It's hard enough raising a family in today's economy and, as you grow older, you not only have to consider your retirement plan but also how you'll be able to finance your children's pricey college education.
In 2010-11, the annual cost of attendance for undergraduates at public institutions was $13,600 and much higher for private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
We asked several members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors how you can cut small corners in your day-to-day life in order to make a big impact on your children's college savings balance.
Here are their tips:
1) Give kids control over their own spending, says Mary McCraw of the Arkansas Financial Group.
"This can cut down on the spending on 'stuff' for kids on every little trip to Target. This also helps kids develop their own money management and understand needs vs. wants. Kids will make very different decisions when spending their own money," McCraw says. "Parents can save a lot of money in the long run by teaching kids to manage money early."
2) Have kids take AP classes in high school, says David John Marotta of Marotta Wealth Management.
Advanced Placement courses help students prepare for college-level coursework and can potentially help them earn credits towards college requirements, saving big money on tuition and books. Around 90 percent of colleges and universities in the U.S. offer credit or advanced course placement for qualifying AP scores.
3) Enroll in Upromise, says Peggy Ruhlin of wealth management firm Budros, Ruhlin & Roe.
"You earn (usually) 5% cash back on all qualifying purchases, mostly online purchases but also at grocery stores, restaurants, etc. The cash earned back can be transferred to one or more 529 Plan college savings accounts, which can then earn dividends, gains, etc., compounding your savings," Ruhlin says.
Through Upromise, you can earn on many online purchases, at participating restaurants, and you can invite family and friends to join too and transfer their rewards to you.
4) Be thrifty, says Lauren Lindsay of Personal Financial Advisors.
Consignment shops offer branded items at discounted prices and plus, you can sell items too. Consider clearing out your closet for items you no longer wear and also take in any clothing your kids have outgrown to get cash back. "All this requires planning but has saved me a lot of money over the years," Lindsay says.
You can also consider selling things you no longer need around the house through a garage sale or by posting a free ad on Craigslist.
5) Consolidate your insurance, says Andy Tilp of Trillium Valley Financial Planning.
"One item that is often overlooked is to check on insurance coverage -- if there is coverage at a lower cost, over insured or unnecessary insurance. If a family consolidates their auto, home, etc coverage with one carrier, they can get discounts. They should also shop around, including talking with an insurance broker who has access to many different companies," Tilp says.
6) Trim the fat, says Kristin Harad of Vitavie Financial Planning
"Eliminate the wasted money that may be right under your nose... go through every recurring expense that you have to make sure that you know what you are paying for, aren't wasting money on things you don't use anymore, and ensure that you are getting the best possible price. Examples include: mobile phone, cable, recurring credit card charges (magazines, gym memberships, subscription web sites), car insurance. Also, follow-up on lingering refunds that have not been posted or dig up old gift cards and check for a balance. Do this once every 6 months to make sure you're continuing to get the best deals," Harad said.
7) Let family and friends know you're saving, says Landon Loveall of Cumberland Wealth Planners.
"It takes a village to raise a child. When it comes to saving for college, involve your village. Let the grandparents know you are saving. Request contributions for Christmas and birthdays. If you have birthday parties, place this on your invitations: "Gifts are not expected. If you feel you must, no gift will be better than a small contribution to your child's name college savings plan." Following these tips my wife and I routinely receive more than $200 per child at Christmas and birthdays," Loveall says.
You can also try a gift-split says John Bohnsack of Briaud Financial Partners. Let your kids use half of any birthday money they receive and agree to put the other half away towards college costs.
8) Find free money, says Michelle Goldstein of Goldstein Financial Future.
"If each parent gets his/her child to pledge to spend one week searching and applying for grants and scholarships following the completion of his/her applications, this would go a long way in paying for college. Local Rotary groups and community foundations are great places to start," Goldstein says.
9) Embrace a DIY lifestyle, says Linda Rogers of Planning Within Reach.
"Try trimming your kids hair or making their Halloween costume. You can learn almost anything on You Tube," Rogers says.
This can also be a chance to pursue a hobby. If you've always had a passion for writing, seek out some freelance opportunities, or if you are a pro with crafts, consider selling some of your work online on Etsy.
How does your family cut corners to save for college? Share with us in comments.