True confessions of a mom saving for college

Updated: Jan 19


I have a confession to make. My fears about the rising cost of college have led me to try some crazy things to start making extra money to set aside. You see, in the next 5 years our family will be sending 3 kids to college. Their college education will be the biggest investment we have ever made, a fact that is true for most middle class families in America. According to the College Board, the average in-state college in 2016 cost $20,090 a year for tuition, fees, room and board; that adds up to over $80,000 per student. Even taking into account grants and other financial aid, most families are looking at more than $56,000 if their student graduates in 4 years, which is 2 years short of the average of 6. You get my point, a college education is a BIG investment. I don’t want my kids to be buried in loan debt when they graduate.

I noticed that the majority of financial aid we were offered was actually loans, loans that need to be paid back with interest. No thank you! We hope to only accept aid offers that include grants, scholarships and other types of aid that we don’t have to pay back. So how will we finance the rest? I’ve spent the last few years looking for ways to lower our costs and raise the funds we need for our kids to graduate debt free. Some of my ideas are conventional, others are not. Some may work for you, or spark your imagination to come up with even better ways to earn extra income.

Crazy way to earn money for college #1

When my oldest daughter left for her gap year I decided to try putting her room up on Airbnb. We didn’t even take all of her clothes out of the drawer! I bought some new sheets and towels, took some pictures and listed it. And, guess what? We had guests, and more guests, and more guests. In fact, her room has generated enough cash flow to cover the cost of her room and board at college next year! You may be surprised how easy it is to earn extra income from your extra bedroom.

Even a little crazier...

My kids are embarrassed by this, but on a whim I signed up to be an Uber driver; with my mini-van! I figured I was already a taxi driver to my kids, so why not get paid for it? So, when I dropped one of them off at dance class or work I just pulled up my Uber app and waited for it to buzz. And buzz it did! Just using a few hours a week I can easily cover the cost of my college student’s books for a semester to two. And, it’s fun watching people’s reaction when a soccer mom picks them up in her minivan. I have some great conversations!

Ok, this is a good one...

When my kids were in their early teens one of them needed to raise some money to cover summer camp expenses, so she came up with the idea of “Storybook Camp”. We invited kids ages 4-9 from the neighborhood, church and school for 4 days of summer day camp at our house. Each day had a different book as it’s theme and we played games, sang songs, made crafts and cooked snacks that matched the theme of the book. The kids stayed from 9:30-1:00, brought their own lunch, and LOVED it! In fact, we now have “Storybook Camp” every year for multiple weeks and have made thousands of dollars in just a few short weeks of the summer. I will definitely keep doing this one for college!

The strangest, but most profitable idea...

Perhaps the craziest thing I’ve done was completely by accident. After Super Bowl XLIX I made a few Left Shark costumes to use in a lip sync competition. I am not a seamstress and have no experience making costumes past your basic Halloween costumes for my 3 kids, but these turned out pretty good so I decided to try and sell them on Etsy and Ebay. The first ones sold within 24 hours and I realized that I might have something, so I kept making them. Lots of them. Almost $10,000 worth. In a matter of months I made enough to pay for a semester of college or more. Ebay and Etsy shops can generate lots of income if done correctly and with the right products. And, you can get your teens in on this one too! I know one 11 year old who made thousands of dollars selling slime in her shop!

Last one...

Making money by teaching others the things you already know is easy, profitable and fun. I love public speaking, so I taught a 5 week public speaking class to high school students every Friday afternoon. I have taught and tutored students in writing, Latin, current events, and more. I’ve taught live classes and online classes. Are you good at cooking? Math? Tennis? Start a class or offer private tutoring in those areas. The time investment is relatively small and the payoff is great.

If you would like to see my income report you can access it here. But, I will tell you that it is more than the cost of a year of college in about 10 hours a week. Of course, all my crazy schemes won’t work for everyone. But, if you are creative, you can find ways that allow you to earn enough money to avoid going into debt or putting your student into debt to pay for their college education, with a time commitment of 10 hours a week plus a little extra time in the summer.

Would you like more creative ideas to help pay for college? Sign up for my members only updates to hear more. And, email me if you want more details on any of the ideas I mentioned here!