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If you want your kids to be financially savvy by the time they start college, you may have to turn your household into a factory that churns out financially independent people. Trust me, financially savvy kids don’t just happen.
My eldest girl, 20, is a first year law student studying on a full academic scholarship, which takes care of her enormously high tuition. A loan and various part-time jobs are supporting Melody’s living expenses.
My 19-year-old daughter, Christy, a college sophomore, is combining her studies with a paid internship during the school year. She is attending college on academic and state grants, which cover her tuition and living expenses. As soon as the girls were 15 or 16, they got their first job. An expectation that my girls would put themselves to work as soon as they were able resulted in a constant stream of jobs —at summer camps, babysitting, tutoring, office jobs, paid internships, etc. – which helped set the table for their successful launch.
Over the years, I have observed that kids get plenty of history and chemistry in high school and college, but personal finance? Not so much.
That’s where parents can make themselves a critical resource. For my girls, home instruction was what set them on the path to become the financially independent young women they are now. Saving, balancing a budget, being responsible with credit cards, paying bills on time, managing a bank account on their own; they learned it all at home.
Instead of telling your kids that saving money is a good habit, show them why and how. As soon as the girls had their first job I took them to the bank to open their own checking/savings account. By the time they were high school juniors they knew all about overdraft, interest and fees. If you educate your child early on, there will be less painful mistakes to deal with later.
My girls are planners, researchers, and they are great at budgeting. They understand that taking a few minutes to research a product or service to find the best price translates into money saved that you don’t have to earn. They never buy new college text books, and they always sell them at the end of the semester. They also reuse as much of their supplies as possible. Remember, every little bit helps to save money.
In general, the girls are thrifty shoppers. Aldi is their favorite grocery store. There, they can even afford to buy organic items at a very affordable price. Instead of eating out, they prepare their own meals (they both live in a college apartment).
They have learned at a young age how to find quality, long-lasting items at thrift stores. A bulk of their college dorm/apartment essentials came from Goodwill. Buying them retail just isn’t an option for them. Shopping for deals at thrift stores, yard sales and estate sales can be a frugal lesson that will stick with kids even after they become an adult.
Protective has a great article on how to save on back-to-school. Their budgeting tips for back-to-school totally make sense. I really encourage you to check out Protective’s article on how to save for college even if you’re on a tight budget. It’s important for parents to get as much information as possible because kids do grow up fast, and college really is just around the corner.
Although my daughters are very thrifty, they never feel deprived. In fact, it’s the opposite. Rather than investing time and money to acquire material objects, the girls invest time in life experiences. For example, both girls are huge fans of music festivals. But ticket prices to these events can go as high as $500. What many people don’t know is that most music festivals offer volunteer opportunities in exchange for free admission. The girls have researched the heck out of these opportunities. They arrive early to help set up various things or to direct traffic. At Bonnaroo, for example, their task was to help paint cute vintage signs. But once they finish their task, they can enjoy the festival for free. Most volunteer positions also include free meals. And since camping is allowed at most festivals they can also bring their own gear, water, food, etc.
Instead of flying to these festivals, the girls buy a $10 Mega Bus ticket. When some of their college buddies spend nearly $1,000 or more on a weekend of fun, the girls’ total cost is around $50. This is proof that college kids can have fun in college without spending a ton of their, or worse, their parents’ money.
Because both girls are great at budgeting, they are never broke, pay their bills on time, and still have money leftover for fun. If they see that their account balance is lower than they want it to be, they pick up an extra weekend job as brand ambassadors for various events. A brand ambassador gig is perfect for college kids because it usually takes place on the weekend. The kids work a fun event, such as a new store opening, marathon, concert, restaurant opening, fair, etc. Their duties include sampling food, interacting with attendees, setting up, passing out flyers, etc. These jobs pay anywhere between $15 to $25 an hour.
My advice to parents: Love, nurture, and protect your children with all your heart and soul. They grow up so fast. When it comes to finances, start early, be consistent and make sure your kids know what their responsibilities are.
Do you have kids in college? Do they have a college fund, loans or grants? Are they financially responsible? Share your thoughts below. Thanks for reading.