Teaching Your Child Financial Responsibility For College | Ambler Savings Bank


Money Conversations for Parents and College Kids

By Leslie Heffernen, JD, LL.M (Tax), CPA, Board of Trustees, Ambler Savings Bank
August 19, 2021


We always tried to teach our daughters the value of budgeting and money at an early age. From giving them an allowance when they were little, to setting a budget in high school. If it wasn’t necessary they knew they would have to pay for it on their own. The same was true when we sent them off to college. Our two daughters were given a plan before they set foot on campus. One is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California and the other an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. It’s easy for expenses to pile up even if your children are thrifty by nature. Here are some things to discuss with your student ahead of time.

Have a Budget Discussion

We had very frank discussions before dropping them off about what they would be responsible to pay for and what we would help them with. They knew if they decided to go to the mall with friends that would be on them. Take time to talk through these decisions and costs with your kids. Things like having a car on campus may not turn into a fight when you spell out all the expenses and responsibilities that come with it such as the cost of gas, insurance, parking, finding parking, and friends wanting to take advantage of driving them around. It can be very eye-opening and may turn the conversation around.

Plan Ahead

Setting up a plan ahead of time, big or small, will help your student feel better prepared and less stressed. Both daughters were told during the decision-making process that going far away to school meant they weren’t going to be able to come home whenever they wanted. We learned quickly to buy tickets early for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel home. We always bought their tickets at the beginning of the school year to save money to avoid price increases.

Cut Out the Dorm Extras

Whatever you bring or buy while at school will need to be transported or stored over the summer. We also learned that much of the dorm décor ends up getting thrown out, so don’t splurge on upgrades. Things like wall art, throw rugs, and under the bed storage will never get used after college and ends up in the trash. So really consider what is necessary and what isn’t.

Many schools offer summer storage and when far away from home it can be well worth it. With both daughters traveling for college, this was the smart choice instead of paying to transport everything back and forth year after year.

Take Advantage of Modern Tools

All the modern conveniences of technology and the gig industry have made student errands easy but it can also be a slippery slope. Access to our Amazon account was one of them. While it’s very easy and convenient, we decided not to give them access to our account. Costs can quickly snowball and one or two necessities turns into three or four luxuries. Anytime they need to order something school-related, they know to ask and I’ll place the order.

On the other hand, Door Dash ended up being cheaper for groceries than having a car on campus for that purpose. Once they got into the apartment stage the argument became, “but I need to drive to get groceries”. Using Door Dash allowed us to control the grocery spending and save them from having a car on campus. Facebook Marketplace can be a great tool too. Getting something second-hand is usually cheaper than ordering it from Target and you don’t have to pay to ship.

Bank Account

Both of our daughters used Ambler Savings Bank accounts and debit cards to manage their budgets. We found it very easy to monitor the accounts online. Students can download the mobile app and use online banking too. Mobile banking was a lifesaver to be able to transfer money for things like books and groceries and to monitor that they were in fact using it for those things. Having a bank account also gave them access to cash in case of emergencies. A huge piece of mind.

Overall the biggest takeaway is planning. Making sure to have budget conversations so you are all on the same page is a huge step to success for everyone this school year.

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Call or visit Ambler Savings Bank today to open an account with your college student.

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