Greatest Gift dollar signs with confetti - 18 ways to start saving for your child

18 Great Ways to Start Saving for Your Child (Before Your Child Turns 18)

Updated:
January 5, 2022
Family Finance

TL;DR: Use unexpected income to start saving for your child effortlessly. Two or three hours a week spent on earning extra income can have a big impact on your child’s savings, and finding saving opportunities in your budget can free up more money for your child’s savings.

Whether you’re saving for your child’s future education, a wedding fund, a down payment on a house, or just some starter money for adulthood, getting started can be difficult. Remember though, time is on your side and best time to start saving for your child is now.

We researched and found the best ways to save for your child. Use the ways in this guide to jumpstart your child’s savings and try to build up to an initial $500. A starter fund of at least $500 can set your child on the path to a brighter financial future. If you’re wondering where to put all these savings, check our guide on how to start saving for your child.

Jump Ahead:

Save Your Unexpected Income

Putting unexpected income aside for savings is the best way to start when you’re not quite sure how to get started in saving for your child.

Usually, your budget doesn’t rely on this additional money, and it won't affect you if you put a portion of it towards your child’s savings.

If you’re not quite sure what unexpected income is, simply read the examples ahead and discover opportunities to turn found money into booster funds for your child’s savings.

1. Save financial gifts

When you receive money or financial gifts from friends and family, save as much as you can from it. If you find that you always get gifts that you don’t need, invite your friends and family to contribute to your child’s future with Greatest Gift.

People enjoy investing in children's futures, but they don't always know the best way to do it.

Setting financial goals and sharing them through Greatest Gift's personalized gifting pages helps gift givers see the greater purpose of the gift and how they can kickstart a young one's financial future.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Sign up for a Greatest Gift account
  2. Choose financial goals and create a gifting page
  3. Invite friends and family to contribute to your child’s future - add a link to your gifting page to baby shower and birthday celebrations
  4. Pro tip: match any gift you receive and double your child’s savings

2. Save a portion of your tax return

Your yearly tax return is a perfect opportunity to put money away for your child’s savings. If you don’t rely on your tax return for your monthly living budget, putting aside a portion of it towards savings is a great choice without affecting your lifestyle.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Open a savings account for your child’s savings
  2. Use the tax return direct deposit feature to put a portion of your refund directly into your child’s savings account (or ask your tax advisor to set this up for you)
  3. If you don’t want to directly deposit the money into your child’s savings, transfer a portion of your refund to your child’s savings account as soon as you get paid
Discover opportunities to turn found money into booster funds for your child’s savings

3. Save your bonuses from work

If you receive a yearly or a holiday bonus at work, try to save a portion of it. If you usually use this to buy holiday gifts, remember that the gift of a brighter future can have a huge impact on your child’s life.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Transfer a portion of your bonus into your child’s saving account as soon as you get paid

4. Save with credit card rewards

Using a rewards credit card with cash back is a great way to earn more unexpected income that you can then put towards your child’s savings.

Typical cash back cards offer somewhere between 1-3% cash back on your purchases, so if you have an average of $2,000 in expenses per month, you could be earning $480 every year!

Remember - you should only get a credit card when you have a stable income and are able to pay your credit card bills on a regular basis. If you don't have regular income, focus on establishing income sources, and create a budget. Start off with cash and debit cards to make sure you only spend what you have.

Another way to earn is to create a Upromise account. Upromise helps you earn more bonuses when you shop online or dine out, and even provides the option to directly deposit your rewards into a 529 plan (if you choose to link one).

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Apply to a credit card with a high cash back rate
  2. Create a Upromise account and link your credit card to the Upromise Dining program and earn more rewards
  3. Deposit your cash back rewards into your child’s savings whenever you pay your credit card bill, or once a year

5. Sell gift cards for cash savings

Although people love giving gift cards, gift cards are often not fully used, with $3 billion left on the table in unredeemed gift cards per year that go to waste.

Don’t let those gift cards you received go to waste. Sell your unwanted and unused gift cards and put that money into your child’s savings. A $25 gift card for Target or Starbucks may not mean much to you, but that’s an extra $25 you can put towards your child’s savings.

