Preparing for college is a massive challenge, with the hardest part being putting together the required funds. We all know how costly an affair it can be. According to a study, the average college tuition fees range from $10k – $38k a year, an amount that can certainly be intimidating. If you’re like most people, you will probably need to put in place a savings plan if you’re to raise this amount. A college savings plan will teach you important financial management lessons, and enable you to have the peace of mind of learning without worrying about the cost.

In this guide, we discuss some no-nonsense tips that will help you save for college.

1. Set up programmed recurring contributions
The best way to get the most out of your savings is to set up automatic recurring contributions so that they happen every month or every quarter. This can be money transferred from your checking account to your savings account. It’s also a good idea to set up a Certificate of Deposit (CD), which will allow your money to grow at a higher rate.

2. Look for a variety of ways to save.
You may think of college savings as a one-time event, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture and consider all the ways you could save. For example, if you are in high school now, consider putting a percentage of money earned or gifted to you toward your college fund, so you can have money saved before attending college. Take the five dollars you would spend on iced coffee, and transfer it to your savings account. Every little bit helps, and you’ll be surprised by how fast small contributions will add up!

3. Seek help from others.
When it comes time to pay for school, there are many different ways in which you can do so. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of paying for college yourself, consider working with a financial aid expert who can help guide you through the process. The expert will make sure that everything goes smoothly from start to finish! Many financial professionals offer free consultations, including during tax season, when they are helping clients prepare their returns and year-end planning documents. Seek advice and assistance from trusted family and friends who have your best interest in mind. Research scholarships that are available to you through the College/University, and also through local businesses/institutions in your area. There are also resources at F&M Bank to help you figure out the best way for you to manage your finances over the long term.

4. Pick up a part-time job.
If you want to start saving early, a part-time job can help. You’ll earn extra income that can be put toward your savings, but also learn how much money is needed to live on at your school of choice. This can also help if you decide to go back to school later on, because there will be less pressure on you to take out unnecessary loans to cover the costs. This will also lower costs for any parents or guardians offering financial support.

5. Estimate your costs from every angle.
Every college has differences, even when it comes to the cost. Ensure you know the specific costs for expenses outside of just your tuition costs: fees, books, living arrangements, meal plans. When estimating costs, it’s always a good idea to also factor in your daily living expenses. Compare the price difference of things like living on campus vs. living in an apartment, the difference in purchasing vs. renting textbooks. Other things you should keep in mind are any limitations or requirements of scholarships and financial aid you may receive. Always read the fine print! If you have an idea of what things will cost, it will be less overwhelming when it’s time to pay the bill.

The bottom line is that higher education is expensive and is quite intimidating to many. It’s always a good idea to start developing a savings minded culture regarding your personal finances and with your family. Often, you might feel as though whatever amount you save is not enough, but be assured that however much you have saved is something, and is better than nothing. If you’re interested in starting your savings journey, check out all of F&M Bank’s savings account options through the “Accounts and Services” section of our website!