New Money Management Tips for Parents of College Students

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Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Martha Shaughnessy
AtomicPR for Mint

Mountain View, CA August 7, 2008 – College provides a great opportunity for your child to develop important life skills, while still leaning on you as they find their stride. One of these skills is responsible money management – and in this economy it’s more important than ever. How can you help your child develop good spending habits? Few of us enjoy bookkeeping – much less an energetic college student. While they’re out of sight, how do you keep good spending habits top of mind?

Free online money management services are one smart choice. Unlike old-school desktop software, these services can be set up in minutes and take only minutes a month to maintain. As these services are internet-based, they’re available to you and your student anytime, anywhere. Using them feels a lot more like using Facebook than using Quicken or Microsoft Money, which means you just might talk your student into trying one.

The leading online personal finance service is, according to PC World and PC Magazine. Launched last year, already provides more than 350,000 users a free, easy to use and automatic way to manage their money. The service was designed with the needs of students in mind, according to CEO Aaron Patzer. In fact, he started working on the product just after he graduated, funding his company’s early days with savings he’d accumulated while also paying most of his way through school.

“Surprisingly, most American colleges don’t teach personal finance courses, even though it’s a time that many people dig themselves deeply into debt,” states Patzer, “So it’s up to you and your child to take charge.” Here are six simple steps you can take to help your child learn and maintain responsible money habits.

  1. Figure out what spending you can control, and what you can’t. Before leaving for school, sit down with your student and add up the large, fixed expenses you’ll need to cover – like tuition and books – and then agree on a total budget to cover the rest. If your student is contributing to that total, be clear on where that money will come from: savings from a summer job, or from part-time work at school.
  2. Agree on where you can save money on the largest, discretionary expenses. These typically include your choices for housing and food. “When I was at school in North Carolina, I lived in a dorm without air conditioning. It was rough for a few days out of the year, but that decision saved me $1,500 every semester,” says Patzer. “When I could, I moved to an apartment with a kitchen, cooked almost all my meals, and saved a few thousand dollars a year versus paying for the meal plan.”
  3. Set budgets and share what you’ve learned. Mint automatically calculates budgets, and can show you what others spend on gas, groceries, restaurants, movies and music. Use this information to quickly settle any arguments on what makes for a reasonable budget! Use this conversation to pass along your best money-stretching tips: where you find and use coupons, where you choose to shop, even favorite family recipes that make your grocery dollar go farther.
  4. Share the savings. Once you’ve agreed on ways to tighten your belt, Patzer suggests that you offer to share some of those savings with your now frugal student. “I was motivated to save so much on my housing and food because I knew that I could put some of that money toward vacation travel. Those savings paid for my Spring Break in Florida one year, and the Caribbean the next.”
  5. Choose the right credit card. It’s not inevitable that sending your child off to college with a credit card means trouble. On the contrary, they’ll be better able to handle any emergencies. Used wisely, credit cards can help build a credit history. When your child demonstrates that they can pay off their balance each month, rewards cards become a good option. The best card is one that gives them things you’d otherwise be paying for — like miles for flights home — or 1-3% cash back on everything they buy. can show you which card is best for you, based on how you spend. The Mint blog can provide tips on choosing the right reward card, and other smart debt management tips.
  6. Stay on top of makes it easy to understand where your money is going, by automatically collecting and categorizing all of your spending from bank accounts, credit cards, student and auto loans on one site – with no data entry required. The service also sends email or text reminders of upcoming bills, large transactions, or when you’re nearing your credit limit. You can have these messages sent to both you and your child, if you like. They’re designed to eliminate any month-end financial surprises…now all you need is a regular update on their grades!

Follow these six steps to keep you and your child working together toward the same financial goals. You’ll gain peace of mind by knowing that you’re spending your college savings wisely and helping your child gain money management skills they’ll benefit from long after graduation.

Six Smart Money Management tips for new college students

  1. Plan for the non-negotiable, like tuition
  2. Save on the big, but flexible, expenses like housing and food
  3. Set budgets at the beginning of the year
  4. Share the savings
  5. Choose the right credit card
  6. Stay on top of your spending using a free, easy online money management tool like

About Mint is the fresh, easy and intelligent way for people to manage their money online. And it’s free. Designed to be virtually effortless for the user, takes less than five minutes to get started. Users register anonymously using only a valid email address and Mint does the rest, securely downloading transaction data from more than 3,500 banks, credit unions and credit card providers on a daily basis. Users never need to import or synch data. Mint applies patent-pending technology and proprietary algorithms to compile and categorize transactions, providing a unified view of all account activity; alerting users to unusual activity, low balances, bank fees and charges and upcoming bills; and giving users personalized suggestions for significant savings opportunities.

Mint’s management team includes experienced executives drawn from the ranks of Charles Schwab & Co., eBay, Expedia, Intuit, PGP and other leaders in the finance, security and software spaces. Investors include top venture capital firms and prominent individuals associated with companies including Blue Nile, Google, Intuit, PassMark Security, PayPal, Yahoo! and others.

For more information on’s free online personal finance service, please visit

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further


Written by Mint

Mint is passionate about helping you to achieve financial goals through education and with powerful tools, personalized insights, and much more. More from Mint

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