Savings Potential: $

Implementation Tips:

  1. Round up your unused and unwanted gift cards
  2. Go to CardCash.com and sell your gift cards
  3. Put the earnings into your child’s savings account

Ways to Earn Extra Income for Your Child’s Savings

In this section, we have some ways for you to make a few extra dollars for your child's savings account with as little time and effort as possible. Finding two or three hours per week to earn an extra $25 per week can quickly become a total of $100 per month and can help you save enough for two years of college in a public school!

Find the way that works best for you turn it into a habit. Your kids will thank you in the future, and so will your future self.

6. Employer sponsored 529 plans

Similar to 401(k) contributions and matching by employers, some employers sponsor and match contributions to 529 plans (tax-advantaged college saving & investment accounts). This can mean earning more for your child’s future savings, with no effort at all!

On top of that, some employers even get a tax benefit for contributing to 529 plans. If you work for yourself, ask your tax advisor if there are any benefits you can get for making direct payroll deductions to your 529 plan.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Ask your employer or HR department if there is a program for contributions to 529 plans. Alternatively, look up your employee benefits on your company website and search for 529 plans
  2. If the employer matches contributions, start depositing what you can, and earn extra from your employer
We have some ways for you to make a few extra dollars for your child's savings account

7. Earn money by performing tasks and errands

If you have a few extra hours to dedicate for performing tasks, check out TaskRabbit. TaskRabbit (partnered with Ikea) is a platform where you earn money by performing tasks for other people.

As a new TaskRabbit, you can start earning quickly for tasks like running errands, assembling furniture, hanging TVs, or help moving. You can even get paid for waiting in line for someone else.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Sign up as a Tasker on the TaskRabbit site (there is a $25 registration fee, but you can earn that back with your first task)
  2. Start with offering a task you feel proficient in
  3. Dedicate a two or three hour window for performing a task. Start with one task, then try to do at least a task per month, or even a task per week if you can
  4. Put all your extra earnings from performing tasks into your child’s savings

8. Sell stock photos, images and illustrations

If you own a smartphone, that means you own a camera. Demand for photos keeps growing. Whether it is for a small business or an online blogger, there are opportunities to sell pictures for websites and digital marketing efforts. Even Greatest Gift buys illustrations from websites like Shutterstock every now and then.

Stock photo websites will often let you know what type of images are in demand. Demand exists for many different photo categories, including family photos, finance, nature, city views, landscapes, and even food.

Savings Potential: $

Implementation Tips:

  1. Open a contributor account on Shutterstock or Adobe
  2. Read a few articles on their website to learn what’s in demand and how to get the most downloads
  3. Take a day to capture some pictures and upload your pictures. Repeat on a monthly basis until you see results

9. Test websites and apps

Companies are constantly looking to understand how customers interact with their websites and apps and are willing to pay money for people to participate in product testing.

The good news are, prior knowledge and skills are not required. All you need is a computer, access to the internet, and the ability to share your thoughts on a product aloud.

You can sign up and get paid to share your opinions and experiences on Usertesting.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Sign up to be a Usertesting tester and download the testing extension
  2. Take one practice test, and then get invited to take tests for cash
  3. Take 1-3 tests per week and you can get to that $100 per month in savings for your child

10. Participate in research studies

If you live next to a university or college, check out their website to see if they pay for participation in research studies. University researchers often need participants for their studies and have a budget to pay for your participation.

The social sciences field is more likely to look for research participants. Studies typically don’t require any physical exertion or medical procedures. Studies in the psychology field typically include visual perception and attention, decision-making, language acquisition, learning, and memory and social cognitive processes. Studies in economics can include decision-making, consumer behavior, or opinions on social issues.

