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How To Budget College Students Funds

  January 27

This post may contain affiliate links.

avoid big purchasesMy parents gave me $200 a month for spending money in college, and it taught me a lot about budgeting and only spending what I had. So, I was happy to accept this guest post from my friend Jason, who shares a lot of great insight on making sure your new college freshman understands money and doesn’t misuse yours! Enjoy:

So your baby bird is flying the coop and leaving for college. Has the question of how you’ll budget their monthly living expenses on top of to their overall education caused anxiety yet?

Don’t worry, we have complied a wealth of information for you on how to manage the extra spending and teach your little birdie how to responsibly spend their funds.

First and foremost, take a look at how much the essential requirements to live will add up to. How much are dorms? What does the meal plan consist of? You might want to talk to other parents that have kids going off to college, or maybe even the parents that have kids currently enrolled college. Ask them what a ballpark figure might be for a new student when they first go off to school.

One cost many don’t think of when planning their college education is the price of books. While the university bookstore will sell every book needed, most frugal college students will tell you to avoid going this route. Instead of buying brand new materials, renting from sites such as Chegg can save you hundreds of dollars per semester. If the books can’t be found online, older or international versions of the text can often be used if approved by the professor.

Besides the dorms, tuition, and school supplies, it’s important to figure out what kind of additional spending your student will have. Bring them into the conversation and show them how much money it takes for them to attend school.

That way, they will physically see how much money you are investing towards their education. This will hopefully help them understand that it takes a large sum of money and realize that their doing well in school matters a great deal. This would also be a great time to speak with them about their weekly or monthly allowance; find something that is reasonable for both parties.

If their housing already includes free entry into the cafeteria, then obviously the allowance doesn’t have to be as steep. However, if the dorm arrangement doesn’t include a meal plan, than you might want to be a little more flexible with the food allowance. So your kids aren’t scrounging about for money for the “little things,” make sure you help them get started off on the right foot when they first move in. Provide them with goods like a first-aid kit, snacks, batteries, tools, etc.

Recognize that the space your child will be moving into will, most likely, be bare and a bit ugly; arming them with affordable dorm bedding and supplies from retailers like OCM will help them to make the area a true home away from home.

Here’s a tough reality you may already be aware of: kids aren’t the most responsible when it comes to funding. If you hand them $150 a week, don’t be surprised if a third of that goes to beer and another third to shopping for new threads.

Gift cards are one way you can help determine your money is going where you want it to; you may be surprised by the amount of diverse places that offer this option, from grocery stores to book stores.

Also, your scholar is going to want to get involved in different activities, so talk about that beforehand. Do they plan on joining a sorority or fraternity? Or maybe being the ultimate fan and attending all the games that are going on around the school?

While these activities bring along more expenses, they are also a center stone in university culture and can teach lessons not learned within a classroom.  If your student wants to get involved in these types of activities, it may be a good idea to compromise another cost in order to budget for their involvement. This way, extracurricular activities aren’t taking away from the money budgeted for classes.

It might also be a good idea to make it an incentive for your student to take the first semester to get involved in school and then the following semester to get involved in activities once they have the hang of college. You could even make this an incentive for them to show you that they can juggle both school and extracurricular activities.

Talking with your student about their allowance is going to need to be a conversation that you have. Setting limits will teach your student the value of money and frugality and will also help you spend less. Make sure that you are sticking to your budget so you don’t have unnecessary spending and outrageous bills at the end of the semester. To help them keep track of spending, check out financial apps like Mint.

College is about so much more than simply attending class – it is about transitioning from childhood to adulthood. If they run out of money, it may be best to make sure they have what they need to cover the basics, but encourage them to get a job for the additional spending money they ask for. Just remember to set a budget, talk it over, get your student involved, and stick to it.

How much spending money do you give your college student?

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12 responses to “How To Budget College Students Funds

  1. This is definitely a thought in the back of our minds. We surely won’t be funding wasteful spending, that’s for sure. Hopefully the frugal mindsets we’re teaching our kids will be engrained heavily into them by the time they graduate high school. 🙂

  2. I wasn’t given any money when I went to school as I had to earn what I spent by working part-time. That made me appreciate the money much more than being handed cash from my parents. I think that also was part of what put me on the financial radar from such an early age which progressed into the man I am today. Money for students can be handled one of two ways, they blow it or spend iit wisely… it’s up to the child how they deal with that situation based on how they were taught about money growing up or their mindset regarding money.

  3. well I don’t even have kids yet so I can’t really answer that question haha but my parents did help out with my tuition a bit as well as my brother and sister’s. I appreciate that now more so than when I was in school because now that I’m paying back loans I have a lighter student debt load. I plan on helping my children out with college expenses, but it’s really going to come down to how much college costs, how much money my wife and I have, and also how much aid they get.

  4. Great post Cat! I also like Oink to help kids with spending money. I also advise parents and kids to start the college budget while the kids are seniors in high school. This way, everyone can get used to the experience and you can talk things out while you are all still living under the same roof. Then your child won’t be in “shock” about the budget when they go to school. There will be plenty of other things to shock them when they get there. 🙂

  5. I think it’s important to define what the expectations are when that money is given. Sometimes, kids will just assume money from there parents is fun money. But if they’re going to be expected to cover the price of books, meals, etc, with that money, they’ll have to figure out how to make it work- which is a great lesson for the real world.

  6. My parents gave me zero dollars to spend when I lived in a dorm. That’s probably part of the reason that I used credit cards during that timeframe. Lesson learned!

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