Listen instead

After high school graduation, your child stands on the precipice of adulthood. If college is the next step, it’s important to discuss the finances that will be involved with living independently and paying for school.

Learn when to say “No”

It’s a simple tip that usually goes unheeded, but it can be hard to say “No” when your newly independent child asks for money. However, at least require them to ask. Many parents of college-aged children monitor spending and transfer money automatically between accounts when funds reach a dangerous low. Bad idea!

The best strategy is to teach your child financial literacy over a lifetime, but encouraging long term saving over the course of a summer is also a good exercise in budgeting. Also, the sooner your child begins working, the sooner they will appreciate the independence money provides. Requiring your child to pay for gas and miscellaneous expenses before leaving home will better prepare them for life out of the nest.

Give your child the independence to make mistakes. Don’t monitor his finances. Don’t micromanage his spending habits. Above all else, don’t provide a monetary cushion each time funds run low. If they ask you for money, ask to look at his bank account. This will probably spark an uncomfortable conversation that they will work hard to avoid in the future. Treat these conversations like landmark decisions. The more you drag your heels, the more seriously your child will consider asking you for money.

Teach the Value of Saving

Beyond the cost of tuition and fees, college can be expensive. Before the first semester, it can be difficult to forecast a true budget; but there are a few definite ways to save.

Books and supplies are a huge expense each semester. Purchasing used books, either from a local bookstore or on e-commerce sites like Amazon can lessen these costs substantially. The only downside in ordering online is the delay in receiving books, but generally, this isn’t a major issue. Also, remember to sell books at the end of the semester.

Coupons are a college student’s best friend! Universities often supply sponsored coupon books full of deals for students. Make sure your student understands that a good coupon is for something they already purchase. A bad coupon is just an enticement to spend money on a service or product they don’t really need.

Take advantage of student discounts. Restaurants, movie theaters, and even miniature golf courses will offer discounts for students. It never hurts to ask!

Avoid Debt

Avoid debt like the plague. Scholarships and grants are highly competitive and demand a lot of attention, but leaving college with minimal debt is essential for a healthy financial future.

College students need a lot of help staying focused on scholarship requirements. New social demands can become a distraction and academics often become a sidebar to having fun. Remaining involved in your student’s progress and achievements is a good way to support positive academic performance.

Resorting to student loans is common. However, approach a student loan the same way you would approach a debt-financed investment. Take out the absolute minimum amount and ask your child to research his career field. Use the average salary of an entry-level position in his field to calculate a pay-off. If the debt doesn’t seem worth the risk, transferring to a less expensive school or changing fields may be required.  Encourage internships and other career-boosting activities to give your child the edge once they enter the job market.

Co-signing for a credit card is a good way to help your child establish credit and learn to manage debt; but if used without caution, a credit card can be abused as a second bank account. Monitor credit card purchases and caution your child against opening store credit cards or financing large purchases.