The Money Talk: Who Should be Involved in Your Budgeting?
Before you start to build your budget, you must go over details with the people who will be involved in financing your education and living arrangements. This includes but is not limited to your parents, relatives, family friends, or romantic partners.
Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is on the same page and will make sure expectations are filled.
In many families, money can be seen as a taboo subject, and you may find yourself avoiding the conversation to avoid potential confrontations.
However, this can cause both you and supporting parties to lose money instead of save money. Keeping an open line of communication in regards to your budgeting with the people who will help you is the most important thing you can do.
If you are unsure on how to initiate or carry out the conversation, here are some topics to think about defining with your supporting party.
Start the conversation
The first question to ask and define is who is paying for college and how.
Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide whether your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket (including with funds from a 529 plan) or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, or combine these options.
This conversation is best to have early, such as during the summer before your senior year of high school, and the conversation should be revisited every summer before your following year of studies.
Try discussing with your supporting parties on what expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you will have to budget for other college costs, such as transportation, groceries, and school supplies.
Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost, and decide who pays for what. If you are in need of more help than your supporting party is willing to afford, try to reach a compromise.
For example, my roommate and I are living together, thus supporting each other by paying split rent each month and in living expenses while getting our college education.
Both of our finances are tight, so we reached a compromise. While my roommate helps pay for groceries, I help pay the internet bill in the equivalent amount.
Discuss all important topics
The next topics to discuss with your supporting party are the FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions.
Discuss your financial status as well as your supporting party’s financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
An important thing to talk about with your supporting party is opening up credit cards and bank accounts.
If you’re considering opening a credit card account for the first time and are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll oftentimes need a co-signer, which a parent or other adult who agrees to take on the full responsibility of a cosigner.
Your cosigner will have to be in good financial standing with an acceptable credit score. You’ll want to talk about expectations with your supporting party, such as using your credit card only for specific purposes.
Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.
Having “the money talk” with your parents or guardians isn’t only important in benefiting your college budgeting, but it is also important for your life.
If you are looking for a good read on HOW to have the money talk with your parents, I strongly recommend the book: Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations with Your Parents About Their Finances, by award winning journalist Cameron Huddleston.
It is important to understand your parents’ or guardians’ financial stance as you grow older, and grappling with this topic is understandably a difficult task!
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