10 Under Sink Storage Solutions You Need in Your Life

Keeping your house organized is no easy task and the space under the sink is no exception. It’s often easy to forget about the storage under the sink as it’s mostly covered and hidden.

However, it can and should be just as organized as any other part of your house. Here are 10 under the bathroom sink and under kitchen sink storage ideas.

Under kitchen sink storage ideas

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in any house or apartment. The only thing that makes a kitchen more enjoyable is when it’s clear of clutter, under the sink included.

Here are some clever under the kitchen sink storage ideas for you to try.

kitchen sink storage

1. Hang bottles with tension rods

Tension rods are one of the best under sink storage solutions. They can be used on virtually every surface and also can be fitted to almost any size area. Once they’re in place you can hang cleaning supply bottles from them to free up space from the bottom of the cabinet.

One of the best things about tension rods is they’re not permanent and they can easily be removed and reused through the house.

2. Use file holders to add storage

File holders aren’t just nifty organizers for the paper on your desk — they make great storage for under your kitchen sink. They’re pretty inexpensive and easy to find at your local paper store or Target.

All you have to do is adhere them to the inside of the cabinet door and you’ll have yourself some extra storage. It’s a great place to put extra towels, dish brushes or sponges for easy access.

3. Organize with bins

When organizing, you can never go wrong with a good old bin. They make a great space to neatly organize and group everything into their own neat place. Once everything has its place you can easily stack them to create even more cleared up space.

Another tip is to label them so that you don’t have to waste time sifting through each one when you’re looking for one thing.

4. Expand storage with a Lazy Susan

Let’s all thank Susan for being lazy and inventing the lazy Susan. It’s one of the most helpful and fun storage hacks on the list. They come in a variety of sizes to fit under any cabinet and make finding what you’re looking for super easy. The best part is you just place all your supplies on it and you’re done!

5. Install cabinet towel holders

Similar to tension rods, cabinet towel holders offer extra space in your cabinet while keeping it organized. They’re very easy to find and even easier to set up and can be used in a variety of spaces around the home, including under your kitchen sink.

All you have to do is remove the packaging and attach the hooks to the door part of your cabinet. Once you’ve done that hang anything from them like cleaning supplies, extra towels and even your cleaning gloves.

Under bathroom sink storage

Similar to the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink is another space that can be difficult to organize. Fear not we’ve got you covered there, too! Here are some great tips for how to organize under your bathroom sink.

bathroom sink storage

6. Store hair tools with PVC piping

When you think of PVC piping under the bathroom sink, storage probably doesn’t come to mind. PVC pipes are a great way to store hair tools such as curling irons, flat irons and their cords. Since they come in a multitude of sizing, you can perfectly fit your tools to the pipe. When you have a perfect size the only thing left to do is attach it to the inside of the cabinet doors.

7. Declutter with sliding shelves

Sliding shelves are a great way to de-clutter under your bathroom sink. They create more space to store items, such as hair products and tools, toilet paper, etc. One of the best things about sliding shelves is the easy access to everything without having to dig through all your things.

8. Create extra space with cabinet door bins

Creating extra storage in small areas is a great way to accomplish all your organizing goals. One way to add extra space is to add cabinet door bins. They’re extremely easy to adhere and also can be removed easily when you’re done using them. They also hold quite a bit and are a great place to put your products, brushes, towels and more.

9. Utilize bins and caddies

As mentioned above, a bin or a caddy is one of the most useful tools to create a clutterless space. Get a large bin specifically for towels and toilet paper and they usually take up the bulk of under sink storage. Use smaller bins for other supplies and stack them to create ample, organized space.

10. Hang caddies over the cabinet door

Hair tools can take up a lot of space under your bathroom sink. One of the best ways to combat bulky hair tools is an over-the-door caddy. They make some specifically for hair tools that easily slip over the door for easy access and assembly.

