College is coming. How do we set a budget for our kid?


Q. My child starts college in September. What should we consider when setting a budget for all that pizza, and probably beer?
— Dad

A. Congratulations. This is an exciting time for your family.

Setting a budget for a college student is like setting one for yourself.

Your student will need to consider how much money or income they have and how they compare to expenses.

Start with income.

Are there scholarships, grants, loans, 529 plan funds and other traditional college funding vehicles? Will your student be working during school? Are there gifts from grandma?

Also look at your budget to see what you may be able to afford, or what you’re willing to give, in terms of some kind of allowance.

Next, look at the expenses.

You probably have a good idea about the cost of tuition, fees and housing. Don’t forget about books and supplies, travel, personal expenses and other costs.

Then consider what other expenses — that pizza and beer — that you’ll need to account for.

How much is reasonable to spend for these discretionary costs really depends on your priorities and your resources. If there’s not enough money to cover daily Starbucks purchases, for example, your student can get coffee at the cafeteria that’s part of their meal plan.

The most important thing to remember is that no budget is set in stone. While you’ll be able to estimate what the costs will be, you won’t really know until your student is on campus.

Go over the potential costs with your student and put a dollar figure to it, and agree to reassess in two months to see if there are places to cut costs or reasons to increase the available dollars.

If your kid wants more money and you can’t afford it, tell them to get some skin in the game with a part-time job.

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This story was originally published on June 14, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.