Seeber said one option is for parents over time to shift responsibility for financial decisions to their children. Freshman year is when a student is most likely to be living in a dorm and eating on the meal plan, so the only budget challenges relate to spending on "wants" like pizza and road trips.
"When they want to transition to something different, they will have to find a way," Seeber said. "If they want to go off the meal plan, they get that money and they have to figure out how to spend it. If they want to move off campus, you give them room and board money and they have to figure out how to spend it."
Meg Heisler, a student graduating from Dartmouth in early June, said her spending patterns changed over her time in college. At first, she said, she had little need to spend since there were so many free activities on campus. But as a 21-year-old senior, she started going out more in town, and also traveling more to visit friends.
Heisler said she has had times when she has run through her money faster than expected, and her parents have been understanding. "I manage my own budget, so they trust that in those situations I won't be spending on things I don't need or can live without."
These days she tries to prioritize spending on experiences rather than things, and understands, she said, that "there are always things you can cut out."
A budgeting tool can help students stay engaged with budgeting and remain on track. Seeber says mint.com is one good option.