Top Tips for Making a Great Photo Book for Less [Guest Post]

I’m so excited about today’s guest post! Did you know there was a website dedicated entirely to helping you create photo books. PhotoBookGirl.com features helpful how-tos, reviews, photo book ideas and savings tips and today it’s author, Photo Book Girl, is sharing some of her best photo book creation tips with BC readers. Enjoy!

One of the best ways to get your family’s photos off your hard drive and into print is through a photo book. There’s just something about holding a book of your own creation in your hands.

Photo books are affordable, compact, easy to duplicate for gifts, and much lighter than a traditional album. Plus customization options and creative possibilities are endless.

My blog Photobookgirl.com is all about finding the best photo book deals and photo book companies as well as sharing tips on how to make a great photo book. I’ve put together a few images of the photo books I’ve created for my family as well as some of my best tips right here!

How to Find the Best Photo Book Deals

1) Sign up for the company’s e-mail list and fan the company’s Facebook page. Special promo codes and info on sales will come straight to you. Companies will offer greatly discounted or even free books from time to time – obviously a great opportunity to try out a new company with low risk;

2) Thinking about buying a Groupon or other daily photo book deal? Before buying go to the company’s website to check out the offerings and play with the software. Even if it’s a great deal, if you don’t like the company’s design tools, it won’t be worth it. Also, do a little math and compare the daily deal to the promo the company is currently running. If you plan to make a book with a lot of pages, the Groupon may not be the better deal since the discount maxes out and you’ll have to pay for the difference at regular price. However, if you keep within the promotional value of the Groupon, you’ll typically save 60% or more off your book;

3) Make note of how the company charges for additional pages. Some companies price out their photo books in page ranges rather than on a per page cost. For example if a company charges $20.00 for 21 to 40 pages, be sure to make 40 pages or you’ll miss out on 19 free pages. Also some companies from time to time will run a “free extra page” promo. Meaning you’ll only pay for the standard 20-page book and you’ll get the rest free (that can be as much as 80 free pages);

4) Make and Hold. If your project is not time-sensitive, make your photo book and just hold onto it until a good deal pops up;

5) External Software. If you find that you love making photo books like I do, it may be worth it to invest in your own design software. That way, you’ll have the most flexibility in where to print, thus increasing the chances in finding a great deal and you’ll have the most ability to customize the actual layouts themselves. Adobe Photoshop Elements and FotoFusion are two popular programs.

Photo Book Girl’s Best Photo Book Design Tips

1) Do your editing outside of the photo book program. In-program editing tools are usually very limited. Brightening your photos is usually a good idea – photos tend to print a bit darker, so if you have a photo that looks too dark on your screen, it will probably look darker in print. Don’t have your own photo editing software? There’s lots of free photo editing software out there.

2) Narrow down the number of photos you plan to use before uploading. Having too many photos will make it confusing when you go to design the pages. I average about 1 to 5 photos per page for a 20-page photo book (assuming the standard 8.5” x 11” size). So, selecting 80 to 100 photos or less will still give you a lot of options without being overwhelming. You can always add more later;

3) The Duplicate or Copy button is your friend. Once you’ve created a few layouts that you’re happy with, duplicate the layout or the spread and reuse it with some minor tweaks. No need to make a different layout for every page, just intersperse them throughout the book. If you can’t save or duplicate the spread, even just copying a photo or text box instead of creating a new one is a time-saver as it retains the preferences you’ve already set;

4) Pick a template. If you’re making your first book, don’t worry about having to make your own layouts, many companies have fabulous ready-made templates. Just upload your photos and drag and drop them into place.

Hope you’ve found my tips helpful. Please stop by to say hi on my site or my Facebook page. Be sure to also check out my 3rd Anniversary Photo Book Giveaway for lots of great prizes and promos. A big thanks to Angie for inviting me to share these tips with you! Happy Photobooking!

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How to Pay Less for Cloth Diapers [How-To Tuesday]

Cloth diapers run you $18 to $20 dollars new, and it’s pretty rare to find them on sale for more than 15% off at retail stores. That doesn’t mean you can’t cut the cost of cloth diapers by more than that, though. Far from it. Here are some ways to save big:

Watch for limited-time only deals.

Watch for vouchers to stores that sell cloth diapers (Ecomom or Abe’s market for example) at sites like Groupon and Living Social. You can save up to 50%.

Daily deal sites like BabySteals and Eco Baby Buys offer them sometimes, too.

