Even if you understand the importance of saving for college, it can be challenging to build a savings plan into your monthly budget. These tips can help you make progress toward your goals — and might even inspire you to think of other ways to save.

Start with a Plan

  • Set a clear goal that you can attain within your particular timeframe.
  • Start saving as early as possible so that your money can grow over time.
  • Add saving for college to your regular budget, like saving for retirement and paying your household bills.
  • Set up regular, automatic transfers to contribute to your college savings account so that you don’t accidentally forget to contribute. And increase the amount of these transfers every time you get a raise.

Reduce Your Expenses

  • Use a notebook, spreadsheet, or smart phone app to track personal and household spending for a month.
  • Identify expenses that you can eliminate, and redirect that money to increase your college savings.
  • Review your monthly credit card, cell phone, bank account, and utility statements for any monthly extraneous fees that you can eliminate.
  • Avoid impulse purchases. Make a shopping list before you leave the house and stick to it.
  • Bring your lunch to work. You may be able to save up to $2,500 per year.
  • Borrow books from your local library instead of buying them at the bookstore.
  • Use coupons, buy items on sale, and shop online for better deals.

Take Advantage of Unexpected Funds

  • If you receive a bonus, tax refund, or other unscheduled income, dedicate a portion of it to your college savings.
  • Collect all of the loose change you can find around the house and deposit it in your college fund.
  • When a regular expense comes to an end — for example, your child graduates from daycare or you pay off a car loan — immediately redirect that money into your college savings account before you have a chance to get used to the extra spending money.
  • Clean out your closets, junk drawers, basement, and garage, and consider selling items that you no longer use through a consignment shop or online.

Get Your Family Involved

  • Ask your child to save a certain portion of his or her allowance or earnings from after-school jobs.
  • For special occasions like birthdays, ask family members and friends to contribute to your child’s college savings plan.

Invest in a Tax-Advantaged College Savings Account

  • The U.Plan is a prepaid tuition program that allows you to lock in tuition and fees at over 75 participating Massachusetts public and private colleges.
  • The U.Fund is a market-based 529 investment plan that lets you invest in portfolios of mutual funds with professional investment management.
  • A Coverdell Education Savings Account lets you save for qualified education expenses at elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges or universities. Distributions are tax free as long as they’re used for qualified education expenses.

Find out how the benefits and differences of these college savings accounts stack up against each other in this comparison chart.