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College Kids & Spending Money
Find out how to get your college-bound teen started off right—and save money!
If you’ve ever had a kid who went to college, you know that it’s not uncommon to get a call that goes something like this:
“Hey son. How are things?”
“Classes are going well, but can you send me $100 by the end of the week?”
“Well, things are kind of tight here. But what do you need the money for?”
“Uh, you know, books. Things. Just school stuff.”
“All right. Well let me talk to your mother.”
In the dorms, I heard conversations like this all the time. A few days later, dad transfers the money to his son’s account. But what happens after that? Where does that money actually go? Is Junior a human black hole?
Despite his best intentions, that money is probably going to something more than just “school stuff.”
Don’t get paranoid (unless you need to be). It’s doubtful your son or daughter is involved in anything sketchy, but it’s easy as a college student to spend a few bucks here and there and never even realize how quickly it adds up, until it is all gone and the cycle repeats itself.
I continue to see this happening, and that is why I’m here to help. If you’ve got a kid about to head off to campus, think about these possibilities and talk them through together before you drop him or her off at the dorm.
Does your teen plan on being in a sorority or fraternity? With all the parties and formals, Greek life can be expensive. And then you also have intramural sports, meal plans and all kinds of other clubs and organizations that might cost a pretty penny. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to have some interests outside of school, but make sure you and your teen budget and save for them beforehand. If not, you’ll be getting even more frequent calls for your hard-earned $100 bills.
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I often noticed friends buy a $5 lunch at Taco Bell when they already paid for a meal plan. Or a quick Target visit for toothpaste would turn into a $50 shopping spree. And have you seen the cost of gas these days? What about that last-minute weekend road trip to the football game—the one with the five-hour tailgate with seemingly unlimited drinks and food, not to mention a hotel, a couple of hundred miles worth of gas and two days worth of junk food. All of that adds up in a hurry. Some of these things you can’t plan for, so we recommend a little blow money for pop-up stuff like this.
These are the types of costs that could easily be avoided with just a little planning. These are the $3 and $4 fees for not using your bank’s ATM. Or the $30 parking tickets for failing to renew a parking pass. Or buying the brand-new version of a textbook when the older, used version would work just fine. Sometimes, though, experience is the best teacher. Maybe your teenager will have to get their car towed once before they finally learn their lesson.
Hopefully, some of these expenses won’t catch you off guard now. You can stay informed and aware of what your kid is spending your money on without being an overbearing parent. Remember, if you are sending them your money, you have a right to know how it’s being used! Keep that in mind, and you’ll help the college freshman in your life create healthy money habits at a young age.
Send Them Off With Practical Tools
The Graduate’s Survival Guide was created just for college-bound kids to empower them with practical how-tos for navigating through daily college life. It includes an in-depth Q&A book and a four-part DVD that will feature me and my good friends, Jon Acuff and Christy Wright, as we talk about what students can expect and how to be prepared.