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Going away to college is the first time that many teens will be making financial and life decisions for themselves. Some will find the freedoms that they get from being away at college exhilarating. Others might feel a bit overwhelmed. You can help ease the transition from home to school by teaching them these five important lessons about money and life. By doing so, you’ll help your teen have more time, money and freedom during their college years.

Basic Budgeting
Many parents avoid teaching their kids about how to take care of money, because they themselves have never learned. However, not doing so does a great injustice to kids. Teens who don’t know how to budget their money often wind up with too much month at the end of the money, leaving them to eat macaroni and pancakes for seventeen days straight. Teaching kids how to put together a basic budget will help them avoid many of the financial pitfalls that come with college life.

Additionally, teens need to learn how money and markets work in the grand scheme of things. While university students may not be doing much investing during their college years, they’ll eventually contribute to IRAs and 401Ks. Knowing how to invest will help solidify their future in the long run, and many find it’s better to learn these habits while they’re still in college instead of on the job.

Laundry and Clothes
Doing laundry almost never falls on anyone’s “favorite things to do” list. However, it counts as a vital skill to learn. Aside from having clean clothes to wear on a daily basis, keeping the laundry clean and pressed also means that teens will be able to attend career fairs and job interviews with the confidence that comes from looking their best. It’s important to remind teens that when they are budgeting to set aside ten to twenty dollars to pay for laundry expenses. Aside from needing to purchase detergents and fabric softeners, most will wash their clothes at the laundromat, which requires change, usually quarters.

Kids grow up eating at Chez Mom’s, but once they head off to their universities, the responsibility for cooking falls on them. Naturally, with their new found freedoms comes orders for pizza as well as chocolate cake and diet Coke for breakfast. While this is fun once in awhile, dietary habits like this lend to the “freshman fifteen,” those extra pounds that creep up on students once kids go away to college. Practices like this will also bust open a food budget unless teens are taught otherwise. Learning how to prepare nutritious meals and to cook or bake them helps teens keep the pounds off and their wallets full. Try teaching your teen to cook a few easy, well balanced meals, then give them a little booklet or note cards with the step by step directions so they are confident when trying it on their own.

Getting Around on the Bus
Not all students will have a car when they go to college. Kids need to be taught how to get around using the bus or the subway. Lessons to learn with this include keeping themselves personally safe, learning the routes and finding out where they can ride their bikes in lieu of riding the bus.

Students should budget money for their monthly bus rides and checking into monthly passes is a good way to save money. Also, some colleges and universities offer a free ride program, which allows students to ride the city bus for free if they show the driver their student IDs.

Longer Trips and Car Share
Many cities offer car share programs. Programs such as ZipCar and Enterprise Car Share allow people to rent cars by the hour or by the day, and many of them have cars right on campus. Students can sign up for these services and only pay for a car when they use it. Services such as these are great, because they allow students to have use of a car for longer trips. These services typically cost between eight and ten dollars an hour and up to seventy dollars a day. In addition to hooking your kids up with a program, remind them that they need to work this expense into their budgets.

Teens need to learn life management skills to navigate college and the adult world. Whether your teen will be working their way through college or you as the parent are footing the bill, college students will need to keep an eye on their finances and budgets in order to take part in all the activities they’d like to participate in. Teaching them to do so ensures that they always have enough money to handle their daily expenses as well as the emergencies that crop up during college life.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who know that college students need certain skills.