This is a budget lesson that will serve you in the future!
Some students actually keep to a budget. Well, sort of. I admit, it was hard telling my daughter, as I watched her weekly allowance dwindle, that she better be a bit more cautious or stock up on peanut butter for her next few meals until her next allowance came. I knew though that the gift of teaching her to budget her money would be far more useful than the pain I was feeling saying no or even when she had to stay back when her friends headed out for sushi.
At orientation we were inundated with information about all sorts of things; from FAFSA forms to meal plans. No one ever really elaborated on the best way to handle finances when it came to how much to give your new student. Perhaps this is because it will vary based on need, ability, preparedness to handle the responsibility, what an allowance should cover, and so on.
First things first, what will their allowance cover? 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 a meal plan or lives in an apartment, may vary.
There is also the Knight’s card, which can be used in dining halls, campus restaurants, and grocery stores. If you are putting money on there, perhaps you want to give less in their allowance. To come up with a weekly dollar amount, we polled other parents whose students also didn’t have a meal plan, but had a kitchen, and $75 was right in the middle of the census. 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 to not have to support her after college and believe this may ease her into that realm.
Some Good News
The good news is that there are plenty of places around UCF’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 room for later. There is nothing wrong with leaving with a banana, apple, or hardboiled egg. Check the weekly ads; Publix often runs sales on their Pubs Subs. Many places around campus have microwaves to heat food up too. Packing a meal is generally less expensive than going out and often healthier too.
If they are ever short on staple foods like bread and peanut butter, they can always also go to the Knights Pantry located on campus by the All Knights Study in Ferrell Commons; they just need your Student ID. There’s a limit on 5 food items per day.
Check out apps like Pocket Points, Zupp, and Stealz. They all offer discounts, alert to specials, and help students find good deals in one way or another. Tell them, too, to check out some of their favorite places to see if they give a student discount, money off if you check in on Facebook, or have weekly specials. There are many other places to eat around campus that are budget-friendly too. Some restaurants have a reward system; points can add up quickly.
Aldi is a super affordable grocery shopping center; they just need to bring a quarter to use a shopping cart and bring their own grocery bags. Eventually, they will find all the deals out there and, when they can manage their money after college, they will thank you. Well, they probably won’t thank you, but knowing they are eating and sticking to a reasonable budget is thanks enough for this mom. And by the way, don’t expect them to take you to these budget-friendly places when you visit. That is when they will be hoping for a meal at all the restaurants they presently can’t afford.
As usual, UCF has thought about this too. Check out Shopping/Cooking on a Budget. Obviously, none of this is set in stone. It all depends on your family’s personal choices and financial decisions. Perhaps your student has a job while at school and won’t ask you for a thing. Maybe that job is to pay for the extras; like nights out, a spring break cruise, or next semester abroad. Maybe your student despises PB & J; although tuna fish makes a fair alternative. Remember, of course, that other than meal plan options, which have to be adjusted early in the semester, things can be changed if they don’t seem to be working.
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. These are our credit card recommendations for students.
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