When your student goes off to college, you have the opportunity to help them learn not only the things that are relevant to their degree, but also life skills that will stay with them throughout adulthood. College students are out on their own for the first time, exploring the world with more independence than ever before. By offering a few tips and a little gentle guidance, you can help your college student develop budgeting skills that will benefit them for years to come.
Provide a Regular Allowance
If your college student is still receiving money from you to help with expenses, don’t just offer money whenever they say that they need it. Instead, offer a weekly, biweekly, or monthly budget that will provide them with enough money for what they need. Help them learn to live within that budget: to know that there’s more money coming and when, so that they can easily plan for upcoming expenses, but also to limit them. This doesn’t necessarily have to include things like books and tuition, but it can.
Work on Budgeting 101
Some college students take naturally to the process of budgeting. Others take longer to learn these skills. Sit down with your college student and discuss their regular expenses. Do they have to pay for gas? Rent on an apartment? What about food expenses? Take the time to list out all of these expenses and assign them a dollar amount so that they’ll know how much money they really need to put back for the important things.
Discuss How to Track Spending
Until your college student had their first real job with a real paycheck, they probably didn’t give any thought to keeping track of how much money they had. When Mom and Dad are the bank, it’s easy enough to just ask for more money when it runs out. “Keeping track” might well have meant simply counting the cash in the sock drawer before heading out with a night with friends. Now, your student needs to learn real checkbook balancing skills. Sit down and have a discussion about how to keep track of spending. Don’t let your child rely on online or phone-in banking to determine their balance; instead, offer them methods for keeping track of their bank balance that let them know how much they really have in their account.
Teach Them About Coupons
This seems fairly simple, but the reality is, many students don’t know how to properly use coupons. Even something as simple as looking for coupons before making a large purchase may be foreign to your student if you’ve never shown them how to do it. Take the time to sit down and discuss how to find coupons for all major purchases before they buy. A sears.com coupon, for example, can help purchase appliances, clothing, or other necessary supplies for school at a discounted price.
Don’t Automatically Bail Them Out
When your child has a crisis, your first reaction as a parent is to bail them out as quickly as possible. Your child needs you, so you’re going to be there. When it comes to budgeting, however, sometimes, your child needs to learn from their mistakes. If they overspend their budget, it might be a week of Ramen noodles before they have more money coming in–and sometimes, they need to learn from that mistake.
Teaching your college student how to budget isn’t always easy. It would be easier to simply offer them the money they need and not have to worry about it. Making the time investment to teach your child how to manage their money, however, will pay off for years to come.