A big quandary for many grandparents this time of year is how to show their love and support for grandchildren who are in college. Sure, you want to help, but you want to do it in ways that are both appreciated and effective. And, you can’t afford to give them a blank check.
Over the years I’ve chatted with a lot of grandparents about how they help their grandchildren financially without simply writing them a check. Here are some of ways — from big and small — they’ve shared with me for helping out their collegiate grandchildren:
- Allow a grandchild to live with you while attending an area college or university. Room and board can easily cost more than $35,000 over the course of obtaining a four-year degree at most state universities (per The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges). Help your grandchild avoid those costs — and, hopefully, the need to take out student loans — by letting them live with you in exchange for helping out around the house.
- Offer to match amounts grandchildren earn on their own for tuition and other college costs. Of course you don’t need to match them dollar for dollar if you can’t afford it, but even a partial match can help inspire grandchildren to save for college.
- Give grandchildren your unwanted items that they may be able to use. Housewares to use in dorm rooms or first apartments are always appreciated. Or a used car you no longer drive can really help a struggling college student, particularly one who commutes to campus.
- Help grandchildren research and apply for scholarships and other financial support. Do you have more time than money? Follow the example of one frugal grandmother I met who became a self-educated expert in helping her grandchildren research and secure funding for their college educations.
- Give gift cards instead of cash. Unless you specifically want to fund a grandchild’s BPF (“Beer and Pizza Fund”) while they’re in college, rather than sending them money, pay some of their expenses directly (e.g. cellphone bills … so hopefully they’ll call you more often) or give them gift cards for bookstores and other places you know they’ll need to shop. You can even buy discounted gift cards on websites like www.giftcardgranny.com and www.giftcardrescue.com.
- Old-fashioned college care packages never go out of style. Last but not least, sending your grandchild a box of homemade cookies and other items they can eat or use is an affordable option and always appreciated. One grandmother I know sends her granddaughter snack foods and other items she gets through “buy one get one free” sales at the grocery store. I guess in her case, it’s “buy one, give one to a hungry college student.”
Thanks in advance for sharing the creative ways you’ve found to help your grandchildren while they’re in college in the comments section below. Did I mention that I graduated Summa cum Cheapskate?