September marks the start of a new educational year and so will see thousands of students setting off from home to begin their university years. Ben is now beginning another year far away from our Kent home, with him at university up in Leeds. I still remember clearly the day Mike and I drove him up. Ben slept most of the way surrounded by his belongings which packed out our 17-seater minibus completely. My emotions were kept entirely in check until the moment came to say goodbye, where I couldn’t contain the tears any longer. I still miss him dreadfully and wish he were closer to home but learning to let them go and flying by themselves is a part of parenting we are all building up to every day.
Making the transition from home to university is a challenge both for parent and child alike. As a parent you proudly watch as your child takes their steps to becoming an independent adult, yet you realise how fleeting their childhood was as you remember them reaching up to hold your hand as they cross the road. They might not be doing that any longer and yes, university is a great way for them to learn the ropes of becoming independent adults whilst also still having the safety net of the uni’s student support network – and their parents too. Nonetheless, there are some invaluable pointers that can make the transition easier for both of you. Here are a few of our tips:
Even though they may have already had experience with budgeting, starting university can leave students juggling a with their finances a whole lot more than they were previously used to. Many parents find themselves turning to equity release to help their children out with the university fees whilst other students have no option but to apply for student loans instead. Either way, whatever money they have needs to be stretched that little bit further.
Knowing how much things cost in the real world is a good start. How much is a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, for example. Do they realise how quickly the shopping bill can add up? Get some groundwork done before they’ve left home so that they know the value of staples before the extra fun stuff.
Developing their cooking skills will also be a great moneysaver. They don’t need to be complicated meals but a little simplicity and a few ingredients can make a little money go a long way.
Check that student bank account deal carefully. At this time of year the banks are all vying for your child’s custom. Do they really need iTunes vouchers or would a discounted travel card work better for them? Make sure they shop around for the best deal that will pay off in the long run, rather than that quick treat that looks appealing.
Teach them to balance the bills. Late or non-payment of bills or that unexpected direct debit they forgot about can play havoc on the already strained bank balance in the form of charges.
Introduce them to cashback sites such as Quidco or Top Cashback. They’ll be surprised how quickly cashback rewards add up and they can be gained not only by shopping online but on the high street too.
Preparing for uni often means having to pay out for supplies and products for this new phase. Pots and pans, a kettle, stationary – it all adds up extremely quickly. We think that basic sets are more than adequate especially during the first year. Items go missing or get broken so splashing out on designer gear really isn’t necessary. As long as an item gets the job done and is safe, it’s more than good enough.
One item that we didn’t consider until after we had dropped Ben off was a clothes airer. This is a small investment that saved him pounds on drying his clothes. Oh, and don’t forget the tin opener!
Don’t overdo it though! It can be incredibly easy to get carried away but remember, rooms are often quite small and space is limited. You will be surprised how quickly it all fills up so that gaming chair might need to stay behind!
Your child might be looking forward to making new friends and getting on with socialising at uni but the reality can be quite different when they actually begin. The combination of a new home, new surroundings, new routine and often a completely different part of the country can leave your child feeling overwhelmed for a while.
You can help to make this stage easier by researching the area beforehand. If possible, spend a day or two there with your child so you can get to know what is nearby. How far is the nearest supermarket, for example? What about buses and train routes? Where will their bank be? And let’s not forget the fun too. Where will they be visiting for nights out? What is the area like during evenings and night times as well as daytime?
Encourage your child to make friends but don’t be concerned if it seems to be taking a while. After all, everyone else is also in the same boat. They’ll get there in the end!