Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Working hard for the money

Talk about money with parents these days, and it's hard to find happy news. Everything is getting more expensive, and that annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase just isn't bridging the gap.

With college, it's more than just tuition and fees, room and board, it's the things kids "just have to have" to take with them.

Maybe prices for food and clothing haven't risen much in recent years. But did you take a laptop to college (that would be in addition to a desktop computer)? How about an iPod? Cell phone? Digital camera? 20 pairs of shoes? And that's just the spending before they walk in the door. Once on campus, it's custom room decor, "Pimp My Ride"-worthy car accessories, daily trips to restaurants "because it's cafeteria food, mom" - and the list goes on.

Call it crazy, a lot of parents do. But even though we KNOW we've lost our minds, it's not stopping us. After all, we can't have another kid out there with more perks, more benefits, more advantages than ours. When it comes to buying things for our kids, the definition of "necessity" includes just about anything they want. And if your kid gets a scholarship - especially an unexpected one - well there's money for even more toys.

So what does that teach our kids? Are they learning financial responsibility? Are they learning delayed gratification? Or are they learning to place blame - "If I'd had one of those I would have done better in class!" and to value the dollar above all else? Are they learning to look for the nearest free lunch (I actually heard someone say "I'll go if they'll be serving refreshments") or are they learning to work for something a little better? After all, a meal I cook myself is usually much better than any I get in a restuarant.

--Misty Cline works in the Office of Marketing and Communications

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