Paying for your Kids' College

My husband and I had differing views on kids and money when we first met. He felt that parents should buy their children a car and help pay for school. I disagreed.

I bought my own car, paid for my own school, insurance, food, entertainment, and all other living expenses. And I don't think there was anything wrong with it.

I appreciated everything I had, and I worked hard to get ahead. Not that other kids didn't. Just saying.

A few weeks ago, we were driving through a very shady part of the metro area - an area where I just so happened to live during my college years. I lived in a lot of dives in college, and it's honestly the only negative I remember about my collegiate years. All else was bliss - even working 4 jobs at a time, eating an apple a day (and nothing else!), being at the head of nearly every class, but especially staying out all night. Woo! Okay, way off track.

My kids were in awe that I actually lived there! They asked, "Why did you live there mom? It doesn't seem safe?" And it wasn't safe. Rapes and murders were unfortunately frequent. You know those "streets" that you repeatedly hear about on the news. Yep, that's where I lived.

The kids were horrified. And they said they never wanted to live like that. Hmmmm..... So you say you don't want to be in that situation, huh? We explained how people end up in places like that. Money, drugs, bad choices. In my case, I was just poor. For the record, my parents would have happily tried to pay for my expenses. But not only were they not financially fit enough to do so, I would have never allowed it. I earned my financial independence from them when I took my first "real" job at 14 (laws were different back in the day.)

So we came up with a plan. We told our kids that as long as they worked hard, got good grades, and stayed "good" kids, we would pay for them to live somewhere nice during college. We described exactly what we meant by "good" kids. I'm sure you know what I mean. If they goofed off and didn't stay on track, then they'd have to live wherever they could afford to live. They were motivated.

Sure, they're only 4 and 6, but it's nice to have a plan. How in the world will we afford to pay for it all? As someone that hasn't saved a dime for their college educations (and there's a good financial reason for that) it sounds a bit scary. But in 2 years, I'll most likely be back in the workforce. Anything I bring in will be extra to our family. So I'll have 8-10 years of "extra" money before they even start college. Hopefully, my husband's income will continue to increase, and someday we'll have an itty bitty mortgage instead of a gigantic one.

In any event, if they work hard and stay well behaved, it will all be worth it. And I'll find a way to make it work. If not, then I'll have other things to worry about.

I liked the idea. It was a good compromise between my husband's and my values. And it gave my kids something to think about. If they end up going to school locally and want to live with us, I'd get them a car instead.


Mrs. White said...

I love the idea of telling the children that if they stayed "good" kids, you would help them through college. Great motivation! Our children are mostly older and pay for their own schooling. We do help when needed, but they have mostly paid their own way. They also started working very young.

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