smart spending

5 money tips for your college-bound kid

3. Highlight the consequences of poor choices. "Young people tend to be shielded from harsh financial consequences at home, and are often complacent and naive," Van Meter says. "Start by pointing out actual examples of consequences of poor financial choices, to motivate the child to listen and follow sound advice."

Young people need to know that a binge of high debt and a low credit score could produce a financial hangover. It could crimp their ability to get hired for a coveted job, buy a car or rent an apartment.

"A desire to avoid pain can be the most powerful motivator to listen," Van Meter says.

4. Suggest online tools for tracking finances. One of the best steps college students can take is to keep a close watch on their bank balances, says Kevin Walker, co-founder and CEO of SimpleTuition.com, which provides college loan comparisons and financial advice to the collegiate crowd.

"Encourage them to sign up for a free financial management tool," Walker says. "There are several online such as Mint.com, and some are designed for today's 20-somethings."

5. Underscore the rewards of financial responsibility. Parents need to help their children understand that the world of relative privilege in which they grew up "has mostly disappeared," Van Meter says.

"Much of the relative prosperity over the past 30 years was fueled by a desire for immediate gratification, the availability and misuse of credit, and failure to live within the limits of cash flow and a budget,'' Van Meter says. "Many people now find themselves in deep trouble.''

Share examples of people who graduated to prosperity by making disciplined financial choices.

"There are also many people who have a secure retirement, own their homes outright, and are looking forward to a happy and independent life in their later years," he says.

The clear lesson for freshmen: "The consequences of their choices will be theirs to own,'' Van Meter says.

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