Okay, I'm doing a favor and passing on some information I got from dlandon
. The second one I knew about and had already implemented, and the first one I had looked at earlier but mistakenly thought I didn't qualify. dlandon
's post made me look at it again, and hey! What a cool program.First, there's UPromise
. It's a website that gives you money for spending money. They have several ways this works:
1) You can get their own credit card, the Citi Upromise card. If you do, you get 10% extra college savings on thousands of grocery and drug store items, 10% extra college savings at 8000+ restaurants, and 1% college savings everywhere you shop. This was what I saw when I glanced at this program in a cursory fashion a year ago. I thought, geez, I don't want another credit card; we're trying to reduce our debt
, and so I didn't look any further. My mistake. You see, there are OTHER ways you can use the program, even without signing up for their credit card:
2) You can register your own
credit or debit card that you are already using (up to ten of them). If you use it at a restaurant that has an arrangement with Upromise, you get anywhere from 1 - 25% of the cost of your order deposited into your college savings account. I discovered that my local coffee shop, Tillie's Bean, is signed up: everytime I buy a cup of coffee there, 4% would go to my Upromise account.
3) there are other merchants that have Upromise arrangements. Get 1 cent a gallon every time you fill up at an Exxon or Mobile, using a credit card you've registered. Every time you rent a Budget truck. Every time you book through travelocity. Every time you use shutterfly.
4) you can get a percentage of the money you spend at participating grocery stores and drug stores. If you already have a CVS pharmacy card, for example, just register it with Upromise--and then every time you swipe it at the drug store, you're also putting money into your Upromise account. You can also check for ecoupons on the Upromise site. No need to even print them out: just click on them on the website, and then when you swipe your card at the grocery store, it'll save you money AND put money into your college savings.
6) you can click through their site to shop online with a long list of very familiar retailers: Barnes and Noble, Target, Gap, JoAnn Fabrics, Macy's, Banana Republic, LL Bean, etc. A percentage of your order will go to your Upromise account. It's legit, their member partners donate the money (I'm sure they've done studies on how much extra revenue it drives) and, of course, upromise tries to sell you a 529 account. But, seriously, why not? it's a really long list, and during special promotional periods you can get back up to 6%! It's free money deposited into an account you create.
So you tell me, great idea Peg, but I don't even have a kid. You can still participate!
Designate the money to go to a nephew or a friends' kid (heck, you could designate the money to go to Fiona and Delia if you want---and if anyone is interested in doing so, let me know, and I'll send you an invite.) You could also designate that the money go to a school that you choose. How about supporting your local community school?Secondly, 529 accounts
. They are special accounts that allow you to save for your kid's college education, and the interest earned/growth is all tax free. You control over when the kid withdraws it/what they use it for, because it's up to your discretion - not the kid's. Some states (not MN, unfortunately) even let you deduct it on your state taxes. But most importantly? Many states offer matching grants if the parents meet income requirements (ie, don't make too much). In Minnesota they will give you up to $400/year as a matching grant. Frankly, if you qualify in the low income bracket, it's a no-brainer. Even if scraping together $400 is tough (and I know for some of you it might be), $400 over 18 years is $7,200. And you *know* your kid's unlikely to get that much when they hit eighteen and start trying to find scholarships/grants.
So, anyway, worth checking out. Different states have different options (though you can invest in any state's plan you want, the benefits vary widely), different fees, and different tax policies, but take a look at www.savingforcollege.com
for more information.