As a parent of a college-bound teenager, you likely have a lot on your mind. How will they adjust to campus life? Will they find something they are passionate about? How much will it all cost?

College doesn’t come cheap, and it isn’t just the University bill you have to worry about. You certainly want to avoid college credit cards gone wild.

While you can’t be there at checkout with them, you could do something even better—help them grow into responsible spenders. Here are some tips for setting healthy money boundaries and promoting the benefits of financial responsibility.

Set Clear Spending Expectations

College usually comes with a hefty price tag, along with a multitude of hidden costs. From tuition to room and board to supplies to clubs and more, college can run a serious family tab. For parents and college-bound grads, this can mean it is time for “the talk.” That’s right – the “who is going to pay for what,” talk.

The bank of mom and dad will have to close shop eventually (or at least scale back). Ask yourself,

  • What will you pay for, and what will you expect them to cover? 
  • What about books, daily expenses, transportation, etc.? 
  • Will they have your credit card (as an authorized user) for emergencies? What constitutes an emergency? 

Discuss, so everyone is on the same page.

For example:

  • Ray-Ban sunglasses they are just dying to own? Not an emergency. It could be a goal to save and budget for, but certainly not mission-critical.
  • The car breaks down and needs a tow? Oh, and it’s not within the “free tow” radius your insurance will cover? Not just a bummer, but a sudden expense that needs immediate attention. A perfect, though frustrating, example of an emergency.

Money is not usually a comfortable topic to discuss. For many, it’s right up there with other infamously awkward chats. But having these difficult conversations now will pay off for both you and your college-bound kids later.


Because setting healthy boundaries represents another teachable moment. It also gives your kids more financial responsibility. Establishing an open, honest, and transparent line of communication can only open the doors for productive growth, even if you don’t always agree. 

Help Them Save and Invest for Their Goals

Spending that aligns with goals and values is such a critical skill—one that can be harnessed in college and applied to the rest of your child’s adult life. It opens the door to another thoughtful question: what are their goals? 

Perhaps they never really thought about it until now. Maybe it’s a summer or semester abroad, a spring break trip with friends, a social or professional membership, hobbies, etc. No matter what, it should be something they value.  

Once your child understands and establishes their goals, how can they save to get there? By securing a part-time on-campus job, opening an investment account—  they’re never too young to start investing—summer work, among other ideas!  These experiences and actionable steps can help them realize and actively work toward their goals.

As mentioned in our article titled Our 6 Principles for Strong Long-Term Investing, “Goals shouldn’t be arbitrary ideas floating high in the clouds; they should have a focus and drive behind them to motivate your behavior and habits.” Check out this link to learn how to make your goals SMART.

Encourage Them To Create a Budget and Track Their Spending

In college, budgets are essential. Your kids must know that opting for a $10 breakfast smoothie every day before class will cost them $2600 a year—that would more than cover a week on the beach in FL.

Encourage them to download an app like YNAB (You Need a Budget). Tracking spending creates healthy habits and helps them establish their own money boundaries.

 Name your money and put it to work for you! YNAB developer/founder Jesse Mecham shares a similar sentiment. “The way we determine if money is for spending or for saving revolves around Rule One: Every Dollar Has A Job.”

Giving each dollar a “job” or role in their finances more clearly introduces the idea of values-based and purposeful spending. 

Budgeting is about putting your money to work for you. Creating healthy habits and taking advantage of helpful budget tools will help your college-bound student (and maybe even you) have more confidence in how you spend your money.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

College marks a significant transition for students and their parents. There will be a lot of “growing up” on a personal and professional level, including finances. When needed, keep your door open for questions and help them (moral support, lending an ear, financial, etc.).

Establishing healthy financial habits at a young age can set your child up for success. It takes time to build wealth and use it to fulfill your goals and dreams.

We want all of our clients to find golden leaves. Just like a golden birch tree needs water to nourish its many leaves, financial responsibility can help your student endeavor on the many opportunities presented to them at school!

Solid Money Boundaries Create Good Financial Habits That Can Last a Lifetime

College can be a time of incredible discovery and a multitude of opportunities. We at Chladek Wealth want your college-bound student to have the freedom to engage in those opportunities and discover new passions. Creating healthy financial boundaries is incredibly beneficial to achieving those freedoms.

You’re never too young to cultivate healthy financial habits. Establishing boundaries and giving your kids the opportunity to grow will only help them as they face other money experiences throughout their lives. 

If you are interested in more help promoting healthy boundaries and the benefits of financial responsibility with your college-bound student(s), make sure you schedule some time with us today and see how we can help.


The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes and should not be construed as specific investment, financial planning, tax, accounting, or legal advice. Please consult with a professional advisor before taking any action based on the contents of this article. All investment and financial planning strategies involve risk of loss that you should be prepared to bear. We cannot guarantee any investment performance whatsoever, and past performance is not indicative of potential future returns.