How to Save for College Education? These Extraordinary Women Share Their Experiences

Rouselle Isla

Rouselle Isla

Last updated July 29, 2022

A child finally graduating from college is as much an achievement for the people who provided the financial support as it is for the graduate. After all, it’s the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. So they deserve to share the spotlight and celebrate, especially when they’ve had to put their dreams on hold to fund their children’s or family member’s education. 

These incredible women certainly know a lot about this particular struggle because they’ve gone through it themselves and emerged successful. If you want tips on how to save for college education, moms Pierre, Euge, Carmen, and Livia have a lot of good advice and noteworthy college education success stories to share.

How to Save for College Education: Success Stories of Four Hardworking Women

Pierre Salonga, Supportive Big Sister

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Pierre (left) beaming with pride for her little sister Jansen (right)

At just 31 years old, Pierre Salonga has financially supported a sibling’s college education. As the eldest child, Pierre gladly stepped up to the role of paying for her sister Jansen’s dentistry school. 

This year, Jansen, 24, finished her course of Doctor of Dental Medicine from the Centro Escolar University (Malolos Campus) and is now preparing for the board exams this November.  

Even if Jansen was not enrolled in the most expensive school in the Philippines, dentistry is not a cheap course. So to help pay for tuition fees, medical supplies, and laboratory instruments, as well as buying school supplies, Pierre took on freelance jobs while working as a full-time SEO Specialist in Dubai from 2017 until 2019. 

Back then, she was a freelance link builder for an SEO agency based in Miami, Florida, earning around ₱12,000 per month. All her earnings from this freelance job automatically went to Jansen’s college expenses. 

It was also a great financial help that Jansen was a scholar from 2016 to 2017. Still, there were a lot of financial challenges, specifically when the money was not yet available. “Each time na kailangan agad-agad ng pambayad sa school, I’ll tell my sister ‘Humiram ka muna kay Tita. Bayaran ko sa katapusan,” Pierre said. 

Although there were student loans that Pierre could have availed of, she preferred to get side hustles instead and pay for her expenses without incurring a lot of debts. 

“That time, wala akong savings. So I just searched for freelance work in the SEO industry. I got jobs from online job platforms. Sometimes, from ex-colleagues or friends who happen to be in the SEO industry, too.”

Big Sister Responsibilities  

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Pierre's sister Jansen (middle) with her proud parents

Pierre was single then with not a lot of financial responsibilities. She was enjoying her tax-free earnings as an OFW in Dubai. But she knew that aside from her parents, no one else would help her sister financially. Being the eldest child who’s earning decent money, she took the burden off her parents when she decided to pay for her sister’s education. 

Masaya ako na marami akong pinagkakakitaan. Pero ang parents ko wala. Ayoko naman maging ganon―masaya ako, tapos sila kinakapos. Tulong ko na rin ‘yun sa mga magulang ko na nagpa-aral sa akin,” she shared.  

And for Pierre, it’s one of the most fulfilling things to see two of her four siblings finally get that college degree after all their hard work and sacrifices. That’s three down, and two to go! 

"Makakapagpa-aral ba ako sa ganitong klaseng trabaho? Can I afford to help my sister get her college degree? I used to have a lot of doubts. But now I realized na kaya naman pala!"

Pierre Salonga, sister of a Dentistry graduate

Years of Sacrifice 

Because of her financial obligations, it was a challenge for Pierre to put away money for herself. “That time, wala akong ipon para sa sarili ko. Sinet aside ko ang pag-iipon. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, after na lang makatapos ni Jansen, saka ako mag-iipon.”

This also meant skipping shopping trips. “I seldom bought things for myself, even though I was working in Dubai where it was so easy to buy gadgets like smartphones, laptops, and tablets.”

The Importance of Savings

Pierre started getting serious about saving money only in 2018 when she got married. In 2020, she gave birth to her son Gab-Gab, and they built their house in Bulacan a year after. 

Dapat talaga may savings at emergency fund ka. Dati wala ako nun. I just depended on my side hustles. Good thing, hindi ako nabakante. With ₱12,000 extra monthly income, I was able to provide for my sister’s college education for two years.” 

Biggest Financial Lessons

how to save for college education - be resourceful

In the past, Pierre experienced a lot of doubts and uncertainties regarding her finances. She used to think that SEO is not as lucrative as other professions. “As an SEO Specialist, makakapagpa-aral ba ako sa ganitong klaseng trabaho? Can I afford to help my sister get her college degree? I used to have a lot of doubts. But now I realized na kaya naman pala!”

