I just found out September is officially considered “Saving for College” month. This seemed cool and insightful until I found out it’s also the official “Eat Chicken Month”, “Fall Hat Month” and “Pleasure Your Mate Month” (look it up if you don’t believe me!). With recent headlines screaming about the skyrocketing cost of college (and this being a family newspaper), I’m leaning towards a “Saving for College” theme for today’s Column. Trust me, once I go thru the math, the numbers will be so downright sexy it might qualify for the “Pleasure Your Mate Month” too – bonus!

When people read that a child born today could face college costs of $150,000-$250,000 down the road, they often give a shrug of resignation, as though attempting to save would be futile at best, humorous at worst. Well, never fear – not only do I seriously doubt the numbers, but I’ve also got two easy tips that will take you to your goals in leaps and bounds.

Tip #1: For big results, think small, and watch it add up huge – Between now and the SAT’s, chances are excellent your kids are going to have a few birthdays & celebrations. Make them work to your kid’s future advantage by making it clear to family and friends that (depending on your child’s age), whatever amount they want to spend on a gift, spend half on the gift, another half on a contribution to their college savings. Anyone who has attended a child’s birthday party knows that the toy/gadget overload is usually of biblical proportions – the only thing more impressive is how bored the child is with it 48-72 hours later. Case in point – I was raised in a wonderful household in which my childhood birthday parties were a fantastic, memorable affair with friends, family and lots of gifts, and for the most part, I can’t remember 1/100th of the presents I received. On the other hand, each year my Aunts, Uncles & Grandparents were encouraged to send me $5, $10 and $25 savings bonds, which went straight into the bank. When I hit Penn State a decade or two later, those small amounts accumulated to pay for three semesters worth of expenses at school. You get the point. Think small, and watch it add up like crazy.

Tip #2: Think outside the Ivy League box – I have nothing against impressive, expensive Universities. The architecture is usually magnificent, and I’m a huge fan of their history. That being said, of all of the people I know who attended Ivy League schools (or other overpriced Universities), more than half were still paying off school loans 20 years later. It’s like having a $200,000 mortgage for a piece of framed paper on the wall. On the flip side, I can personally name eight people in my close circle of friends, family and work acquaintances who attended a local campus or Community College, paid off all of their school costs immediately, and are now earning six figure salaries, with no college debt, as we push thru one of the biggest recessions in history. Enough said.

Whatever your College ambitions, never let an obnoxious depressing headline steer you from your goals – and for more money-saving advice, catch my Show Tuesdays at 4P on West Chester’s WCHE 1520 – did I mention September is also “National Shameless Self Promotion Month” as well? Frugal On!
Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living. She co-hosts WCHE 1520’s Morning Show on Wednesdays, and you can find her online at http://www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com