5 Ways Parents Can Banish College Savings Anxiety

Photo Credit: CollegeDegree360

Photo Credit: CollegeDegree360

If thinking about your child’s college fund gets you down, you’re not alone. Parents frequently described their feelings about college savings as overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated, or scared, in a recent study.

Don’t let college savings anxiety zap your energy and steal your hope. Here are five ways you can move from fearful to fearless.

1. Look your fear in the eyes. What is your greatest fear when it comes to saving for college? You don’t think you’ll save enough? You worry that your child won’t be able to afford their dream school?

Maybe you think that without a proper college fund, your child will fall in with the wrong crowd, start a life of crime, and end up the subject of a Lifetime movie.

Sit in a quiet room, close your eyes, and allow yourself to experience your worst college savings fear. Imagine that you didn’t save enough. Feel the weight of your child’s puppy dog eyes as you explain that they will have to earn scholarships or get a part-time job.

Would that be the end of the world? Not in my book.

As for that Lifetime movie, if your child goes apes over their college fund, you might be better off investing in counseling.

2. Shed the guilt. Just as breastfeeding doesn’t make you a better mother, paying for college doesn’t make you a better parent.

Even if your folks covered your tab, that does not obligate you to foot the entire bill or even a portion of your child’s college tuition.

Make your own decision about how much you will contribute to your child’s college education. Don’t let anyone—not even the kiddos—make you feel bad.

3. Stop pleading poor mouth. Recent changes to 529 Plans have made saving for college more flexible and affordable.

Grandparents can contribute more, 529 funds can be used for laptops and Internet service, and the management fees on some plans are dropping.

But I’m broke, you say.

You’re not powerless, even if you don’t have the cash for a college savings plan right now. Information is free. Educate yourself on your college savings options, including low cost plans.

Money man Dave Ramsey’s discussion of Educational Savings Accounts versus 529 plans is worth the quick read.

Learn your options. You never know when overtime at work or an unexpected windfall might jumpstart your college savings.

Photo Credit: Tax Credits

Photo Credit: Tax Credits

4. Hunt for scholarships early and often. Let someone else write the check for your child’s college education.

Free college money isn’t just for high school seniors. Awards are available for students as young as kindergarten on through graduate school.

Set aside time each week to research and apply for scholarships.

5. Make college planning a family affair. Your kids can be your secret weapon against college savings anxiety. They can:

  • Brainstorm ways to trim the family budget to free up cash.
  • Become a strong scholarship applicant (e.g. good grades, special skills, community service).
  • Work a part-time job or start a small business.
  • Research affordable colleges.

To my readers: Who do you think should pay for college? How does college planning make you feel (be honest)? What are your tips for conquering college savings anxiety?

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About Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson is a Dallas-based freelance writer who specializes in college planning, parenting, women’s lifestyle, education, and self-help. But she's always hungry to munch on new topics. In addition to writing for The BookWormMama blog, Nicole provides content, copywriting and proofreading services for various publications.


5 Ways Parents Can Banish College Savings Anxiety — 28 Comments

    • Wow, Michelle. You’re right, those college expenses are going to start coming at you like a freight train. If you haven’t already, it’s time to hunt for free college money.

  1. My husband and I decided that we aren’t going to even attempt to save for college. Instead we’re going to save money for our daughter to buy a house and hopefully she can rent the rooms out to some college mates to help pay what little mortgage she may have, her portion of utilities and maybe have a little extra to save/spent. That’s the best we can do seeing as I’ll likely still be paying on my own college loans. We’re being realistic and providing her with a great deal of savings though it likely won’t be enough to pay for a 4-year college. Sigh…Visiting from SITS.
    Andrea recently posted..Red Pumps, Red Lips, Read UpMy Profile

    • Thank you for sharing, Andrea. Like I said, paying for college or not doing so doesn’t say anything about who you are as a parent. Good on you and your husband for thinking through what you want to provide for your daughter. You’re not letting college sneak up on you, and that is to be applauded.

  2. My parents paid about $2,000/year for my education. I went to a private school, so the overall bill was high. But the scholarships to a school with a good endowment were also plentiful.

    My husband and I are on track now to be able to pay about 1/3 of the cost of a state school tuition (assuming the cost continues to rise at its current rate). We would save more, but we had over $70,000 in student loans to pay back for our undergrad and graduate degrees. I don’t think it is a parents responsibility to cover the cost, but I think efforts should be made to make some sort of contribution.
    Tiffany recently posted..How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure While Filing Taxes OnlineMy Profile

    • Thank you, Tiffany. Those student loans have a way of haunting us, don’t they? That’s awesome that you have a college savings plan in place. As you referenced, scholarships can make a way.

    • Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! It’s great that you talked with your kids ahead of time so that they know their responsibilities. Planning for college is definitely a family affair. Thanks for stopping by, Dee.

  3. My parents paid for undergrad and half of law school. They did not save beforehand and I don’t want to be in that position. My hubby and I have spoken about it and we don’t want to do Florida Pre-Paid as that can be so limiting for our child. My friend is having her baby model and putting the earnings into savings for college. I am thinking of doing the same.
    April Golightly recently posted..Concert Ticket GiveawayMy Profile

  4. Thank you for this post. You’ve empowered me to find ways to help my kids go to college beyond giving money, which isn’t something I will be able to do. And thank you for helping me not feel guilty that I can’t send them to college on my dime.
    Adrienn recently posted..The evolution of a mom.My Profile

  5. These are great tips! We have been planning and saving for our boys’ college for a few years. Whether it will be enough when the time comes or not, we will have to wait and see. If it is not, we will make a plan when we get there.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..SITS-uation Normal?My Profile

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  7. Pingback: Your child’s future college expects your money…even if you’re broke | BookWormMama.com

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