With the ever-increasing price of education (college tuition is expected to double in the next ten years), it is absolutely essential to beginning saving for your tot’s future ASAP. Some parents even start the process before their little one is born. That may sound preemptive, but it’s really just good planning. Another smart strategy? Instagrad. It’s like a social network site that allows friends and family to contribute to your tot’s education fund (to clarify, it’s not the actual fund itself, so you don’t have to worry about the financial integrity of the site). So in order to use Instagrad, you need to set up a fund called a 529 account, which is where the gifts made through the site will be directly deposited. Don’t have a 529 plan yet? Check out savingforcollege.com to get a comprehensive rundown of the different types of accounts available. Go to the “Shortcuts” menu in the left column and select your state. You don’t have to contribute to your own state, though – here’s a list of the nation’s top 10 best-performing plans of 2012. Once you get a 529 plan in place, you can sign up for Instagrad and create a profile for your child.
For your tot’s birthdays and special occasions, why not ask for a contribution as a gift? Straight-out asking for cash and checks can be uncomfortable, but this service allows you to do it with social grace. You can include a link to your profile when sending out party invites saying, “In lieu of toys, consider contributing to Timmy’s college fund.” Instagrad takes 5% of all donations as their fee and on top of that, 3-4% if the gifts are made with a credit card. This sounds pretty rough and made me pause for a moment, but then I thought about it and realized, what percentage of all the toys given to my kids is being contributed to their college fund? Exactly 0%. I know my friends and family would rather give to my tots’ future education, too, but feel obligated to buy them a toy or another dress. My living room, family room, garage, and bedrooms are all overflowing with toys. What if all of that was turned in to a college fund instead? Your tots will still get plenty of toys for Christmas and birthdays – a few family members and friends who want this option are all it takes to make a difference. So choose a 529 if you haven’t already and create free Instagrad profile (you’ll receive a $10 credit for using the special code “TotSnob” when signing up!). Start building your tot’s education fund here.