Saving for college with Scholarshare

This post was sponsored by Scholarshare.

When my kids were smaller, people would talk to me about the expense of having four children, and I would genuinely be confused about what they meant. When they were little I was able to use hand-me-down clothes and gear from friends, and then each additional kid just use the things their older siblings did. We passed down clothing, highchairs, and infant car seats. It didn't feel like each new child was much of a burden financially.

Kristen Howerton 12_08_2013068 (Medium)

I have to say, now that they're getting a bit older, the financial aspects of four children are a little more pronounced. Signing them up for activities can get quite expensive. And now, each of them have their own ideas about what they want to wear, and that often doesn't involve their older siblings’ clothing from two years prior.

But the most daunting aspect of having four children, when it comes to finances, is definitely when I think ahead to paying for their college. Mark and I have a huge value for higher education. Both of us have our masters degrees, and if I'm honest, my hope is that all of my children will go to graduate school as well. But at the very least, I am assuming that we will be paying for four years of college for four children. If you do the math on that, it ends up being more than we spent on our home. Yikes.

Mark and I both paid for college ourselves, for the most part. We had some pretty astronomical school loan bills when we started our lives together. In fact, we just paid off our school loans last year. While I understand that some people consider having kids pay for their college to be an exercise in self-discipline, for me, it was an exercise in stress. It was really difficult for me to try to juggle a full-time schedule of college courses, while working enough to pay for living expenses and tuition. I would really like to give my kids the gift of going to college without stressing out over how to pay for tuition.

One of the things I'm really grateful for is the fact that my husband is wise with our finances. He is constantly reading investment books and educating himself on best practices for money management. We actually started 529 accounts for both of our nephews when they were little. Hard to believe, but my oldest nephew is now a sophomore at NYU. (Cue crisis about me feeling old). I felt really good about having been able to save up some money to contribute to his college expenses. It wasn't much, but we felt good about helping him out in a small way.

Fast forward to having our own kids, and our oldest is nine and we still haven’t started a fund. It’s one of those things we always said we would get to, and never did. I met with some folks from ScholarShare last week (they are a 529 fund for Californians and they are generously sponsoring this post). They shared some of the advantages to a 529 account, and a lot of it was news to me. I will be sharing more about Scholarshare in the comments months. Honestly, hearing from them made me feel really good about that option, and I opened accounts for each of my kids that day. I’m embarrassed to say that it took about ten minutes per kid. Nine years later, and ten minutes to set up a college account. I had it set up to automatically withdraw $25 per kid each month. Easy. Painless. I’m so glad I did it.

If I think too much about the cost of college, I can easily get overwhelmed. But instead of getting bogged down, sometimes it’s good to just get started.

Do you plan to pay for your child’s college expenses? Did your parents pay for your college? What’s your strategy to saving for your child’s education?

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