How to Teach Your College Student to Be Frugal

If your child is looking forward to a college education but you’re afraid the family can’t quite swing the cost, you may have to cut corners to make it happen. There are many ways a family can help their children enjoy the benefits of a higher education–things you can do, and teach them to do, that will help them stay on a budget when they get out on their own. The most important thing you need to do is make your children understand that living within their means while away at school is imperative. Following are a few tips on how to teach your college student to be frugal.

Live Within Your Means

The single most important thing you can teach a child is to live within their means. That requires creating a budget and sticking to it. This is something you should do before they leave home. Sit down with your child and make a list of all their anticipated expenses and another with their expected income. The budget can be for the entire year or broken up into monthly or weekly segments. Try and anticipate any and all financial problems that could arise, and then add a little for unexpected costs. Seeing the figures on paper will help your child understand that small things like an extra night out during the week simply may not be in the budget.

Don’t Eat Out

The one area that’s fundamentally important to cut corners on is food. The price of food certainly isn’t going down, but it’s still possible to eat fairly well, and stay healthy while in school, but your child must curtail the urge to eat out. Sure going out with friends for a pizza or burgers is part of the college experience, but if they hope to get by with a tiny budget those trips to fast food joints will have to be kept to an absolute minimum. Instead they should plan to buy inexpensive but healthy food at local supermarkets–stay away from convenience stores where prices are exorbitant. They should be taught how to shop carefully, taking advantage of sale prices and buying store brand canned food instead of national brands. Whenever possible they should stock up on sale items, especially canned soups and vegetables.

Get a Job

There is no better way to teach your child the value of a dollar than to have them work for a living. Although going to college is certainly easier if you don’t have to take away from study time to go to work, that may not always be possible. People have worked their way through college many times when they’d have rather been out partying or studying. Unfortunately the state of the economy dictates the necessity of having a job for most students. There are many government funded work programs available for qualifying students, but it would be helpful if they can find a job that will give them a modicum of experience in the field in which they’re studying for a degree. At the same time you want them to look for a job that will pay decent wages. You should teach your children the rudiments of job seeking–basically the importance of speaking well and dressing accordingly.


Getting around on campus, and off, is always a consideration. On campus a bicycle is usually a good choice. Not only is it economical to operate but it offers the added advantage of helping to keep your child healthy. One downside to the continual go-to-class, study, go-to-work, sleep, go-to-class cycle is the fact that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise. Riding a bike can help. For longer trips they can take public transportation. That will not only get them where they’re going, but will increase their self-reliance.

Student Loans

No matter how frugally a student tries to live, there never seems to be enough money. Tuition prices continue to rise, as do the cost of food and lodging. You child will probably have to consider taking out a student loan. Applying for one through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a good idea. Government loans have helped many students stick to a budget.

Guest post from Taylor Harris. Taylor writes about the best online colleges for

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