We've all seen the dismal figures: Kids born today will need an average of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to cover their four years of college education. When we think about saving for our kid's college education, accounts like 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, and custodial accounts typically come to mind. While these should certainly be considered our first lines of attack in saving for a child's college education, there are some lesser-known and easier ways to push savings rates even higher. Best of all, they involve little to no sacrifices or money out of pocket.
Check out three creative, hassle-free ways to earn free money for your kid's future.
1: Try Upromise -- a college savings service that can save you money. You earn 1% to 25% cash back when you use a linked credit or debit card for in-store and online purchases at participating retailers. You can redeem your Upromise earnings any way you want -- requesting a check, having funds deposited into a savings account, investing the money into a 529 plan, or even paying down a student loan. Even better, it's free and you can invite friends and family to join.
2: Find out more about your existing credit cards' rewards features. If one of your cards has a cash-back feature, use it. Discipline yourself to funnel your cash rewards into your child's college savings account. That way, you can save for your child's tuition without even thinking about it. For example, a credit card with a 1% everyday cash-back rewards feature can yield $240 per year assuming you charge $2,000 a month on your credit card. If you did this over the course of 18 years, it'd add up to more than $4,300. If your existing credit card doesn't offer a cash-back feature, make it a priority to find one that does. Let LowCards.com and NerdWallet.com help you find one. Many cards with cash-back rewards boast no annual fee.
3: Consider the Monetta Young Investor Fund -- a low-cost, no-load mutual fund -- for your child's college savings. Not only has the fund outperformed its comparable index, but, best of all, as a fund shareholder your child is entitled to generous college tuition rewards -- as much as $1,000 per year and up to nearly $12,000 worth of tuition credits over 18 years. The tuition rewards are non-taxable, do not affect financial aid, and can help reduce tuition costs at nearly 300 colleges and universities nationwide.
As the Chinese proverb goes, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." Teaching your child about money is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child. The Young Investors Fund is designed with an educational component filled with games and contests about spending, investing, budgeting, and loans. Or check out Money as You Grow, a site designed to start a dialogue about money, saving, and avoiding debt. It provides age-based tools and resources for helping your child make smart choices about money.
Don't let the rising cost of college aggravate you; the worst college savings plan is the lack of one. Take advantage of both traditional college savings accounts as well as creative solutions. And make sure you've taken steps to equip your child with the education he or she will need for a lifetime of success.