Do’s and don’ts of under sink storage

You can store a number of items under your bathroom and kitchen sink. Although, there are some items more suitable for under sink storage than others.

under sink storage

Things to safely store under your kitchen sink

  • Sponges, cleaning brushes, gloves
  • Cleaning supplies, such as glass cleaner, dishwashing pods, soap. When storing cleaners underneath the kitchen sink, keep in mind who is in your household. If you have small children that enjoy exploring cabinets you may consider placing cleaners out of reach or adding childproof locks on the door. Another idea is to place all your cleaning supplies on a rubber tray in case of spills for easy cleanup.
  • Trash bags
  • Trash can
  • Recycling can

Things to safely store under your bathroom sink

  • Toiletries, such as extra toothbrushes and paste, deodorant, contact solution
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels
  • Hairstyling tools
  • First aid kit

Things to avoid putting under the kitchen sink

  • Bug spray
  • Oven cleaner
  • Lightbulbs
  • Food

Things to avoid putting under the bathroom sink

  • Jewelry
  • Medications

Organize under your sink

Organizing is never an easy task, however, with the right guidance, it can be a little easier. Use these under the bathroom and kitchen sink storage ideas to create a nice organized space for yourself.

The post 10 Under Sink Storage Solutions You Need in Your Life appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Remove Permanent Marker From Any Surface

Permanent markers are essential in every craft room and household.

They are great for creating lasting memories through artwork, writing labels on metals and plastics to help keep your home organized and even covering up scuffs on shoes.

Although the name suggests otherwise, if you accidentally get permanent marker on a surface you didn’t intend, or one ends up in the hands of a very young, but very inspired creative, there are ways to remove it.

Permanent marker can be removed from a variety of surfaces using basic household cleaners and materials. So grab an old towel or washcloth that you don’t mind the strain potentially transferring onto, and follow the instructions below to learn how to remove permanent marker from any surface.

  • Remove from plastic
  • Remove from clothes
  • Remove from wood
  • Remove from skin
  • Remove from other surfaces

How to remove permanent marker from plastic

writing leftovers on plastic container with permanent marker

If you had used a permanent marker to label a plastic item and now want to alter that label, you can use a dry-erase marker to remove the writing. A dry-erase marker works well for getting permanent marker off of plastic because it contains rubbing alcohol.

Follow these steps:

  1. Color over the permanent marker with the dry-erase marker
  2. Wipe away
  3. Repeat the process if needed

How to remove permanent marker from clothes

using hairspray to remove a stain from a shirt

If you got a permanent marker stain on one of your favorite clothing items, don’t fret. There are a number of different methods you can use to get it out of different clothing fabrics. Below are tips for removing permanent marker stains from cotton, leather and wool.

Cotton

Hairspray is an effective way to remove permanent marker from cotton. Be sure that the hairspray contains alcohol, as not all hairspray products do, and this component is critical for removing the stain.

Follow these three steps to clean your cotton item:

  1. Apply hairspray to the area until it feels wet
  2. Let it sit for 15 minutes
  3. Put clothing item in the washing machine without other items in case the stain bleeds
  4. Run on warm with detergent

Leather

You can remove permanent marker from leather, without damaging the fabric, using white vinegar.

Follow these three steps to clean your leather item:

  1. Dab vinegar onto the stain with a cloth
  2. Let it sit for a few minutes
  3. Use the same cloth to wipe off the stain using a circular motion

Wool

Hairspray is also an effective way to remove permanent marker from wool. Instead of tossing the item in the wash after setting the stain with hairspray, you can handwash it to prevent damage to the item.

