As with most things, I've been meaning to write about this for a while. I really like, as a general proposition, small gestures that can make a big difference in the long run. In that vein, my sister just signed my two youngest nieces up for UPromise accounts and the whole thing seems very cool to me. UPromise lets you save money for college for your relatives or even yourself by allocating a small percentage of purchases made with registered credit or debit cards, using certain grocery or retail store loyalty cards, eating at participating restaurants or shopping online at a vast number of websites. Since I do a fair amount of shopping and eating, I'm already stocking away a little bit here and there. A couple of my favorite restaurants in town will earn me from 4%-8% on my bill. My Kroger rewards card earns me cash when I buy certain items. And when I shop on line, as I am wont to do, I get a little bit of cash into my account. It's not like I'm saving tons at this point, but my sister and other family members are also doing this for my nieces. It adds up and by the time the girls are college age -- they're 6 and 9 now -- I suspect whatever we've socked away will be useful.
Even cooler, you can link the money to 529 savings accounts -- which let you save dough for your kids for college -- and put it in there with the click of a button. I've sent links to my friends with small kids encouraging them to start UPromise accounts and invite their friends and families to participate. As my sister said, her kids have enough crap, so it would be really helpful if, on their birthdays, the money that my family spends on gifts went into their UPromise and/or 529 accounts.
When my sister gets 529 accounts set up for my nieces, I can even make a small, automatic monthly contribution that could add up over time. College is stupid expensive these days, so I can't imagine how much it will cost even for a basic in-state education when my nieces go. (And, yes, if they wind up dropping out and going into food service, you can withdraw the money that wasn't spent on college.)