Tuesday, July 22, 2008

UPromise - College Savings

Here's a good one that covers two of my passions: Family & Saving Money. Let me first say that UPromise isn't paying me to say any of this. I'm just continually amazed that people don't know about this and aren't getting the same cash back (free college money) for their kids.

I first heard about UPromise when Senator Bill Bradley was trying to be the Democratic Nominee for President back in 2000. I don't know if he started the idea but that's where I heard of it. Back then I listened to every campaign speech and I really analyzed every candidate based on what they were saying and what their track record was. It's not that I don't want to do that now - I just don't have time with a 2 year old . . .

Anyway, I signed up for it as soon as I realized that it was legit. My husband and I didn't have any kids at that time so I just had him listed as the beneficiary (we later changed it to Will).

The basic idea is that you register your grocery cards and credit cards with the site. You then get cash back from retailers when you make purchases at the grocery store, participating restaurants and online purchases as long as you when from UPromise's site then to the retailer. We didn't make too much at first because we didn't have much priority on saving for college for a kid that we hadn't conceived yet :) Every 3 months the balance in your UPromise account is transferred to your kids 529 college savings account as long as you have at least $25 at the time. That never happened for us back then because we weren't earning that much and we didn't have a 529 to transfer anything to.

Once I learned I was pregnant that whole situation changed. I evaluated every purchase we made and saw that we could be getting much more free money if we just put a little thought into our purchasing process. Here's my most commonly used examples:

1. I printed out a list of participating restaurants in our area using the zip code search and just kept in it my purse for those spontaneous lunch outings with my husband. It also helped me to remember to use our debit card for those purchases since you can't get the 4-8% cash back using cash. Total savings earned to date: $36.55

2. I try to do my majority of grocery shopping at a participating store like Wegmans and only use non-participating stores like Wal-Mart for last minute items. The kicker here is that I don't change my shopping habits at all. I still use coupons and I still buy my favorite store brands. I just get savings from my normal shopping. Total savings earned to date: $17.01

3. All online purchases my family makes are researched first for a decent range of prices and then checked with UPromise to see if they have a participating retailer. I would say 75-80% of the time we can purchase through UPromise and get the cash back but there are places like Amazon that sometimes have better prices and they don't offer cash back. All Christmas presents, wedding and baby showers and birthdays start here for long distance friends and family. All regular purchases like iTunes start here as well. It's amazing to see how many retailers are listed. Total savings earned to date: $162.66

4. By far our biggest savings has been switching to the Citibank UPromise credit card. I'm not a big advocate for credit cards but you really have to have one for online purchasing and for your larger transactions like trips and household stuff. So I figure if you have to have one you should pay it in full every month and get the best rewards possible. I believe they give you a higher percentage on gas and grocery purchases but the bottom line is 1% back on all purchases. We use this card for all of our personal (vs work) purchases and we've been very happy with it. The best is getting cash back from a retailer for an online purchase AND getting another 1% back from Citibank on that same transaction. Total savings earned to date: $416.99

5. Miscellaneous items: At one time our home phone service qualified so I got $$7.60 total from SBC (we're now with Verizon). I started taking surveys through E-Rewards and got an initial $2.00 but I should be getting an additional $50 before the end of the year. I switched our energy provider just recently and for last months bill I got $3.69 back. I also have gotten gas at Mobile a few times (probably out of necessity) and got a total of $4.02 from them. You can also have friends and family sign up and contribute directly to your account. We haven't gotten much from this yet but it's worth it if you have people in your life that want to help save for your kids future.

Overall I have gotten $652.52 from UPromise transferred directly into Will's 529 college account. Since we're only able to put $100 a month into that 529 account right now that equates to almost 7 months extra savings. He just turned 2 in May so I'm hoping to take advantage of more in the future. As long as I'm not spending any more money than I intended I feel like I'm on the right track. Most of the time these vendors offer coupons or free shipping if you click through UPromise first.

They've just recently announced a couple things that I hope to take advantage of in the future:

1. Travel - My husband and I travel often for work and we have a work website dedicated to this but our personal travel could be booked through here since we normally use Orbitz anyway.

2. Auto - We will probably need to purchase a new vehicle in the next 5 years so I'm hoping we'll have a participating dealer in our area by then. It sounds like a good deal if you know exactly what you want to buy.

I hope that this helps a few people save more for college. I can't even imagine what it's going to cost for my son to go 16 years from now but I'm going to do what I can to save every penny possible to help. My husband laughed at me when we first signed up and got less than $50 in the first year. Now he's a believer and actively searches the site on his own before making any purchase. It feels good to save money on something we were going to buy anyway AND get money for Will's college account at the same time.

1 comment:

Jeff Frese said...

I started a company you might be interested in as both an mom and a blogger. It's Freshman Fund. It's like a registry for college savings. Parents go to the site, attach their 529, create a public profile and email friends and family a link where they can contribute directly into the child's 529 account in lieu of or in addition to the usual birthday/holiday gifts. Great for parents and great for gift givers and it's environmentally friendly gifting.