Cutting back...what did you do to free up money for college costs?

<p>When our kids went to college we knew we needed to free up as much money as possible to pay the bills...here are some of the things we did. Maybe they will be helpful to others.</p>

<ol>
<li><p>We bought cars a year or two BEFORE our kids went to college and paid cash for them. We did not want car payments or have the need to buy a car while the kids were in school.</p></li>
<li><p>Refinanced our house a year before the oldest went to college to take advantage of the lower interest rate and reduce our monthly mortgage payment. We also took out a HELOC at the same time.</p></li>
<li><p>NO vacations. We just didn't have the money for anything but a drive to visit relatives for the 7 years our kids were in college. We did save the money to visit our son when he did his study abroad...but that was it.</p></li>
<li><p>Significantly reduced discretionary spending...eating out, buying new things (clothes, household items....everything). Reduced cleaning lady to once a month from once a week. Cut our TV cable to basic cable. Frequented the library instead of Barnes and Noble. </p></li>
<li><p>Changed all of our bulbs to CF...which reduced our electric bill by about $30 a month.</p></li>
<li><p>Shopped what was on sale at the grocery store!</p></li>
<li><p>Packed lunches for work (that saved a HUGE amount of money).</p></li>
<li><p>Took up hobbies with minimal cost (community theater, walking, bike riding..we already had the bikes)</p></li>
<li><p>Redid our cellphone, ISP, and phone contracts to reduce costs.</p></li>
<li><p>Got into the habit of going to consignment stores FIRST if clothes were needed.</p></li>
<li><p>Deferred some desired renovations to our house (those new countertops...you all know I'm waiting for those!!).</p></li>
<li><p>Looked at things like our food and utility bills...when our kids are not here, those are much lower, It was good to know HOW much lower.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>Anyone else?</p>

<p>We just downsized the house to free up some monthly cash. Didn't get any $$$ unfortunately to pay for college upfront, but thought it would be easier with a much lower mortgage payment. S isn't excited that we are moving farther away from school, friends and activities, but now that he is driving it seemed to make sense.</p>

<p>We buy and sell the kids textbooks online. We've drastically reduced the cost of their books! Also, we purchase dorm room essentials at sales that happen in October. Soon to be college freshman purchased his bedding 9 months ago.</p>

<p>I think one of the best kept secrets on the planet is the huge tuition discount available for many college and university employees and their families.
When my oldest D was a high school freshman I found a position at a nearby LAC where tuition if FREE should either of my kids, myself or my husband attend, AND they partner with hundreds of colleges and universities around the country and abroad to offer heavily discounted tuition (around 50% off).<br>
My oldest ended up with a very generous NMF scholarship at a school of her choosing, but with D2 we will likely be taking advantage of this employment perk. It's our back-up plan, and I think a very good one.
So basically, in planning ahead for college expenses I changed careers and left stay at home Mom/part time bookkeeping.
An added perk - a college campus is a fun place to work!</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Started saving for college the day the kids were born.</p></li>
<li><p>Still get free TV through the air (rabbit ears) - so don't pay for cable.</p></li>
<li><p>Used the lowest cellphone price - $19.99/month on T-Mobile.</p></li>
<li><p>Only bought what we needed, not what we wanted - including having one old car (1993 vintage) and, like thumper, buying the other car before college hit and with cash.</p></li>
<li><p>Get videos through the library for free. Also get books from the library rather than buying them.</p></li>
<li><p>Took one vacation each year but planned way ahead to get the best prices - and stayed in places that didn't break the bank.</p></li>
<li><p>Looked for free stuff and activities - store giveaways, events, etc. - on-line and in the newspapers.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>We started early and planned ahead. Put as much as possible out of paychecks into both retirement and college savings accounts/investments, funded a 529, and bargain shopped for anything and everything. I love deals and coupons. As a family, we believe in living well within our means. We didn't shift money around to try to look "good" on the CSS. Maybe we should have, but we didn't.</p>

<p>It's a great idea to revisit this issue for new college parents and those anticipating college payments in the future. :) We follow most of the suggestions above, though these weren't changes in our lifestyle - but our standard operating procedures. ;)</p>

<ul>
<li>Pay off credit cards in full each month- and use them for ALL expenses to earn those "Cash-back" dollars.</li>
<li>Thermostat set low or high to save energy.</li>
<li>Low-flow faucets, high-efficiency washer/dryer etc
*No cleaning person, yard person or other person - clean it and cut it yourself.</li>
<li>No cosmetics or cosmetic frills (hair tinting, pedicures, etc) just SuperCut when absolutely needed. </li>
<li>Free TV - (them little antennae things pick up HD tv extremely well, and we don't need more than 3 PBS and 4 Network stations!)</li>
<li>Only buy what you need and/or really want; reduce stuff.</li>
<li>NO CARS FOR THE KIDS! I preach this one over and over, because most folk don't realize what a huge savings it is in terms of cost of vehicle, gas and maintenance and car insurance, and parking. Due to my insurance company's "away-at-school with no vehicle" policy, my kids are/were covered for FREE all year round for any car they drive, even over the vacations. And due to timing things well, we never paid any insurance costs for DD, and only about 6 months for DS. (DS got his license mid-senior year. He had his learner's permit for much longer, but only got license then. DD delayed hers even later.)<br></li>
</ul>

