Practical New Year’s resolutions for college parents and students

by Grace

The mother-daughter team of Julie and Lindsey Mayfield offer some money-saving New Year’s resolutions for college families.

For parents:

1. Complete the FAFSA: I bet few people look forward tofilling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Therefore, it’s something that’s easy to put off—or not do at all….

2. Prioritize communication:

It’s especially important to communicate about expectations: what you expect of your student and what he or she can expect from you, especially as it relates to financial support.

For students:

1. Use my meal plan to its fullest: Meal plans are prepaid, so it is in your best interest to use them wisely. Next semester, avoid eating out or off-campus as much as possible.

Those frequent purchases can add up …

2. Track my finances: Do you ever avoid looking at bank statements because you’re afraid of what you’ll see? I think this is the No. 1 way to overspend, and can spell disaster for college students who aren’t used to monitoring their own expenses. I am certainly guilty of this….

3. Find at least one new form of financial aid: The search for scholarships and financial aid is usually in full swing during the senior year of high school, but there are plenty of options available for current college students as well. I’ve found these to be less competitive than the more traditional incoming freshman scholarships, so they may be easier to attain.

A little extra cash could also be a great New Year’s gift to you and your parents—so start searching!

I found these ideas to be practical reminders to act upon at the beginning of the year.

Tracking finances
One absent-minded college student I know decided the best way to track his finances was to maximize the use of  his debit card and to stop using his parents’ credit card.  If he remembers to check his bank account periodically he is able to guard against going over his budget.  Meanwhile, his expenses are efficiently tracked by his bank.  He had previously discovered he has little restraint when using a credit card, finding it exceedingly easy to go over his budget on the many enticements that attempt to separate a young person from his money.  So even though his parents would like him to carry a credit card to use in emergencies or for big-ticket items like flight reservations, he decided to leave the card at home.

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