Flash sale sites like Zulily.com and The Mini Social.com occasionally run cloth diaper sales for brands like Fuzzibunz and Kushies. Be sure to factor the cost of shipping into the equation to ensure that you’re getting the deal you think you are.

Consider gently used diapers.

Parent-to-parent swapping and selling sites like Spot’s Corner at Hyena Cart, Re-Diaper, Diaper Swappers, the Diaper Pin forums, Baby Center’s Cloth Diaper Swap group and even Craigslist and ebay (if you get lucky). Diaper Swappers and Spot’s Corner are reader faves. Expect to pay about $10 to $13 per diaper. That’s 35% to 45% off the cost of new diapers.

Look for sellers with plenty of good feedback and listings with photos. There should also be a description of any stains, pilling, damage or wear to the diaper. I’m sure it goes without saying, but wash and strip the diapers before using.

Scout clearance sections for gently used, closeout and seconds (irregular diapers).

Cloth diaper retailers often sell their “seconds” or slightly irregular diapers as well as gently used diapers that have been part of their trial program (and thus used very few times). Some diapers may only be a dollar or two off, but look for reductions of 25% or more. Note: sales are usually final, so order carefully.

The list below links to clearance sections at the various retailers. If you don’t see any offerings there right now, try following the site on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for emails to find out when the clearance sections are restocked.

And finally, if they’re in good shape when you’ve finished with them, you can resell your cloth diapers to recoup part of the cost.

What are your best tips for saving on cloth diapers?

See more posts about cloth diapering

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image of diapers courtesy of supafly on flickr

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How to Choose a Bike Helmet for a Toddler or Child [Essential Tips]

[Updated 3/15/13]

All bike helmets sold have to meet CPSC standards, whether they cost $15 or $50. Studies by the Bike Helmet Safety Institute showed that “the very expensive helmets and the very cheap helmets …have about the same impact protection” (source).

The most important factor in bike helmet safety is how it fits, and that’s something you’ll have to take make sure of yourself. That’s why it’s best to buy in-store where you can try the helmet on your child or buy from an online source that offers easy returns.

Fit

  • The helmet should sit level on the head.
  • It should cover the forehead down to one or two finger widths above the eyebrows.
  • The chin strap should be tightened so that the left buckle is under the chin and no more than finger widths fit under the strap.

Find more guidelines for fit at the NHTSA site and at the Bike Helmet Safety Institute site (BHSI).

Other Features to look for

  • Ventilation
  • Smooth, rounded exterior
  • Be sure that the helmet is not too heavy for a toddler
  • From the BHSI: “Helmets for children transported in child seats or trailers should never be the “aero” shape, since the tail hits the back of the seat and forces the child’s head downward. You may have to put a cushion behind the child’s back to prevent this.”

Good news for money-conscious parents: The BHSI says, “The higher priced helmets have big vents, but no verifiable advantage in impact performance. Our testing showed that the sample of very expensive helmets and very cheap helmets we tested had about the same impact protection.”

Giro Me2: $20 to $30 (shown above)

Schwinn Thrasher: about $20

Bell Trigger, Dart or Fraction: $30 to $40. Fraction shown at right. NOTE: Walmart carries several Bell youth helmets under $20.

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How-To Tuesday: How to Spend Less. Period.

Screen shot 2013-09-06 at 1.10.01 PMWelcome to another How-To Tuesday. Today I’m sharing ways to avoid over-spending on baby products (and everything else).

You’ll find a ton of posts on this blog for items you can buy at big discounts, but the truth is, I don’t want you to buy everything I post on this blog or on the Facebook page. The very first post I ever posted on Baby Cheapskate was called “Don’t Buy It.” That’s because the real secret to saving big bucks on baby stuff is only buying what you need. Of course, that’s like saying that the secret to having a healthy diet is avoiding junk food. Easier said than done, right?

What drives us to buy what we don’t need?

