Money tips to share with your kids before they leave for college

April 7th, 2017 Melissa Koop

Sending your kids off to higher education can be a nerve-racking time. You hope you’ve prepared them for life as much as possible, but you still worry.

One tactic to ease your stress is to provide them with a few simple tips when it comes to managing their money. While lectures about being financially responsible may seem like a good idea, kids are more likely to respond to sensible tips that are simple and merely suggestions.

Here are our top money tips for recent high school grads:

Don’t pay extra for fees

Introduce your kids to all the different kinds of fees they may encounter – late fees, overdraft fees, bounced check fees, etc. Make sure they realize how most are avoidable and expensive.

Put it in a way they’ll understand. If the power company has, say, a $29 late fee, forgetting to pay on time is like buying the power company $29 of pizza. Maybe they enjoy buying their power company pizza, or maybe they’d like to keep the pizza for themselves.

Be sure to explain how they can avoid many fees – setting accounts on autopay, putting reminders on their Google Calendar, having a reserve balance in checking and savings accounts, etc.

Pay off credit cards

Make sure your kids clearly understand the effect of buying on credit and not paying it off.  Depending on interest rates, minimum payments and any late fees, that $400 TV they bought could end up costing $500, $600 or more. Would it really be worth it? Just as important, make sure they realize how hard it is to get out of a credit card debt hole.

Be proactive about maintenance

Most young people don’t realize how much money you save in the long run by taking care of belongings – especially cars. For example, by regularly changing the car’s oil and rotating tires, they’ll avoid expensive repairs or replacements later on. If you don’t know maintenance essentials yourself, have your kids talk with someone who does. YouTube tips can be helpful, too.

Research purchases

Show your kids how comparing prices can sometimes make a dramatic difference. An easy way is to go to or another travel site, and search flights with them. Show them what happens when you change the day of the week for a departure. Or how expensive it is to buy a ticket for this weekend compared to a flight in two weeks or two months. This may seem obvious to you, but they probably have never done this.

Pay attention to the cost of food

Sit down with your kids and break down the cost of various meal options. Total up monthly costs of fast food, pizza delivery, college cafeterias, TV dinners and home-cooked meals. Of course, going to the extreme opposite and eating only Ramen noodles isn’t ideal either. And if they complain it takes too much time and effort, maybe it’s time for a slow cooker or a Google search for simple cooking ideas.

Know the difference between a want and a need

We’ve all been there. There was something we really had to have. Ribs from that awesome barbecue joint. A CD from your favorite band. Tickets to the latest Star Wars movie. Deep down we know we don’t really need it, yet there we are about to pull out our wallet. College isn’t the time to give in to these urges. They just need to step back and be realistic. Do I need food, rent or a doctor visit? Yes. Do I need a Birdhouse Pirate Kevin Staab Skateboard? Ye– I mean, no. Definitely no.

The financial advice you could give high school graduates is endless. However, if you cover some basics and just get them thinking about being smart with their money, they’ll be a lot more prepared.

If you’d like to talk with someone about educating your kids on finance, MidWestOne has many expert bankers who are more than happy to help. Just contact us!

Melissa Koop

About the author

Melissa Koop is Vice President in Retail at MidWestOne Bank. She works with MidWestOne customers to help them manage their personal finances and identify effective money management solutions.

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