<p>We actually just priced car insurance to see how much it would be for us to add a 3rd car to the family, and send one car to stay in college town with DS , who is a rising college senior. Over $2000 a year just for the insurance! Multiply times 2 kids, plus cost of vehicles, maintenance, gas, etc - it's easy to see that over the course of the years between when they turned 16 (thus eligible for full driver's license) to when they graduated from college that we, collectively, have saved over $48,000. [6 years X 2 kids X ($2000 car insurance plus minimum $2000 cost of vehicle/gas/maintenance.)] </p>

<p>Quite likely the costs would have far exceeded that estimate - more like $60,000. Many people would say, "But they need a car." or "My kid bought the car himself and he is paying most of the insurance/gas/maintenance himself." Yes, but - the money going to the car costs are then not going towards college expenses. :eek: Sorry, I get on my soapbox and then have a hard time getting off! ;)</p>

<p>We COULD be way more frugal than we are, and in the good-old-days I baked all our bread and cooked and we didn't eat out much, etc. Now, we eat out, but good, cheaper non-chain restuarants, and we have taken some vacations (just got back from visiting DD in Turkey!), but we know how to have a good time on not too much money!
And - yeehaw! - have only ONE more semester of college tuition and fees to pay, then we will be done for good!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)</p>

<p>I don't mean to sound like a commercial, but I just shopped our insurance -- both homeowners and auto. I had been putting it off, but couldn't believe how much $$ I saved on our premiums. All total, it took about 3 hours of my time.</p>

<p>hmm ... nothing to original but fortunately I'm cheap and Mom3togo is really cheap ...</p>

<ul>
<li>Paid off mortgage at the time our first started college</li>
<li>Really cheap on cars ... my car is the middle version civic ... paid cash for the car ... will drive it until we need to shoot it beside the road to put it out of it's misery. FYI - the savings since my oldest was born between ... option 1) Serial 10-year Civics paid with cash and ... option 2) serial 4-year leased spiffy SUVs ... is just about the difference between the cost of UMass and a private school. My wife has a similar approach to cars.</li>
<li>Started 529s when the kids were born and made contributions at least quarterly ... some were not big but we always made a contribution.</li>
<li>NEVER pay interest on credit card</li>
<li>Only used bonuses and profit from employee stock purchase plans and stock options for long-term financial goals/needs ... 529s, paying mortgage, cash for new car to replace 10 year old car, roof repair, etc.</li>
</ul>

<p>(PS - my first job a co-worker taught me a great trick to get ahead of making car payments ... when you pay off the loan on your first car keep the car and keep making payments to yourself and do not replace your first car until you can pay cash for your next car ... then you're in position to avoid paying interest for cars from that point on)</p>

<p>I was going to congratulate bigtrees, but I don't see that post announcing the impending arrival of a daughter. Congrats!</p>

<p>Hmmm . . . consignment stores, only buying the sale groceries, brownbagging lunch, living in a cold house during the winter . . . oh my goodness, this is how we live now and college bills are still a year away! We're going to have to learn to make salad out of grass clippings.</p>

<p>My plan? Work at an LAC for the last 20 years and hope we get accepted for tuition exchange.</p>

<p>We've always been frugal. No real changes to make for paying for college as we saved enough to pay for it over time. Merit scholarships were nice to have. Student jobs during the semester paid for expenses. Summer jobs - I just let the kids keep whatever they earned.</p>

<p>We started saving as soon as they were born. Saved enough for four years at their choice of our very good state system's schools. Told them that was our contribution and if they desired anything different, it would be up to them to earn scholarships to pay for it. Both kids were fine with that and happy to attend instate publics.</p>

<p>Buying U.S. Savings Bonds for kids' college funds.</p>

<p>My current cell phone is 7 years old. No camera, keyboard or texting plan.</p>

<p>We have lived in the same house for almost twenty-three years..never moved up to fancier neighborhood. Paid off the house before S2 went to college. </p>

<p>We both brownbag lunch to work.</p>

<p>Live close to work, short commute,less gas.</p>

<p>Don't have gym membership.</p>

<p>DH cuts his own hair. I get mine cut at Great Clips..don't color hair or have manicures.</p>

