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6 tips to help kids navigate college spending

Red SHOES Financial Wellness Program

Is “your baby” about to leave home? Whether that has you mooning over their old first day of school photos or plotting how to repurpose their bedroom (or, maybe, both) there’s one topic you need to tackle now: smart spending.

If your kid is like most, this is the first time they’ll be managing their finances on their own and they could probably use a little help. Don’t be shy — dive in! What they don’t understand about money could hurt them and an honest conversation now could make a big difference for years to come.

Offer to buy them lunch and tackle the following:

1. Budgeting

Budgets give your student a reality check on what’s coming in and going out and help them avoid expensive mistakes. Summit’s got an easy, free way to track spending: Climbr®. Set budgets for groceries, entertainment and more, plus get alerts when you’re close to your budget limit.

2. Paying tuition and room/board

Hopefully you’ve already had some frank talks about school-related expenses and who’s paying for what and how. Make sure tuition due dates are on everyone’s calendar. Some schools only send bills to the student, regardless of who’s paying, so make sure your child is checking their email as due dates approach.

3. Credit card debt

A credit card can be a handy thing—but it can also put your child into real debt, real quickly. Come into Summit and we’ll help your student find a card that’s a good fit and walk them through the ins and outs of managing it. Most students will need a co-signer for a credit card, so come in together.

4. hidden costs of debit cards/ATMs

There are two costs for students to be aware of: fees when they withdraw money and fees if they overdraw their account. To solve the first, encourage them to use a Summit ATM or any local ATM with no fees.

For the second, ask a Summit staff member to show you how to have purchases declined if there’s not enough money in an account. Sure, it will be embarrassing to have their card turned down, but the alternative could be an overdraft they don’t even know they have, which leads to fees and more overdrafts (and can be really expensive).

5. Mobile security

Whether they’re Venmo-ing money to split a pizza or checking their account balance, your child is probably conducting most — if not all — of their financial life via phone.  Do they have basic security safeguards in place? Do they know not to use the highly hackable coffee shop Wi-Fi to check their account? Stress the importance of protecting their PINs and passwords. Even better, have them check out our security FAQs.

6. What they should — and shouldn’t — spend student loan money on

The whole topic of how much to borrow and where to borrow it from isn’t one we’ll tackle here (though check out Summit’s student loan guide), but you do need to spend some time talking with your child about the real cost of that money (i.e., interest) and what counts as a legitimate college expense. Tuition and books = good choices. Pizza and spring break trips = not so much.

Good luck to you — and your student! And please stop by your nearest Summit branch for help navigating our financial tools.

Smart money tips brought to you by Red SHOES, Summit’s exclusive financial wellness program.