It’s the time of year when holiday wish lists are flying back and forth over email. And everyone knows what’s at the top of that teen’s list: Cash. Money. Moolah. You may be sick of seeing the same thing every year, but instead of balking at that single item on the gift list again, consider instead how you could turn it into a long-term benefit.

Our family spends roughly $30 per person on gifts. I may want to give $20 in movie gift certificates for a fun night out, but I’ll consider giving the other $10 toward college savings. Instead of solely gifting your teen with the typical gift card, give cash specifically designated for college savings – and ask family members to do the same.

If the student you’re giving to already has a 529 college savings plan, it’s a no-brainer to contribute that cash directly there. Ask the account holder (likely a parent or grandparent) about how they prefer you add to the child’s account.

Got a middle school student?

During the 2017-18 school year, the Nebraska State Treasurer, First National Bank of Omaha, EducationQuest Foundation, and College Possible – Omaha have partnered to encourage families of middle school students to save for college. Families who have NEST 529 accounts or who set up new accounts can enter a drawing to win $529 to be deposited in a new or an existing NEST college savings account.

Eighteen account owners – six from each of Nebraska’s three congressional districts – will be selected at random to each win a $529 contribution. The drawing closes May 31, 2018. Enter at

Help the student in your life avoid a crushing load of student loan debt. Encourage college savings with your holiday gift giving this year!