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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Tuition is just one of many college expenses. The rest can add up quickly—from transportation, entertainment, extracurricular and other out-of-pocket costs.
  • Students should start to set good financial habits early, such as creating a budget and saving receipts.
  • If holding a regular credit card might be too risky for some students, a GO Prepaid card with a set allowance is a good alternative.

Time to Read

3 minutes

December 15. 2022

Halfway through their first college semester, many students face a turning point in their financial journey. The reality of living away from home starts to sink in, and there are often unexpected expenses that need to be accounted for. This is a good time for a financial checkup and to start budgeting. 

If your student drives to campus daily, they probably know gas isn’t cheap. Mid-first semester is a good time to remind them not just to monitor gas, but maintenance and car insurance as well. Biking and using public transportation can save money, but they’re not free. 

Joining a fraternity or sorority is another costly expense often overlooked until the first semester. Costs of membership dues and expenses can go into the thousands. And, many campus clubs also require fees. 

Your student may realize spending time with friends comes with costs. Have they saved fun money for movies, coffee, snacks and even road trips? Now that they have a clearer picture of how much a social life costs, those expenses can be woven into a new budget. 

Navy Federal Credit Union has tips to make your student’s financial adjustment to college easier. 

  • Create a routine. College is the time to learn to make good financial decisions. Encourage your student to start by recording expenses and extra money from part-time jobs or gifts, and recording expenditures weekly. Saving receipts and using a budgeting app like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) can help track spending. Online banking and setting up alerts keeps finances top of mind and readily accessible. 
  • Consider prepaid cards. Prepaid cards make transactions simple and secure. Your student can use it online, at the ATM and for cash back. Plus, it may be protected by a zero liability policy, which means you can report unauthorized purchases and have them investigated. With a GO Prepaid card from Navy Federal, you can load up to $10,000, monitor spending from the app and authorize other Navy Federal members to add money to the card. 
  • Limit credit card spending. Does your student have credit card debt? Learning NOW that you shouldn't spend more on credit cards than you can afford to pay in full monthly can be immensely helpful later in life. 

Responsible use of credit cards can help your student avoid financial problems in the future and establish a good credit rating. Encourage them to sign up for electronic payment reminders, balance notices and billing statement notifications. 

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Take time to review some key financial topics with your child such as the importance of budgeting and understanding credit before they head off to college.
  2. Explore Navy Federal's suite of youth finance resources to find tools that are right for you and your family. 
  3. Navy Federal’s personal finance counselors can help you with budgeting and setting savings goals. 


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.