Savings Potential: $

Implementation Tips:

  1. Do a simple google search with the university name and “social sciences paid research study”. For example – “NYU social sciences paid research study”
  2. Find the website for the psychology department or the economics / business department and look for the paid study section
  3. Sign up, and schedule tests every now and then. Pro tip: try to schedule multiple tests back-to-back to save on travel time and expenses

Reduce Expenses and Put Extra Money Towards Savings

Sometimes you have opportunities to save that you weren’t aware of. The following will help you think of ways to significantly save money from your existing expenses and will provide you with tips and links to tools that will help you save with ease.

Free up your money from unnecessary expenses and put more money towards your child’s savings.

11. Track your budget and spending

It’s hard to save money when you don’t really know where and how you spend your money.

The first step in saving more money is seeing where your money is going. Only then can you start to build a spending plan. When you have a budget and understand where your money is being spent, you can find opportunities to save money and you gain confidence in managing your finances.

Luckily, apps and websites like Mint exist for this purpose, and help you get control over your money and spending.

The closer you stay to your budget, the less likely it will be that you exceed it.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Open a mint account and link your credit cards to start tracking your spending
  2. Check back in once a month and start understanding your spending habits after a few short months
  3. Create a budget for different categories in Mint
  4. Find saving opportunities and put the money towards your child’s savings

12. Save your spare change

Spare change can add up, and while it may not have a big impact on your life, the spare change you save up can help kickstart your child’s savings. If you use credit cards more often, try using a digital spare change saving tool.

Some banks offer spare change roundups on your credit card purchases, and some fintech apps like Acorns even invest these roundups for you automatically for an extra boost on your savings.

For example, if you buy a snack for $1.55, Acorns will round up the cost to an even $2 and put the additional 45 cents into an investment account for you. The average person can have anywhere between 20-30 transactions per month, which could translate to $10-15 per month! Every dollar counts when you're trying to save money.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. If you use a lot of cash, get a jar and put your coins in it. Otherwise, open an account on Acorns, and link your credit card for a digital option
  2. Once a year, transfer your savings to your child’s savings, or deposit the contents of your change jar at the bank (take your child with you for a complete experience)
  3. Pro tip: try doubling or tripling your spare change roundups on Acorns to put even more savings away!

13. Save on lunch and coffee

Expenses on lunch and coffee for your workday can add up quickly and have a big cost saving opportunity.

Buying lunch at work can easily cost $7-12, while bringing your own lunch can cost you half as much. If you cook routinely, try cooking larger portions and take leftovers the next day to work. If you’re not a great cook, sandwiches and veggies make a satisfying lunch.

If you have to start your day with a caffeine fix, try making a cup at home and taking it to go. Buying a $4 cup of coffee every day quickly adds up, and that’s before buying a croissant or cookie to go with it. Instead, get a coffee machine at home and buy to-go cups.

This will slash your daily coffee expense in half. By the way, you can get bonus savings if you switch to tea!

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Buy a set of reusable containers for your lunch (you won’t have to wash them every day if you get more than one)
  2. Get a coffee machine – Keurig or Nespresso will work nicely for this. Buy to-go cups in bulk or get two reusable cups (in case you forget to wash one!). Making sure you have supplies readily at home will increase your chances of following through with this
  3. Set an auto deposit of $10 per week (or however much you think you are saving with this) into your child’s savings
  4. Pro tip: If you absolutely can’t let go of your Starbucks, start ordering a smaller size and save about $1 a day (or over $200 a year!)
Free up your money from unnecessary expenses and put more money towards your child’s savings

14. Lower your dining-out spending

We all love going out to a good restaurant, but it can get pricey, and the costs add up quickly.

Cutting back on alcohol when eating at restaurants can save you 30% of your dining out budget (and your liver may thank you!).

When you go out to a restaurant, have a rough plan of how many items you can order. Choosing to share some dishes can lower your bill too.

Commit to eating out fewer times per month. Instead, try to elevate your home cooking for a more personal date night in, or a fun dinner in with friends.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. When going out to restaurants, opt for sharing dishes and try to order fewer alcoholic beverages
  2. Go out one less time per month and try cooking at home (even ordering pizza can save a few dollars)

15. Consolidate your subscriptions

It feels like every company offers a subscription for something nowadays.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Music, Dropbox, Blue Apron, Prose and so many others can take up a recurring chunk of your monthly expenses. Look at your monthly credit and debit card statements and find subscriptions that you no longer need.

