Author: Deborah Goodkin, Managing Director, Savings Plans, First National Bank of Omaha

There’s no question that parents’ lives are busy – it comes with the territory. Between school, childcare, extracurriculars, events and playdates (let alone just keeping everyone fed), daily life is almost as complicated as it is rewarding.

Amid all this excitement and activity, National Simplify Your Life Week is a reminder to take a step back, evaluate your options and use the tools available to make life a little easier. And though NEST 529 can’t help you figure out playdates or meal plans, we can help you simplify your college savings journey. In fact, our team works year-round to provide Account Owners with a straightforward, intuitive and robust savings plan.

Ready to simplify your NEST 529 savings? Read on for a checklist of tools that every Account Owner can use.

1. Define Your Goals

Setting goals and sticking to them is Saving for College 101. With a clear understanding of how much you need to save, you can craft a plan for how you will reach that goal – and stick to it.

The NEST Direct College Savings Calculator is made to help Account Owners define and meet their goals. The Calculator factors into account the child’s age, the type of college they might attend and the amount you are currently saving to summarize the total projected education costs in your time frame, and estimate the monthly savings needed to get there.

Additionally, knowing what your savings can cover is important when defining your goals. In order for the earnings portion of withdrawals from your NEST 529 account to be tax-free, the funds must be used at an eligible educational institution for qualified expenses. Staying informed of what these qualified expenses can be make a big difference – for example, did you know that under the right conditions your savings can be used to study abroad, enroll in online classes and even purchase supplies such as laptops and software?

Factoring these qualified expenses into your college savings goals will greatly simplify things when it comes time to use your NEST 529 funds, allowing you to anticipate and budget out the funds accurately, and get the most out of your savings. Not sure if something qualifies? Check on our website, or reach out to the NEST 529 team directly for more information.

2. Automate Your Contributions

One of the easiest ways to simplify your savings is to automate them.

The Automatic Investment Plan (AIP) is designed to help Account Owners save no matter how busy life gets. It allows you to automatically contribute to your NEST 529 account directly from your personal checking or bank savings account – ensuring you never miss a contribution. You can even sign up for automatic annual AIP increases, keeping you on track to achieve your savings goals over time.

Account Owners can also make automatic contributions to their NEST 529 account using payroll direct deposit of after-tax dollars. Check with your employer to determine whether they offer this tool.

3. Earn Cash Back for Your Savings

Upromise is a rewards program that can help turn everyday purchases – from travel and gas to dry cleaning and groceries – into cash back for college. A percentage of your eligible spending will be deposited into your Upromise account, and you can link your Upromise account to your NEST 529 account and have your college savings automatically transferred.

4. Save with Friends and Family

Close friends and family are an excellent resource when saving for college. Just think about it: many of them are already spending money on gifts once or twice per year! Instead of accumulating more toys or clothes, encourage loved ones to give the gift of education with these simple tools:

Through Ugift, your NEST 529 account is assigned a unique code that close friends and extended family can use to quickly and easily make contributions using a check or electronic transfer. Unlike many other gifting programs, gift givers don't have to join, register or pay a service fee, and they don’t need any additional information about your account.

With a gift certificate contribution, loved ones can fill out and mail a contribution coupon to NEST 529, and download and print a card to give you or your child for the occasion.

5. Scholarships – Learn, Engage, Win!

NEST 529 offers scholarships, contests and drawings regularly, and awards tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship contributions each year. These scholarships are designed to help families engage with the college savings process in a fun and collaborative way, while providing great opportunities to win a savings boost.

Scholarships are easy to enter, and have a great payoff for the whole family. Make sure to check out the NEST 529 Facebook page for current scholarship entry and deadline information.  

This National Simplify Your Life Week, we encourage you to take advantage of the varied and accessible tools that NEST 529 offers to simplify your savings. If you have questions regarding your account please reach out to the NEST team at clientservice@nest529direct.com, or by calling 1-888-993-3746.