This is a budget lesson that will serve you in the future!
I quickly realized that I needed to place my daughter on a budget when she mentioned her third Starbucks run of the day while at orientation. The university will bombard you with information regarding meal plans, scholarships, FASFA, and financial aid; but it won’t prepare you for the personal decision that is your student’s budget. After Orientation, her father and I decided to have an honest discussion with our daughter to find the best option that would suit our family’s needs. First family rule; I will not pay for alcohol. I am not sticking my head in the sand and pretending kids won’t go out and drink, but I don’t have to pay for it either. They can use their summer earnings for that stuff. Books and school supplies were to go on my credit card, which was also there for emergencies. Food, depending on whether your student has meal plans; lives in an apartment may vary.
For our daughter, the best option was to give her $50 a month in Owl bucks. She could use the Owl bucks at any dining location on campus as well as the Book Store and Outtakes stores on campus. We also decided to give her an additional $150 a month for other expenses. If our daughter chooses to use her allowance up on pedicures and sushi, then peanut butter and jelly can help to balance her budget. The point here is that we are not looking for our daughter to suffer (I assure you she has never endured any sort of agonizing hardship), but rather to learn to budget her money. It is our goal for her to gain some independence by not having to ask us for additional funds. There was an adjustment period, but after her first semester, it was not an issue.
Mention to your student to take a look around campus for free activities. There are over 400 Student Organizations on campus. Getting involved in one or more almost guarantees things to do and ways to socialize. Often club activities are included in membership or are fairly priced. Many of these clubs even offer nights where they give members free dinners along with the night’s activities.
Maybe your student has a job while at school and won’t ask you for a thing. Since she paid for most of her extras, I can honestly say it has taught her to really give thought to her purchases. Consider having your students get their own credit cards. It is a great way for them to start learning how to budget themselves while building their credit for when they are out on their own. Read our credit card recommendations. I have to admit, one of the most challenging experiences I had when my youngest daughter went off to school was telling her to be more budget careful as I watched her come close to spending all of her weekly allowances. I wanted her to be able to go off and have sushi or late-night pizza with all her new friends, but I also knew she would thank me later for teaching her how to budget. After a few weeks, she got the hang of it and I can confidently say she survived off ramen and peanut butter only a handful of times.
The good news is that there are plenty of places around FAU’s campus that make sticking to a budget possible. There are also a few good tricks. For instance, if your students have a meal plan, encourage them to bring back a few snacks from the dining hall for later. Encourage your student to check out promotions and student discounts at some of their favorite restaurants. Many of the local restaurants around Boca Raton offer buy one get one promotion or a few dollars off if your student simply checks in on Facebook. Several restaurants also offer student discounts by presenting a student ID. These discounts can range from 10% off to even a free drink or appetizer. Also, have your student download some of the restaurant and dining apps to take advantage of additional savings. Read about those apps, they can be really helpful.
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