Like overeating, overspending is usually an attempt to fill an emotional need:

  • Retail therapy helps some of us feel in control of those crazy new-baby days. If we can just buy the right product our baby will sleep through the night  / be fully potty-trained by a year old / become a national chess champion at the age of three…. If only it worked that way.
  • Some of us feel like if we’re not giving our kids the latest model of the hottest baby items out there, we’re somehow shortchanging them (or ourselves).  In reality, children need sooo much less than we think they do. They thrive with nothing more than your love and a few other necessities.
  • As a culture, we are rarely content with what we have. We value consumption and competition. We want the best stroller at the playground, but the larger cup holder of the 2011 model really bring you joy?
  • Scoring a bargain often gives us a drug-like thrill (and for up to 5% of the population, shopping is a real addiction). It feels good, but only for a moment. Like devouring a pint of Ben & Jerry’s alone in one sitting, the pleasure quickly replaced by guilt and lowered self-esteem.
  • Some of us shop because we get bored and maybe a little lonely cooped up in the house with a baby. Shopping gives us places to go and people to see.
  • Some us find we’ve bought something on impulse before we’ve had time to think about whether we should. With the added pressure of “buy it now or lose out”, one-day only and flash-sale sites can be a real danger to those already prone to spending impulsively.

So what do you do about it?

Avoiding impulsive and emotional spending is a lot like avoiding impulsive and emotional eating. Here are four techniques that can help:

  • Keep a spending diary, and write down what you spend every time you buy something, no matter how small it is. This forces you to become conscious of what’s actually happening. Write down ALL your purchases for a week. At the end of the week, go through each item on your list and think about how you feel about the purchase now. Do you regret it? Did it make you happy? If it was an impulsive purchase, think about what may have triggered it. Then try to avoid those triggers
  • Realize that you don’t need to be prepared for everything. Let an actual need arise…and then deal with it then.
  • Try to control impulsive spending by refusing to buy anything without a self-imposed “cooling off” period. Try putting the item in your cart and then doing nothing. Wait a few hours (or days) before you buy. This gives you time to think about WHY you want to buy the item.
  • Set goals and post them near your computer or in your wallet along with questions like “Do I really need it?” and “What will happen if I don’t buy it.”

Who was it that said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? The same applies to spending. The fleeting high of a purchase pales in comparison with how good it feels to have a healthy bank balance. Choose to spend your money on baby products that are in line with your family’s needs and values rather than on items that will end up sitting in the closet unused.

Readers, share your tips for avoiding unnecessary spending in the comments!

Read More:

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How-To Tuesday: How to Make the Most of Spring Consignment Sale Season

Get ready to score some BIG TIME baby bargains. Spring consignment sale season is upon us!

Consignment sales are a fabulous place to get started with your baby preparations. Starting this month you’ll find warm-weather items like shorts, tees, and baby swimwear. Expect to see lots of baby gear, too, from strollers to baby gates, to safety rails for toddlers’ beds. Items I’ve picked up at consignment sales include Bumkins bibs, toys, books, sneakers, baby gates, clothes, and footie pjs. The quality of the items varies, but expect it on the whole to be better than thrift store stuff, but with more wear and tear than you’d find on items at consignment stores. Prices should be along the same lines, slightly higher than most thrift stores but less than most consignment stores. And WAY less than retail.

Find a sale near you at KidsConsignmentSales.com, The Bargain Watcher, and local parenting magazines. You can also check your local Craigslist board for listings or Google the name of your town and “consignment sale” to locate nearby sales.

  • Many of consignment sales have websites with details about the event, maps, and contact information if you have questions.

9 Things You Must Know Before You Head Out

  • Think about what you need most and try to find it straight away, especially if you’re looking for baby gear. The best baby gear items go fast. It’s also a good idea to know what the items you’re after cost new in stores. That way, you’ll know whether you’re getting a deal.
  • Avoid buying used car seats. You don’t know if they’ve been in a crash or not.
  • Consignment sales can be crowded and hard to maneuver with a stroller or with kids in tow. Strollers are actually verboten at some sales.Go without the kiddos if you can.
  • Get to the sale early, but check to make sure there aren’t “early bird” restrictions if you plan to bring your kids. Some sales reserve the first day or first few hours for child-free shoppers.
  • Get there near the close of the sale for move-it-or-lose-it pricing. The last day or last few hours of the sale often bring half-off or “$5 per bag” type deals.
  • Look items over well to make sure they’re in good, safe condition. If you have a smart phone, you can even check the recalls list before you buy. Baby Center has an easy-to-use recall finder.
  • Take cash, although many larger operations take debit or credit cards.
  • Take along your own shopping bag so you’ll have a place for all the goodies you find. I’ve seen a lot of shoppers with small laundry baskets.
  • If you like the sale, ask if there’s a mailing list you can get on so you’ll be notified of next years’ sales.

If you’re interested in selling your gently-used baby and kid stuff, contact the sale organizer. Also, most sales have websites that can tell you what you need to know.

