August 2, 2022

The summer is the perfect time to open a 529 higher education saving account or to review your existing 529 saving strategies before the new school year starts. Here are some ideas and steps you can take this summer to build your 529 account.

Save with your state’s sales tax holiday

Does your child’s upcoming school year supply list seem to go on and on? Nineteen states offer a sales tax holiday weekend, which includes back-to-school supplies on these lists and clothing.

During this weekend, take advantage of the back-to-school sales. You can then deposit those extra savings into your child’s 529 plan to continue supporting their future higher education.

If your home state doesn’t offer a sales tax holiday, then take advantage of all the back-to-school sales. Many businesses will lower the prices of these necessary items to bring more people into their stores. These sales can be a good teaching moment for children on delayed gratification and how waiting can help you save money.

Save with disappearing expenses

Another way to build your 529 education savings is with saving disappearing expenses. 

Disappearing expenses are costs that are temporarily part of your family’s budget. For instance, a significant disappearing expense for most families is preschool. Once your child starts all-day kindergarten or first grade, you can turn the former preschool, daycare, or summer camp costs into regular contributions to your 529 college savings account. This way, you can continue to support your child’s educational needs far into the future.

Other disappearing expenses can include car loans, medical or dental bills, credit card debt, or, perhaps more relevantly, your own student loan payments. Once you have paid off these obligations, re-direct those dollars from your budget to your child’s 529 plan. As these costs are already in your household’s budget, there is no loss of income by changing them into 529 contributions.

Save with automatic contributions

A simple and easy way to build up your 529 savings is through automatic recurring contributions. With it, you can pay yourself and your child’s future higher education first, rather than trying to contribute whatever dollar amount is left from your paycheck. You can set these automated deposits according to your paydays or a monthly contribution schedule. Even small contributions to your 529 account can add up to significant savings.

Some employers also offer payroll direct deposit, where a portion of your after-tax paycheck is deposited directly into your 529 account. Payroll contributions make it easy to save regularly to meet college-saving goals.

Save with loved ones’ contributions

Family and friends want to commemorate the big events in your child’s life. If they ask for gift ideas, tell them they can help with a meaningful milestone in your child’s life – their higher education —with a contribution to your child’s 529 plan. 

Consider asking for higher education savings contributions in place of gifts for baby showers, birthdays, holidays, graduations, and many other milestones and occasions in your child’s life. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even family friends can add to your account and contribute to your child’s future in a very meaningful way. Receiving gifts is simple. If you have a 529 account, check with your program to see how others can contribute.  

It’s never too late to start 

If you haven’t started to save for college costs, it’s never too late to open a 529 plan. Every dollar saved is a dollar that isn’t borrowed. This makes a 529 college savings plan an excellent alternative to student loan debt. Even small 529 plan deposits can grow through the power of compound interest, tax-free earnings, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses. If you have been saving in a 529 plan, take these additional steps and watch how your account grows! 

529 plans can be used nationwide for whatever comes after high school, including federally accredited apprenticeships, trade and vocational schools, community colleges, certificate programs, four-year universities and colleges, graduate school, law school, and medical school. To learn more about all the tax advantages and research your state’s 529 higher education savings plans, visit

About the author:

Tim Gorrell is the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. For more than 30 years, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority has sponsored and administered Ohio’s 529 College Savings Program, CollegeAdvantage. Ohio’s 529 Plan oversees more than 680,000 accounts and over $15.93 billion in assets as of March 31, 2022. Visit or call 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) for more information.