Making Cents: My son won’t plan ahead for cost of J1 trip

It might seem odd to ask a question about budgeting for 2018 but I want to advise my son on how to prepare for a summer abroad next year.

He is just finished first year in college and is finding the summer back at home long. He has decided to go to the US next year, which I am ok with. He will be 20.

My concern is the financial aspect. He is on a grant for college and we helped out so he didn’t have to have a job during term time.

He has only part-time work for the summer. I know it costs quite a bit to go abroad and have spoken to him about planning ahead but he is dismissive and I worry he will expect us to look after it.

1, I doubt we can afford it; and 2, I think he should be at least trying to take care of it himself. What should I do? C Walsh, Tipperary.

First thing to say is you are definitely not odd to be planning financially for such a major event in 12 months time.

A trip for up to four months to the other side of the world is going to come with a hefty price tag.

Not only does starting now mean spreading the cost, but by planning ahead your son can probably take advantage of early-bird deals and promotions.

It also means he can get a head start on job-hunting, which is even more important now that having a job is a requirements of the J1 visa.

Him not being interested in planning could be a reflection of the fact that 12 months seems much longer to him than you. He could well feel it is so far away that there is no point even thinking about it. The best way to sort this out is to sit him down and lay out exactly what it will cost.

Young people have to arrive with at least $800 but ideally would have $1000 or more. If that seems a lot remember it has to cover rental deposits, purchase a US cell number and all the other setting up costs.

You can expect flights to cost anywhere from €400 for bargain flights to €800 or more depending on the destination. Add in visas, insurance, embassy fees, etc.

There are too many options to give a definitive figure but €2000 is a reasonable amount to suggest to him. Once a student pays a small deposit they can then pay down the balance over time.

Have a think about what, if any, financial contribution you can make to the trip and tell him. Make clear that it is your final figure, there will be no bailouts as unexpected costs crop up.

Once he realises how much he has to earn in 12 months it should help concentrate his mind. If he would prefer to keep term-time work at a minimum, he still has two months of this summer to get additional work.

If he is going to need to work while in college, he should start looking now for a job that best suits his course hours.

A loan might be necessary, if this is something he considers make sure he has a clear plan for repayment. An idea of clearing it using money earned in the US could be unrealistic, unless he is very disciplined.

Will he end up with a debt hanging over him going into third year?

Depending on your son’s interests, there may be other travel options available to him, such as going as a lifeguard, coach or camp counsellor. Www.campusa.ie is an Irish company which is already advertising for 2018 and it has an early-bird offer, including flights, available for €699.

For sporty young adults there are a multitude of opportunities to work with children as a coach, some of which involve moving from camp to camp throughout the summer. These tend to be quite structured programmes with less upfront costs, could this suit him better?

If your son is mature enough to contemplate living in the US for a whole summer he should be mature enough to take responsibility for organising the finance.

Do a little research, present him with the facts and then step back. Point him in the direction of USIT and SAYIT, the two main agents used by Irish students.

The Union of Students in Ireland have worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs to produce a guide and it is available at www.dfa.ie.

By taking ownership of the trip himself, he will learn a host of valuable lessons and also gain confidence in his own ability to manage money. Win-win.


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