Asking for Money?
I can vividly remember being in college and having to make the dreaded call home to my father to ask for money. My parents had three daughters at UF at the same time so finances were a sensitive subject. This was before cell phones (think wall corded phones) and, dare I say it, before the internet. Banking required you to wait for the statement to arrive in the mail. My father, who happened to also be a CPA, would go through each statement to see where we were spending our money. And, he felt they gave us a reasonable amount to make it through the month (with three daughters to support at college, monthly deposits worked for them). Since we only spoke once a week (again, no such thing as texting, emails or cell phones), having to mention needing money was not exactly what they wanted to talk about. During college breaks, he would sit me down to discuss why I bounced a check, how I could not live on a budget and other financial issues.
Sure, I had student loans and I also worked during the summer (they wanted us to focus on our grades so they did not want us working while going to school). And, to be perfectly honest, I wasted a lot of money… on food, clothes, going out, drinking (the drinking age in Florida then was eighteen), and lord knows what else. I have no doubt that had I been more aware of where I was spending my money, I could have gotten by with a lot less. But that is part of what college is all about; learning how to navigate the real world. Becoming financially savvy is part of that.
When my older daughter went to UF, the tables turned quickly and now she would text or email when she needed more money (less confrontational than over the phone). She also had a credit card for emergencies only (and we defined what constituted an emergency – car breaking down, health issues, true emergencies- not a sale at a store or buying alcohol). We were fortunate that we had Florida Pre-Paid and she received Bright Futures highest awarded amount, but there were still plenty of other expenses that we needed to cover including her apartment/living in a sorority, gas for her car, books, and supplies plus the local fees and technology fees that we had not purchased with Florida Pre Paid.
And like I had to with my father, every time she would come home, I would sit her down and line item the credit card because she was not adhering to her budget. By her senior year, she would have to go into her savings account for money for incidentals we were unwilling to pay for. And, we wanted her to learn how to live on a budget because, while she is fortunate in that she has not had to endure any financial hardship, she would eventually be on her own and that is a real wake up call for many of our kids.
The question of how much money we should give them for, let’s call it a college allowance, generates a lot of responses, both positive and helpful and some insightful posts (anonymity will do that). Having asked many of my friends and also having my younger daughter speak with her friends, the one thing I have quickly learned that there are enough varying answers to make your head spin. In addition, your family’s personal financial situation, your family’s values factor into this decision.
What I Will Pay For
What I can tell you is that 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 (even on campus) may vary.
I give my daughter $800 per month. How did I come up with this number? Basically, I created a reasonable budget, as I do for myself. This is to cover all of her expenses after rent, books, gas for her car. Some dorms do require a meal plan (hers did not), so numbers would have to be adjusted. In addition, some girls belong to sororities, which have dues that provide meals (but usually not on weekends). My daughter eats most meals at her sorority house but if she chooses not to go (I already pay for this), that falls within her monthly allowance. If she 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 I am looking for her to learn to budget her money. It is my goal to not have to support her after college and optimistic this may ease her into that realm.
Consider having your student get their own credit card. 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. Click here for some of our credit card recommendations.
Mention to your student to take a look around campus for free activities. There are many; as well as over 1000 organizations at UF. 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. Game night is also a fun option. I was surprised to find board games mentioned when talking to students (that lived off campus). They explained that some nights it was fun to just stay in with a bunch of friends and play. Of course, I am sure some turned into drinking games. I am not condoning that; just sharing. 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. My daughters have worked during summer since they were thirteen years old and have saved money for exactly this time of their lives. They pay for most of the extras and, I can honestly say, it has taught them to really give thought to their purchases.