If you have a partner or close friend, see if you can set up a family account. For example, Spotify offers a family account for $16 for up to five accounts, while each individual account can cost you $10 per month. If you never compared your subscriptions with your partner, this is the time to do it.

If you prefer a more hands-free method, check out Truebill, an online service and app that helps get control over your subscriptions for you. One cancelled subscription can mean $10 per month that go towards your child’s savings.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Scan your monthly statements for all your recurring subscriptions
  2. Compare your subscriptions with your partner’s and see if there are any family plans you can switch to
  3. Create a truebill account and let Truebill do the work for you
  4. As soon as you cancel a subscription, set an auto-deposit for your child’s savings account for the same amount

16. Compare insurance costs

There’s insurance for your home (whether you own or rent), your car, your life (yikes) and even for your pet.

Hopefully you compared and shopped around before purchasing the right insurance for your needs, but that doesn’t mean your work is done. Every year when it’s time to renew is an opportunity to compare prices again and look for the best price out there.

Savings Potential: $$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Whenever you get a notification that your insurance is about to renew, get quotes from two competitor insurance companies
  2. Set an auto-deposit with the difference into your child’s savings
Use any of the ways in this guide to pay down your credit card debt and avoid paying interest

17. Lower your interest on credit cards

Credit cards and their rewards are good only as long as you avoid paying interest on them. Paying your credit card bills on time and for the full statement amount can help you avoid paying unnecessary monstrous fees.

If you do you have credit card debt, use any of the ways in this article to first crush your credit card debt. Credit card interest rates can be well over 14% and can ruin all of your saving attempts without noticing.

With an average spend of $2,000 per month, you could be looking at hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year on interest payments alone!

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Pay your statement in whole and on time every month
  2. Use any of the ways in this guide to pay down your credit card debt and avoid paying interest

18. Explore refinancing your mortgage

Refinancing means replacing your existing mortgage loan with a new one, with the hope of getting better terms on the new loan. There are a few ways refinancing can help you save money, both in the short term and the long term.

Here are a few ways refinancing your mortgage can help you save money:

  • If the market interest rates are down, you can try to refinance and get a lower interest rate on your loan. This means a lower monthly payment, as long as you don’t shorten the length of your mortgage with your new loan. Lowering your debt by half a percent can save your hundreds of dollars every year.
  • If your credit score significantly improved since you initially took out your mortgage, you may have a big saving opportunity through refinancing. Even a twenty-point difference in your credit score can translate to significant monthly savings and thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan. Paying mortgage payments on time for a year or two can already have a great impact on your credit score.
  • Refinancing and getting a longer loan with smaller monthly payments can help today at the expense of tomorrow. With this method you will pay more over the lifetime of your loan, but you will be able to free up some cash on a monthly basis. This method is only good if you can invest your child’s savings in investment accounts and earn a higher percentage from the investment than your mortgage interest.
  • If your household income has increased since you took the mortgage you can refinance with a shorter mortgage that has a higher monthly payment. With a shorter loan, you have the potential to save more on interest payments, so that your overall lifetime payments will be smaller. This may not help you save today, but it could help you save in the long run.

Savings Potential: $$$

Implementation Tips:

  1. Work on improving your credit score
  2. When you feel the time is right (at least once every five years), collect quotes from at three (or more) different lenders. Try to diversify the type of lenders you reach out to and include both big banks, local banks and credit unions
  3. If you get a good quote, refinance your mortgage
  4. Set a new auto-deposit into your child’s savings account with the new saved money

Final Thoughts

If you found one of the ways mentioned here useful, start saving right away. Come back to this guide once a year and see if there are more ways you can save.

Remember, $500 can increase your child’s chances of graduating from college by up to five times!

To make sure your money is being saved in the best tools and earning you more money, check out our guide on how to start saving for your child.

Ben Arbov

Ben Arbov is the founder of Greatest Gift

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