Monday, June 6, 2011

Do U Promise?

The educational funding philosophy, pay now dream later, is one I came across when researching how best to plan and save for education expenses. With the sky rocketing costs of college, ever increasing primary education tuition and the pretty penny asked for infant and nursery school programs, it can be daunting.

For my own household the focus is to direct my resources towards the primary learning years: pre-k to 12th grade tuition costs with a nominal amount towards college. The idea though of not putting anything aside for college did not feel right for me personally so I opened a 529 account for Winter with a contribution equal to the maximum tax deduction as being a good benchmark to go by. If I receive any gift checks I also transfer those to her college fund but otherwise I'm not putting every spare penny in it. A friend of mine joked that at the rate our country is going with educational costs, it will only hold the spot.

Lol err...

Because of all the educational disparities and the burden of costs if you do want to try to go other routes, education has become one of my ongoing soundtracks...which schools, how to pay for it, how to plan for it, you name and I can often be found drifting off somewhere and somehow referencing this now beloved subject. Beloved it may be, it requires some sort of planning to proceed as I hope to. This all goes back to that post on the long term effects of decision making.

Because most parents only have so many resources it is nice to find come across other ways to make sure you are accessing all there is you can to support you in whichever goal you may have.

In this case I started reading more about U Promise. You spend at approved vendors either via through their site, with the card, using U Promise coupons or via the restaurant membership and a % of the amount spent is credited to your account. I had an account set up a few years ago but truthfully it sat empty and unused until recently. Mainly because the concept seemed tedious for little return. Alas, I found myself drifting back because in the past year I've made quite a few purchases as a result of Winter in a variety of areas and I wondered if somehow any of it could offer free money for our educational pot.

Now, I am not a finance guru or advisor, to each is his own decision with regards to saving etc for educational expenses. What I will say is I see how you could use U Promise in a way that is not cost effective and I see how it can be used in a way that is rational and truly contributory.

Here's what I do in our case and for each person it is different based on where you live and how you shop etc.

I did NOT sign up for the credit card nor do I use credit cards for purchases.

I registered my debit card and drug store card.

I shop online for quite a few things and I did see several of the stores I visit often. Each time I want to buy something that is related to either of these stores I go to the UPromise website and link to them through the site after I log in then continue my purchase. Since it doesn't matter what card I use there really is no other step and I am not searching for stuff to buy to earn the reward but just getting the reward for what I decide to buy naturally. Also both of the Thai restaurants within a few blocks of us are in the restaurant circle so whenever I do eat there I use my debit card, which I already would anyway, to receive the reward.

I'm sure there are ways to rack up rewards faster etc but in the end you might become the problem as opposed to contributing to the end point.

With each store you get a % of the purchase at point of sale credited to your account and then you can let the money accumulate and request a check, link it to a student loan or 529 account or invest it.  I linked the UPromise account I had to Winter's 529 and it will automatically transfer the $ earned at the end of each quarter.

Some people manage to accumulate a few hundred a year or practically nothing depending on how they use the account. I do see we will earn something of substance and its that much more in the kettle.

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