August marks the start of college for many young adults. A member of the family leaving the nest is a change for the entire family both emotionally and financially. The cost of a college education is high. According to the College Board reports, the average cost of tuition and fees for 2015–2016 was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for in-state students at public colleges and $23,893 for out-of-state students. Room and board ranged from $10,138 to $11,516. Books and supplies averaged over $1200 for the school year. Once the family has worked through how tuition will be paid, there are a host of other consideration for campus living. With some planning, the family can successful navigate the expenses.
Shopping for the dorm: Creating a home away from home can be overwhelming. Think for a moment of all the things your child has in his room and uses around the house. Many of those things will find their way into a dorm room. The student needs to be comfortable but making an exact replica of their room may not be practical. Dorm space is shared limiting space. The university will provide a bed, desk and a chest of drawers. The student will need to bring everything else. To avoid extra expenses, wait to see the size of the room before buying all the comfort items.
Talk about budget: Just as the family has a budget, the student living on campus needs one too. A student will quickly learn there is cost associated with everything in college. Doing laundry is no longer free. If the student does not have one already, open a separate bank account. Consider putting money into the student’s account on a weekly basis or biweekly basis. Freshman students may be new at managing their own money. Allow the student time to learn balancing their own expenses.
Look for cost savings: Consider used text books. Students can rent and download textbooks. Look at sites like Half.com and Chegg.com for textbook offerings. The crisp new books are nice but unnecessary. Look for businesses around campus offering student discounts. Make sure your student is familiar with those specials. If getting a meal plan, think of eating habits. If your child does not eat breakfast, look at a plan that doesn’t include breakfast.
Use of Credit: College is a great time to start building credit. Students may have one card for incidental expenses. Don’t sign up with the card company offering the best freebies. Look for a card with no annual fee, reasonable interest rate and good rewards. Understand the fine print. Help your student distinguish between needs and wants. Racking up high debt on frivolous expenses is a certain road to developing bad credit. Set spending limits so the credit card does not create an extra burden on monthly expenses.
Communicate: Talking to your freshman student about money is building an awareness around fiscal responsibility. Discuss your expectation of sticking to the budget. Your child should not make it a habit of finding themselves in a financial emergency. However, they should be comfortable to call home if there is a true money crunch. Discuss the consequences of poor money choices. Freshman students should equate personal college finance as their training ground for handling money after they graduate and get that first job.