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This is a guest post from Sam Lodaria, founder of The Financial Freewill.
How to save money for college — if you’re a parent, it’s probably something you’ve thought about more than once.
Student loan debt has been increasing at a staggering pace in the past decade. More and more students are graduating with higher student loans and struggle to save money.
For example, consider these numbers:
- Total outstanding student debt reached $1.4 trillion in 2019
- The average student loan balance per borrower also hit a record high of approximately $36,000
- 54% of students borrow money (get in debt) in the form of student loans and(or) pay for other college expenses
Right out of the gate, college graduates are being set up for failure. The jobs out of college do not pay nearly enough to cover rent, food, car, insurance, student loans, and other necessities in life.
This leads to more borrowing through credit cards and it becomes impossible to save and invest your money.
If you’ve been through the student loan debt cycle yourself, then you know how frustrating that can be. So, why not help the kids save money for college from a younger age?
In today’s digital age, there are so many options available for kids to start saving even before they make it to college. And encouraging your teen to start early with a part-time job or side hustle can be a great way to teach them some financial responsibility while building college savings.
Before we dig into the best ways teens can save money for college, here are two critical steps you don’t want to skip.
Create Your Action Plan
Consider saving money for college as a family project. For a project to be successful, the first step involves meticulous planning, and the following questions need to be answered:
- What is the current total cost of a 4-year college degree?
- How much does the tuition cost?
- What is the cost of other expenses (living, food, textbooks, etc.)
- How much would it cost when my kid is ready for college?
- What are the ways in which we can save money for college?
- What are the scholarship and grant options available?
You can use a College Cost Calculator to figure out how much will it cost when the kid is ready to go to college.
For example, in the above snapshot, currently, it costs approximately $34,000 for the 4-year public (out-of-state) college degree. Adjusted for 5% college inflation rate, 35% cost covered out of your pocket and 5 years to go until college, you will need…
So, approximately $65,000 for 4 years (which is 35% of the cost you plan to cover) is what you need to save – a daunting task!
Don’t worry; there are numerous scholarships and grants options available, so rarely anyone will pay the full $65,000 in this case.
But, you see the point of how critical it is to know the numbers and start planning to save money for college as early as possible!
Set Up A Target Amount (GOAL)
Once you determine how much you need to pay for a four-year college degree for your child, set up a savings goal. This is essential since you will be planning your household expenses and savings to align with this goal.
Head over your bank and open a separate savings account explicitly to save money for college. All the money that you save on a weekly/monthly basis for college goes into this savings account. Do NOT transfer any other money to this account.
In addition, you can also open a money market account that offers a higher interest rate on your account balance. And of course, you could open a 529 college savings account, which can offer some tax advantages.
Regardless of which account you open, you can make saving money for college easier by automating your deposits. Even if you can only save small amounts each payday, automating ensures that you don’t spend that money instead.
And over time, even small amounts saved can add up.
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22 Ways Teens Can Save Money for College
Now that we’ve covered the two most important things you need to do to start planning for college savings, let’s look at the best ways teens can help make money of their own to save.
Start A Weekend Side Hustle
For a teenager, weekends are the best times when you have both time and flexibility. Starting a side hustle is a great way for them to make extra cash.
Pro side hustle tip: Help your teen focus on developing, creating, and(or) selling something that will give them meaningful experiences they can add to their resume or college application.
1. Start a blog
Becoming a blogger is similar to running an online business. It is a complete package where your kid will learn to manage every aspect of the blog, learn the technical aspects of managing the website, and the social aspect of collaborating with others in the industry.
There are numerous teenagers who started blogs as young as when they were 11 years old.
Tavi Gevinson started a blog Style Rookie at 11 focused on teenage fashion. Nick Normille started a food blog called Foodie At Fifteen when he was 15.
And who knows, your kid can develop a career out of blogging!
2. Writing articles
If your teenager has excellent writing skills, they can write articles for various blogs, share their opinion by writing a product review, and also make consistent income.
But, this can be an excellent way to improve writing skills and possibly develop a side hustle as a freelance writer. These writing gigs will offer anywhere from $10-$25+ per hour, depending on the skillset.
3. Online surveys
A lot of brands look for customer/user opinions for their products. So, they engage in surveys and in return for your time to take their surveys, offer compensation.
Now, most of the online survey sites have an age limit of 18 or above, but there are some popular ones that specifically look for opinions from a teenager.
These surveys typically pay you per survey ($3+ per survey) or per hour ($5+ per hour)
4. Offering a service
If your teenager is good at graphics & design, video editing, logo creation, photoshop or other skills, check out Fiverr.
