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College costs: Have the talk about financial literacy now

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  Sit down and talk clearly as a family about who will pay for what. What you want to avoid is a tearful phone call home that your freshman has drained the bank account or overdrafted the debit card.

In some families, Mom and Dad pay for basics (tuition, food, monthly allowance) while students cover the rest (off-campus meals, clothes, entertainment).

“Each family needs to have those discussions, depending on their finances and what they can afford. You need to be clear,” said Donna Bland, CEO of Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento.

This summer, Ms.Bland had her son, who will be a freshman at DePaul University in Chicago this fall, start buying his own essentials at the grocery store, just to get a feel for what things will cost once he’s on his own.

“I want him to have a stake in it. There are so many basic things," she said, such as  toothpaste and  laundry detergent , "that a student will need to buy on their own.”

For the Wongs, it’s a little dose of financial tough love.

Beyond paying for two tuitions, housing, and meal plans, “I have no intention of putting more money into their accounts. If they suck it dry, they’re in trouble,” said Ms. Wong, coordinator of the honors humanities program at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento.

The Wong siblings – Nolan, 19, a University of California, Berkeley sophomore, and Delaney, 17, a University of California, Santa Cruz freshman – are expected to pay for their extracurricular expenses, whether it’s joining a fraternity or buying concert tickets. They’re also buying their own textbooks.

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