His Financial Goal: Get in Front of the High Cost of Higher Education

Mathew Schwartz (DailyFinance)
Mathew Schwartz (DailyFinance)

Everyone has things they want to improve about their financial lives, even those of us who are paid to write and think about money on a daily basis. To that end, the editors at DailyFinance and other AOL sites shared their 2013 goals with personal finance expert Jean Chatzky. Today she offers some tips to help DailyFinance deputy editor Mathew Schwartz set aside more of each paycheck for his daughters' college education.

"We have two girls, 5-year-old, and an 18-month-old," says Mathew. "On the one hand, that means my wife and I have a lot of time to figure this out, and we're already setting money aside. But on the other hand, we'll have eight straight years of college tuition bills to deal with, and you can't start planning soon enough for something like that."

Here's what Jean had to say:

Step 1: Figure out exactly how much you're trying to save. The College Board puts the four-year total for tuition and fees at an in-state public school at $37,800 for the 2012-2013 school year. Whether you have one child or more than that, that no doubt looks like an unwieldy sum (particularly when you're trying to save for retirement simultaneously.) Nonetheless, planting a stake in the ground and giving yourself a number to aim for actually makes saving easier. So decide ... $100 a month, $200 a month, whatever you can afford. Then head to savingforcollege.com to see how far that will get you.

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Step 2: Take a look at what you're spending each month, and trim your budget in ways that will allow you to hit the monthly number you calculated in Step 1. Tracking your spending dollar for dollar for a few weeks will open your eyes to where you can cut back.

Step 3: Find the college savings account that's right for you. I like 529 accounts or Roth IRAs, the latter being a great option for those focusing on college and retirement savings simultaneously. Many states offer more than one type of 529 plan. Again, savingforcollege.com is a good place to compare. And note: You don't have to go with your own state's plan(s) if they're not top-notch.

Step 4: Automate. Arrange an online electronic funds transfer from your checking account to your college savings plan.

-- With reporting by Maggie McGrath

Tomorrow: AOL Music's Editor Wants to Take Control of Her Retirement Planning

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