Wednesday, July 11, 2018

You Asked, I Answered...How We Saved For College

So we're talking college savings today. Can y'all believe the price tag on a college education? Whew! We pretty much made our boys attend a local community college for the first two years. That really saves a lot of money. But even two years at a community college and two years at a local university (living at home the entire time) is a lot of money, somewhere around $35,000. And two years at a community college and two years spent away at college (with having to pay for an apartment and food, along with everything else) is an exorbitant amount. Think upwards of $50,000. PER KID. That's a lot of dough, y'all. 

Before we get started, you can click HERE to see the post I did a while back on how to save on college costs. I have lots of info on how to get cheaper textbooks, etc. 

I mentioned getting a new car in THIS POST and let me tell you, it was a long time coming. Here's the deal...we've been saving and saving and saving for years, in order to afford college for our two boys. We've sacrificed a lot and given up a lot, but it was all worth it and I'd do it again 100 times over. The sheer joy I get when I think about how both our boys can graduate from college debt free is amazing. I'm so grateful and very thankful we had the discipline and the opportunity to save all those years so they can graduate without any student loans to pay back. 

If you have small children and are just beginning to save for college, I hope this will encourage you. It's SO worth it and I know you can do it!

We started saving for college when our kids were very young. We set a specific amount that we felt comfortable with and saved that amount every month. The first thing we did at the beginning of the month was set aside that money for college. As my husband got raises, we upped that amount. Instead of enjoying the extra money a raise brings, we opted to add it to what we were already setting aside for college. 

If we got a bonus, a tax return, etc. most of that also went directly into the college fund. My boys contributed to it too. Once they got part time jobs, they put a set amount into their college fund every month. We didn't go on elaborate, expensive vacations every single year. We drove sensible (but dependable) cars. We certainly didn't go without, by any means. We were just very careful with our money and planned ahead. Case in point: I remember calling around to local orthodontists when my boys were around 4 or 5, just to get a ballpark figure on how much braces would cost. I also called our dental insurance, to ask what amount they cover. That way, I could get a head start on saving for stuff like that and wouldn't be blindsided by the cost at the last minute. And that's what I mean by planning ahead. By the time they needed braces years later, I was fully prepared to pay for them. Oh, and we also purposely planned having our kids 5 years apart, so we wouldn't have two in college at the same time. See...planning way ahead on that one. :) 

But the biggest sacrifice I made was sharing a car with my youngest for the last 2 years. 

Yes...I shared a car. Meaning I basically gave him my car and did without. :) Before you give me too much credit though, just know that I love being home and generally frown upon days I have errands to run, etc. I'd much prefer to be home cleaning (I know it's weird, but I LOVE to clean) doing laundry, reading and just generally running the household. I'm totally serious. I LOVE being home, so it wasn't that big of a deal to hand over the car. I gave the phrase "stay at home mom" a whole new meaning, ha ha! Once, while we were sharing the car, my son went on a trip for an entire week and left me the car. I was like "Yes! I have access to a car ALL WEEK!" And you know what I did? Left the house once. To go grocery shopping. On a Friday, when my hubby was home and I could have used his car anyway. See what I mean? Home is literally where my heart is. :) 

Let me back up a bit though. Here's how we did the whole "new car" thing. We are hard core Honda people. Like, we've driven nothing but Honda cars for the last 16 years. We would get a new one every 5 years. We did our research and they get such good scores on ratings, they last forever, get great gas mileage and practically never break. And not to mention, they're pretty affordable too. 

Here's Dylan selling lemonade at one of our garage sales. Please note the recent price reduction~ha! And there's "Ruby" (named for her paint color) in the garage. Our very first Honda. You can tell by the paper plates, she was brand new at the time. This is the Honda Dylan eventually drove all through college. :) 

How Honda helped our college fund

Getting Honda after Honda allowed us to continue saving for college. And since they were well built, we didn't have to worry about constant repair costs. Having a lower car payment made it easy to set aside a nice amount every month for college. I devised a "new car plan" and here's how it worked. 

I got a new Honda and drove it for 5 years. Then I would give it to my hubby (while I got a new one) and he would drive it for 5 more years. By that time, Dylan was ready for a car, so we gave him the 10 year old Honda, my hubby got the 5 year old one I had been driving and I got a new one. We continued this plan for many years, until both our boys were driving. We put very few miles on our cars, less than 5000 a year (due in part to my hubby working just a few miles from home and me just running around the neighborhood) So when our boys got their driver's licenses, we were able to give them each a car with about 40,000 miles on it and in perfect condition. And I do mean perfect. My hubby maintained our cars like it was his job. They got all the scheduled maintenance at exactly the right time. Oil changes at the exact amount of miles recommended. Tires rotated, filters changed, etc. He has notebooks of all the maintenance with dates, miles, etc. 

We knew that those cars would eventually go to our boys, so we made sure to do the proper upkeep. Well, to tell the truth, we would have done that anyway because we're those people. Ha! And it paid off because they both got garage kept cars in great condition with very low miles to start out with. 

