Attention, parents of college kids! Is your student running low on funds? Are they hitting you up for extra money already? If so, now is a great time to sit down and help them re-evaluate their semester budget. Assuming they have one!
If they don’t have a budget, it should come as no surprise that money is running short, especially if it’s freshman year. College life is a huge and often stressful adjustment. New roommates, tougher classes, a new environment, a different routine … you name it. There’s a lot for them to think about, and finances usually aren’t high on their list.http://www.chiff.com/a/budget-student.htm
. But it really should be!
Well, two months in is not too late to get with (or back on) the program. So first off, don’t blame or criticize them for their financial straits. If they’re asking for your money, now is the perfect time to teach them how to create and stick to a tight budget and track it closely. I have a few ideas that can help.
I won’t bore you with another college budget lesson. I covered that a few weeks agohttps://www.cacu.com/college-necessities-room-board-books-and-a-budget
. It boils down to knowing exactly what’s coming in, what’s available to spend, and how much is going out and when, and then staying within those constraints.
That can be hard to do in your head, and even more difficult to track – for both of you. Which is why I strongly recommend a couple of awesome online budgeting/tracking resources.
SayStudent.com has a wonderful college expense worksheethttp://saystudent.com/sf/college-budget.html
that helps with both the establishment of a budget and tracking where all the money goes. Included are budget line items covering everything from tuition and fees to housing, food, transportation, personal care and entertainment.
Plus, the site can be linked to your kid’s bank and credit card accounts, making it easy for both of you to monitor progress.https://www.cacu.com/checking-accounts
Does anyone remember that old desperate note, “Dear Mom and Dad, please send money”? Well, if you’re now receiving these, whatever you do, don’t send cash. It’s too easy to spend and pretty much impossible to track. Find a way to transfer whatever you’re willing to give into a checking/debit account. And encourage your child to use their debit card or a check, so one or both of you can see where the money is going.
Remember, it takes most people a while to learn how to live “on their own.” College is as much about learning how to live as about how to make a living. Whether they’re at school on your dime or their own, or a combination, you owe it to them to help them learn financial responsibility.
If you control the purse strings, set some realistic budgetary expectations up front. As long as their basic needs are met, don’t feel like you have to bail them out. Feeling the pinch is a great way to learn. Just because your nest is a little emptier doesn’t mean your nest egg should be too!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.