With college costs already astronomical and rising, saving for them isn't just a year-end thing. But if those prices—averaging $40,917 a year for a private four-year college or $18,391 for a state school, according to the College Board—have got you down, there are some ways to max out your savings before 2013 ends.
You can stuff a lot of money into a 529 college savings plan now and then do the same thing at the beginning of 2014—a strategy that advisers say they are seeing many wealthy clients adopt this year. Because of the interplay of gift tax rules and generous contribution limits on these plans, affluent grandparents (or parents, but it's usually grandparents) can set aside as much as $84,000 per grandchild over the next month or so.
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Contributions to 529 plans are made with after-tax money, but earnings that build up in the account are free of federal and state income taxes when funds are withdrawn for qualified education expenses. Some states sweeten the pot by offering tax deductions or credits against those contributions. In Illinois, for example, contributions of up to $10,000 a year for an individual or $20,000 for a couple filing jointly are deductible for state income tax purposes.