Pierre also credits her being resourceful when it comes to meeting her financial obligations. When your monthly income is not enough, there are other ways to earn. “May paraan talaga. Maging madiskarte lang sa buhay. As a family, dapat tulungan. Ngayon, ikaw muna ang taya. Pero sa susunod, sila naman ang tutulong sa ‘yo.” 

Reaping the Rewards 

Pierre is excited about what lies ahead, especially now that Jansen is preparing for the board exams. 

Kaka-graduate pa lang naman niya, pero yung tinutulungan niya ako mag-alaga sa anak ko, reward na para sa akin ‘yun. Kasi isang tawag ko lang sa kanya, andyan na siya. And of course, in the future, sasagutin na ni Jansen ang dental needs ni Gab-Gab and ng family.” 

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Euge Alarcon-Montero, Devoted OFW Mom

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Euge (right) with her son Neal (left)

Being a mother is a tough job. What more being thousands of miles away just to provide for your child? 

For the last 16 years, Euge Alarcon-Montero has endured being away from her only son Neal Alarcon, working as a respiratory therapist in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But it wasn't a decision that she came to easily.

Just the thought of being separated from Neal filled her heart with so much pain and anxiety. She was plagued with endless questions, like who would take care of him, and would he still grow up a good man, even if she’s far away? 

Euge was only 24 then, with very few options. But she knew she wanted to give Neal a good life and a good education. So when she received an offer to work abroad, with a salary that's almost three times higher than her current salary here, she couldn’t say no. The salary was more than enough to send her son to any school he wanted and pay for everything else he would need. 

Tough Times Call for a Tough Decision

Before she became an OFW, Euge had her share of struggles when it came to paying for her son’s education. She took out loans from moneylenders to settle his school fees. She also availed of the installment terms at her son’s school so that she can put money aside for savings and emergencies. Everything was funded by her salary.

And then came a lucky break. When Neal started college at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Euge only had to pay for her son’s first year in college. As a UP Iskolar ng Bayan,[1] Neal enjoyed free tuition. Because of this scholarship program, Neal was able to use whatever money they’ve saved up to attend conferences overseas for his learning and development.

Aside from Neal’s college scholarship, Euge also had a lot of side hustles; from selling clothes and fashion accessories to selling food and even recharge cards. “Name it, I had it,” Euge said with a little laugh. “I also accepted photography and event hosting jobs. Being madiskarte was the key!”

"I’m overjoyed. After all the doubts, the sacrifices, and the criticisms from people, I’m proud to tell the world that my son graduated college from the country’s top university."

Euge Alarcon-Montero, mother of a UP graduate

Pursuing Education No Matter What

At an early age, it was instilled in Euge that education is something that no one can take away from you. Even if she had to stop studying for a while because she got pregnant with Neal, Euge still pushed herself to graduate and earn her degree in Respiratory Therapy from the University of Perpetual Help System in Biñan, Laguna. She even went to med school right after graduation. But due to financial and personal issues, she had to let go of her dreams of going to med school.

“I may not have been able to achieve my ultimate dream to be a doctor. But I’m overjoyed. After all the doubts, the sacrifices, and the criticisms from people, I’m proud to tell the world that my son graduated college from the country’s top university,” Euge said. 

A Mother’s Biggest Sacrifice 

Euge was away for most of her son’s life. Sixteen years to be exact, and she considers this the biggest and most painful sacrifice. But whenever she could, Euge took yearly vacations in the Philippines to spend quality time with her son. 

“But the times that I missed, I cannot bring back. I can never bring back those years when he was younger when I can just cuddle and kiss him as much as I want. But all that lost time is a tradeoff for a better future for him.” 

How to Save Up for and Finance a College Education

how to save for college education - envelope method

Euge has learned a lot of lessons over the years while paying for Neal’s education. Her advice for people who will be putting up a child or family member through college?

“It’s important to invest in a good foundation, even if it seems impossible and difficult to achieve,” she said. “You may be struggling at the beginning, but just be patient. Endure the pain. Trust and believe in yourself. Have no fear, and never doubt. Everything will be worth it.”

Most importantly, Euge reminds other parents to always set aside funds to achieve their goals. “Learn how to use your money wisely. The envelope method is a great way to train yourself to save money.” 

Advice from Someone Who Knows the Struggle

According to Euge, one of the best ways to finance your child’s college education is by setting aside an education fund

Availing of tuition installment plans or applying for scholarships is also very helpful. If your children have an exceptional talent for academics, music, or sports, you can apply for the university’s free-tuition programs. 

