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September marks not only a new school year, but also National College Savings Month—a perfect time for families to open a college savings account or bolster one they’ve already begun. A national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos reveals that, despite the cost of college, fewer families are saving. In the past two years, the percentage of families saving for college has dropped from 60 percent to 50 percent.

To help families get started and reach their savings goals, Sallie Mae asked customers to share their successful savings tips:

  • Create a plan for college and be cost conscious. Ellen K. of Indianapolis, Ind., says to use college planning tools to create a roadmap. “Sallie Mae’s CollegeAnswer.com has a wealth of information for both students and parents – from locating scholarships and other funding sources to managing your money. We used the site to plan the cost of college. We have chosen in-state schools for our kids, and we have taken advantage of scholarships.”
  • Start as early as possible. Jennifer G. of St. Louis, Mo., opened a 529 college savings plan for each of her kids. “I am saving for my daughter who is 4 years old and my son who is 2. It’s important to have an account opened as early as possible so you can contribute over a longer period of time as your children grow older.”*
  • Use tools that grow your savings. Craig Z. and his wife of Boston, Mass., use Upromise by Sallie Mae college savings rewards program to boost their college funds. “We have four children ages 9, 10, 13, and 21, one of whom is in college now. We joined Upromise in 2001; we were looking for opportunities to save as much as possible, especially while our kids were still young. We save money every time we shop online and when we use our Upromise World MasterCard. So far, we have saved more than $4,000 through Upromise.”**
  • Grandparents and gifts can help. Delicia M. of Atlanta, Ga., is saving for college for her 10-year-old son, and his grandparents help with 529 contributions as gifts. “My son’s grandparents were always asking what he needed for his birthday and Christmas, and it became difficult for them to find gifts. I finally realized the perfect gift for all involved was a contribution to his 529 college savings plan. I use Ugift and send email invitations to family to make it easy to contribute to his account. It means so much that he has money going towards a college fund and not into a toy, game or clothes that he will outgrow in the next year or two.”*+
  • Put your savings on auto-pilot. Amber T. of Fayetteville, Ark., says saving is easier when it’s automatic. “My advice to families is to set up an auto-draft for a specific amount and time period and watch it grow. I have a monthly contribution that goes straight from my paycheck into the savings account.”

To help families save and plan for college costs, Sallie Mae unveiled three mobile apps to make it fun for families with children of any age to prepare for higher education and future careers.

*When you invest in a 529 college savings plan you are purchasing municipal securities whose value will vary with market conditions. Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you could lose money by investing in a 529 college savings plan. Account owners assume all investment risks as well as responsibility for any federal and state tax consequences.

**This is an active Upromise member. Actual savings depend on level ofspending.

+Ugift is available in connection with certain 529 plans administered by Upromise Investments, Inc. or its affiliates.

Copyright Business Wire 2013