A Get-Real Guide to Saving for College

How to sock away money without busting your budget.

How Much Does College Cost?

college fund

Paula Hible

If you've got a 3-year-old, financial planners will tell you that you need to save somewhere between $140,000 and $470,000 so you can send him to college.

No, we're not joking.

That means if you'd like your child to go to a top private college, you should be putting away about $1,500 a month starting -- well, starting about three years ago. If you're planning on sending him to a good state school, that's only -- gag! -- about $450 a month.

With numbers like those, how can any parent even think about saving for college -- especially right now, when those credit-card bills from your holiday shopping are starting to pile up on your desk? To get a reality check, we put that question to a group of financial experts -- and the good news is that, while daunting, it's not a lost cause. Here's what you need to know before you abandon the idea of saving for college altogether and decide to steer your child toward a career that doesn't require a degree.

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