“Also, never settle for a one-source income. Sell products or earn from your talents. Anything that can give you extra income will help with your expenses,” Euge added.

“Last but not least, always ask for God's guidance and Divine Providence. I believe this is the secret ingredient to success.”

"Never settle for a one-source income. Anything that can give you extra income will help with your expenses."

Euge Alarcon-Montero

The Biggest Reward

how to save for college education - Neal Alarcon on his graduation day
Euge's son Neal during his college graduation

In July 2020, Neal graduated from UP Diliman with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication degree. “During his virtual graduation, I couldn't help getting teary-eyed. I gave myself a big pat on the back and told myself, ‘You did a great job!’” 

Just one and a half months after Neal graduated, he landed a job as a Relationship Manager - Data Analyst at Shopee Philippines. Currently, Neal is a Partner Development Specialist at Agoda.

“He’s now enjoying his salary and even shares in paying the bills, groceries, and other things at home,” Euge shared.

The best news is that after years of working abroad and being away from her family, Euge is finally back in the Philippines, and she’s staying for good.

She’s busy with her side hustles and managing their Airbnb business, which is a condo unit in Tagaytay that she rents out to people who need a nice staycation experience. This busy mom is also preparing to take the Insurance Commission Licensure Examination as she plans to be a licensed financial advisor.     

Carmen Cutay, Mom and Aunt Extraordinaire

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Carmen (left) with her niece Nelia Rosa (right) whom she helped finish a college education

What if you have a really big family, and you have 15 other siblings going to school? It can really put a toll on a family’s finances. Being the sixth child, Carmen Cutay became a breadwinner at a young age and supported her younger siblings financially. 

It’s a role she took very seriously. In fact, Carmen was quite the entrepreneur. “I had a small business back then. Naisip ko magtayo ng carinderia or eatery kasi napaka-strategic ng location. Malapit sa mga schools, and cooking is really my hobby. Rumaraket din ako minsan ‘pag merong gustong magpaluto sa ‘kin. I accepted orders for embutido, chicken scallops, pancit, spaghetti, and more.” 

This small business is what paid for their tuition fee, books, school supplies, and allowances. 

“I’m proud to say that aside from my six children, napagtapos ko rin sa college ‘yung pamangkin ko. I supported her studies from high school to college. Nakatulong akong makamit ‘yung pangarap niyang makapag-aral.”

Despite the huge financial responsibility and having a small business to run, Carmen was still able to complete her high school education. She may not have gone on to college after that, but she took up a vocational course to gain more knowledge and upgrade her skills. 

"Nothing makes me happier than to help someone achieve their dreams. ‘Yung nakatulong ka sa pamilya mo, ibang level of happiness ‘yun. As long as I can, I always share. I always give.”

Carmen Cutay, generous tita and loving mother of six

It’s No Bed of Roses

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Carmen (extreme right) with her children, nieces, and nephews

The biggest challenges were money and making her monthly budget work. “Because may mga anak ‘rin akong pinag-aaral, I made sure that everything’s taken care of. Yung budget for food, tuition fees, miscellaneous expenses―lahat ‘yan naka-budget. And I made sure that I won’t go over my budget. Kapag may mga unexpected things na wala sa monthly budget ko, rumaraket ako sa mga paluto ng ulam. And it really helped.” 

In addition to her side hustles, Carmen also availed of education plans in the Philippines for her children. She was also blessed to have smart children who were part of a scholarship program. Her income from her side hustles and a portion of her husband's salary is what paid for her niece Nelia Rosa’s education at Leyte Normal University. 

While putting her children and her niece to school, she had to sacrifice her own wants for the people who depended on her.  

Sending Her Niece to High School and College  

Why was it important for Carmen to help her niece finish her college education? 

“Because nothing makes me happier than to help someone achieve their dreams,” Carmen answered. “‘Yung nakatulong ka sa pamilya mo, ibang level of happiness ‘yun. And ugali ko din kasi talaga ang magbigay. As long as I can, kung meron ako, I always share. I always give.” 

Important Financial Lessons and Biggest Payoffs

how to save for college education - know your priorities

“Budgeting is the key. Know your priorities, and be responsible with your finances,” Carmen advised. “Dapat may disiplina ka sa pera mo. Spend within your means. ‘Ika nga, know where you put your money. Dumiskarte rin for additional income.” 

Her biggest payoff? “Raising a college graduate is already a reward. Nelia graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2004. She’s now 49 years old.‘Yung mga na-accomplish niya after that are just a bonus.”

