College Students Need Spending Money
5 Ways to Make it Convenient

College is expensive. But, even after dorm costs, tuition and fees have been taken care of, almost every college student needs a little pocket money for incidentals.  They will likely want to buy things like an occasional pizza or a special T-shirt for the football game on Saturday.  It is always good idea to agree ahead of time on how much is a reasonable amount for a monthly spending allowance.  The experience of making money choices for themselves is also great practice for adult life.

There are several ways to provide money for your student, while limiting your expense and liability as a parent. A combination of several methods usually works best.  Here are some ways to fund your student’s incidental expenses.  Any or all of them could be used to make college life easier.

  • Prepaid Food Plan  –  Most colleges offer prepaid food plans with different options depending on your student’s appetite and tastes. You have the peace of mind that your student will not starve.  They may not always like their options, but they don’t have to go to bed hungry because they ran out of money.  It is a good idea to check the status of the account every couple of weeks to make sure it is well funded.
  • Student Account For campus related expenses, a prepaid student account might be an option if it is provided by the college. A student account is great for food from a campus vendor not included on the meal plan, campus bookstore items, dorm laundry facilities, and the like.
  • Special Checking Account  – Opening a checking account that is funded by the parent is a great way to cover expenses that can’t be paid for with a food plan or student account. The parent deposits the student’s allowance in the account, then the student can access the account with a debit card.  The advantage to a checking account is that the parent can check the balance of the account or the account activity at any time.   You have the added advantage of knowing what merchants your student has recently visited.   If you haven’t heard from your student in 48 hours, but you know that their card was used to purchase coffee at the local coffee shop this morning, then all is well.
  • Low Limit Credit CardA low limit credit card could also be used for allowance money. Parents can monitor the balance and make card payments as necessary to free up available credit.  Some credit cards, like First Priority’s Visa Credit card, allow for easy, regular monitoring of account activity just like a checking account.  The student can also be included as a co-borrower so that they can begin to build a good credit history.Another way to use a credit card is for backup, emergency use. Sometimes debit or credit cards become lost, stolen or damaged, and a backup is good to have.  A card to use in a crisis, even a minor one, is a good idea.  You never know when your student might have a flat tire, need medical attention, or have a $150 campus parking ticket that must be paid before they can have their grades released.
  • Cash Last of all, a little cash never hurts. Sometimes just being able to by a soda or gum with cash is nice.  Too much cash can put your student at risk for loss or theft, but some cash in their pocket is comforting and can make small purchases easier.

Sending your child to college is not easy emotionally or financially, but having a plan for incidentals and contingencies can make life a little easier for everyone.