What great deals have you found at consignment sales? Any more tips for making the most of your shopping?

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Photo at right: SouthernBelle886 via Flickr


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How-To Tuesday: How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language for Free

Welcome to another How-To Tuesday post. Today’s article is a guest post by Misty Weaver, editor of BabySignLanguage.com, an easy-to-use site that offers free signing information and resources for parents. Enjoy!

Baby sign language is easy to learn – all it takes is lots of repetition and stacks of patience. With a little bit of know-how, you can start teaching your baby to sign today. There are tons of free baby sign language resources around – all you need to do is know where to find them and how to use them! Read on to find out how to teach baby sign language without having to pay for classes.

How To Start Teaching Baby Sign Language Yourself
To start, pick a few simple signs, such as Mommy, Daddy, and Milk, and concentrate on using these signs over and over with your baby. Repetition is key, as is choosing signs which are interesting to your baby. Use the sign and say the word clearly each time you come into contact with the object – for Milk, you would sign before, after and during feeding, saying and signing Milk. For a ‘how to’ guide to the most popular signs check out Baby Sign Language Top Ten Starter Signs. You could also download a printable baby signing Baby Sign Language Wall Chart for free.

When Will My Baby Start Signing Back?
Be patient when you are teaching baby sign language and don’t expect your baby to start signing immediately. You should encourage all her efforts, even if you don’t recognize the sign she is trying to make! Most babies over the age of six months need about two months of exposure to and repetition of a sign before they begin to use it. So if you start signing with your baby when she is seven months old, she will most likely be using one of your favorite signs by the age of nine months. Remember, all babies learn at their own pace. For more free answers to common baby signing questions check out Baby Sign Language Basics.

Developing A Signing Vocabulary
When your baby has mastered her first few signs you can introduce new ones. It’s a good idea to stick to groups of similar ideas or objects when introducing something new, for example food signs, colors, or animals. Remember to keep it fun and repeat, repeat, repeat each sign. Encourage your baby’s efforts. Only introduce a few new signs at a time, and continue with each for around two months. The Internet has stacks of great baby signing dictionaries, including Baby Sign Language Dictionary.

Do I Need To Go To A Baby Sign Language Class?
The short answer is no – you can learn and teach baby sign language without paying for classes. Good baby signing classes follow the advice above – making learning fun, repeating signs and building a base of simple signs before moving on to new ones. Once you have checked out and downloaded some free resources, why not get a group of friends together to practice with. Your baby will find this great fun, and it will stop you feeling isolated. Have fun, repeat and encourage – these are your steps to success.

Readers, have you tried baby signing? How did it go?

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How-To Tuesday: Making Your Own Baby Food

Welcome to this week’s How-To Tuesday post.

If you stop to think about it, baby food is really just regular food mushed up really, really well. Yet it doesn’t even occur to so many of us to  make our own.

It’s not even very time consuming. BC fans tell me they spend only 30 minutes to two hours per week making their tots’ food.

Other advantages to making your own food:

  • Save money.
  • Get baby used to eating what you eat.
  • Know exactly what your baby’s eating.
  • Less packaging and waste.

Interested? Read on to find out what you need and where you can go for more info and recipes.

Equipment

You can spend a lot on fancy food makers or food mills, but there’s no need. If you have the following, you’re ready to get started.

  • Blender, food processor or food mill
  • Ice cube trays
  • Glass containers or BPA free plastic containers or bags

The Basics

There’s really not much to it. As BC reader Lori noted on the Facebook page, “I don’t understand all the hype on making baby foods. We always just mashed whatever we were eating with a fork and fed her.”

  • Wash and chop food.
  • Cook it until soft.
  • Mash it or puree it according to your baby’s needs (adding a little water if needed).
  • Strain it to remove peels, chunks, seeds, etc. if necessary.
  • Pour it into ice cube trays, cover and freeze for later use.
  • Store frozen cubes in labeled and dated glass or bpa-free containers or bags in the freezer(each cube is about an ounce).
  • Thaw, reheat and eat.

Find out more at these fab websites

Cookbooks

The websites above have tons of (free) recipes, but if you still like browsing through cookbooks, here are some of the newest, most popular baby food books out there. Your local library should carry some of them.

Do you make your own food? If so, what are your best tips?

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How To Tuesday: Stylish Clothes for Moms on a Tight Budget

Welcome to this week’s How-To Tuesday post.

