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Son Barters when Accepting Cash for Everyday College Expenses

Mom on the Run: The Next Chapter

I have just been online paying the final invoice for my son’s first semester of college. I have been forcing myself to breathe during the two-minute transaction; my bank routing and account information is already entered and it only takes one login ID, one password, one “payments” tab click, one “pay invoice in full” click, and finally one “make payment” click to complete the process.

The breathing part was required because I have now paid the “final” invoice three times, while receiving two refunds for overpayment in between payments one and two. Today’s tuition invoice was for $0.14 – really! – and knowing that the processing costs are well above that invoice amount, plus the fact that that there have already been four other transactions, makes me want to smack someone.

But that would be pointless and destructive, so instead, while I’m here in the online payment portal, I’ve decided to add money to my son’s ID card. That one magic card gets him into his dorm and the library, serves as a meal counter in the cafeteria, and is also a debit card for use in vending machines and washing machines and dryers in the dorm. My son is down to $3 on his card and I’m trying on this late evening to increase that.

To add to the evening’s payment frustration, the online system seems to be down. Three times I’ve put in my son’s ID number (or what I think is his ID number) and his birthdate (that I am sure of!), and three times I’ve gotten a message saying the system is having problems and to try again later. Ugh. Later, I’m going to be in bed. Later, and I will have forgotten.

So I go back to the instructions page and read carefully. Aha! My son can add money himself, in person, on campus, with a credit card. And he has a copy of my credit card, for emergencies, and for staples things I want to buy for him. Yes, I think tiredly, let’s go that route.

I pick up my phone, and text my kid: “Just tried to add money to your ID card online but the system seems to be down. You can do it on campus though … I authorize $75 from my credit card.”

I don’t expect to hear back right away, surely my son is busy, but I get an immediate text back: “I don’t need 75 thanks for the offer probably will just add 35 or so”.

That, I realize, is a big deal. My son doesn’t like to spend my money, he likes to be completely self-sufficient. He has his savings from his summer job, and he wants to use that. But he paid for his own books this semester, and he contributed a lot to his laptop, both things my husband and I fully bought for his sister, and those took a big chunk out of his savings. And maybe he thinks it’s OK for us to pay for his laundry. Whatever the reason, it appears that he will accept some money on his ID card, and that’s a good thing. But $35 doesn’t seem like much to me. Each load of laundry is $7, I think.

So I text back: “$60 then.”

He replies: “40”.

I meet him halfway: “$50”.

And I receive back, “Deal. 45 it is”

I grin. “Lol. Handshake :)” I text back.

I sit back in my chair, smiling. I look up, and, done, click away the online payment plan web page. Finally, an effective and pleasant college payment process!

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