Budgeting 101

Catherine Horiuchi

AS MY TWINS DEPART for college, they leave behind a home base where they find food in the refrigerator, get new clothes and shoes when needed, have bills paid and extra-curriculars funded, and receive a small weekly allowance to save or spend.

Now, they’re headed far from familiar security. They gain instead independence and the opportunity to explore other ways of living and spending, all part of their higher education. Cold cereal for supper? An extra pair of jeans instead of a recommended second textbook? Out for coffee with a friend or perhaps a show and dinner? A part-time job or a double major?

I’ve got a dollar figure in mind for expenses I’ll be covering, beyond tuition and housing that’s already paid. One twin’s housing comes with a meal plan. The other’s dorm room has a kitchenette. That one will need to include food in her budget.

I’ve made my estimate for their first semester and will add money to their existing credit union accounts once a week. Each has a debit card to take to college. This way, I imagine they will mostly use their incidental money appropriately, making minor miscalculations early on that can easily be corrected.

If one twin finds my frugal estimate too low, she can contact me, and we can strategize why that’s happening and adjust the budget accordingly. If I’ve estimated correctly, it’s possible I might not hear much from either twin until the holidays, when I hope both will take a break from school for a visit home, where they can regale me with tall tales. Putting a thumb on the scale, I’m buying the roundtrip tickets home now—before they leave.

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