How to have a “money talk” with your parents

Learn how to talk finances with mom and dad, from what questions to ask to how you can be more financially independent.

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Before you head off for the semester, it’s a good idea to sit down with your parents to discuss money matters. Being on the same page at the start of the semester can prevent misunderstandings later on. Here are some tips to talk finances with mom and dad.

How to start “the talk”

Start by taking the initiative to bring up the subject of finances with your parents. The money talk can also be part of a larger conversation about the various ways you’re preparing for next semester.

Propose a time when you’ll be able to chat uninterrupted; a quiet dinner with just you and your parents works great. Plan to have your conversation a number of weeks in advance of the upcoming semester, so that there are no last minute surprises for anyone.

Before you start the conversation, do a bit of prep work to help the talk go smoothly. Brainstorm potential expense categories to discuss, such as meals, dorm furniture, school supplies, and others. Present your parents with estimates for each category, plus the current status of your savings, so that you’re all on the same page about where you stand, and who will pay for what.


More than 60% of young adults between the ages of 19 and 22 receive financial help from mom and dad.

— University of Michigan


Divide and conquer: Who pays for what?

According to CollegiateParent, parents report giving their college students a monthly allowance ranging from $75–$225. Keep in mind that every family is different — and not every family can accommodate that cost. If your parents already pay for your tuition, or if you’re relying on financial aid to pay for college, it may not be realistic for you to ask for money from your parents. Taking on all or some of your expenses yourself is a great way to take responsibility for your spending, and will make the money talk feel more fair, rather than one-sided.

Use the potential expenses you brainstormed as a checklist, and ask your parents which categories they’d be able to help fund. Some of the expenses that parents may be most willing pay for include dorm furnishings, laundry money, and travel expenses.

On the other hand, you may want to cover the non-essential “extras.” These costs could be off-meal-plan food, clothing, electronics, school break trips, campus organization dues, and general entertainment. As a college student, you may be able to score a student discount on some of these extras by showing your student ID.

In addition to dividing up your regular expenses, be sure to ask you parents about emergency situations. What should you do if you have a sudden, unexpected expense?

Make your own money

Having a money talk with your parents may lead you to realize that you need to become more financially independent. Your best option? Get a job. According to Georgetown University, more than 70% of college students work either part-time or full-time jobs in addition to their studies.

Check your student center for on-campus job opportunities, or find a job in the neighboring community. From babysitting to bussing tables, there are many options for college students. Working a summer job is also a great way to boost your bank account before the semester starts up.

Aside from earning a paycheck, there are plenty of small ways to make money that can help pay for school expenses. Take advantage of companies that offer book buyback programs and use the cash you make to buy next semester’s textbooks. If you have other gently used items to sell, see if your campus has a Facebook resale page. Remember, every little bit counts!