Any time you have to talk money with family members, tensions can run high. Not to mention doing so right as your kids are about to venture into the "real world" for the first time. College takes a lot of preparation, and campus life can be an adjustment. This means they'll have larger responsibilities when it comes to money – or your money, if you’re supporting them financially in some way.
With this responsibility comes the opportunity for big-ticket mistakes. Before it's time to load up the van and drive to campus, be sure you have one last sit-down to talk money and their financial responsibilities moving forward.
While the topic is serious, it may not be a productive conversation if the situation is. No teen likes to be told what do. Try broaching the subject in a relaxed environment - while you grab ice cream, or when you're relaxing on a Sunday.
When the right time presents itself, be sure to touch on these three good money habits every young adult should have.
1. Set a budget
The problem with the word "budget" is that it conjures up visions of sacrifice, austerity, and zero fun. Being sensible and realistic are both crucial. What you might want to emphasize to your son or daughter is that the budget is a tool to help them become empowered and gain control of their life. Then go over the basics with a spending plan worksheet; keep track of what's coming in and which bills need to be paid, doing the math and planning for emergencies. Most importantly, talk about setting aside cash for hobbies and fun.
2. Beware of credit cards
It was true when you were in college and it's still true today: credit card companies like to entice college students with water bottles, T-shirts, or pizza in exchange for their application. But with that comes a dark side: 30 percent of college students graduating this spring said they were carrying an average credit card debt of $2,573. Talk about the importance of building good credit while avoiding consumer debt, which carries high interest rates and can actually damage your credit if you can't afford the monthly payments. Talk about strategies to keep those balances down so they can be paid off each month.
3. Use debit cards for everyday spending
Talk about the importance of using the cash they have to pay for daily expenses rather than kicking the can down the road with a credit option. To make this sound money habit more appealing and engaging, shop for a free checking account that offers great rewards. Kasasa is a free checking account that rewards users for doing the things you hope to instill in your college student anyway, such as logging in to their online account to check their balance and using their debit card. In return, they get cash rewards for every dollar they spend, along with free music and movies from iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play. Plus, Kasasa refunds ATM fees nationwide, so they can use their accounts whether they're on campus or home for a visit.
A talk with your college student today will pay dividends later. You may dodge a major money mess three months from now, and they will also get a strong start in life with good financial sense.