Savings Plan for Child – Catch All those Holiday + Birthday Cash Gifts Over the Years

Your kid savings plan: it starts this coming Christmas or even on their birthday. Plus I interview 8 moms (1 father) who have been using this method since birth, and they reveal how much savings their child has accumulated. Money challenge met! Savings plan for child. |

Potty trained. Check. Savings plan for child. Check (at least after today!).

I want you to say this with me, Mama Bear:

“From this holiday and birthday onward, I will set aside 50% of each of my child’s money gifts into their savings account.”


Making this one commitment will change the money course of your child’s future.

Yes, they might whine at you.

Yes, they might have their hearts set on something to purchase in a store with that money.

Psst: I did say 50%, not 100%, for this savings plan for child. So they could certainly still spend some of the money on themselves. Otherwise this savings plan for child might fail!

But when they turn 18, and you can hand over a savings account with (potentially) several thousand dollars in it − made up of $5 here, $25 there − they’re going to be über grateful that you did this for them.

Why? Because it’s textbook money for college. It’s first-apartment-deposit money. It’s car money. Wouldn’t you have loved it if YOUR parents had handed an account over to you with several thousand dollars in it before being thrust out into the real world?

8 Actual Parents Who Have Been Doing This + How Much It’s Reaped for their Kid(dos)

I started doing this myself – at 100% contributions of any cash gifts we receive ($110 so far! We’ll likely decrease the percentage once he figures out how a store works) – starting at our little guy’s birth. But he’s only 21 months old, and I want to know how this will play out for you (and me!) over the years.

So, I found several mothers who had started doing this when their kid(dos) were very young to see how it’s turning out for them.

After posing this question in several different Facebook Groups, I found that among 8 different families, the range of savings accounts from using this method is between $850 all the way up to $20,000! In other words, from covering two semesters’ worth of college textbooks, all the way to several semesters’ actual tuition cost.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Jill (*name changed) daughter, 11: $850 in a savings account thanks to employing this method.
  • Jane (*name changed) son, 13: “What I have done with him is every time we go and see my parents for the last several years, when my Dad gives me $50, I set it aside and put it into my son’s bank account. I take him with me when I do this. I’m custodian to his savings account, which has about $3,500 in it right now.”
  • Ryan Inman, son, 2: “Contributions from grandparents towards college has been the primary reason for opening the account. Most of it makes it to the 529, some saved here for other investments. My son turns 3 in sept and has 12k in it. Started the account a few months after he was born.”
  • Jesse M Fearon, children aged 19 months, 4, and 5: We’ve had savings accounts for them “since they were born (well, since we received their SSN numbers in the mail after they were born). It’s just a simple savings account but we deposit all money in that account until they are 3, then the rule is they can keep the cash (if it’s less than $10) and any checks are deposited into their savings account. We don’t give our children birthday gifts, instead we deposit money into their savings accounts for their birthdays. Our children are 5, 4, and 19 months old. Our oldest has the most saved since he’s been around longer, but all of our children have over a $1,000 in their accounts.”
  • Holly Porter Johnson, 6 and 8: “I’ve been saving my kids birthday money since they were babies. I add it to their 529’s. They each have around $10,000 And they’re 6 and 8?.”
  • Emma Healey, son, 5: “My 5 yr old has $2800. I bank all the gifts his grandparents send over. They live in a different country so always send cash and tell me to buy something nice for him but instead I buy him a $1 toy from the thrift store and bank the rest.”
  • Lee Huff, 2 and 6: “We started saving $100 a month in a 529 in my name for each child when we found out we were pregnant. Then we transferred the money into their names after they were born and had a SSN. Instead of birthday gifts, we ask people to contribute to their 529 instead. They’re now 6 and 2 and have a combined $20,000 in their 529s.”
  • Robert Farrington, 9 months, 3: “We have two kids, one is 3 and the other is just 9 months. We’ve put every cash gift they’ve ever received into the account. My oldest, at 3, has $1,700 in their account. My younger one has $1,000. We plan to continue to save all their cash gifts this way.”

Wow. Inspiring, right? Remember that when it comes time to hand over these accounts to the kids (who won’t be kids anymore, but very young adults), they’re not going to remember that toddler-sized Elsa doll they weren’t allowed to buy with their money, or the latest video game they would have conquered in a few weeks anyway. They’re going to be super grateful to have had a mother with the foresight to know their child was going to need money to start their adult life. Besides, saving money for kids could also help steer them away from a paycheck-to-paycheck mentality. Your savings plan for child starts today!

How to Save for Kids College in a Painless Way

Looking for how to save for kids college painlessly? Check this tool out to help with saving money for kids. |

Let me show you how to save for kids college in the #1 most painless way

How on earth can I write that blog post title? Where I’m not only telling you that saving for your kid’s college education is doable, but also that there’s a way I know of to make it painless?

I’m a Mama Bear. I get it. I know how daunting the $100K+ price tag appears (even if I still do have 16 years left to figure it out + am hanging my dreams on our little guy getting some good scholarships as part of a 529 college savings plan).

It’s a mighty big task.