<p>Only rent dvd's fr. the $1 box at the gro. store.</p>

<p>My car is almost ten yrs. old..no plans to buy another.</p>

<p>We do eat out but it's always cheap (less than $20)..no Starbucks or fancy restaurants.</p>

<p>Shop for textbooks online.</p>

<p>Have not been on a "Paid for" vacation since S2 started college...visited relatives.
All previous vacations were instate driving trips. </p>

<p>Keep thermostat low in winter and high in summer.</p>

<p>Keep credit cards paid off.</p>

<p>Basic cable</p>

<p>Shop Goodwill</p>

<p>Have always lived on a weekly budget. We keep it posted on the frig. and track our expenditures throughout each week to make sure we don't spend more than is alloted per week. Have done this since before kids were born which was really instrumental in keeping us on our college savings track.</p>

<p>There is hope for non-savers! Somehow, we managed great with almost nothing saved ahead of time. Although we were frugal, our incomes were low when the kids were little, and then we used available money to build a home in a nicer neighborhood during the middle school years, and got set for college by paying off both cars during the high school years. When first kid was a HS senior, we had less than $8,000 saved for college expenses...but we had no debt apart from mortgage. She could have chosen full-ride state school, but we decided to risk her first-choice private school. Quite frankly - I had no idea how to figure out if we had money enough to pay for it... analyze budget? What budget? </p>

<p>Basically, we ended up living frugally on husband's salary, and using mine to pay college costs.<br>
And, we found that along with cost cutting that we could do to free up money for college, there was also cost SAVINGS from having kid gone- federal tax credits, food costs, energy costs, personal expenses cost and EC costs. [just e.g. $2500 tax credit plus (30 weeks school X $50 per week food costs) plus (kid takes over paying all entertainment, clothes, shampoo etc. from work/study job) plus kid hands over $1000 to parent for summer earnings contribution, plus parents are no longer paying for any EC costs.] I figure that's at LEAST $6000 saved per year by having a kid at college. </p>

<p>I'm not ENCOURAGING people not to save for college- but not having saved lots of funds doesn't necessarily mean that your kid will have to live at home and commute to a community college. :) </p>

<p>P.S. Again - I do think people should save for college if they can. We were just too young and stupid to even think about it - and we really didn't have the funds to do so. Plus, we were grad students with two young children... it was just about the last thing on our minds! :eek:</p>

<p>
[quote]
we ended up living frugally on husband's salary, and using mine to pay college costs.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>We did this too. Now that the kids are out of college, it's like winning the lottery!! No more monthly payment. I know there are some who advocate for NOT having that second income (to reduce income and qualify for need based aid) but we now have my seniority in addition to my salary...something we would not have had if I had not worked while the kids were in college.</p>

<p>Another thing...we did NOT loan money to family members or support them in anyway while our kids were in college. The reality was we needed our resources to support our immediate family. And yes...we were asked to contribute...we graciously declined.</p>

<p>:) One more college payment, Thumper, one more... and then we'll be doing the happy dance with you! ;) :)</p>

<p>Great thread.</p>

<p>We didn't save for college BUT we saved for retirement until it hurt. Once our oldest started college at his expensive, private school we cut back on retirement savings.</p>

<p>However I wouldn't put life on hold to save. I just looked at my priorities and made decisions from there. Stayed in our old, modest but nice-sized first home. Very little new furniture.</p>

<p>Big family vacations. Fortunately we have family that lives in great places to visit. Florida, Idaho, Arizona, and California. While other people were dreaming of driving around the West, we were doing this every 2 -3 years. Visiting Grandma in Florida every year. </p>

<p>Another hint (although too late for most on CC) was to do remodeling a couple of years before your student starts school because you won't do it after. With 3 boys going to college over a 10 year period I made improvements on anything I thought couldn't wait.</p>

<p>Also, as someone said, we are just naturally frugal. We fix instead of replacing. Drive old cars. </p>

<p>We did buy a couple of new cars. We bought our first new car the day my oldest was due to be born. He drove that car in high school!</p>

<p>Overall, our strategy has worked for us. </p>

<p>I have encouraged, begged parents to do a practice FAFSA a couple of years before their students starts college. Many are surprised at how much they will be expected to contribute, even for an in-state school. Or they may find they will have to pay the same whether their student attends in-state or private.</p>

<p>I love this thread.
We have always lived within our means.
Mortgage was paid off when Odessagirl was in Middle School. Started 529 plan at that time with money that was previously being paid in mortgage costs.
Paid cash for most recent car, so no car payments.
DD earned huge scholoarship, which brought the cost of her #1 choice private college within our means. btw - we did have the money discussion with her as to how much we could contribute towards college, etc. And that anything over that amount, she could have to come up with herself.
Any other ideas out there?</p>

<p>Do not forget to guard your health, physical and mental.</p>