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How Can I Pay for College?

I am a big believer in calculating return on investment. In accounting parlance:

ROI = (gain from investment – cost of investment)/cost of investment

Pay for CollegeBut in layman’s terms it means calculating the efficiency of an investment. It’s the ratio of money gained (or lost) relative to the amount invested, it shows whether or not you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

For years I have stacked up savings by using a rewards credit card for every single possible purchase. I realize this violates one of Dave Ramsey’s ultimate principles, but given a single character trait — self-mastery — credit cards are amazing tools. For decades I have used rewards cards to earn cash back, discounts, and frequent flier miles. As long — and this is a huge caveat — as you don’t buy more than you would otherwise and always pay the card balance in full before the due date, this strategy can put you way ahead.

I just learned about a similar way to earn money for college: Upromise.

Now I have heard of Upromise before, but didn’t know any of the details. Learning more about it, I’ve found it fits nicely with the savings method I’ve been using for years. Upromise has a number of savings methods. You can earn money money for college with:

  • Online shopping — 1–25%
  • Dining — up to 8%
  • Grocery — up to $40 per month in coupons
  • Upromise credit card — 1% back on all your purchases

You can redeem your rewards in myriad ways as well. You can:

  • Grow it in a high-yield savings account — with a 10% match!
  • Invest it in a 529 plan — this is a tax-deferred education savings plan run by state governments, every state has at least one
  • Pay down a student loan — if you have a current student loan, you can use these easy rewards to help pay off your debt!
  • Get a check — keep it simple, just get a check and use it for any school expenses

If you have college kids (this year I will have three!) or are a college student yourself, Upromise is a great way to help with those expenses. To date members have received more than $600 million for education!

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • susan August 21, 2011, 7:35 am

    Thanks for the tips as when you are at college you need money desperate and you are ready to have any money additional.

  • Caroline August 23, 2011, 8:09 am

    Being a student is a poor, poor time. But it pays off in the end. I hope students will use this idea to help ease the stress. Hang in there!

  • Anna August 26, 2011, 5:36 am

    When you are student it is a rather hard time and when you study you need to work and to earn for a living. I was working all five years and it helped me to surivive.

  • Duy Nguyen September 24, 2011, 8:59 pm

    Yeah, college time could be the toughest time if we had to stand on our own feet. I’m in the final year of college. And although I’m still relying on my parents, I have found a way to generate cash to support my own life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Alison, I appreciate it very much 🙂
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 27, 2011, 9:58 am

    Duy Nguyen, good on you for going to college. My kids pay most of their own way. (This year I have one graduate student and two undergrads.) In my experience, they take it more seriously when they have a lot of skin in the game. 🙂

  • Monica October 6, 2011, 11:45 am

    Wow, I can’t believe you have three in college! I have one son who just started, and another that will start next year, so I can sympathize. It’s so outrageous how much college costs are today, even for small community colleges. I learned so much from your post and I am off to check out Upromise and see what it has to offer. Thank you for the great information.
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  • Alison Moore Smith October 6, 2011, 1:04 pm

    Monica, thanks for the kind words. I hope it’s helpful. My husband and I have a philosophy about who pays for education. I’ll probably do a post on it soon. 🙂

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