So what are you wearing today? Yoga pants again? Admit it, I’ll bet some of you are still in your pjs. Moms of young children are busy, busy, busy! So often we barely have time for showering, much less shopping and keeping up with the latest styles. Today I’m sharing with you some favorite sources for fashion inspiration.

When it comes to post-maternity style, we all have different M.O.s. Some of us prefer to save by buying good pieces that cost a bit more, but that will last a few seasons. Others scout Goodwill and garage sales for can’t-be-beat bargains. Others stick to on-trend, on-budget styles from stores like Old Navy and Target. Whatever your fashion sense, the following sites should help you improve your “hot mom” quotient.

Go-To Blogs for Fashion Inspiration

The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style: Nationally recognized style expert Lilliana Vazquez aims to “help you look fabulous within the framework of your own figure, budget, and lifestyle.” I love Lilliana’s “Look for Less” posts, which offer a pricey haute couture item and show regular folks how to get a similar piece for less (usually under $100). The site features looks from stores like Forever21 and Ann Taylor LOFT.

She’s Still Got It: Part of Cafe Mom’s “The Stir” suite of blogs, She’s Still Got It is the brainchild of Nashville journalist and mom Lindsay Ferrier. Lindsay gives us the scoop on the latest news from the fashion world, the best sales, and the greatest gotta-have-it pieces, all with a healthy dose of humor. I love Lindsay’s Style Dare posts, where she tries out weird fashion items (Pajama jeans! Booty Pop!)–in public, no less–and lets readers know how it went. Lindsay’s other blog is the well-regarded Suburban Turmoil.

Cheap Chic Daily: Fabu-less Finds for Girls on a Budget: Frugal fashion advice from the “style and shopping for the real world” folks at StyleBakery.com. Latest post: Cheap thrills: Monday must-haves under $38. If you love stores like Charlotte Russe, Forever21, and Express, you’ll love this site.

Frugal Fashionista: Head-to-toe celebrity looks on the cheap. I love the 10 under $10 posts. Find picks from Gap, Asos, Go Jane, Forever21, and even Target and Kohls.

She Finds: I love She Finds’ “Taste Test” posts: “Can You Tell Which Leopard Print Bikini Costs $597 More Than The Other?” and the Buying Guides. She Finds also keeps you in the know about the latest sales and flash sale fashion deals.

Ain’t No Mom Jeans focuses on how-to posts for great “Everyday Mom Style.”. Latest Post: An Easy Method To Determine Your Personal Style. Also, Don’t miss the three-part series: New Style Rules for Moms (1, 2, 3)

Fashion Under $100: This blogger’s “The Savvy Stylist” posts address reader-submitted questions, like “What Should I Wear to a Bachelor Party?” You’ll also find wallet-friendly interpretations of celeb outfits. A recent post about a Lindsay Lohan look included items from JCPenney, Forever21, Asos, and Endless shoes. The focus, natch, is on items priced below $100.

What are your favorite frugal fashion blogs?

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How-To Tuesday: How To Use Amazon Mom to Score Hot Deals on Diapers

Welcome to this week’s How-To Tuesday post.

By now most of us know that one way to get awesome stockupportunity prices on disposable diapers is to buy them through Amazon’s Amazon Mom program, right? BC readers have asked me to share a bit more about how to make the most of the program. Read on:

What is Amazon Mom?

  • Amazon Mom is an Amazon.com program (Sign up with Amazon Mom here). It’s free. You’ll get an extra 30% off disposable diapers and wipes when you use Subscribe and Save (versus the 15% you save without Amazon Mom).
  • You’ll also receive three months of free Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime usually costs $79 year. It gets you free two-day shipping on items sold by Amazon with no minimum.
  • Amazon Mom members are periodically emailed special savings on baby items. A recent offer, for example, was a coupon code for an extra 10% off toys.

Subscribe and Save Basics

  • Get a rundown of the best diaper prices at Amazon at my weekly Top Diaper and Formula Deals of the Week posts.
  • To buy through Subscribe and Save, select your delivery option (every one, two, three, or six months) and click “Subscribe Now” . You’ll be taken to the sign in page and then the shipping info page. You’ll then set up your payment options. On the order review page you’ll see a place on the right sidebar to enter a promo code. That’s where you’ll type in your Amazon coupon code if you have one or any other coupon code available for your order. This is also the page where you’ll see the extra 30% taken off your total.
  • For each subsequent delivery after the first one, you’ll be charged the going rate for the item. You cannot “lock in” a sale price.
  • You can buy multiples of the same item with Subscribe and save, but you must create a separate subscription for each different item you buy. If you want to buy a new size of diaper, you’ll need to create a new subscription for that, too.
  • Don’t want repeat deliveries of the item? No problem. Just go to  “Manage Subscribe and Save Items” under “Your Account” and cancel the subscription after the first order ships.

