As you probably know, having a kid in college is astonishingly expensive. Tuition is through the roof at nearly any university across the country. Textbooks have always been overpriced, and getting a campus parking pass? Forget about it! College really is a financial sinkhole, one that's unfortunately a necessary part of a successful life. While you can't do much about the fixed price of tuition, air flights home, student fees, etc., you CAN save on your child's personal expenses.
- Create a realistic budget when figuring out a monthly allowance.
The best way to not allow your child's personal expenses in college to spiral out of control is to send him or her a set monthly allowance. Deciding on how much this allowance should be is tricky, so sit down with your child and figure out reasonable expenses for different things. For example, if your child is on a school meal plan, then budget maybe $30 a week for two meals out. If your child lives of campus, factor in groceries. Draw up a reasonable entertainment budget, money for gas, medicines, etc.
- Don't give in to your child's requests for more money.
Your child will ask you for more money inevitably. You may want to give in, thinking it's an emergency. Except for, of course, medical emergencies, requests for more money are never a life-or-death experience. If you set up a reasonable budget by following step one, your child will be just fine until next month. Don't give in!
Some students will have more personal expenses than others. For example, my daughter loves to shop for clothes, while my son still wears t-shirts he bought in middle school. If one of your children has personal needs that she feels she cannot live without, don't increase their allowance. Rather, make them work for it. Most universities will offer jobs for students with very flexible hours that don't interfere with their classes or studying. Most student jobs require as little as five to ten hours a week, which is a great way for your child to earn some money for shopping and entertainment.
As you know, college is already incredibly expensive. By sitting down and talking to your child about the importance of controlling personal expenses, not only will you save money, but your child will learn the valuable skill of budgeting. This way, they'll be a pro at saving once they're out in the real world themselves. Good luck!
Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and former educator. She enjoys writing about college life, trends in education, parenting, technology, and personal finance.