Have you noticed how expensive college is these days? In the words of my granddad “It ain’t cheap!”. It is also not easy to save in today’s market but I am obsessed with college savings for my kids. One of the first things we did for our children was set up 529 college savings accounts. In doing this for our first born, we stumbled across a program called Upromise.
Upromise is a free service that helps families earn extra money for education. It really is that easy and simple. You go to their website, sign up and create your account. This is an incredible extra savings tool. Money is earned by doing your everyday shopping. Hundreds of companies have partnered with Upromise to contribute a percentage of your purchases to your Upromise savings account. You can earn between 1% and 25% in savings while shopping in-store, online, eating out and traveling.
Your purchases are tracked by linking your current credit/debit cards and grocery/drug store cards to your account. Upromise tracks your purchases and credits your account, if a purchase is made through a participating merchant/product. Grandparents, aunts/uncles and other special friends can also link to your account. Grandparents and friends can split their savings between multiple children.
You link your account to an existing 529 plan or open a 529 through Upromise. The savings are deposited quarterly into your 529. Our 529’s are not linked through Upromise, but we are able to send a letter, with all the vital information, at the end of every year and they cut us a check with the amount in our account. We divide the savings between our children’s 529s.
Another easy way to save is by shopping through the Upromise site. You can link to all the major retailers through the site and when you purchase, your account is automatically credited. Some of the merchants that participate are Land’s End, LL Bean, EBay, Magazines.com, Nike, Boden, Exxon and many others. Area restuarants that participate are City Tavern, Villa Antonio, Township Grille, Carpe Diem, Hefs and Cold Stone Creamery and several others.
It is so very easy, all you have to do is sign up! In today’s economy, every penny counts. I think it is very Smarty to be able to save for your children’s education all while doing your normal shopping. Start saving today, sign up for Upromise!
I thought you were only able to deposit your earnings to a 529 administered by/affiliated with upromise, but you reference that you were able to get your money deposited to your upromise acct. by submitting a letter. Our state 529 isn’t serviced by upromise either, and I don’t see anything on their web site stating we can submit a letter and have the money deposited into our acct. Any addl. information that you might have on how you were able to do this would be greatly appreciated.
We actually called Upromise to find out how to do this. We have sent a letter the past three years and we include the Upromise Acct.#, name on the account, date of birth and SSN of the beneficiary. We also include the amount in the acct. on the date of the letter and request that the funds be disbursed in full with the account remaining open. We include the name of the 529 the funds are being deposited to with the hope that Upromise will one day affliate. You need to include the date of birth of the person opening the account with SSN. I know it is a lot but it is a way to get those funds. We have done this for the past 3 years.
Hey Charlotte Smarty Pants,I thought you should be aware of another free service that helps parents save for college and works with all 529 plans. It’s Freshman Fund.DISCLOSURE: I’m the founder of Freshman Fund. It’s like a registry for college savings. Parents go to the site, attach their 529, create a public profile and email friends and family a link where they can contribute directly into the child’s 529 account in lieu of or in addition to the usual birthday/holiday gifts. Great for parents and great for gift givers and it’s environmentally friendly gifting.I was at my niece’s birthday party watching her tear through a pile of gifts taller than she was. At the end of the melee my gift was tossed aside into a pile of other forgotten gifts. I spent a-lot of time and money selecting her gift and I though it was a waste. I told her parents that from now on I was just going to contribute to her college savings. I asked them what website to go to in order to that and none existed. So I started Freshman Fund.
Just be careful with the 529's – you don't always get the best return on your money & you can only use it for college. So if you have a major setback, you can't touch it. I am all for living within means, saving as much as possible & paying for my children to go to college, don't get me wrong. But in the event of unforseeable financial crisis, they can always get a student loan & you probably won't be able to get someone to finance your particular hardship.
In response to Anonymous – sure you can withdraw funds from a 529 Plan. However you are subject to a 10% penalty just the same as a Roth IRA, Regular IRA or a 401k Plan. Of course the Regular IRA and the 401k plan will wallop you with your regular tax rate PLUS the 10% penalty since it’s pretax dollars going into them.529 Plans are very flexible and can be transferred to another child, your spouse and even youself for education expenses. This is not limited to tuition either. Housing, books, travel expenses to and from school, etc. Also, as far as returns go it’s the same as any investment you make. Make a good choice and you reap the benefits…make a bad choice and well, you know what happens!
I have found that Upromise is an invaluable tool for college savings. I don’t have any kids, but I do have an account under a friend’s to help her kids’ college funds. It is very simple since I already shop at many of the vendors, and many good restaurants in my area are on their preferred dining list. The whole point to me is that you get to contribute to a 529 plan without having to necessarily place actual money into the account, just be sure to wither shop through the website or download the toolbar, and the contributions build automatically! I was so impressed that I wrote an entry on my personal finance blog to get others aware of the service as well: http://letsblogmoney.com/2008/07/18/worried-about-the-rising-cost-of-a-college-education-discover-upromise/
to Anon about ‘watching out for 529s’…you don’t need to watch out for anything if you’ve educated yourself about the process. I despise it when people offer advice that is not based on fact but simply conjecture.For MOST families a 529 is exactly what they need to understand HOW TO SAVE and show them the rewards of saving.Would you rather they not save for their children and burden them with school loans when they could have made a difference in their children’s lives through exponential saving?This does not make any sense. Parents who use the excuse of ‘let your children pay for it – they will appreciate their education’ are simply making excuses for not being diligent savers. The America dream is about wealth creation, not scrimping to survive. If saving $25 a month for 15 years helps your child pay for college so that they don’t need to get a loan that will cost them $400 a month for 25 years, I am all for it.This allows your child to live out their dreams and desires instead of feeling forced to accept any job out of college to pay back loans.So again, don’t try to offer advice based solely on your feelings, offer advice rooted in facts.