Should You Give Your College Student an Allowance?

Working a job in college

College is a series of firsts for students.

It’s the first time they’ll live on their own, be responsible for every meal, handle their laundry and even complete homework without you there to help. Still, parents struggle with whether or not that independence should come with financial help. Should your college student get an allowance, or should your child work while in college to earn their own spending money – or a little of both?

If you’re thinking about your child having a job in college, research shows most students are working while going to school. Four out of five college students work an average of 19 hours a week while pursuing a degree. Some parents say they want their child focused on academics, not on making money. Others say learning to juggle multiple responsibilities, such as classes and a job, is part of life. Whether you give your student an allowance or not, here are some tips to ensure your child knows more about the importance of a budget.

Talk about finances

Get your child involved with basic budgets at home before he or she goes to college – the sooner the better. If you’re able to instill knowledge about money and budgets in your child at a younger age, they’ll be much better equipped to manage money independently when they’re away at school. Talk about the difference between needs and wants and how they affect a budget. That way, when faced with putting gas in the car or buying a $5 coffee, your child will have a clear process about thinking through their choice.

Open a checking and savings account

Before leaving for college, open a checking and savings account with your child. Help track what goes in and what goes out so they understand how important it is to know how much money they have at any time.

Discuss school loans

Sixty-eight percent of students have debt after college, averaging $30,100 per student. Speak with your child about the cost of college, the amount of debt they may have after graduation and how much they’ll have to pay on a monthly basis if they have student loans to repay. Most student loans have a six-month grace period before your child needs to start making payments. If they’ve gained work experience while in school, it may be easier for them to find a job right after graduation – long before the grace period ends.

Discuss job opportunities

There are plenty of job opportunities for college students on campus. Some are part of work-study programs; others involve administrative and maintenance work, including work in a kitchen or dormitory. Working in college, even if it’s for 10 hours a week, can give your child a sense of responsibility and pride in their earnings. When they’re working for their own money, your child will gain a better understanding of the effort that goes into earning it, and they may think twice about being giving in to frivolous temptations.