7 Mistakes Parents Make When Saving For College #TakeSimpleSteps

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Graduate students tossing up hats over blue sky
This is a post sponsored by COUNTRY Financial. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

With the New Year off to a start everyone is thinking about how to become a better version of themselves. There’s no denying that now is a good time for a fresh start whether you want to lose weight, be more organized or save more money. 

Mistakes parents make when saving for college - The Everyday Mom Life



If you fall into that last category, you already probably have plans for that money – nest egg, retirement, new car…But, have you considered that this would be a great time to start saving for your kids’ college education too? 

Often times parents feel like their savings choices are limited and we as parents make some mistakes along the way when it comes to saving for our children’s education. I know I have. 

Here are 7 common mistakes parents make when saving for college and hopefully they will inspire you to begin thinking about this important

Mistake 1: Waiting To Get Started 

A lot of people I know procrastinate on starting college funds for their children (or fail to start at all) because they feel like they can’t afford it. The bulk cost of college is so overwhelming that it just feels like an uphill battle to start. That’s not very motivating.

However, the earlier you start the more they will have. We opened accounts for both of our kids right after their baptism so we would have some place to put the money that they received. Our intention was that those accounts would become the place we continuously added to as well. There are a lot of small ways you can save for school, like putting change from purchases into a savings account, that won’t make it feel as burdensome.

Mistake 2: Not realizing all the options you have

Some people think that the only option for saving for school is a bank account. Once you look into it you realize there are actually quite a few options that will allow you to save for your child’s higher education. I’ve outlined a lot of the options here, but the short list is:

  • Savings account
  • Automatic paycheck withdrawals
  • Keep the change
  • Investment savings, such as 529 Plans and IRAs
  • Education savings accounts

Once you take a deeper look into these options, I’m pretty sure you will be able to find one that will work for your life.



Mistake 3: Depending on scholarships or grants

To be blunt, not every child gets scholarships and grant. It’s just how it works. Don’t rely on these to pave the way for your kid when it comes to higher education.

If you have started dreaming about these options while your child is still a baby, you might want to think again. Perhaps you plan on them being a football star or a stellar student in all honors classes with a perfect SAT score, but your child might have other plans. There’s no way to tell who your baby will become as they grow. Don’t count on them fitting into your picture of what life should look like. Make sure you plan for them to be whatever they will be.

Mistake 4: Considering only in-state 529 plans

You can open 529 investment plans in any state. Sometimes other states may have lower fees. To find out more about 529 plans, click here

Mistake 5: Not setting realistic expectations about school choice with your child

I know we all want to believe our kids can be anything and go anywhere. Let’s be realistic though. The “go” anywhere part might have to be limited when you’re talking about college.

If your child dreams about going to school on the other side of the country but you simply cannot make that work, you need to have a conversation about that. If your child has no idea what they want to do with their life, perhaps a community college is a better option for two years. That way they can explore options without exploring the depths of your wallet.

The point is to not give up your voice when it comes to where they want to go to school. Maybe they can’t go out of state, but maybe they can have their pick of a handful of really great state schools. Maybe they want to have the four year experience, but need the two years at community college to make a four-year school possible. We all want them to be able to make their own decisions when it comes to a place they’ll call their new home, but you need to have a say and possibly set boundaries in that decision too.  

Mistake 6: Using your 401K

Don’t do this. Just don’t. If you have a 401k you need to continue to invest in that for you versus taking a loan from it to pay for school.



Mistake 7: Not saving at all

Some people will tell you that it’s better to save for you, meaning your retirement, versus saving for your child’s education, and a lot of people count on financial aid to carry their child through school.

While you should save for your first, you owe it to them to see if you can help them too.

As far as aid goes, financial aid loans don’t cover everything and most financial aid come in the form of loans instead of grants. I had a ton of loans coming out of college. In fact I’m still paying them off. I don’t want that life for my kids and if I can help with that at all, I want to. It’s much less expensive to save for school now than take out a bunch of loans, incur the interest and then end up owing double or more later.

Take the first step and give your children the gift of a brighter future, visit COUNTRY Financial for financial tips and ongoing support. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well for more updates.

27 COMMENTS

  1. I would never use my 401K for my kids college. That money is for ME 🙂 My kids will just have to take out loans like I did.

  2. I think having a discussion with your kids about the realistic school options based on cost is really important. The cost of out-of-state and private tuition is a lot, and I don’t think kids realize it! Thanks for the tips!

  3. Thank heavens we got to skip this by not having kids. I know it’s a personal choice to pay for them or let them struggle, but the question is “does the career they want NEED a degree?”. Not all kids need to go to college, and certainly not full time or away from home.

  4. The one about not expecting grants/scholarship is so great. My parents always made sure to put money aside for me, and I’ve been blessed to receive a full scholarship, so that money will go toward paying for my first home or some other expense down the line. I know I’m extremely lucky that they saved, and I hope that I paid them back by making sure they didn’t have to pay!!

  5. Man, I worry about this. I know my husband has a game plan but I still worry at times. I am more worried about high school as it will come first. The schools he plans on the kids attending to send them to are currently costing 20,000 a year, so that will be almost 200,000 for high school alone! But God provides

  6. I hv a son who’s on his way to college. And though we’ve been blessed w scholarships, College is cheaper than the prep school he’s currently attending. Thank you for this information.

  7. I had started saving for my children’s college fees a few years ago but when I fell on hard times, I used the money. I will be starting again soon as they are still in primary school. Setting realistic options from the get-go is vital. I hate debt and currently have none and will not go into debt for what I cant afford.

  8. I was not aware of the automatic paycheck withdrawals and honestly that would be the best for me! If it’s gone, I can’t spend it! Thanks so much for all this great and very helpful info!

  9. These are some awesome reminders of the mistakes we can make. We’ve got a handful of years left but my goodness if I don’t think about it daily! We have the bank accounts for both – but it’d be nice to consider some of these other ones! I don’t know how my parents have done it for three and still have one more to go!

  10. These are great tips! It’s such a gift when parents are able to help their kids go to university. It’s our aim to do so and we have already started to save even though our kids are only 1 and 4 years old.

  11. These are great tips, some of which I didn’t know about. We are just doing regular savings for our boys since I don’t know whether they will want to go to college or use the money to start their own businesses. Thanks for sharing!

  12. This is such an interesting topic for us these days as many of our friends are going through the selection process of college or even higher studies for their kids. I so agree with your points and #5 is my absolute fav!

  13. I love all your tips! Totally agree with your list too. It is interesting that sometimes saving for your kid’s college is something we just forget about. I am glad there are many ways to do it now and information is more available.

  14. These are so true! I started a savings fund for each of my kids before they were born. Even a small amount a week helps. College definitely isn’t cheap, so starting early really helps.

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