(BPT) - High school graduation is behind you, the graduation party is over and summer is here. It's the last hurrah before your child goes off to the real world. With college on the horizon, there are some important financial decisions to make.
Are you ready?
If your own college days bring back memories of constant expenses and challenges to make ends meet, you certainly don't want the same for your child. After all, they're supposed to be focused on learning. You want to set them up for success.
Consider this list a primer and follow these six tips to help your child reduce their expenses while they are in college.
1. Food for your thought and your budget.
A night out with friends, a burger on the run, even that morning cup of coffee - the expenses associated with food can add up quickly. Take your student on a grocery shopping trip when they're in town or give them gift cards to stores in their area as a present. 'You can even buy discounted gift cards online for those shops and restaurants your child frequents,' says Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and host of So Money podcast. Even the smallest care package of homemade bread or cookies can keep them from making extra purchases and save them money.
2. Find the right loan.
Loans are a part of just about every college payment plan, but the loans you choose could mean the difference between paying off the debt in a couple of years or over a lifetime. Private loan options from College Ave Student Loans offer you and your student an affordable and reliable way to pay for college on your terms. Student loans, graduate student loans and even parent loans are available with low rates and flexible repayment plans to fit your budget and your life. You can learn more at www.collegeavestudentloans.com.
3. Instill the importance of tracking everything.
Sometimes you look at your monthly credit card bill and it's easy to see why it's so high. There's that one, large expense and it jumps out right away. Most of the time, however, the opposite is true, and budgets are busted by a never-ending list of minor expenses. This is especially true for college students, when a single night out on the town can prove very costly. Instilling a plan of tracking every spend - no matter how small - will help your student keep track of exactly where their money is going and help them say no to unnecessary purchases in the future.
4. Focus on the moving situation.
The place your student chooses to live during their college years will have a big impact on their overall expenses. Before you say it's their decision, consider this: If you have to help them move, you've earned a say in where they go. The amount of available on-campus housing and corresponding costs varies by school, so be sure to explore all your options, and don't assume the dormitory will always be the most affordable. If your student does live off campus, take the time to learn more about what is and isn't covered in the rent charges, how they'll split expenses with housemates, and make sure the lease doesn't include any surprises.
5. Do your homework on financial aid.
Your child may get financial aid, but that aid amount depends largely on your financial details. Work with your child to fill out any and all financial aid forms as accurately as you can and contact the admissions office if you have any questions. Above all, don't make the mistake of not pursuing aid because you assume your child will not qualify. You could be leaving money on the table if you don't apply. Same goes for scholarships and grants. Never assume your child isn't eligible to win a scholarship because he or she isn't a straight-A student. There are service scholarships, writing scholarships and awards for students of all talents and ambitions. You just need to do your research and apply for many in order to increase your chances of earning free money. 'Winning a scholarship or grant is sometimes just a numbers game,' says Torabi.
6. Aim for four years.
College is assumed to be a four-year journey, but many students take longer to graduate, either because their major requires it or they simply weren't able to consistently take a full course load. 'If you've only saved up enough for four years of tuition, be sure to make this clear to your child,' says Torabi. Be sure they stay on top of their coursework to graduate in a timely manner. An extra year of school, unplanned and unexpected, can mean paying an additional 25 percent. 'The earlier students establish a major and sign up for courses, the more likely they can complete their degree in four years,' says Torabi.