Livia Constantino, Hardworking and Hustling Single Mom

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Livia (extreme right) with her kids

Busy mom of three Livia Constantino surely has her hands full. Apart from raising her three kids, two of which are still in college, she’s also busy working as a financial advisor and unit manager at one of the top insurance companies in the country. 

Her eldest daughter Margaux Andrea Louise, 24, recently graduated from iAcademy with a degree in Multimedia Arts. Her son Liam Daniel, 22, is currently taking up Information Technology at the De La Salle College in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Kylla Francinne, 20, is a BS Accountancy student in Far Eastern University. 

No Easy Feat

Financially supporting her three children is no easy feat. To make ends meet, Livia had different side hustles while working at a BPO company for several years. She sold chocolates, perfumes, bags, and clothes to her teammates. “There was even a time when I sold DVDs and snacks at work,” Livia recalled. “Basically, I sold everything that was in demand at work.”

Her exceptional skills in sales eventually led her to a career as a life insurance financial advisor, and she’s been doing it for almost eight years now.

“Since I am the sole provider, I really needed a bigger monthly income,” Livia said. “Back then, I had to do all kinds of selling and sidelines. Until I found the opportunity in the life insurance industry, which greatly improved my income. It enabled me to afford my children's tuition and all our other needs.” 

She's blessed to have such smart children. In fact, her eldest daughter Margaux was often on the dean’s list, so Livia was also able to get discounts on her tuition. This was very helpful because she had two other children with their own school expenses as well. 

"I believe that education is essential, and that it’s the first step to success."

Livia Constantino, mother of three

Education Can Lead to Success

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Margaux at her college graduation

Like any other parent who wants only the best for their children, Livia also believes in giving her children the best education possible. Her own parents and her uncle made sure that she graduated from college despite their financial difficulties. This is why getting her degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from La Consolacion College is one of Livia’s proudest accomplishments. 

“When I became a parent, it was my goal for my children to finish college no matter what it takes. I believe that education is essential and that it’s the first step to success.”

Never Not Working

There were plenty of challenges in achieving this goal for her kids, though, and Livia had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. Like giving up treats and rewards for herself after a long and hard day at work. “I had to set aside luxuries, like frequent family bonding, or travel. I had to work twice as hard. There was no time for idle time.”

One Down, Two to Go

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Livia's children (from left): Liam, Margaux, and Kylla

But all of Livia’s hard work and sacrifice are starting to pay off. Her eldest daughter is now finished with college, and Livia couldn’t be more proud to see her doing great in her chosen field. 

“Margaux is currently a freelance multimedia designer and handles different beauty and fashion brands internationally. Her main client is Benefit Cosmetics (APAC),” Livia proudly shared. “She has been a consistently excellent student since she was little, and she’s passionate about what she’s doing right now. This inspires me to keep striving because I really want my kids to have the very best.”

Doing Whatever It Takes

how to save for college education - find a side business

There's always a special lesson to learn from a story about a single mother overcoming different challenges. Livia’s commitment to sending her children to good schools on her own is truly inspiring and admirable. 

She attributes her success to her hard work and determination, as well as her resourcefulness when it comes to earning extra income. 

Her advice on how to save for college education? “Find a job that you can focus on and can provide for all your children’s education needs. If your job is not sufficient to pay for education, find a side business that can augment your income. As parents, we have to do whatever it takes to send our children to school.”

"As parents, we have to do whatever it takes to send our children to school.”

Livia Constantino

Final Thoughts

A good education is one of the most important things you should prepare for financially. It’s a major financial undertaking that will take up a huge chunk of your budget for the next 10 years or so.

It’s more challenging for some people who have to pay for it with a small income and a tight budget. But like Euge, Livia, Carmen, and Pierre have shown, it can be done. And they certainly did! 

Take their advice on how to save for college education that emphasizes having more than one source of income and using all available financial resources, like the best college fund for your child, scholarships, installment plans, and other forms of tuition payment assistance. 

Also consider getting a personal loan to pay for college expenses. You can easily compare personal loans through Moneymax and find the right one in minutes. 

Consider these resources when you hit some bumps in the road. The important thing is to stay the course. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a proud graduate!  

Personal loan in the Philippines

Source: [1] Iskolar ng Bayan Program (UP Office of Admissions)

 

Rouselle has over eight years of writing experience in the personal finance niche. She has written feature stories, articles, and how-to guides on various personal finance and trending lifestyle topics. And when not writing or editing articles, Rouselle likes binge-watching Netflix shows and fixing herself a nice, tall glass of iced coffee. Follow Rouselle on Linkedin.