Follow these steps to clean your wool item:

  1. Apply hairspray to the area until it feels wet
  2. Let it sit for 15 minutes
  3. Hand wash the item with cold water

How to remove permanent marker from wood

removing permanent marker from wood with toothbrush

Not only does toothpaste fight stains in your mouth, but it can also fight stains on your wood furniture or floors. The abrasive quality of toothpaste helps to gently remove the dye without dissolving it. It’s best to use a baking soda toothpaste, but if you don’t have one you can simply mix baking soda with the toothpaste you have. Skip the gel toothpaste, it won’t work.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Apply toothpaste to a cloth or you can even use an old toothbrush!
  2. Rub into the wood, going with the grain
  3. Repeat as needed

How to remove permanent marker from skin

using hand sanitizer to remove permanent marker from hand

It turns out that hand sanitizer not only can clean your hands of germs but also can be used to remove permanent marker from your skin:

    1. Squirt a dab of hand sanitizer into your hand or on a cloth
    2. Rub directly into the stain
    3. Wipe away with a cloth

How to remove permanent marker from other surfaces

putting rubbing alcohol on a cloth

If permanent marker ended up on one of your upholstered furniture pieces, a stainless steel appliance, wall, carpet or glass item, you can remove the stain using the techniques we breakdown below.

Upholstery

Use rubbing alcohol to remove permanent marker from upholstery. It’s best to blot the area with the rubbing alcohol instead of rubbing as it’s possible to actually massage the stain further into the fabric.

Follow these simple steps using rubbing alcohol:

  1. Apply rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth
  2. Blot the area
  3. Wash away the remaining rubbing alcohol using a clean damp cloth

Metal

Similar to plastic, dry-erase markers work well to remove permanent marker from metal. So if permanent marker ends up on one of your stainless steel appliances, follow the steps below. Keep in mind, you may have to repeat this process a couple of times to fully remove the stain.

  1. Color over the stain with a dry-erase marker
  2. Wipe away

Wall

Toothpaste for the win, again! Toothpaste also works great for removing permanent marker from walls without causing damage. As previously mentioned, skip the gel toothpaste and ideally choose one that contains baking soda. Then follow these steps:

  1. Apply toothpaste directly to the wall stain
  2. Allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes
  3. Scrub the mark in a circular motion
  4. Wipe the remaining toothpaste away with a damp cloth

Carpet

To remove permanent marker from the carpet, just like with upholstery, you can use rubbing alcohol. Remember, blot the area with the rubbing alcohol instead of rubbing so you don’t rub the stain further into the carpet. Follow these steps below:

  1. Apply rubbing alcohol to a clean cloth
  2. Blot the area
  3. Using a damp, clean cloth, wipe away the remaining rubbing alcohol

Glass

If permanent marker ends up on one of your glass items, such as a window or mirror, you can remove it with nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol by doing the following:

  1. Apply remover of your choice to a cloth
  2. Rub the strain
  3. Use a clean cloth and a multipurpose or glass cleaner to wipe away

Dry-erase boards

In addition to working well to remove stains from walls and plastic, dry-erase markers can be used to remedy a situation where you may have mistakenly used permanent marker on a dry-erase board. In two steps, you can pretend as though nothing ever happened:

  1. Write over the stain with a dry-erase marker
  2. Wipe away with a clean cloth

Few things in life are truly permanent

You may have to repeat the steps laid out above a few times to be successful, but with a little effort and patience, you can remove most permanent marker stains. For additional cleaning hacks, be sure to check out our cleaning and maintenance tips.

The post How to Remove Permanent Marker From Any Surface appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

How To Clean An Iron To Make It Look Brand New

Cleaning an iron is a household task that’s easy to forget about. However, with all the shirts to press, sheets to smooth and pants to unwrinkle, it’s no wonder our irons get worn out. Giving your iron the TLC it needs can be simple and way cheaper than opting for a newer model.

There are many different ways to clean and shine your iron using some elbow grease and a few items you may already have in your home. Keeping your iron clean is necessary to keep the chore easy and productive, so check out these tips to clean an iron without any fancy cleaning products required.

1. Clean with baking soda

Baking soda is used to clean almost anything, whether it’s your household appliances, fruits and veggies or your iron. You can create a stain-fighting paste using two tablespoons of baking soda mixed with one tablespoon of warm water. Gently rub the paste on a cool iron plate, coating areas that have mineral deposits. Wipe the paste off using a damp cloth.

