College Student Budget–Reality Strikes
What’s a college student budget? Women over 45, your little darlings have probably headed off to college this year, right? Well, when Junior and Miss Princess head off to college orientation with you, what’s the first thing they hear–“Study Abroad”, “Semester at Sea”, “Unpaid Internship”…. What’s the first thing you hear..oh wait…it’s the sound of the college vacuum machine siphoning away all your hard earned cash! Right after you leave the college orientation is when most parents decide it’s a good time to discus the college student budget.
BACK UP! College Student Budget Education starts at Birth
In our home, we really started our children’s financial education for responsibility the minute they were born. “Saving for College” should be a regular topic that your children hear and “Financial Responsibility” and “Budgeting” shouldn’t be foreign concepts to them either. “Frugal” shopping, “Thrift Stores”, “Garage Sales” are all words that they should not be embarrassed to utter, but embrace with the sense of savings and adventure that can be achieved. Once you have your children, yourself and your spouse in the right mindset..discussing a college student budget becomes easier.
Elements to Consider in a College Student Budget
1. Each Child is Different–One child has had a job since the 8th grade, the next has never had a job except one summer for a few weeks at a fast food restaurant, the next child works every summer doing hard labor for his coach, and the finally one is a pre-olympian of sorts and spends every summer in training..never having worked a summer job. In college, one child can carry 17 credits, two jobs and balance a social life. The next has a girlfriend, is studying a medical related subject and works 20 hours a week. Another child finds 12 credit hours difficult to handle without even considering a job. Then another child carries a full class load, all the while working and planning for his master’s degree approach. The key lesson here is each child is different and so must the approach to a college student budget for each child be different.
2. Different people, Different expenses. One child may need a bike, a gym membership, and a full meal plan to make college life work for them. The next may need to live at home for a few years to get themselves established. For some, the Sky is the limit as they absorb all the different opportunities around them. Or so they think…the budget my dictate differently.
3. Different Colleges, Different Majors, Different Expenses. Some colleges will have many hidden fees, new editions of books, and outlandish trip related expenses that must be met in order to accomplish a degree. Other colleges are simply in expensive locations rendering the room and board more expensive. Other college majors may require a number of internships, often unpaid.
While the list of considerations can go on and on, the tools for helping your student budget and teaching financial responsibility have to start at home. 57% of the parents who have children in high school/college feel that schools deserve failing grades in teaching children financial responsibility, according to a recent American Express Survey. In my personal opinion, it’s not the schools responsibility to teach a child about home finances. That job lies with the parents.
What tools can you utilize when helping form a College Student Budget?
1) Pursue Scholarships. Whenever there is an opportunity for awards, get your child applying!
2) Have the child get a job. Studies have shown that children who work 12 hours/week during college have better grades then those who don’t. Encourage or require your child to get a job to pay part or all of their own way. When a child invests in their education, I have observed they take everything more seriously. For example, if you have the child pay for their own books…all of a sudden the child is an expert on text book buying sites like Amazon.com, textbooks.com, and the local discount used bookstore.
3) Consult the experts. You don’t have to come up with all the ideas yourself. There are many great reference sources out there to develop your college student budget. For example, in order to better prepare parents with resources and tips to better educate their teens about responsible college spending, American Express, coupled with financial expert Jean Chatzky and Mom Central Consulting’s Stacy DeBroff, decided to launch the Safe Spend program. This program was conceived to help parents instruct their kids in how to “Practice Safe Spend , this financial awareness program offers great suggestions to make discussing the importance of money management a little easier. They offer smart solutions that you may not have considered like giving your college student an American Express Additional Card with Custom Limits. To read all of the “Practice Safe Spend” tips, please visit: Mom Central Consulting on behalf of American Express and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.”