First semester finances

first semester financesOur twins are now at college, and it is big time empty nest here. I can’t decide if I’m sad or happy. A little of both, I think. It sure is quiet around here now, although some of their friends have stopped by a few times.

Getting that first “e-bill” for tuition was sobering; that’s a lot of money at one time. I had thought we could surely pay some each month, but you can only divide tuition into two payments. The first one was due the week before classes started, and the next one comes just four weeks later. We are, however, pleased with the school, and we’re convinced they’re in the right place. So far it’s been obvious that even though they are attending a large university, they are also attending a caring university.

So the first semester’s tuition is taken care of, but another financial challenge has now reared its huge head. Living six hours away from that automated teller called Mom and Dad means assuming some big time financial responsibility. We had some serious money talks in the weeks leading up to their departure, but I’m still not sure it’s hit them.

Some parents give their children a credit card to use. You can, of course, put a limit on it. I’ve also talked to parents who purchase a Visa gift card each month for their child. Our university has the “Tiger Club” account, which works like a credit card all over campus – the university bookstore, the cafeterias, any place you can spend money on campus. But many merchants in the town also accept the Tiger Club card. You can use it at grocery stores, drug stores, the superstores and more.

For right now, we’ve elected not to do this. While our son is quite financially responsible, our daughter believes a dollar is to be spent, not saved. She doesn’t need anything that even remotely resembles a credit card. They each have a checking account, and that’s what they’ll use. We’re requiring them to keep receipts and mail them to us. This will be especially helpful for our daughter, because we’ve told her she is required to document every cent she spends. I suspect that getting her nails done really won’t be the priority she think it is!

twins at collegeWe’ve also taken them grocery shopping several times to point out that you can eat a good, healthy diet without spending the big bucks. Since they both like to cook, I think they will refuse to spend a huge chunk of change on restaurants. Of course, if they start cooking for all their friends, they may need to take up a collection!

Another financial challenge is Greek life. It’s far from cheap. Out daughter went through rush the week before school started and pledged a sorority. Fraternity rush is a little later in the semester, and our son is looking forward to joining, also. I know many parents feel these organizations are extras and need to be funded by the student. But, after some serious consideration, we have elected to pay this for our children. Here in the South, Greek life can be a huge stepping stone toward business success. While we certainly wouldn’t choose sorority and fraternity dues over paying the light bill, we are looking at this expense as an important part of college. This is controversial, and even among our friends, some agree with us completely. Some think we’re crazy.

After the first several weeks, we plan to sit down with the twins and review their spending. I’m sure that will be eye-opening for everyone!


Tuition and Bills