Pro tip: Avoid getting the paste in the iron’s steam holes. If you manage to get it in there, use a damp cotton dipped in distilled water or a wooden toothpick to clean it out.

2. Clean with sea salt

person filling up water tank in an iron

Believe it or not, using salt to clean your iron can get the job done. Turn your iron on the hottest setting and lay out a brown paper bag or newspaper on your ironing board. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the paper bag or newspaper and begin to iron the salty surface. Continue this process until the salt takes away all the dirt on your iron. After this, wipe the salt residue away with a damp cloth.

Pro tip: Iron in circular motions to maximize the amount of dirt you take off.

3. Clean with a towel and vinegar

If your main issue with your iron is corrosion, the towel and vinegar trick will make it look good as new! Soak a towel in vinegar and then set the iron onto the towel with the soleplate facing down. Let the iron sit in the vinegar-soaked towel for 30 minutes before wiping it down.

Pro tip: Place your soaked towel in a bin or other container to avoid vinegar seeping into unwanted areas.

4. Clean an iron’s steam holes

person steaming their iron

A common problem with dirty irons is the steam holes getting clogged. A good indication of some much needed cleaning is when the iron sputters and leaves mineral-filled or rusty water spots on clothing. Mix ½ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of distilled water into the iron’s reservoir and inspect the steam ducts in an upright position.

Use an old toothbrush, wooden toothpick or cotton swab to clear away build-up. Test the iron by heating it up and depressing the steam button until the steam flows out freely. Let the iron cool before pouring out the mixture into the reservoir.

Pro tip: Never use metal to clean the soleplate of your iron as this could scratch or damage it.

5. Clean with nail polish remover

Not only does nail polish remover clear away nail polish, but also the gunk on your iron plate! Heat up your iron and dip a cotton ball into some acetone nail polish remover. Use a heat-protecting glove like an oven mitt and wipe the cotton ball along the surface of the hot iron. This method helps dissolve any unwanted residue on your iron. Let your iron cool and wipe away excess nail polish remover.

Pro tip: Perform this cleaning method outside so that your household doesn’t breathe in the strong chemical fumes.

6. Clean with paracetamol

An unusual yet excellent hack for cleaning your iron (especially with burnt residue) is paracetamol (like Tylenol). In fact, any acetaminophen tablet will do. First, turn your iron on the highest setting. Once the plate is hot, use an oven mitt or other heat-protecting glove to press the pill directly onto the burnt area of your iron. The pill should melt into a gel which then dissolves the burnt spot on your iron. Use a damp cloth to clean the soleplate and repeat if necessary.

Pro tip: Don’t use tweezers or pliers to press the pill onto your hot iron. One slip could result in scratching your iron or burning your fingers!

7. Clean an iron with wax paper

someone holding an iron upright

Similar to the salt trick above, you can use wax paper with coarse salt to clean your iron. Place wax paper on your ironing board or a cutting board and sprinkle about a tablespoon of sea salt over the wax paper. Heat the iron to its highest temperature and iron the salt without applying much pressure. The residue will stick to the salt and your iron will be good as new!

Pro tip: Make sure the steam function is off while you perform this cleaning trick.

8. Clean with toothpaste

Toothpaste not only clears the plaque on your teeth but the muck on your iron as well. All you need to do is smear a small amount of white toothpaste on any affected areas on your iron’s soleplate. Leave the toothpaste there for a few minutes before wiping it away with a clean cloth.

Pro tip: Finish things off by filling your iron’s reservoir with distilled water and setting it down on a towel. Steam your iron leaving in for an additional few minutes to work through.

9. Clean with dryer sheets

Iron assisting with laundry

Dryer sheets have more uses than freshening up your drying clothes. One way to use a dryer sheet you may not have heard of yet is to clean your iron. Simply rub the soleplate with dryer sheets while the iron is on its lowest heat setting. As soon as you feel the dryer sheet get too hot, grab a fresh one. Repeat this process until the iron is clean.

Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to wear a heat-protecting glove or mitt when touching an iron soleplate. You should be fine while in the lowest setting, but be cautious.

10. Clean an iron with ice cubes

If you accidentally left your hot iron near something plastic, you probably have a bit of a mess to deal with. However, melted plastic is easy to get off an iron by using simple items like a big bowl, ice cubes and a plastic knife or spatula. Place your iron in a bowl or pan full of ice to harden the plastic. If your plastic is already hardened, you can skip this step. Now take a plastic knife or spatula and scrape the plastic away, then wipe it down with a damp rag until you feel the iron’s surface to be smooth.

Pro tip: It’s crucial to get plastic off your iron before you use it again, otherwise the plastic will melt into your garments.

How often should I clean my iron?

The answer to this question heavily depends on how often you use your iron. On average, you should make it a habit to clean your iron every other month to remove mineral deposits. If your iron begins to dull or you see any build-up on the soleplate, then you can do a quick cleanse to avoid having to do a deeper clean.

What is the black stuff on my iron?

someone wiping down their iron

Most people notice their iron is dirty when they see “black stuff” on the soleplate. The “black stuff” you see is a result of burn marks, dirt, dust, spray starch and fabric fiber buildup. Additionally, if you leave water inside your iron, it could begin to rust cause rusty spots. It’s important to maintain your iron to avoid it from damaging or ruining your clothing.

Maintaining a clean iron

To maintain a clean iron, there are a few things to consider. First, try using distilled water rather than ordinary tap water in your iron. Tap water contains minerals which over time results in rust and mineral build-up. Another consideration to avoid rust and mineral build-up is to make sure you empty the reservoir and place it in an upright position before storing it in your laundry room.

To keep your iron’s soleplate sleek and shiny, never iron over metal zippers, buttons, snaps or any other decorative item. The plate will last much longer and keep your iron maintenance low. Maintaining an iron may seem low on the to-do list, but it’s a great laundry hack that will save you a lot of time in the long-run.

The post How To Clean An Iron To Make It Look Brand New appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

7 Apartment Winter Maintenance Tips for Renters

Winter always seems to sneak up on us, year after year. Because most climates experience the most dramatic change in weather during the colder months, it’s important to understand what apartment winter maintenance or preparatory tasks you’ll be responsible for at your rental property.

While some tasks fall on the shoulders of your landlord or property manager, there are certain steps you can take as a renter to ensure a safe and comfortable winter at home.

1. Check in with your landlord or property manager

Before the winter hits, touch base with your landlord if you’re unclear on what are tenant responsibilities and what are landlord responsibilities. Who’s responsible for removing snow and ice at the property, and what are the expectations?

Some states have local snow and ice removal regulations regarding public sidewalks or other public areas. Discuss acceptable de-icing measures to make sure you aren’t causing damage to any surfaces.

thermostat

2. Test out the heat

While it’s your landlord’s responsibility to have heating and cooling systems serviced regularly, it’s helpful to turn on the heat a bit early for a short period of time to make sure everything is functioning properly.

It’s always better to learn about any issues ahead of time instead of discovering a winter maintenance problem in your apartment when the cold temperatures set in.

3. Avoid unwanted guests

Cooler weather and more precipitation means bugs, rodents and other pests are looking for a warm place to call home. An easy way to attract unwanted pests is by providing them with a food source, so be sure to take a few preventative steps, especially now that many of us are cooking at home more than ever before.

Store your dry, perishable food items inside air-tight containers that pests can’t chew through. Try to take trash containing food scraps out as soon as possible instead of letting it sit. Aim to wipe down countertops at least once each day to get rid of crumbs and food remnants.

4. Prevent frozen pipes

Be sure to follow all of your landlord’s instructions to avoid frozen or burst pipes due to cold weather. Most landlords or property managers will provide guidance on temperature levels and other preventative measures to avoid this issue.

