By Lori Capullo
The average college student currently graduates with about $35,200 in total debt, according to a recent Fidelity survey of 750 college graduates. That figure includes student loans, credit cards and personal loans from family members. Another study suggests 57 percent of students are selecting majors they believe will earn them a high salary, which comes in handy paying off big loans. Still another study shows 40 percent of students delay purchasing cars, 29 percent wait longer to buy homes and 15 percent are putting off marriage because of high student loan debt.
Maybe you just sent your child off to college last month — or plan to do so next year — and these statistics make you want to run for the antacids. But there are some very basic financial nuggets of wisdom you can share with your kids to help them learn from the start of their college careers to deal with money wisely. They may seem like no-brainers, but remember — you’re dealing with teenagers new to a somewhat independent existence. Here are five points to go over with them:
Learn the art of self-discipline. When that influx of cash hits the checking account each month, prioritizing is key: Rent, food and other costs of living take precedence over hitting the mall, expensive dinner dates and entertainment.
Pay on time and keep track of your checking account balance. Paying bills on time helps ensure that no money is wasted on late fees. (Paying online saves time and stamps, and is very helpful to forgetful types.) Keeping track of what’s spent helps avoid bounced checks and the costs that go with them.
Download banking apps and any other apps that help keep records. This makes alerts available so that money can be transferred; checks can even be deposited by smartphone by snapping them with your camera.
Utilize your student discounts. This can apply to everything from software for your computer (Microsoft even makes student versions of Office that cost less) to lunch specials and movie tickets in most college towns.
Forego the car. Most campuses are designed to be pedestrian-friendly, and gas is so expensive today that it’s prohibitive — and unnecessary — for students on a budget to keep a car. Take the bus, ride a bike — hey, you could even walk.