When finding money for college, you have several options: education savings account, 529 College Plan, Coverdell Savings Account, or a special college savings program. Saving for college is a necessity for everyone, but luckily you have some great and varied options.

Education Savings Account

A 529 college plan is named for section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. You can invest long-term in mutual funds or pay future tuition costs at today’s prices. Important note: any money you withdraw from a 529 college plan for purposes other than college expenses is taxed like income — and the earnings are usually subject to an additional 10% penalty tax. For more information, take a look at this IRS publication.

A Coverdell Savings Account can be used to pay for not just college, but elementary and secondary school as well. In order to participate, though, you’ll need an adjusted gross income of less than $110,000 ($220,000 if filing a joint return). And, just as with the 529 college plan, be advised that anything you withdraw from a Coverdell Savings Account for purposes other than education expenses is taxed like income — and the earnings are usually subject to an additional 10% penalty tax. For more information, take a look at this IRS publication.

College Savings Program

Several companies and organizations now offer educational savings plans as a way to earn enough money to pay for college. Special incentives allow you to put away college savings every time you use a credit card or make specific types of purchases. Can you really save enough to pay for college or afford an Ivy League education? Let’s take a look.

Of all the college savings programs, the one we prefer is Upromise. The reason we like it? It’s an effortless way for your entirely family to help save for college tuition, without any change in spending or shopping behaviors. Getting someone to change their spending and saving patterns is extremely difficult. Upromise solves this problem by creating a system in which you simply register your various grocery loyalty cards, credit cards, etc., and from that point forward, a portion of everything you spend is saved into an education savings account.

Does this mean you have to shop at special, out-of-the-way stores? Not at all. They’ve partnered with Target, Best Buy, the Apple Store, Sears, Home Depot, The Gap, and countless other retailers you likely already patronize. Same goes for grocery stores and drug stores. Odds are close to 100% of the places where you currently shop and dine are partners, so again, you don’t have to do anything different at all.

It’s not surprise that Upromise now has over 10 million members, all devoted to the philosophy that everyone should be able to afford a college education and attend the school of their dreams.

You’ve heard the expression, “It Takes a Village”? With this mind-set, you can more than double the amount of money you save for college tuition, simply by getting some of your friends and family members to help you save, too. Instead of asking your Aunt to kick in for tuition, ask her to do nothing other than register with Upromise. As she goes through her week, dining and shopping, you’ll be growing ever closer to the reality of affording the college of your choice.

Oh, one last thing while we’re on the topic of saving money for college. While you’re figuring out the big stuff – how to get money to pay for college – you should also take advantage of your student status as a ridiculously easy way to save money at all the places where you regularly shop, dine, go to movies, etc. It’s called the Student Advantage card, and it’s accepted at thousands of places – both big national chains and small regional joints near college campuses. Check it out. It won’t pay for college. But it’ll leave you with plenty of extra pizza money in your pocket…