College savings for the holidays

My 2 kids have been working on their holiday wish lists for weeks, erasing one request, adding another, then reprioritizing yet again. While my kids certainly don’t get everything they want, they always end up with plenty to be grateful for (and with a number of things that require batteries!).

Christmas can be a magical time, especially for kids. Although gifts from a wish list are sure to delight on Christmas morning, I encourage you to think about another gift this year: a 529 contribution.

Here’s why.

The case for a new tradition

I still remember the new bike I got for Christmas when I was 7. My daughter cherishes the doll Grandma gave her 3 years ago. So I won’t discount the intrinsic value of a new toy. But I will make the case for the value of a 529 contribution.

Consider this: If my 5-year-old son receives a $100 gift contribution to his 529 this year, it’ll more than double by the time he’s 18 (assuming a 6% average annual return). If he receives a $100 contribution gift every year from ages 5 to 18 (assuming the same 6% average annual return), he’ll have $2,215 saved for college expenses—that could cover 2 years of paying for books!* (Note: These hypothetical examples do not represent the return on any particular investment and the rate is not guaranteed.)

As my kids get older and learn to appreciate the value of a dollar (and the importance of an education), an annual 529 contribution—in any amount our friends and family can afford comfortably—can be a holiday tradition as special as it is valuable. And with the help of Ugift®, it’s easier than ever to ask for (and to receive) 529 contributions.

It takes a village

I ask for help navigating homework and carpooling to kids’ activities. Parenting takes a village, and saving for college is no exception. My husband and I save for college, but we also receive help from loved ones. We’re not alone. According to a recent Sallie Mae study, family income and savings covered only 43% of college costs in 2019.**

If you’re on the fence about asking for college savings help, here are a few tips.

Make it easy

Ugift is a free service that makes it easy for friends and family to contribute to an existing 529 account. They even have printable gift certificates, which are also available on their website.

If your 529 plan has the Ugift option, here’s how you can use Ugift:

  1. Log on to your 529 account.
  2. Select the Ugift link on your home page. You’ll see a unique 6-digit Ugift code for each 529 account you own.
  3. Choose the Facebook, Twitter, or email icon (below the code) to share the code and the instructions for contributing online.
  4. Select the print icon (also below the code) to view or print a PDF containing the code and the instructions for contributing by check.

You can choose the link below your code to view gift history so you and your child know whom to thank.

Don’t be afraid to suggest a 529 contribution as a gift

Gift givers—especially those with the forethought to ask what your child wants or needs—want to give a helpful and appreciated gift. A 529 contribution is certainly fitting!

Be flexible

Provide options—a toy, book, experience, or 529 contribution—and let the gift giver choose. You can also suggest a themed gift that complements your child’s interests: A gift giver can include a 529 gift certificate in a box of crayons for a future artist, in a book for an aspiring writer, or with the game of “Operation” for a prospective doctor or nurse.

Be specific

Many people like to know how you’ll use their contribution. For example, if your child is close to starting college, earmark a 529 contribution for a campus meal plan.

The best gift to get (or to give)

I work in Vanguard Education Savings Group, but being a mom (and my family’s designated birthday and holiday shopper) has convinced me that a single 529 contribution creates a trifecta of wonderful outcomes:

  1. The gift giver avoids spending endless hours in toy stores during the holidays.
  2. The gift recipient receives a lifetime gift.
  3. The gift recipient’s parents don’t have to buy more batteries—a fact that most parents (myself included) can appreciate!


**Source: Sallie Mae.


  • For more information about any 529 college savings plan, contact the plan provider to obtain a Program Description, which includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information; read and consider it carefully before investing. If you are not a taxpayer of the state offering the plan, consider before investing whether your or the designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors. Vanguard Marketing Corporation serves as distributor for some 529 plans.
  • All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.
  • Ugift is a registered service mark of Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC.

Source Vanguard Blog