Author: Deborah Goodkin, Program Manager, Nebraska’s College Savings Plans, First National Bank of Omaha

Heading off to college is a gateway to new experiences. It is a time to explore academic interests, meet new people, and make memories that will be treasured for a lifetime. But, it is also an introduction to a whole new world of expenses that can quickly add up—from a meal plan, to extra-long twin bed sheets, to textbooks for class. Being one step ahead of these new financial woes is beneficial for everyone involved. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a quick guide for cutting costs as your child embarks on their journey into higher education.

  1. Buy or rent used textbooks:

The price tag of textbooks can be shocking, and costs only continue to climb each semester. To help combat this, opt out of buying brand-new books and rent them or buy used. Does your child have a Kindle or an iPad? Most books are available as eBooks, a handy feature that many professors are on board with. Also—don’t forget that funds from your child’s NEST 529 Savings Plan can be applied towards textbooks, as they fall under the category of qualified expenses.

  1. Choose the right meal plan:

College meal plans can drastically vary—some schools offer swipes per meal, and others offer expenses for individual items. Does your child have late classes, and often sleeps in? Select the cheaper plan that offers only two meals per day. Helping your student pick the meal plan that best suits their habits, schedule and needs will help your savings as well.

  1. Cut out the unnecessary expenses and look into free amenities:

College dorms often include cable TV in the common area, an on-site gym, and many other amenities—all essentially “free.” In addition, many campuses offer free concerts, on-site movie screenings, and pools. Taking advantage of the perks allows savings to grow, while encouraging networking and engagement within the collegiate community.

  1. Don’t forget about scholarships

It is never too late to apply for a scholarship to help ease the financial burden of tuition. Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com are two great resources for selecting the best scholarship based on your individual needs. Another notable resource is your school guidance counselor—often underutilized, they have the knowledge and experience to help with college preparation.

Being the parent of a college-bound student is a new challenge entirely, but one that doesn’t have to be stressful. Regardless of where your child is in the process, preparing them financially for all that college has to offer will be something your wallet and your child’s future will thank you for.

For more information on saving with the NEST 529 College Savings Plan, please visit https://www.NEST529.com/