Budgeting 102

Catherine Horiuchi

IT’S BEEN A MONTH since I dropped off my twins at college, one east, one west. Each has a debit card for an account with the credit union here in our hometown. One has downloaded the credit union’s mobile app. Both are already developing their own ideas and strategies for managing college life on a shoestring budget.

I got them their debit cards some time ago. I also opened a teen account for their brother, who is still in high school and at home with me. This past month, two of the three overspent, triggering an automatic draft from the savings side of their accounts.

One was my teenager at home, who miscalculated the cost of getting a pizza delivered. One of his siblings ran out of cash shortly after buying her textbooks. In both cases, there was sufficient money in their savings account to cover the excess, with a $5 service charge applied for the insufficient funds transfer.

My son and I had a long discussion about what had happened. This improved his understanding of debit cards and how to avoid future bank charges. He’s now getting his weekly allowance from me via automatic bank transfer. The allowance is sufficiently modest that it’ll be several weeks before he can again order a pizza for himself and a friend.

Meanwhile, I haven’t yet discussed the overdraft with his sister. I had told her I’d be putting money into her credit union account, but I hadn’t made the first deposit when she inadvertently emptied the account. I still don’t know precisely how much she needs every week, but I went ahead and set up a weekly deposit anyway. I’ll know if it’s the correct amount by trial and error.

I have much to learn about how today’s young adults develop budgeting skills. I’ve been browsing sites and videos that are oriented to those just starting out. It led me to send one of the twins—the one without the luxury of a college cafeteria and a meal plan—a kakeibo journal. Sure, they could set up an initial budgeting chart in any notebook, but they’re novices and a little handholding seems warranted. If it’s fun and attractive and friendly, all the better.

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