Here's Logan eating pizza in "Al" the Honda that would eventually become his own. :) (Again, named for his alabaster silver color)  

the easiest way to save for college

So back to sharing a car with my youngest. So after paying off our last Honda, we would normally give the oldest one to Logan, my hubby would get the 5 year old one I had been driving and I would get a new one and start all over with car payments. 

But then I began to think about it...I didn't have any more kids at home I had to drive around. Both my boys had their licenses and could drive themselves everywhere. I didn't have to have a car to drop off and pick up kids from school anymore. I could totally put off getting a new car and just let my youngest drive mine, while I did without. Well, technically we "shared" the car. And...with no new car payment, we could now add all that money that was going into a car payment into the college fund. That would allow us to really increase the amount we were contributing to the college fund each month. 

So that's what we did. I let my youngest drive my car for 2 years. I even let him drive it to school and park it in the school parking lot all day. I know it sounds ridiculous to have a car sitting in a parking lot all day long, when I could have dropped him off and picked him up and had access to the car during the day. But I rarely needed a car and if I took him to school, I would have to get up and dressed at the crack of dawn to drive him there and then watch the clock all day, in order to get in the dreaded car line every afternoon for pick up. 

Plus, he was always staying after school to work on stuff for his film class or going to his part time job, so it was just easier to let him have access to the car. It worked out really well too. But even I will admit that after about a year, it started to get old having to schedule any appointment on a Friday when my hubby was off and I could use his car (thankfully my hubby is off every single Friday) For two years, every time I made a dentist appt or a haircut appt, etc. it had to be on a Friday. If they couldn't take me on a Friday, I'd have to wait a whole week until the next Friday. Mid week appointments weren't an option most of the time.

And every time I got in my car for the past two years, I had to adjust all three mirrors and the seat. Ugh. No seat memory on the Honda. ;) 

I mean, sometimes I could use "my" car, but for the most part, my son was using it for school or his part time job. Oh, that reminds me... remember to ask their employer if they offer scholarships. My oldest got a scholarship from the company he worked for while in college. 

But all that was a small price to pay in order to save for college. And like I said, I'd do it over 100 more times if it meant we'd be able to save enough to pay cash for their college education. :) I mean, we could have had much nicer cars or even a bigger house, if we weren't saving for college all those years. But instead we opted to put that money toward college and I've never once regretted it. 

By sharing a car for two years, that meant we didn't have a car payment for those two years and it really allowed us to amp up the college savings by adding what we would normally spend on a car payment, to what we were already setting aside for college every month. We just basically acted like we still had a car payment and instead of making payments, we transferred that money to the college fund, first thing every month. 

So when we finally had enough saved to finish paying for college, I rewarded myself with a nice, new car. And you better believe this Lexus has seat memory. ;) Now that we're not saving for college anymore, we feel like we got a big monthly raise. Ha! Sacrificing things for your kids isn't always easy, but this one was very much worth it. 

I think it all boils down to what your own personal priorities are. This is just what worked for us and won't work for everyone. A lot of you asked me to share our college saving story, so that's what I did here. But if you think outside the box and look at what's really a "necessity" you might find a way to start, or add to, a college fund. And y'all...I still color my hair at home with an $8 box of color. Just think how much money THAT one saved me over the years. :)

And remember all my "Walmart Finds" posts HEREHERE and HERE and many more just like that? Yep, that helped to save for college too. And not to forget all those DIY projects like Painting our Kitchen Cabinets and Installing Our Own Subway Tile. Those certainly saved a few bucks as well. Frugal shopping, coupons, DIY's and finding deals was all part of the plan. But having said that...I'm still a frugal gal who shops around for deals. That'll never change, so look forward to many more "steals and deals" posts in the future. ;) 

Do you have a secret to saving for college? Did you make sacrifices to send your kids to college? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a wonderful day!



  1. We made many of the same choices you made! I remember when our boys were toddlers we met with a financial planner who told us that by the time our boys went to college it would cost $40,000. I laughed and honestly didn't believe it. It turned out to be true and then some. Both of our boys changed their minds and drug things out a little so it cost more than we originally planned. Our youngest who is 26 will graduate this August with his BSN. We have no regrets! No regrets at all. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing Lisa, great life story. Your boys were so cute when they were little. I'm sure they still are and you are one proud mom as you should be. Have a great weekend.

  3. I love how you name your cars!! Although, I'm not at all surprised. ;) Great tips. We did basically the same....saved, took care of cars, passed them down, etc. I have to say that the biggest help was the scholarships the kids received. Thank goodness!! ps...cute boys! I bet you miss those days.

  4. I didn't doubt for an instant that you started saving early. All this time I've known you, you have shown how savvy and smart you are with money and purchases. I had to smile about the musical Honda's! My mom would always get the new car and then my dad would take her older one. I thought it was so sweet of him!

    My husband and I worked and saved like crazy from the minute we had kids. We wanted to have them experience the private catholic school experience we did, so they all went to private school from the age of 6 and on, all the way until high school graduation. Sometimes we paid by semester and wondered how we'd make the next semester tuition. By the way, we have 4 kids, all 3 years apart! State colleges saved us, and thankfully, no one had to take out a loan.

    It's really tough but I think your post has some great ideas for how to plan ahead.



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