But I’m here to help.

First, a little background to how I discovered this trick.

Our Discovery of Painless End-of-Year Savings

The end of every year is a pretty expensive time for us, just like it is for many families. There are holidays with food + gifts to purchase. There’s airfare if we want to visit my family (as we often do), who all live 1,550 miles away. There’s end-of-the-year Roth IRA contribution catch-ups to make to ensure we’ve maxed those out. There’s our $450 Homeowner’s Association fee. There’s our flood insurance renewal fee.

It just doesn’t seem to stop.

I had signed up for this free savings app (now $2.99/month) called sometime in the summer of last year, and forgotten about it.

Well not entirely (it sends me daily text messages about our checking account balance).

But mostly.

One day when faced with all of the bills that came at the end of last year, I suddenly realized I had some hope. This app had been setting aside $5 here, $12.27 there from our checking into a savings account for several months. How much money was in there?

When I looked in November, I found it had squeezed a whopping $509.97 into savings for us!

And that $509.97 this free tool set aside for us? It all came in just two months’ time − between August 25th and October 24th to be exact − with an average of $18.21 taken out on each withdrawal.

Now…let’s turn back to the task at hand: how to save for kids college in the most painless way possible.

The College Savings Trick to Make Savings Painless

In two months, that free app was able to find an extra $509.97 sitting in our checking account. So what do you think it could do over a span of, say, 10 years?

I’d imagine it could create miracle savings for you + your college-aged kiddo, at least partially solving the question of how to save for kids college.

It’s not likely you’ll miss $11.16, or $8.87 every few days (that’s why I consider it painless, just like setting aside extra money for our end-of-year expenses last year). But what would you really miss? Knowing that you had set aside thousands of dollars over the years for your child to attend college.

The Workaround to their Low-Interest Earnings

One downside to using when figuring out how to save for kids college is that they don’t give you interest for saving your money in an account with them.

That’s their business model − they save it for you automatically, and they earn the interest.

However, they do give you “Savings Bonuses”. Every three months you earn a little bit ($0.05/$100 saved, based on average Digit balance over the last three months) for keeping your money with them.

So what you will want to do is whenever you get a significant amount of money built up, move it back to checking and over to your designated college savings account.

Some More Facts

Still feeling squeamish about an app automatically withdrawing varying amounts of money from your checking account to your college savings? Here’s a few more facts:

  • FDIC-Insured: Your account is FDIC-insured, just like a typical savings account.
  • No-Overdraft Guarantee: Should they cause an overdraft on your account, they will pay you back in lost money due to fees. Check out Digit’s No-Overdraft Guarantee on their FAQs page for more info.
  • You Can Set Parameters: When you sign up for this app, you’re signing up to daily text messages to your phone with your daily checking account balance, recent transactions, and how much they withdraw from your account. You can cut these all out if you’d like. You can also set up some parameters on the amount being saved by texting things like “save less” or “save more”. You can also hit “pause” for any number of days you would like. Amounts are transferred every 2-3 days, typically between $5-$50 at time, depending on their algorithm’s determination of your checking account’s ability to handle the withdrawals (they analyze your bills + spending + income to understand how much to withdraw). Also, at any time, you can just text “withdraw $200” or whatever amount you’d like, and it will go back into your account rather quickly. When I tried this option out, it was one day later that I saw the money back.

I think this really could be a lifesaver for you. Think about it: every time you see a  “Hello Digit Inc” appear in your checking account, you can smile knowing that just a few more bucks has made it into your child’s college savings fund. How to save for kids college just became a little bit easier (and definitely more painless).

Steal this Mama Bear’s 529 College Savings Plan Strategy

Steal this Mama Bear's 529 College Savings Plan Strategy. Plus $262,000 worth of opportunities to get started! Awesome tips on saving money for kids college. |

Looking for a 529 College Savings Plan Strategy? Here’s one Mama Bear’s unique way to fund her six kids’ accounts.

Probably one of the scariest ideas swirling around in our minds as parents is how the heck we’re going to pay for our kids’ education.

I mean, my little guy is just 15 months old, and the idea probably invaded my mental space as early as month #2 of pregnancy.


When I was getting geared up towards college − shout out to Washington College − I had not thought for a moment about going after scholarships under the age of, say, 17.

I mean it just made sense to me that you would start looking + applying for scholarships in the year leading up to when you left for college.

But then I ran across Linsey Knerl’s Facebook post gushing about her 11-year old son’s $1,000 scholarship win to help fund his 529 college savings account.

Just 11 years old. Think about this: that’s not only a free $1,000 in college money, but the money  has 7 or so years to grow until he’s ready to use it.

So I had to learn more because couldn’t we all use super actionable tips for how to fund our own kids’ college educations?

Linsey’s Got a Threefold 529 Funding Strategy

Linsey Knerl is no stranger to entering contests for money. This homeschooling Mama Bear to 6 kids − Kylin (age 18), Micah (age 13), Matthias (age 11), Moses (age 9), Marcus (age 6), Manasseh /”Manny” (age 3) − has been entering and winning contests on and off for over 20 years.

