This is a budget lesson that will serve you in the future!
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.
If she chose to go out and spend money on getting her nails done or 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.
Another way to save some money is to mention to your students 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. Many local places give student discounts, but they will have to ask for sure. They can also download apps that will help them to budget and also offer discounts. See our blog on the Best Apps for students. One of the most useful for USF students is Discount-A-Bull. Some places will give you a discount if you “check-in” tagging their Facebook page.
Make sure your student also checks the Bull2Bull program run by the university to offer financial literacy education services to students. 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. Check out some great credit card options for students. 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.
If they are on a meal plan, encourage them to bring back an extra apple, banana, or even dry cereal for a snack later. Also, on-campus they will find the Marshall Study Center which has many food specials and doorbusters for places in the food court/restaurants. Free cookie breaks, free apples and trail mix, and even a Subway picnic are some of the treats offered. Most of these are offered during exam time, so check their schedule. Another great idea, and rather trendy too, introduce them to shopping at Thrift Shops, particularly when they are decorating their off-campus apartment or need yet another dress for a formal, and so on.
Eventually, they will find all the deals out there and when they can manage on their own 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 any of the restaurants that offer deals when you visit. That is when they will be hoping for the meal they presently can’t afford.
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