More About Amazon Mom

  • You can extend your Prime Membership by a month by purchasing at least $25 in qualified products from Amazon’s Baby department. You can earn up to a year of free Amazon Prime this way. After you make a qualifying purchase, you should get an email that lets you know the status of your Prime membership.
  • You can check your Amazon Mom account details and Prime membership details under the Your Account tab at Amazon.com. Look under “Settings.”
  • [**edited: there are no Amazon coupons right now. We hope they'll bring them back!] You can combine the extra Subscribe and Save with the Amazon one-time use coupon codes that we’ve been seeing in American Baby (free subscription here), Fit Pregnancy, Parenting The Early Years and Parents magazines. The coupons get you 20% off diapers and they’re generally good through the end of the month they’re issued in. There’s no guarantee that Amazon will continue to offer these coupons, but we sure hope they do.
  • If you have a new coupon that you want to use, you’ll need to cancel your subscription and create a new one.
  • The coupon codes begin with a letter, most recently ‘Y’. If you see someone referring to trading a ‘Y’ code, that’s what they’re referring to. In past months, coupons from different magazines have begun with different letters, and you could stack codes with differing letters on the same subscription. A few readers have reported being able to stack two codes that begin with ‘Y’. There’s no guarantee that this will work, for you, but try it.
  • Don’t forget to check Amazon’s Coupon Book before you’ve by. There’s usually a coupon for Pampers there. Just click it to use.

More about Using Coupons

If you need a coupon code, try posting a request for one or trading for one at BC’s Baby Coupon Trading Group or on in the Discussions tab of the BC Facebook Fanpage.

Do you have any Amazon Mom tips that I didn’t include above? Post ‘em in the comments.

This post may contain affiliate links. See BC's disclosure policy for more info.

How-To Tuesday: How (and How Much) to Save for College

Welcome to this week’s How-To Tuesday post. Today I’ll share a few tips and resources aimed at helping you learn more about college savings.

Note: Saving for your own retirement should come first. To paraphrase one reader’s comment on the BC Facebook Fan page, you can get a loan for college, but you can’t get a loan for retirement. That said, here are some tips and resources to help you learn more about saving for college:

How much will you need?

College costs are rising, and so is the income gap between those who attend and those who don’t. Experts may disagree on the actual amount you’ll need for college, but they all agree on one thing. Start early. From FinAid.org (a great resource):

The sooner you start saving, the more time there’ll be for compound interest to build up a nice college fund for your children. A family that starts saving $10 a week at birth at 4% interest will accumulate $12,663.44 by the time the child turns 17 and enrolls in college. If the family waits until 4 years before college to start saving, they’ll have to save $56.12 a week in order to reach the same goal.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the numbers, but here’s the thing: You don’t have to save for the entire cost of college. Some of the expenses can be paid from savings, some can be paid from your income at the time they’re due, and some can be paid through grants and/or student loans. Fidelity Investments published an article a few months ago that listed recommended setting aside 3% to 9% of what you bring in, based on income level and type of college. You can read a summary of Fidelity’s study here.

Where do you keep it?

Whatever you do, don’t stash the cash under your mattress. We contribute to a 529 plan that my husband’s mother set up for us when my son was born. 529 Plans let you withdraw the money federal income tax-free to pay for qualified educational expenses when the time comes. Many states also offer state income deductions for 529 plans. You can see a state-by-state list here.

There’s a lot more to learn about 529 plans–types, contribution limitations, alternatives to 529 plans, etc.–and I won’t go into them here. Click the links in the resources list below to learn more.

Painless Ways to Save

  • Dump your change into a “college savings” jar. Ask grandparents to do the same.
  • Round up purchases to the nearest dollar in your check register. At the end of the year, transfer the extra money into a savings account.
  • Have your child save a portion of any money received as a gift.
  • Join UPromise (it’s free) and you can earn money for college via in-store and online purchases. Upromise is owned by SallieMae, the college loan folks. Learn more about Upromise here.

Further reading:

Have you started saving for your child’s/children’s education? What are your best college savings tips?

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