Guest Post By: Jocelyn Anne
Prepping Students for a Reality Check on Money
A typical student has a very grand and romantic vision of heading off to college, one at which the very world is at their fingertips. They feel they’ll be able to do absolutely anything, go absolutely anywhere, and do it all whenever they feel like it. However, at some point, probably in the very near future, the crashing reality is going to hit them that a whole lot of what they were so excited about is going to involve a whole lot of money that they just don’t have. There’s a good chance that some of their favorite brand name clothing pieces will become out of reach, some of the more expensive hobbies and sports like skiing and golfing might not be options any longer and some of those college parties are going to come with an entrance cover charge they just can’t match. If you can help prep them for this new reality now, you can help them avoid learning the hard way and potentially over charging credit cards and racking up debt as they live unnecessarily outside of their means.
Sharing Knowledge is Key
Overspending often happens simply from lack of knowledge. Students aren’t prepared to think that what they have been accustomed to doing, using and enjoying for all of their life might not any longer be applicable to them and so they purchase unknowingly. Give your students the knowledge of what might be around the corner: thrift shops instead of malls; home TV marathons instead of $12 movie tickets; more generic foods and fewer brand names. But, remember along with the knowledge of “less-less-less,” remind them that it’s all just temporary. Four years of cutting back is well worth a lifetime of being able to afford those “standard” items and activities again.
Take your new student out shopping, the style of shopping they should expect to practice for the next few years. Don’t limit it to one stop; give them options and techniques for just about everything they’re going to need:
The more you can encourage (from the earlier the better) that thrift shops can be hip and trendy, the easier you’ll make their lives and the better odds you’ll have at them not racking up credit card bills. Track down the local hot spots and get them acquainted. Remind them that Christmas is going to be their new favorite time to get the designer stuff.
While maybe not technically “shopping,” don’t forget to prep for things like dental appointments, hair cuts and doctors. Scope out the college clinic together, see if you can help your student find a local dental school where cleanings are discounted, same goes for hair (especially if your daughter is used to having her hair colored). Show them easy ways to find discounts by scoping out the local Sunday coupon fliers and college ad boards offering special student-only deals.
Do some research with your student on the stuff that the college students who are paying their own bills are doing for fun. Are there free music and sport events that shouldn’t be missed? Free bowling and dance classes? Encourage them to buy things like movie tickets in bulk at Costco. Remind them to always ask for student discounts. Most places give them happily, even if they don’t advertise it. See if there are any volunteer activities your student might enjoy – fun and free – like card games at a nursing home or dog walks in the park.
Students often hit shopping markets as the most naïve shoppers to ever exist. They don’t know if a banana should cost 12 cents or 2 dollars and 22 cents. A frozen pizza $4 or $16? Walk them through the produce and common aisles and give them the low-down basics on what’s a good deal for the stuff they’ll probably buy a lot of (peanut butter, bread, cereal, milk, cheese, etc.). Give some coupon tips and a few lessons on just what it means to shop savvy. If you can give them even the most basic idea of just how much they can save by paying attention, you might win them over. Encourage them to go with their friends to bulk stores like Costco and stock up on top ramen and toilet paper.
Encourage an Entrepreneurial Spirit
What is your student good at? Can they fix computers in the dorms? Babysit in married student housing? Write some online blog content? Tutor a few hours a week in the library? Help them set up something really basic just for starters. They might not be all that interested today, but they’ll probably be really interested in about 4 months when it’s approaching mid-semester and their bank account is shot.
It’s all a learning process and there’s a big curve when starting out on their own. But, the more you help prepare them and equip them, the better off their money situation will look and yours too, more often than not. Above all, support and teach. They might not love it, but they’ll appreciate it (sooner or later).
Jocelyn Anne, a previous student of English literature from Montana, is now a freelancer in southern California. At the moment, when not attempting to write a novel, you’ll find her working alongside Air & Water promoting eco-friendly and energy saving baseboard heaters.