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Just like any other year, I spent a few hours crafting a budget for the 2015 holiday season. In it, I estimated the cost of buying gifts for all of my nieces and nephews, my own children, and all of the other family members and acquaintances we shop for.
But this year, I did something a little different. Instead of setting aside $200 or so for the kiddos, I carved out around $4,200 to spend on their holiday gifts. Sound crazy? I assure you it’s not.
Before you roll out a lecture on how I’m spoiling them for life, let me explain. I’m not spending $4,000 on toys, a pony for our backyard, or a bunch of crap that will likely be thrown away within 12 months or less. Instead, we opted to put around $4,000 in their 529 accounts for college. You with me now? In a minute, you’ll understand why.
Why I’m Giving My Kids $4,000 For Christmas
My kids have so much
junk stuff, it’s absolutely insane. What’s crazier is that I hardly know where it comes from. We don’t buy them a lot throughout the year, but a ton of toys magically work their way into our home through other means – mostly through birthday parties and hand-me-downs. Regardless, the last thing I wanted to do this year was buy them more stuff that they don’t need. Instead, we opted to beef up their college savings account in a meaningful way. Here are a few reasons why:
I want to help my kids avoid crushing student loan debt.
The fact that average student loan debt in the U.S. recently surpassed $35,000 per indebted student should scare the hell out of anyone with children – no matter the age. I can’t fathom watching my child begin adulthood with that kind of burden, and I want to do everything I can to help them avoid it.
I want to pay for my children’s college education.
Aside from helping my children avoid debt, paying for their college is a goal and dream I have had since they were babies. Even when we didn’t earn as much, I still tucked away around $25 per month into their college 529 accounts. I’m so proud of how much we have saved so far, and consider it one of my life goals to take it all the way.
An education is a gift that will last a lifetime.
Toys will eventually make their way into a landfill or garage sale bin, but an education is a gift that lasts a lifetime. We may not have the biggest and best games or gadgets around this house, but I hope the money we spend on their higher education will lead to a better life than if I hadn’t saved anything. Studies show that college graduates make at least 85 percent more money over their lifetime vs. those with just a high school diploma. In my eyes, that means the money I’m saving could translate into a better life for my children – and quite possibly my grandchildren, too.
Our state offers a generous tax credit.
Our state (Indiana) offers an incredibly generous incentive to get people to contribute to a college savings 529 account. Every year, we earn a 20% tax credit on the first $5,000 we contribute, which means we get $1,000 back on our state income taxes at tax time. So, not only is our money allowed to grow tax-free over time, but we’re earning 20% cashback (up to $1,000) every year on money we stash away. That’s pretty sweet when you think about it, and just another reason why saving for my children’s college education makes so much sense.
See Also: Should I Refinance My Student Loans?
The Bottom Line
Toys and books mean a lot to my kids now, but they will mean nothing when they get old enough to schlep into adulthood with the rest of us. But, the money I save for them now could mean the difference between them earning a college degree without the burden of debt or them struggling to get by at a time when they should be dreaming about the future.
They’re just six and four-years-old now, but they’ve got a lifetime ahead of them. And, if I have anything to say about it, they will be able to follow their dreams without borrowing from their future selves. My kids laugh at me now. “Mommy, you’re so cheap,” they’ll say each time I say no to a snack or a new toy. One day, I hope they’ll understand.
Does your state offer an awesome tax incentive for college savings? Have you started stashing away money yet?