It is one of the popular sites where businesses and professionals come to find help. For example, if a company needs images photoshopped, instead of buying the software and figuring out how to photoshop, they will come to Fiverr, pay someone, and get the work done.
It’s incredibly efficient, and you can get customers and leads from all over the globe.
The starting price is $5, but it can go over $100+ depending on the skillset and product.
Related Article: How To Save Money
Summer & Weekend Jobs
Summer jobs for teenagers?
Yes! There are plenty, and it’s a great source to save money for college.
This is one of the typical summer jobs for teenagers. Start with the family and see if anyone needs help babysitting. You can start at $10 per hour, and this will be a good source of cash.
Remember, the teenager should be responsible and should pay attention to the instructions provided. Your teen should understand that if the parent’s instructions are not followed, it could result in an emergency.
Another popular option is to dog walk. Start with your neighborhood and reach out to folks with dogs. At a minimum, they need to walk their dogs thrice a day so your teen can negotiate either a flat rate per day or per visit.
Again, teens will need to be at least 18 to sign up. But dog walking can be lucrative; Rover, for example, states on its site that dog sitters can make up to $1,000 per month!
If your teen loves to teach others, this is the perfect summer job.
There are countless students who need a little help getting through their studies, and your teen can really help them. Studies do not take a break during the summer months as students prepare for SATs and ACTs all year long.
Reach out to juniors and see if they would like tutoring services. Often times, it’s much cheaper to hire a teen tutor than hiring a seasoned tutor, so it works out for both sides. It is a great way to earn some cash and save money for college.
As an adult, you can reach out to your network at work, church, parent groups, including your friends, to pass on the word.
Tutoring can earn you close to $20-$25 per hour.
8. Lawn care
Your teen can help maintain the lawn, water the yard and plants, and tend to flowers. The teen can also learn how to mow the lawn using a lawnmower and then offer lawn care service to others in the neighborhood.
If your teen prefers less labor-intensive work, raking leaves and bagging them is also an option.
Lawn care services can help you earn a decent per hour rate between $10-$20.
A lot of beaches need lifeguards during the summer months for obvious reasons. If your teen is interested in those services, it’s also a great way to earn some cash and save money for college.
Also, there are swimming coaching schools that also need lifeguards when the kids are learning to swim.
This option can help you earn around $10-$12 per hour.
10. Yard sale
Your teen can help clear the clutter in the house and organize a yard sale. The proceeds from the items can go toward the savings account. This not only helps your teen learn entrepreneurial skills but also helps build a social network.
The teen can also help family members organize a yard sale and earn a certain % or per hour rate for his/her time.
11. Restaurant jobs
A lot of restaurants and fast-food chains look to hire teens during the summer months. It usually cheaper for them to hire a teen temporarily and get the work done instead of a full-time waiter/waitress.
It’s a great experience to have from a social standpoint building connections with customers and your colleagues. On top of that, you get to share the tips and gratuities and make additional cash to save money for college.
These jobs usually pay between $10-$20 per hour.
12. Deliver groceries
Another way to save money for college and make an impact in the community is to deliver groceries.
There could be several reasons why someone cannot go and get their groceries. From someone being sick to parents attending kid’s activities and not having the time, your teen can help relieve their stress by delivery groceries at their doorstep.
For example, if your teen is at least 18, they can become a shopper for Instacart and deliver groceries. Or they could offer their services locally to your neighbors or friends and family.
The average pay for delivering groceries is between $10 – $15 per hour.
13. Music lessons
If your teen rocks any of the musical instruments like guitar, keyboard, piano, drums, etc., then they can offer lessons and save money for college.
One of the best ways to have fun and earn money is to teach someone that you pursue as a hobby. Your teen can easily make a decent amount of money on the side while working flexible hours.
Typically your teen can make between $10-$25 per hour.
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Get a Winter Job
Some side hustles and side jobs are perfect for the summer, while others can put money in your teen’s pocket during the winter months. Here are a few money-making ideas for teens to try when the weather cools down.
14. Snow cleaning
If you live in a colder climate, snow cleaning, and shoveling is something everyone will need help with. Your teen can shovel the driveway and make a few extra bucks and save money for college.
Also, ask your teen to learn how to use a snowblower. This makes the job a little easier and you will spend less time and energy cleaning snow while making the same amount of money.
15. Roof raking
This is a little labor-intensive, but if your teen is up for it, he can actually rake snow from the roofs. A lot of homeowners shy away from this job so they would be willing to pay for extra help.
