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Saving money for (and at) College

Whether you have children who are making their way to college, or maybe you’re heading there yourself, it’s no secret that higher education can come with a hefty price tag. Not only do you have to worry about living expenses while in school, but tuition and books can carry their own heavy bill.

Paying for College

If you’re still in the early stages of prepping for college, you need to know where to look for financing options. The Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FAFSA) is a great place to start. This form needs to be filled out prior to each year a student is in school. Once you gather your financial records (or your parents), be sure to fill out your FAFSA correctly (tip: families shouldn’t be accounting for retirement assets or home equity). FAFSA awards grants, loans and work-study options to help students pay for their studies. Private student loans are also a viable option.

As far as local and regional funds go, high school students should scour their guidance counselor’s list of available scholarships. “Free” money earned through scholarships, no matter how small, will add up when it comes to paying the bills.

Paying through College

The first step of supporting a student and paying for life at college is determining a source of income and setting a budget. Determine what expenses will be covered with loans, grants and scholarships and figure out what is left to be covered.

If your student will be getting an allowance, encourage them to create a budget document to help track their spending for the semester. Or, if your student is to work through college, have them scour their college’s student job board (campus jobs tend to be more accommodating with student schedules). Another resource for finding part-time or seasonal jobs is Snagajob, which highlights jobs specifically for student, part-time workers.

Being in college isn’t the time to live large. It’s okay to be a little frugal, especially if it means saving a little bit each semester.  And with 36% of millienials (age 18-31) living at home (partially in response to down employment), having your own nest egg when you graduate could help buy time between snagging your diploma and snagging your old room at your parent’s house.