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How to Handle Money for College

Nov 27, 2007
College as a freshman is a vital subject in any home. "What's the best way for Robert to handle his college allowance?" asked his mother as she gazed fondly at her son. "Should he get a fixed allowance or write home as he needs cash? Open a checking or savings account?"

There are fundamental rules to guide Robert and his parents, you and your youngsters - and these guides apply whether the student is a boy or girl, goes away to school or stays at home, has five dollars or fifty dollars. Here are the major Money ABC's for College which I've worked out over the years. I know they can help every student in our land.

(1) Decide in advance with your parents what your allowance is supposed to pay for. If your allowance is to pay for clothes and important supplies at school, have this clearly understood and allocate funds for these expenses.

(2) Plan the spending of your allowance as carefully as you plan your study courses - both with your parents and on your own. The vital secret to this is a seven-days-a-week plan under which you'll divide your available cash into a spending kitty for each day. If you don't do this, you'll be feasting on the first days, in a famine on the last days.

(3) Open a bank checking account as soon as you get to school. Do not use your desk drawer or pocket as a "bank." The chances of loss or a feast-famine pattern are overwhelming. Open an account, learn how to make deposits, draw checks, balance a checkbook, and keep any service charges to a minimum. It will be invaluable training for later life.

(4) If you and your parents can manage it, start with a rainy - day account in a sayings bank nearby, or try to build one through the term. There always will be extra expenses - a special event or a crisis - for which you'll need or want to spend money. This savings account should be earmarked for these extraordinary expenses only, not otherwise touched.

(5) Don't try to figure your spending down to the penny. No plan ever should be that precise. You must have a margin of safety over your regular spending to cover "regular emergencies."

(6) Maintain some simple records on where your money is going. Your check stubs will help, but also keep a notebook in a spot where you easily can jot down every day how you're spending your allowance. Don't be too detailed in these records, but don't neglect them either.

(7) Look for ways you can stretch your allowance by free entertainment and by using your leisure time to save on expenses. You may be able to pool basic items or divide up chores among your college friends and save. You can save a lot with a needle and thread.

(8) Learn sensible buying methods and apply them to yourself. If you're handling your own wardrobe at school, take advantage of neighbor hood store sales and off-season clearances.

(9) During your first reunion with your parents, show your record books, discuss what's right and wrong with your allowance setup. If you're running short despite all your efforts and have records to prove your responsible management, you'll have a good case for a raise. You'll also be able to decide intelligently what you should do if your parents can't afford to give you that raise.

(10) Once you ye learned these rules, stick with them. Actually, these are money guides for life, not just for college. No matter what your age, you can apply most or all of them to yourself.
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