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Ask MP: Can't Afford Saving for College

I know we should be saving for college, but we don't have the money, and it feels like it won't even make a dent in the cost anyway. What if we just don't?

If you save nothing -- zip -- toward college costs, you and your child will have to apply for financial aid, take out loans, and hope for the best.

Before you completely give up on saving, though, let's keep those costs in perspective. Yes, a B.A. is pricey, but more than half of today's students attend schools that cost less than $9,000 a year -- and more than a third are paying only $3,000 to $6,000 annually. Fees will go up, of course, because everything goes up -- including, we can hope, your income. You may have more wiggle room in a year or two or three, so the cost (and saving for it) may look less daunting by then.

In the meantime, expand your financial horizons. The College Board website (collegeboard.com) has great information about college funding. Also check out Savingforcollege.com, which can explain the advantages of setting up a 529 plan. Even a tiny deposit each month could blossom into a nice college cushion.

MP Dunleavey also writes a personal-finance column for The New York Times. Send her your money questions at Meet the Mom Squad.

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