You have figured out how you will pay for your child’s college education. In a few weeks, they will be heading off to school. They will be required to make many decisions, including financial ones without consulting with you. Have you sat them down and had the “talk,” the one about budgeting their money, about you not being their ATM.
Once the basics of tuition, food, housing and books are taken care of, there many other ways for your college student to spend money. Expenses range from fraternity dues to dorm furnishings and entertainment. These expenses can quickly add up.
The average American family wastes about 30 percent of their money because they don’t know where they are spending it. You can help your child avoid this trap by helping them to develop a spending plan. A spending plan is simply a tool for planning how you will spend and save your money in order to accomplish your financial goals. There are four basic steps:
Identify income: You need to be clear what portion of their income will come from you. Will they need to get a part-time job to cover some of their miscellaneous expenses or to help with some of the basics of their education, like books?
List expenses: Expenses might include haircuts, entertainment, car notes and insurance, gas or cell phone bills. Let them know how important it is to track their expenditures. They can use an app, a checkbook register, or their computers.
Compare income and expenses: Are they balanced? Are your expenses greater than your income? Do you have money left over at the end of the month? Have you budgeted for savings and emergencies? If not, what adjustments will you make?
Set priorities and make adjustments: You need to be clear with them that resources are limited; you are not their ATM; and that they will have to establish priorities.
Another important discussion to have with your college student is about using and managing credit wisely. Oftentimes, it is during the college years that young adults receive their first credit card offers. It is important that you help them shop around for the best credit terms, interest rates and features. You need to ensure that they understand how to read the fine print when comparing offers; how to read their credit card statements; and understand what a credit score is and its impact their lives.
Establishing good credit is not difficult. Below are fundamentals of good credit management that you can discuss with your college student:
Establish a credit report — your personal bank or credit union is a good place to start.
Always pay as agreed — delinquent payments and payments that do not satisfy the minimum requirements have a negative impact on your credit report.
Keep balances low — maintaining balances low in comparison to available credit limits is a positive sign of good credit management
Apply for credit wisely — do not apply for multiple accounts within a short period of time. Even the appearance of taking on too much debt signals the lender that you are a high credit risk.
College is a great time for new experiences, learning, and exploring. Make sure that your college student is able to enjoy the time spent in college and leave without the heavy burden of debt.