Elementary Milestones

Small Things Can Make a Big Difference


You may not realize that even small costs can have a major impact on your savings. The cost of an evening at the movies or going out to eat is money that you aren’t saving. Everyone needs these extras at times, but by cutting back on some of the extras each month, you can put a big dent in paying for your child's college education.

But how can you squeeze money out of your monthly household budget?

This can be easy if you have a plan. If you haven’t already done so, establish a budget and know where your money is going. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to find ways to make small adjustments that can add up to significant savings for college in the long-run.

Do you think you can find an extra $50 each month to contribute to your child’s college savings account? You do the math:

  • Skip the cup of coffee/latte you purchase each morning.
    That could save you $28 to $49 just over the course of a month!1

  • Brown Bag it: Consider the cost of the lunch you or your kids buy each day and the savings from packing a lunch, even two to three times a week.
    This can save you $3 per lunch; a family of four could save $12 by brown bagging it one day a week. By brown bagging it one day a week for a month, a family of four could save $48!

  • Use coupons at the grocery store and stick to a shopping list to avoid those unplanned extra purchases.
    The average coupon value is $1.16.2 Use five coupons during each weekly grocery trip and you could save more than $23 for the month.

  • Rent a movie instead of going out to the movies.
    For a family of four, it could cost well over $25 to go to the movies, and that’s not including popcorn!3

  • How about that soda you get out of the vending machine each afternoon?
    Considering giving it up or buying it by the case and bring it with you to work. That could save you $5 or more a week!

  • Eat dinner at home instead of eating out.
    Even an “economical” dinner for four at a fast food restaurant can quickly add up to a $22 expense.4

This is just a short list of ways you might be able to save more today towards your child’s college education. Remember, saving now will be easier and more affordable than borrowing later. Even as little as $50 can make a difference.

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1 Source: Based on consumption of 20 times per month and average price paid of  
    $1.38 for a cup of coffee and $2.45 for a specialty coffee drink
2 Source: CMS, Inc 2006
3 Source: Based on average ticket price in 2007 of $6.88
4 Source: Food Markets Branch, Economic Research Service, USDA. January–April 1999


Updated 12/08/2015