If you’re leaving on vacation or will otherwise be away from your rental for a period of time this winter, give your landlord a heads up and ask if they want you to set the temperature at a certain point or leave a couple of faucets on a slow drip.

woman with blanket and coffee

5. Stay warm and save money

Of course, you want to be comfortable in your own home, but keeping a few things in mind when it comes to turning on the heat can have a dramatic impact on your monthly bill. Experts say you can save up to 10 percent on your yearly heating expenses by turning down the thermostat just 7-10 degrees for approximately eight hours per day, like while you’re at work or while you’re sleeping.

Ceiling fans are an excellent tool to help distribute heat evenly. Many models have a switch that forces blades to spin clockwise, which will push warm air down into a room.

6. Be prepared for emergencies

If you live in an area where winter weather and storms are a frequent occurrence, it’s wise to make sure you’re prepared ahead of time for any worst-case scenarios. Sign up for weather and emergency alert systems to stay informed about any potentially threatening storms and actions should take. In general, stay indoors during major storms and avoid road travel until it is safe to do so.

7. Notify your landlord of any issues as soon as possible

Common winter issues like ice dams, frozen pipes or issues with the heating system can quickly spiral out of control. It’s important to keep tabs on your home and alert your landlord of any potential issues as soon as possible so they can be taken care of as quickly as possible.

Winter is coming

Whether you’re dreading winter or it’s your favorite season, taking the time to prepare your apartment for winter maintenance will help set you up for success as a renter. Come to a clear and established understanding of what your responsibilities are and what your landlord is responsible for, and make sure to hold up your end of the bargain.

The post 7 Apartment Winter Maintenance Tips for Renters appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

529 Plans: A Complete Guide to Funding Future Education

Do you have kids? Are there children in your life? Were you once a child? If you plan on helping pay for a child’s future education, then you’ll benefit from this complete guide to 529 plans. We’ll cover every detail of 529 plans, from the what/when/why basics to the more complex tax implications and investing ideas.

This article was 100% inspired by my Patrons. Between Jack, Nathan, Remi, other kiddos in my life (and a few buns in the oven), there are a lot of young Best Interest readers out there. And one day, they’ll probably have some education expenses. That’s why their parents asked me to write about 529 plans this week.

What is a 529 Plan?

The 529 college savings plan is a tax-advantaged investment account meant specifically for education expenses. As of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (in 2017), 529 plans can be used for college costs, K-12 public school costs, or private and/or religious school tuition. If you will ever need to pay for your children’s education, then 529 plans are for you.

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529 plans are named in a similar fashion as the famous 401(k). That is, the name comes from the specific U.S. tax code where the plan was written into law. It’s in Section 529 of Internal Revenue Code 26. Wow—that’s boring!

But it turns out that 529 plans are strange amalgam of federal rules and state rules. Let’s start breaking that down.

Tax Advantages

Taxes are important! 529 college savings plans provide tax advantages in a manner similar to Roth accounts (i.e. different than traditional 401(k) accounts). In a 529 plan, you pay all your normal taxes today. Your contributions to the 529 plan, therefore, are made with after-tax dollars.

Any investment you make within your 529 plan is then allowed to grow tax-free. Future withdrawals—used for qualified education expenses—are also tax-free. Pay now, save later.

But wait! Those are just the federal income tax benefits. Many individual states offer state tax benefits to people participating in 529 plans. As of this writing, 34 states and Washington D.C. offer these benefits. Of the 16 states not participating, nine of those don’t have any state income tax. The seven remaining states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina—all have state income taxes, yet do not offer income tax benefits to their 529 plan participants. Boo!

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This makes 529 plans an oddity. There’s a Federal-level tax advantage that applies to everyone. And then there might be a state-level tax advantage depending on which state you use to setup your plan.

Two Types of 529 Plans

The most common 529 plan is the college savings program. The less common 529 is the prepaid tuition program.

