I’m going to start with the dreaded comment starting “when I was in college, we didn’t have…” (insert teenager eye-roll here). But, all of us at Have U Heard can say that we did not have computers, iPads, or cell phones to help us bank, and somehow, we managed to survive. I did have a checking account where I had to actually write checks, and a credit card for emergencies. Everything regarding money took longer, and I know I did not budget correctly. I made financial mistakes for sure, but when I got a part-time job, I seemed to manage it better. I guess if it was MY money, then I took better care of it, sadly.
So, when we attended orientation with our daughter, we were inundated with information from FAFSA to meal plans, but no one addressed the best way to handle finances, or how to learn to budget for our student. We did what a lot of parents do, and that is, asked around. I talked to some friends with college kids and got their ideas, and I also went to a couple of parenting Facebook pages that I belong to and looked up the subject of budgeting. There is so much information out there, that it can be overwhelming.
Firstly, have a conversation with your family and decide: will they need to work while in school, can they prioritize and keep their grades up while managing their time efficiently, will they be on the meal plan or will they need to do weekly shopping?
One of our family rules was that we will not pay for alcohol. I am not being naïve, and I won’t pretend that kids don’t go out and drink, but I don’t have to pay for it either. Books and school supplies were to go on a credit card tied to our accounts (and a great way for us to earn points) and for emergencies. Since our daughter was not on a meal plan, we did two things: we put money on her Publix parent card weekly for groceries (see our blog on grocery stores). It was approximately $75. We also put around $125 cash on her Bull Buck$ card which can be used at campus dining halls, restaurants, and cafes on campus. We made sure she also had some cash weekly. How did we come up with these numbers? Well, after polling friends and getting advice online, these amounts were in the middle of the census. If she chose to go out and spend money on getting her nails done, or for sushi, using up her allowance, then peanut butter and jelly would help to balance her budget. The point was for her to see where her money was going and to make good decisions about it.
*Please note: if your child is in a sorority or fraternity, they will be asking you for more money. Most things are covered in their dues, but it seemed like my daughter always needed money for something additional (big/little gifts, yet more t-shirts, unofficial sister get-togethers, etc.) So, get ready!
Another way to save some money is to mention to your student to take a look around campus for free activities. Many clubs and organizations have events around campus and will offer free snacks. Even food trucks will sometimes have free items. Students should always keep their eyes open for student discounts. For instance, Chipotle gives a 15% discount with ID, and AMC Theaters gives a 10% discount on Thursday nights with student ID, and many more. Here is a list of great discounts for USF students. And check out our blog on budget eating places. They can also download apps that will help them to budget and also offer discounts. See our blog on the Best Apps for students. Bull2Bull is a program run by the university to offer financial literacy education services to students. They are located in the Student Services (SVC) building.
Nothing 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 they want the assurances of always having meals on campus, and will want to be on a meal plan. Things can be changed if they are not working.
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