Financial experts advise that you start saving for college as soon as a child is born. But we all know that's easier said than done. We have been fortunate in that my in-laws have been very generous with the boys since they were born and we have been very strict about making sure that the holiday and birthday checks that they've gotten from Grandpa George and Grandma Elaine have all gone into college savings accounts. The boys also put the money they received as Bar Mitzvah presents into those accounts. In addition, my husband has been making additional deposits whenever possible.
Jason's high school guidance department was good about explaining the importance of filling out the "FAFSA", which is the form that determines how much financial aid a student may qualify for. The government's site also has a forecaster, which can you help plan realistically for those expenses. Click here to visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
I'm not a financial expert myself, but I have done some stories about 529 Plans, which are basically a way of putting money away for college while taking advantage of tax savings. You can set them up online and even get automatic payroll deductions, so that you're adding to them before you get a chance to spend the money on other things.
Another "painless" way to save for college is enroll in UPromise. This is a site where you (and your friends and relatives) can register your credit cards and then when you use those cards for certain purchases, a percentage of the purchase price is put into an account that you can then transfer the money out of to pay for tuition. You're not going to pay for all of your tuition this way, but as they say, "every little bit helps!"
Finally, I think it's important that very early on, parents have a realistic discussion with their children about how much of their college expenses they can expect to have covered, and how much they'll be expected to pay, through scholarships and/or loans and their own income. The money that Jason's earning this summer will be his spending money throughout this year. He'll have to learn a lot about budgeting, which I feel is one of the important lessons in college that may not be taught in the classroom.
Next week will definitely be the beginning of an exciting - though expensive - adventure!