How to Prepare Your College-Bound Teen for Financial Self-Support

College Tuition Expenses

By Lori Hutchison

College is an in-between time in life, when you are no longer a child but not yet an adult. Many parents continue to support their children financially during these years, and some parents choose to no longer support their children at all. However you decide to handle your college student’s livelihood is a personal decision, but it would be smart to consider handling it in a way that will fairly prepare them for self-support as an adult.

There are a few basic monthly expenses that college students should be made aware of. Examples of these expenses include rent, water, electricity, cable, internet, cell phone, car insurance and gas, health insurance and groceries. Even if you are not expecting your college student to pay for these items, they still should be made aware of the amount of money that is needed to maintain these everyday luxuries.

If your college student seems to have too much time on his or her hands once school begins, ask them to find a part-time job. Many parents worry that a part-time job will distract their children from their studies, but this is often not the case. Maintaining a part-time job gives a college student the opportunity to earn their own money to buy things they may want, like new clothes or concert tickets. Working a low-wage job will also help them understand how difficult it can be to pay for the everyday luxuries listed above. If your child insists that working is hurting his or her grades, ask them to at least find a volunteer or work study opportunity through their college.

The best way to prepare your college-bound child for self-support is to slowly wean them from your wallet. The road to self-support can be a scary and bumpy one, at best. Whether it is before high school graduation or during their college years, you should give them time to make mistakes and learn the ropes.

Here are a few steps my parents took to teach me about self-support:

  • To help build my credit, they opened a joint account on one of their credit cards with my name. They allowed me to keep it in my wallet but warned me of punishment for abuse. I was only allowed to use it for emergencies, and I had to pay them for the purchase.
  • I was told to get a part-time job in high school. This is how I learned the basics of banking. I had my own checking and savings account, which I over drafted at least five times in the first three months. I got the hang of it, though, and have never over drafted since then.
  • I was very fortunate, because my parents paid for everything except the “wants” when I was in college. I was also given a $25.00 allowance for food and gas every week (this was when gas was $0.85 per gallon). To pay for new clothes and other items, I held a part-time job. This taught me the value of smart spending and money management.
  • My parents made me aware of the cost of everything they paid for (my tuition, insurance, housing, etc). Knowing this amount made me appreciate what they were doing for me, because I knew that I would never be able to pay for that with my part-time, minimum wage job.

If you use these tips, your child will eventually learn how to take care of themselves, and they will also have a greater appreciation for the things you have done for them. Money will be something they take seriously and use wisely.

Lori Hutchison teaches high school English and owns the site  In her spare time, she enjoys writing guest blog posts about various topics of interest.