The savings program can be thought of as a parallel to common retirement investing accounts. A person can put money into their 529 plan today. They can invest that money in a few different ways (details further in the article). At a later date, they can then use the full value of their account at any eligible institution—in state or out of state. The value of their 529 plan will be dependent on their investing choices and how those investments perform.

The prepaid program is a little different. This plan is only offered by certain states (currently only 10 are accepting new applicants) and even by some individual colleges/universities. The prepaid program permits citizens to buy tuition credits at today’s tuition rates. Those credits can then be used in the future at in-state universities. However, using these credits outside of the state they were bought in can result in not getting full value.

You don’t choose investments in the prepaid program. You just buy credit’s today that can be redeemed in the future.

The savings program is universal, flexible, and grows based on your investments.

The prepaid program is not offered everywhere, works best at in-state universities, and grows based on how quickly tuition is changing (i.e. the difference between today’s tuition rate and the future tuition rate when you use the credit.)

Example: a prepaid credit would have cost ~$13,000 for one year of tuition in 2000. That credit would have been worth ~$24,000 of value if used in 2018. (Source)

What are “Qualified Education Expenses?”

You can only spend your 529 plan dollars on “qualified education expenses.” Turns out, just about anything associated with education costs can be paid for using 529 plan funds. Qualified education expenses include:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Room and board (as long as the beneficiary attends school at least half-time). Off-campus housing is even covered, as long as it’s less than on-campus housing.

Student loans and student loan interest were added to this list in 2019, but there’s a lifetime limit of $10,000 per person.

How Do You “Invest” Your 529 Plan Funds?

529 savings plans do more than save. Their real power is as a college investment plan. So, how can you “invest” this tax-advantaged money?

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There’s a two-part answer to how your 529 plan funds are invested. The first part is that only savings plans can be invested, not prepaid plans. The second part is that it depends on what state you’re in.

For example, let’s look at my state: New York. It offers both age-based options and individual portfolios.

The age-based option places your 529 plan on one of three tracks: aggressive, moderate, or conservative. As your child ages, the portfolio will automatically re-balance based on the track you’ve chosen.

The aggressive option will hold more stocks for longer into your child’s life—higher risk, higher rewards. The conservative option will skew towards bonds and short-term reserves. In all cases, the goal is to provide some level of growth in early years, and some level of stability in later years.

The individual portfolios are similar to the age-based option, but do not automatically re-balance. There are aggressive and conservative and middle-ground choices. Thankfully, you can move funds from one portfolio to another up to twice per year. This allowed rebalancing is how you can achieve the correct risk posture.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a 529 Plan

The advantages of using the 529 as a college investing plan are clear. First, there’s the tax-advantaged nature of it, likely saving you tens of thousands of dollars. Another benefit is the aforementioned ease of investing using a low-maintenance, age-based investing accounts. Most states offer them.

Other advantages include the high maximum contribution limit (ranging by state, from a low of $235K to a high of $529K), the reasonable financial aid treatment, and, of course, the flexibility.

If your child doesn’t end up using their 529 plan, you can transfer it to another relative. If you don’t like your state’s 529 offering, you can open an account in a different state. You can even use your 529 plan to pay for primary education at a private school or a religious school.

But the 529 plan isn’t perfect. There are disadvantages too.

For example, the prepaid 529 plan involves a considerable up-front cost—in the realm of $100,000 over four years. That’s a lot of money. Also, your proactive saving today ends up affecting your child’s financial aid package in the future. It feels a bit like a punishment for being responsible. That ain’t right!

Of course, a 529 plan is not a normal investing account. If you don’t use the money for educational purposes, you will face a penalty. And if you want to hand-pick your 529 investments? Well, you can’t do that. Similar to many 401(k) programs, your state’s 529 program probably only offers a few different fund choices.

529 Plan FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about 529 education savings plans. And I even provide answers!

How do I open a 529 plan?

Virtually all states now have online portals that allow you to open 529 plans from the comfort of your home. A few online forms and email messages is all it takes.

