of the college of your choice. A secondary benefit of these courses is that can help students get into college because having AP and IB credit makes for very good resume fodder in college applications. It shows ambition and a good school work ethic. For information regarding your state’s programs, go to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or

 Dual Enrollment Classes

      One of the coolest ways to pay for college is to let your local high school district help pay for it while your child is still in high school. Many school districts now partner with local colleges to offer college credit for high school students who take classes at a nearby community college. Consequently, these classes count toward both the high school and college degree requirements. There are thousands of kids each year who graduate from high school one day and then get an associates degree the next day. Talk about a Cha Ching Factor!

    Be aware that these programs vary from district to district and state to state. In some cases, the dual enrollment classes take place in the high school during the regular school day. Yet other programs require students to attend classes on the college campus, alongside other college students. 

What about you?   What is one piece of information Ellie Kay shared about today that is new information for you?  Do you have something to add to our conversation?


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24 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway: Affordable Strategies for College Day 2

  1. These are great ideas. All together, these strategies could save a huge amount of money. I was able to waive English 101 because I passed the AP english exam. So helpful to save time and money my freshman year.

  2. So excited to learn about the 529 plan and upromise. We will definitely be using upromise at Christmas time!

  3. Great ideas! Our girls are young but it is never to early to start saving and having a plan for their college! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I homeschool my four kids, and although my oldest is only 10 years old, I have been thinking about their college years also. I personally did not have much help from my parents when I went to school, but I figured out a way to get scholarships for my junior and senior year of college, so that left me with only my first 2 years of student loans to pay. Paying off those 2 student loans has left me with great credit even up to my thirties. Thank you for your article, I will be sharing it with my husband.

  5. We have started a 529 plan, but how would grandparents add to it? Do they make out a check to our son, or send directly to the plan, or do they need to open another 529 plan for him themselves?
    Also, I’ve heard that money in this plan disqualifies students for other financial aid – is that correct?

    • Hi Sage, It’s GREAT that you’ve started a 529 plan for your son. There’s more info on this topic on day 4 of Jill’s blog this week. A 529 plan isn’t only for parents… grandparents can open a 529 plan account for their grandchildren and be the account owner. Or, they can give you the money and you can deposit it in your son’s account, but then you would get the tax benefit and not the grandparents. These plans and tax advantages can vary from state to state, so go to for more info. It can also provide the account owner, with:
      *Tax-deferred growth and federal and state tax-free qualified withdrawals
      *Control over the account
      *Gift-tax benefits
      These plans don’t *disqualify* the child for financial aid, but they are considered as an asset when it comes to rendering financial aid.
      Hope this helps,
      Ellie Kay

  6. Both my son and daughter were able to transfer a full semester of college credits from taking AP classes and the college/high school credit program in our district. My daughter will be able to graduate a year early(2013) after taking 3 summer classes between her 3 years of college.

  7. Thank you! I didn’t know about UPromise! I’m going to go and check that out right now! Thanks for all the tips and ideas! I’m taking notes! 🙂

  8. I am really looking forward to this weeks blog posts. I am a single mother and currently in school trying to work towards my degree in Law. I have 4 children that I will be putting through college and these ideas are great and so far very informative.

  9. I never heard of UPromise so I’m feeling a little clueless. The 529 plan sounds great; however, we decided to take any extra money we had and put it toward paying off our mortgage instead of the 529 plan. Whenever I start to feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole college issue (not just cost, but what major and what school . . . and there’s lions and tigers and bears, oh my), I remind myself that God is in charge and He will direct our steps. He has done a beautiful job so far and I’m counting on Him to continue!

  10. I just finished reading all the comments from yesterday’s post. What a wealth of info in just the comments from other sisters. Thanks to everyone who shared. I’m encouraged!

  11. This information is SOOOO valuable! Thank you for sharing! I had never heard about Dual Enrollment Classes. I am excited to see what tomorrow’s post will bring!

  12. The information about educational service awards was new information to me. Thanks for all this helpful information.

  13. We have 3 children. Our daughter just graduated basically debt-free from a 4-year private university with the help of scholarships in her degree (religion) and grants. Our older son, our middle child, unfortunately is having to utilize Stafford loans but is also working 3 on-campus jobs and has spent the entire summer working to pay remaining tuition at his private 4 year university (he has a wonderful work ethic). Our other son is a rising senior in high school. He has taken AP courses and will be taking courses through the local community college next year, as well, which between the 2 should net him having a full semester of college completed before he graduates high school. We are blessed to have a state university within 15 miles of our home, so he will be able to attend there and live at home. We have saved a just a little, let me stress a little…haha… through the years for each one and hope that he can make his saved college dollars stretch to graduate without huge debt. Each child has different strengths and assets and each researched and found outside scholarships in their chosen area of study. Each of our children has required his/her own approach to funding college, but we have always tried to stress that the graduating college with a huge debt burden puts them behind the 8 ball from the start and have really tried to weigh the options carefully before encouraging them to take out loans. Thank you for the wonderful discussion and I pray God continues to bless all our children and lead them in His way. All the best: Vicki

  14. I am taking notes – and filling up my notebook to overflowing. Thank you for the wonderful ideas!

  15. Lots of new ideas for me….I can’t wait to share Upromise and Ugift with my husband. Our children are young, but we both have wanted to start looking into starting to save for their education.

  16. I learned there was more ways to save then a savings account in the child’s name. I am going to do more research now

  17. Thank you for all of the information. I’d never heard of Ugift or Upromise, so I’ll be looking into those. Both my husband and I were super blessed to be able to graduate from college debt-free, and I greatly desire to help my kids do the same.

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