Your teen can make $10-$15 or even $20 for this service.
16. Christmas tree removal
These trees are heavy and usually a 2 to 3 people job (depending on the size). You can always lend help to your neighbors and family and make a quick buck.
Also, you can also help with removing the decorations off the trees.
17. Game tester
The gaming industry revenue was approximately $43 Billion in 2018, which was 18% higher vs. 2017, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). This is a record high.
So with the advent of new games, teenage testers are in high demand. It’s a perfect way to spend the cold evenings/weekends indoors to make cash and save money for college.
You can easily make between $10-$25 per hour testing games.
18. House decorator
During the holiday season, pretty much every household will put up decorations and lights. This usually takes more than 1 person to decorate, and you could lend that extra help. Also, you could do the decorations by yourself and get a couple of your buddies to help you out.
This is a great way to make extra cash and save money for college. You can start by reaching out to your neighbors, friends, and family members.
It can quickly help you make $10-$20 per hour or per house.
Other Ways To Save Money For College All Year-Long
There are specific ways in which you can save money for college year-long. These are not only applicable to the teen years but also helps develop the savings mentality as your teenager turns adult.
19. Do household chores
Household chores are the best way to get your teen to earn some buck. It has a dual advantage in that it instills both a sense of responsibility/accountability and teaches them the management aspect of the task at hand.
The general rule-of-thumb is that the teens get paid $1 per year fo their age. Meaning, if your teen is 13, he/she gets paid $13 per week. If your teen is 14, he/she gets paid $14/week, so on and so forth.
Personal Note: My 3-year old gets paid $3 weekly for helping with vacuuming and unloading the dishwasher 🙂
Some of the household chores you can get your teen involved with are:
- Loading the dishwasher
- Unloading the dishwasher
- Dusting all the blinds and curtains
- Cleaning the shoe closet
- Organizing the living and family room at the end of the day
- Setting up kitchen tables
- Cleaning up the dining table
- Feeding family pets
- Walking the pets
- Cleaning the pet litter
- Preparing school lunches
- Washing all the family cars
20. Sell stuff around the house
Every household will have stuff that is no longer required or stored away either in a basement or a storage area.
This is a great way to develop entrepreneurial skills, and it gets rid of the clutter in the house PLUS helps your teen save money for college.
21. Limit meals out
It is important to socialize and go out and enjoy. But, a lot of teenagers overdo this aspect and spend money blindly. I am guilty of doing the same.
If one thing I have learned over the years is that if you do not plan your spending, it comes back and bites you hard.
You can have your teen limit eat-outs to maybe once or twice a week and instead eat-in or prepare their own meals. This will easily save $10-$20 per week and help save money for college.
If your teen is going out to eat and they’re at least 18, they could make some extra cash for school by becoming a mystery shopper. Sites like Bestmark will pay your teen to go out to eat and review their experience afterward!
22. Credit cards
The use of a credit card by a teen can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want to help them learn how to manage their money, but on the other hand, many are reluctant to this idea due to the maturity aspect of the teens.
If your teenager is under 18, he/she cannot have their own card, but they can get an add-on card on their parents’ account.
In life, the best way to learn is to make mistakes and fail. With that said, you can put checks and balances to ensure you have total control and insight into your teen’s spending habits through the credit card.
The use of a credit card will help them to build their credit history, be able to rent an apartment, get pre-approved for a car loan, receive favorable interest rates, among other benefits.
So, do not deprive them of the opportunity of valuable and essential life lessons that will play a key role in their financial health.
And while they’re learning how to use a credit card, they can earn cash back if you link your cards to an app like Rakuten. Once your card is linked, your teen can shop through Rakuten and earn cash back at their favorite stores online!
As mentioned at the start of the article, there are numerous ways in which your teen can save for college. This effort before going to college will be a blessing for your teen as the burden of borrowing more in the form of student loans will be less.
By working on several of the ideas discussed in this article, your teen will be not only able to save money for college but also develop essential social and financial skills.
So, do not shy away from encouraging your teens to go out there, earn money and save money for college!
More About the Author:
My name is Sam Lodaria and I am the driving machine behind my blog The Financial Freewill!
At the age of 29, I had $40,000 in student loans, $0 in Savings, and NO investments. Four years later, I paid off my student loans and also saved over $100,000 along with my wife for a down payment on our home.
My MISSION is to help Millennials in their journey toward financial freedom by sharing bite-sized actionable insights so they can save more, pay off debt, start investing, grow money and live the life they dreamed