Can I contribute to someone else’s 529?

You sure can! If you have a niece or nephew or grandchild or simply a friend, you can make a third-party contribution to their 529 plan. You don’t have to be their parent, their relative, or the person who opened the account.

Investing in someone else’s knowledge is a terrific gift.

Does a 529 plan affect financial aid?

Short answer: yes, but it’s better than how many other assets affect financial aid.

Longer answer: yes, having a 529 plan will likely reduce the amount of financial aid a student receives. The first $10,000 in a 529 plan is not part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) equation. It’s not “counted against you.” After that $10,000, remaining 529 plan funds are counted in the EFC equation, but cap at 5.46% of the parental assets (many other assets are capped higher, e.g. at 20%).

Similarly, 529 plan distributions are not included in the “base year income” calculations in the FAFSA application. This is another benefit in terms of financial aid.

Fafsa memes. Best Collection of funny fafsa pictures on iFunny

Finally, 529 plan funds owned by non-parents (e.g. grandparents) are not part of the FAFSA EFC equation. This is great! The downside occurs when the non-parent actually withdraws the funds on behalf of the student. At that time, 50% of those funds count as “student income,” thus lowering the student’s eligibility for aid.

Are there contribution limits?

Kinda sorta. It’s a little complicated.

There is no official annual contribution limit into a 529 plan. But, you should know that 529 contributions are considered “completed gifts” in federal tax law, and that those gifts are capped at $15,000 per year in 2020 and 2021.

After $15,000 of contributions in one year, the remainder must be reported to the IRS against the taxpayer’s (not the student’s) lifetime estate and gift tax exemption.

Additionally, each state has the option of limiting the total 529 plan balances for a particular beneficiary. My state (NY) caps this limit at $520,000. That’s easily high enough to pay for 4 years of college at current prices.

Another state-based limit involves how much income tax savings a contributor can claim per year. In New York, for example, only the first $5,000 (or $10,000 if a married couple) are eligible for income tax savings.

Can I use my state’s 529 plan in another state? Do I need to create 529 plans in multiple states?

Yes, you can use your state’s 529 plan in another state. And mostly likely no, you do not need to create 529 plans in multiple states.

First, I recommend scrolling up to the savings program vs. prepaid program description. Savings programs are universal and transferrable. My 529 savings plan could pay for tuition in any other state, and even some other countries.

But prepaid tuition accounts typically have limitations in how they transfer. Prepaid accounts typically apply in full to in-state, state-sponsored schools. They might not apply in full to out-of-state and/or private schools.

What if my kid is Lebron James and doesn’t go to college? Can I get my money back?

It’s a great question. And the answer is yes, there are multiple ways to recoup your money if the beneficiary doesn’t end up using it for education savings.

First, you can avoid all penalties by changing the beneficiary of the funds. You can switch to another qualifying family member. Instead of paying for Lebron’s college, you can switch those funds to his siblings, to a future grandchild, or even to yourself (if you wanted to go back to school).

Lebron James Mood GIF by NBA - Find & Share on GIPHY

What if you just want you money back? The contributions that you initially made come back to you tax-free and penalty-free. After all, you already paid taxes on those. Any earnings you’ve made on those contributions are subject to normal income tax, and then a 10% federal penalty tax.

The 10% penalty is waived in certain situations, such as the beneficiary receiving a tax-free scholarship or attending a U.S. military academy.

And remember those state income tax breaks we discussed earlier? Those tax breaks might get recaptured (oh no!) if you end up taking non-qualified distributions from your 529 plan.

Long story short: try to the keep the funds in a 529 plan, especially is someone in your family might benefit from them someday. Otherwise, you’ll pay some taxes and penalties.

Graduation

It’s time to don my robe and give a speech. Keep on learning, you readers, for:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

-Ben Franklin

Oh snap! Yes, that is how the blog got its name. Giving others the gift of education is a wonderful thing, and 529 plans are one way the U.S. government allows you to do so.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog