This guest post on fiscal lessons to teach your student before they enter college is by Clair Jones, a career, finance and technology expert based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
College is a time in every child’s life when they strike out on their own path and learn to take care of themselves, both emotionally and financially. They no longer have their parents there to guide them through tough decisions, and it’s important to prepare your kids for the fiscal challenges they may face before they leave the nest.
If you are the parent of a high school junior or senior who is applying for college, here are some lessons you should make sure to teach them before they go:
Understand Rental Contracts and Rights
Young adults often don’t bother reading the fine print of rental agreements and are not assertive when it comes to establishing their rights as renters. If your child will be living off campus, make sure you educate them on what to expect in a basic rental agreement, what to avoid and how to negotiate with their landlord if something goes wrong.
They should avoid landlords who do not offer a rental agreement to sign, or anyone who wants to secure a deposit from them before they view the property and sign paperwork. There are far too many scammers out there who prey on young students, and much of this can be avoided through awareness.
You should also prepare them to negotiate should they feel their renter rights are being infringed upon. If their landlord ever enters their property without a 24-hour notice, disturbs their personal belongings or evicts them without due course, make sure they know that they can file a formal complaint and pursue legal action. For more information on renters rights, take a look at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Tenant Rights Guide.
Compare Prices and Renegotiate Bills Annually
Many students moving into their first apartment don’t realize that home services like cable, Internet and phone are sold at very different prices depending on current promotions, who the service is sold through and which providers are available in the area.
Encourage your kids to use authorized seller comparison sites like BestSatelliteProviders, Wirefly, and AngiesList to find the best prices and the most speedy customer service. These sites often offer more discounted promotions than brand sites and their call centers are based in the United States instead of being outsourced.
It’s also very important for them to renegotiate their utility provider bills once every year during and after college to avoid drastic price jumps. If they entered a contract during a promotional period, their service cost could triple after one calendar year, and the service provider will be banking on the fact that they do not know this.
Help them set a calendar reminder to call their provider one month before the end of their contract to talk about new promotions that might keep their bill at its current rate or possibly even lower their monthly payments.
Use Credit Responsibly
To a child who has never had fiscal independence, a credit card can seem like a magic golden ticket of unlimited spending potential. In reality, they’re a huge responsibility and can either make or break your credit score, so make sure to inform your kids of common scams and traps associated with credit cards.
A major credit card gimmick that college students might encounter on campus is that creditors will set up tables and offer swag and free pizzas for your child to fill out a credit card application.
While this is a seemingly no-strings-attached transaction, if they are rejected it could affect their credit score. If they are accepted it could be a line of credit with a very high interest rate. Help your kids shop around for a reputable credit card before they leave for college to be safe, and encourage them to resist the urge to sign up for too-good-to-be-true offers at their college.
Budget for Fun at College
A big part of college is finding yourself and learning where you fit in the world. Another big part is socializing, which can be very, very expensive if undergrads don’t exercise restraint. Introduce your kids to money management tactics before they need them, and help them avoid getting into situations where they might get an unexpectedly large bill after a night out or an extravagant meal.
Budgeting apps help students track their spending and give them a visual representation of where they are spending the most. It also allows them to enter all of their monthly expenses and get a solid idea of how much money they need to pay their bills and how much they can afford to budget for fun extras.
College is supposed to be a growth experience where young students learn the value of money and how to be responsible, informed consumers. Unfortunately, many students learn important financial lessons far too late and end up deep in debt when they graduate. Make sure you prepare your kids for the fiscal obstacles and challenges they may face in college with these simple tips and tools for success.
Clair Jones is a career, finance and technology expert based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is passionate about helping others plan for financial success and independence, and in finding creative ways to save in everyday life. You can find her other advice on Huffington Post, Forbes and PBNS Next Avenue, or follow her on Twitter @the_clair_jones.