Kids And Finances

Teens And Finances: Personal Finances While At College

personal finance while in college, managing finances while in college, teaching your teen about personal finances

My son has been at college a few weeks now and is really enjoying his classes. He likes the pace of college courses and is exploring his way around campus and a new city. Even with all those new things going on in his life, I’m taking the opportunity to further educate him on personal finance. It’s time to kick things up a notch, after all, he is in college now. College is a perfect time to teach my teen more about personal finance.

College Expenses

I’m making sure my son is involved in all of the financial processes of paying for his education. I’ve exposed him to the student loan process, made sure he’s reviewed and understood the bill for his first semester and what it consists of such as tuition, books, housing, meal plan, etc.


Every week I put a specified amount of money in his checking account, which he needs to make last for the week for any discretionary spending. This includes gas for his car, eating out, movies, etc. I want him to get used to having a specific and finite amount of funds available for spending, and have to really analyze how he’s going to spend those funds.

Spending Review

I believe that he will learn a few lessons as to what is and what is not worth spending his money on. But every now and then I plan to discuss with him some observations regarding his spending. For example, right now the bulk of his spending goes to eating out. He has a meal plan that allows him to eat anytime the dining hall is open, plus it has a certain amount of funds to eat at restaurants on campus. If he cuts down on restaurant spending in favor of the food choices he has available that cost him nothing additional out of pocket as he’ll have more funds for other activities or things he might want or need in his dorm room.

Emergency Fund

He does have a savings account with a substantial amount of cash in it. We talked about that being an emergency fund. I told him that emergency fund is not to be used when he wanted to buy something, but only if an emergency occurred and he absolutely needed more cash.

Safety Net

Of course, I also want him to feel safe and secure. While I want him to tackle more advanced topics of personal finance, and have to deal with them in a more real world setting, I also fully recognize he’s a young man and likely will make mistakes. I made sure he knew that his mom and I are there for him, and if he needs anything, or if something comes up, he can talk to us and we will make sure he has everything he needs.

College is a time of great learning for students. In addition to more advanced academics, they also need to use life skills such as doing laundry, making sure the feed themselves, and general room maintenance. This is also a great time to teach them how to handle personal finances in more of a real world setting, preparing them eventually be functioning adults on their own.

How about you Clever Friends, are you teaching your college students more about personal finance while in college? Did you take more charge of your own finances when you were in college?

Disease Called Debt

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • My daughter had a scholarship that covered a substantial portion of her college expenses. Initially, I put a few hundred dollars in her checking account to cover miscellaneous expenses and gave her a credit card to pay her school bills. Then I found that she spent money like it was mine, not hers. She bought new books, and didn’t sell them back. She ran up late fees. She bought the most expensive meal plan. In short, she didn’t do anything to watch the costs. Then I wised up. I figured out what I thought it should cost for those things each semester and each semester I transferred that much to her account. She had the credit card for emergencies (and friends going out to dinner isn’t an emergency) but she had to make the other money last, and she did.

    • That’s definitely a danger of putting money into a child’s account – they think there’s a never ending and continuous supply of money. I’ve made it clear to him that the amount that goes into his account each week is all he’s getting – he has to figure out how to make it last for the week. Only time will tell if I need to take additional action. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Mega applause for supporting your son in this way and teaching him these vital lessons in personal finance. As someone who works in higher education, my belief is that we don’t spend enough time educating college students on how to manage their money. I see sooooo many kids waiting for their loans to come through and then, when they do, blowing the extra cash on clothes, food, gear, or other toys… It’s not real money to them (not that I can blame them, given that I essentially did the same thing), and paying it back seems so far off in the future. Schools can do a better job encouraging students to make solid financial decisions at a time when doing so could set them up for enormous success later on. Anyway… Kudos to you!

  • From my observations, hardly any parents review the bill or loans with their kids. My son’s spending money is coming from his summer job, and we have discussed planning to make it last the whole school year. I have his bank password, and can see his bank transactions and my son also wastes plenty of money by eating out. Many of his friends seem to have unlimited funds. I’m glad to hear another father is keeping close tabs and trying to educate their son on living within their means.

  • I actually had all bills go through me and I had to ask my dad for the amount I needed each month. This would probably not work for some folks, but my dad was super strict and I had a good understanding of what would be an acceptable amount to ask for and when I would need to justify why I needed more. I also HATED asking for money, so as soon as I started working on campus, I paid as much of all the bills other than my tuition that I possibly could and stopped asking for money altogether by midway through grad school.

    • I’m hoping my son eventually decides he wants more cash in his pocket and goes looking for a job. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Mel!

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