Like, back when they had dot matrix printers.

Linsey says, “I’ve won thousands of dollars in prizes, including a bicycle, trip to San Francisco, a year of massages, dinners, iPads, a TV, home security system, gaming consoles, a private movie screening for 100 guests, lots and lots of free product coupons, socks, and key chains. There have been times I have gotten bored with it and have stopped, but as soon as I start again, I usually have good luck.”

So naturally, when thinking about how to get cash for her kids’ college educations, she turned to this same strategy.

Well…this plus a consistent savings plan.

She says, “We had opened up regular investment accounts through Capital One for the kids back when they gave out $25 – $50 bonuses for each account (with no minimum). We have just started to work on moving over funds from low-performing funds to a 529, after we had our son win a $1,000 529 account from our state!”

Before the scholarship win, the regular investment accounts had money in them. That’s because of Linsey’s priority to save for her six kids’ college educations.

“I start putting $25 each month for each kid into a custodial investing account for them when they are preschool age. When the kids get a bit older, and earn their own money, they are asked to put at least 15% of their own money in, as well. It’s not a lot, but it is automated and it adds up. If nothing else, it can pay for first year tuition, books, or other expenses.”

This ensures that if no scholarships are won, there is still money waiting for each of her children to pursue higher education.

Just to recap, her threefold 529 college savings plan strategy includes: 

  • $25/month of her own money into each account
  • 15% of each child’s earned income once they start to work
  • Any scholarship money wins

Let’s Dig Into Her 529 College Savings Plan Scholarship Strategy

Linsey and her husband want their kids “to have every opportunity to thrive within the gifts and talents given. We usually see what our kids are gifted in around age 11 or 12. We try to nurture those gifts and interests early and often, so that they can see what they might like to do when they get older. Kids change their minds, but homeschooling gives us freedom to not waste time sending kids to college to do things they would hate to do in the real world. Who wants to spend money on that?”

Not only is she having her children enter 4-6 skill scholarship contests per year, but since these are skill-based contests, they’re also complementary to her homeschooling education (not to mention giving her kids a healthy appetite for entering contests + competing).

Contests they’ve entered so far have been coloring contests, essays, or simply a reading program goal reward with prizes varying between $25 and $20,000.

In order for her son, Matthias, to score that $1,000, he had to draw a picture of his dream job. His winning photo of a colored pencil drawing of farming equipment was included in a calendar for the bank customers and winning families.

Plus the kids have won small prizes of $20-$50 in the past.

Where does she find all of these opportunities for her kids to enter? Linsey says, “I look everywhere! I Google for them, sign up for lending institution newsletters, and use sites like Petersons and Cappex. I also stay on the mailing lists for all the organizations we are part of. From the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) to our local Farm Bureau, there are always opportunities to enter and win money for college. You have to actively seek it out. Read the papers. Watch social media. Get involved!”

Resource Recap to Start Your Scholarship Search:

$262,000 in Scholarship Opportunities Kids Aged 14 and Younger Can Enter

Bottom line comes from Linsey: “You can’t win if you don’t enter!”

So, how exactly do you start entering contests?

I’ve curated a list of 17 scholarship opportunities totaling $262,000 for 14 years of age and younger below. Why that age range? Well, the earlier you start, the less daunting it will be for both you AND your kiddo to get into the habit of applying for scholarship money.

In fact, even though I scored an awesome $46,000+ for my own college education in scholarships + grants, I now wonder how much more I could have won if I had started earlier (instead of paying off $36,000 in student loans — free and clear as of September 2010).

Deadlines come and go, so my advice to you is put a calendar reminder for any of the scholarships below that you’re interested in, or save it to your favorites and add the deadline date to whatever you name it. You’re less likely to forget that way.

#1: Shred Hate, $5,000

Age Requirement: 25 and Under

#2: Love Letters Challenge, $3,000

Age Requirement: 25 and Under

#3: New Year, New US, $3,000

Age Requirement: 25 and Under

#4: I Have a Dream, $1,500

Age Requirement: 13+

#5: C-SPAN’s StudentCam, $250-$5,000

Age Requirement: Grade 6-12

#6: Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship, $2,000

Age Requirement: 13+

#7: Slam What You Will, $1,000

Age Requirement: 13-25

#8: Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship, $10,000 + $1,000 for your school

Age Requirement: 14+

#9: Duck Tape®’s Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest, $50,000 in cash prizes

Age Requirement: 14+

#10: Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, $1,000-$5,000

Age Requirement: Grades 5-12

#11: Patriot’s Pen, $5,000

Age Requirement: Grades 6-8

#12: Doodle 4 Google, $5,000-$15,000

Age Requirement: K-12

#13: Team America Rocketry Challenge, $100,000

Age Requirement: Grades 7-12

#14: National Marbles Tournament Scholarships, $1,000-$5,000

Age Requirement: 7-14

#15: Angela Award, $1,000

Age Requirement: 10-14

#16: Davidson Fellows, $10,000-$50,000

Age Requirement: 18 and Under

#17: Action For Nature Eco-Hero Award, up to $500

Age Requirement: 8-16