Managing College Costs | Parents Guide

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As many of us know first-hand, the expenses tied to higher education can be a lot to tackle, especially without a strong understanding of all the financing factors. Beyond the ever-increasing price of tuition and textbooks, there are a variety of additional costs that go can catch any student off guard if not properly prepared – living expenses such as laundry, take-out to fuel those late-night study sessions, and even traveling costs for when your student visits home during their breaks can add up quickly without proper planning and budgeting.

As your child embarks on this next chapter in their lives, here are a few things to discuss when it comes to the total costs of going to college.

Start with a Spending Plan

Budgeting is one of the most important pieces of building a financial foundation and having a spending plan can help provide a better picture of the expenses of college living. While a first-time college student may not have their spending down to a science, being proactive in planning out expenditures can allow your child to focus on their studies and give you peace of mind.

Be sure to have a conversation about the essential needs of living away from home that your student might not think about. Personal care products, essential grocery items for their dorm room, and having some extra cash for a fun night out with friends are just a few costs associated with college life that we don’t want to forget about. Talking about these expenses ahead of time and establishing a budget can give your child a more realistic expectation of spending.

Expect the Unexpected

As your college student embarks on this journey, you know there will be something that won’t always go to plan. We can all think back to those times away at college where we had to call home because we’ve run short on cash. While we want to set expectations of spending, these bumps in the road along the way are to be expected. Whether its one too many pizza nights or an unexpected trip home, setting aside some “rainy day” funds will help keep you a step ahead when your student finds themselves short.

Be Smart about Financial Aid

The ins-and-outs of financial aid can be confusing; we always recommend taking the time to get to know your student’s financial aid advisor. Using this resource can provide you and your family insight on the educational costs from one school year to the next. And by taking this extra step in preparing your budget, you can allow your young adult to make wiser decisions when it comes to taking on student loans and making the best use of any associated refunds.

Preparing for college life can look different for everyone, but being financially prepared can make a big difference in your young adult’s financial future.

Still considering all of your college options with your teen? Check out our previous Parents’ Guide on Considering the Costs of College here.

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