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What my daughter really needs to know about money and university

What my daughter really needs to know about money and university

Most of us remember what we were doing as we entered the millennium, I personally was giving birth to my first child. However, did you realise that those millennium babies are now 18 and many are heading off to university very soon?

It has been a wonderful 18 years and I have really enjoyed parenting a teenager more than the baby stages if I am honest. Although there have been a few hiccups on the way (a broken ankle from sledging and more broken bones from hockey matches), Chloe has now passed her driving test, had her first car and been on her first girls holiday abroad. These are all rites of passages that I have encouraged from the sidelines but now it is the time for her to spread her wings that bit further.

Getting prepared

Heading off to university is a major financial decision these days. Long gone are the days you go to Uni because you don’t know what else to do. Chloe wants to study Criminology and has worked really hard to get the qualifications she needs.

Previously she had a weekend job but she left that at the start of the year to focus on her studies and revision. We naively thought she could easily pick up a summer job after A Levels ready to save money for University but this has proved harder than we all thought.

Chloe has managed to find a few days casual bar work but hasn’t been able to save as much as we had hoped she would. Unfortunately for Chloe she will get very little in the way of the student loan and it is down to us to financially support her studies for the next three years.

This has made me anxious at times as we now need to send her money each month. Money that we need to find despite our own living costs not reducing. This summer we have had her practising being a student. When we went away and left her at home for a week we gave her £30 to feed herself.

We wanted her to start recognising the cost of everyday items seeing as she usually just helps herself from our cupboards! I was pleased to see that she had picked up good budgeting habits from us and shopped wisely. My blog Mums Savvy Savings is full of money-saving ideas and it seems this has rubbed off on her over the years.

The impact of money

Research from Money Advice Service has shown that most students do feel confident with managing their finances which is a reason to be positive but, as a mum, I do wonder if they have the best knowledge and understanding at their fingertips. For example, do they realise that credit cards and store cards will impact on their future borrowing and credit scores?

Chloe did not enjoy Maths at school and I remember a conversation we had that Maths would be better off focusing on teaching how interest rates work and how to budget rather than Pythagoras' theorem.

So, whilst on the outside things look good, push a little further into the findings and it seems the cost of University is overwhelming for many students. Over 430,000 students are finding keeping up with their university costs, including course materials, travel costs and university accommodation, a ‘heavy burden’ and that is no surprise when many working families are also struggling.

What worries me is the effect that this has on a student’s mental health. A lot of degrees are supposed to be a full-time course and I don’t want my kids to need to work in order to afford the basics.

Living away from home for the first time is life changing enough, our older teenagers are learning to cook for themselves, manage their time and studying. With the cost of tuition fees I want Chloe to do her studies justice, I don’t want her to have to work 20 hours a week in order to survive.

Managing her finances now, is the blueprint for learning to be financially aware and to make smart decisions in the future.

Seeking the right advice

It seems pretty important to me, that as a parent, I teach her where to turn to for responsible advice and that is not her friends or probably even us.

Our teenagers need to know where they can get unbiased guidance from. The Money Advice Service, the NUS and online forum The Student Room can all give support to students. As our kids spread their wings they may not want to come and ask mum and dad or if they make a mistake they may not want mum and dad to know. In these cases they need to know where they can go to get the financial support they need before it does impact on their emotional wellbeing.

Parenting teens can be challenging and I think the next few years as Chloe takes that final leap into adulthood will be both rewarding and scary in equal measures.

I just hope that we have given her the foundations to know where to go when she needs advice but first we have the wait for A Level results!

This is a guest blog post from Emma Bradley.

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