Parents, Don’t Pay For Everything

An open black wallet with money inside.

Flickr user elycefeliz

There are a couple life skills that college kids need to know in order to survive. How to cook, how do laundry, how to study, etc. Of course, of all of these things that your student needs to know, one of the most important tricks is how to save money and work with a budget. In order for this skill to be present in college students, it has to develop early. You as parents play a key part in that development.

Far be it from me to tell you how to parent, but I would encourage you to think about your student’s working knowledge of finances. Do they know how to save money? Have they learned how to stick with a budget? Do they have the patience to wait to buy something, or are they impulsive? We tend to learn money habits from our parents. Not paying for everything your child wants is a good way to add to those lessons learned from watching you shop.

I’m not saying that every student should be cut completely loose once they graduate high school. Instead, there needs to be a discussion with your student as to how finances are going to work. Are they going to provide part of their tuition? Will they have to pay their own rent if they get an apartment? Will they be responsible for their groceries and gas? These are things that should be decided by the time your student goes to college, as it will influence how much or how little your student might need to work outside of school.

The earlier you start this conversation, the earlier your child will understand how important managing money is. You don’t have to wait until your student graduates, either. Work with them during junior high and high school. Perhaps you as parents pay for some things, like gas, but won’t pay for clothes shopping or going to the movies. You can start as small or as large as you need to. If you do want to pay for things, maybe consider having your child do chores to earn that. The earlier people learn to appreciate the work that goes into earning money, the less likely they are to spend it without thinking. Or maybe you could insist that your child works during high school, whether it’s a summer job or during the school year.

Because here’s the thing: Too many college students don’t have necessary money skills when they leave home. They don’t know how to balance a checking account (or in some cases how to write a check). They get in trouble before they figure out how to stick to a budget. They use credit cards, only to become swamped in debt because they can’t pay it all off. And maybe a sink-or-swim approach works in some cases, but most modern college students don’t need to have any more stress added to their lives. The fear of having to leave school because it’s become unaffordable, or having to focus more on earning money rather than focusing on their education, is very real and very present on campuses. Living on Ramen and PB&J sandwiches shouldn’t be something that is maintained long-term, but I have seen students do that because they ran out of money for the month.

Whatever methods you decide to use, I implore you, make sure your student understands financial responsibilities. Teach them early. You’ll get fewer distraught phone calls that way when your child is in college, which will give you much more time to talk about the pleasant aspects of college life.

Another great way to save money for the entire family? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover personalized net price estimates and potential financial aid at schools around the country!

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