7 Money Lessons For College Freshmen

Learning to manage your own money is a learning curve – start with these 7 lessons.

The most exciting time is here – you are about to start college! You will get to manage your own schedule, and very importantly, your own money. It can be a learning curve – so let us help you with the first steps! Take these tips with you when you start college in these coming weeks:

  1. About credit – Your credit behavior now can make or break your financial life in the future, when you need good credit score to buy a house or a new car, among many things more. So learn about credit and credit cards (we have blogged some basics and credit card tips). You will also see a lot of credit card offers on campus or even in your mailbox. Consider them very carefully – remember: Credit is not free money, and make it a priority to pay your balance in full every month.
  2. About identity theft – The public access and shared use of most everything in college means your identity and access to your bank account can be vulnerable if you’re not careful. Don’t share your important personal numbers (social security, credit/debit card number, driver’s license number) – especially through a phone call, email with an unverified source, or sharing with your “friends” on social media. See some other ways to protect yourself from identity theft.
  3. About your dorm/apartment – It is nice to be able to decorate your own independent space. But this is also just a temporary stay. Spending a lot on furnishing will just lead to spending more to move or wasting your money and effort – opt for light, portable items, and remember garage sales and thrift stores items can work just fine!
  4. About spending on food – Next to big bills like rent, food will likely take up a big portion of your monthly spending. But is it always worth it? You can have a small fancy latte every day for a month, or instead make your own coffee and put that $120 toward your spring break/new laptop/etc. savings. What’s more, the campus and surrounding community generally understand college students are tight on budget, so there are frequently cheap to even free meals or snacks on and around campus. Look for and make use of these resources!
  5. About saving with technology – You already know your gadget and phone can do a lot of cool stuff. Unsurprisingly, technology can also help you save a little or a lot on almost anything – books, food, entertainment, gas, gadgets, clothes… Take a little time to dive into quick research online or on your phone before spending on something, you’ll likely come across deals for it. Technology also gives you a way to keep track of your money within fingertips – consider using money managing apps or your bank’s mobile version to help you with budgeting and tracking spending.
  6. About trivial expenses – They each may not cost a lot, but together they make an unnecessary and avoidable hole in your budget. These expenses include: late fees when paying bills or returning library items, parking tickets, ATM fees on multiple withdrawals… Thinking ahead and paying a little attention to avoid these expenses can help you save a lot.
  7. About loans – Taking out loans should be your last resort. Student loan debt can take up to 10 or more years to repay, with interests added each year. Consider all your options and have a repaying plan before taking out a loan. Don’t use your loan to pay for immediate expenses (rent, utilities bills…) or give up your degree once you have taken a loan. Some other of our tips on student loan can be found here.

These basic tips aside, college is a great time to be creative about saving and making the most bang out of your buck. Follow the Tips for students section on our blog for more. What other money advice do you have for starting college freshmen?

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10 Comments Add yours

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  2. Bowen says:

    This a very well thought out and well written article to help college freshmen transition from high school to college. The transition from high school to college is one of the biggest translations you’ll ever make with money and independence being at the forefront. You won’t have a successful college career if you can not keep your finances afloat.

  3. Rebecca says:

    One of the big things to consider to help you pay for college is scholarships. This is the easiest way to pay your way through without any big effort on your part. There are scholarships everything for just about everything from being left handed to having blue eyes. Many require you to write an essay, but some just require you to apply with basic information. Many of these go unclaimed each year, but you can help change that. These are also not only available to you as a freshman, but there are also ones that are only available to juniors and seniors and people of certain majors. An extra couple of hundred dollars or even a thousand or more for me to just write a paper about my hobbies or my childhood. This seems like an easy choice to me.

  4. lacey crochet says:

    As a college freshmen these are 7 lessons that are vital to your survival if you want to get out of college without a big fat bill waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. It might seem like everyone else is getting credit cards and loans, but its not the right way to go to college. Get a job, live within those means, and get out of college with the bare minimum of debt that you can. This should not be a time of lavish spending and a new car because you get 5000 dollars back a semester in loans.

  5. As someone who has been through freshman year, just two years ago, I couldn’t believe how little I knew about finances when I first got to school. If I could go back now I think I would’ve taken a personal finance class my first semester. I think this should be required for every freshman. Something that I have learned through the college years so far, and I wish someone would’ve suggested to me my freshman year was to take the money out that you’re going to allow your self to spend every week in cash. This lets you know exactly how much your spending instead of getting swipe happy and over charging to your debit card.

  6. Shelby says:

    Starting college for many people is starting a new chapter of their lives. You are suddenly living on your own without your parents looking over your shoulder at everything you do. This makes it really easy to spend more money than you may realize. And once you start spending money that you do not have, it is not easy to stop. Be extremely careful with credit cards. Don’t suddenly find yourself stuck in a pile of debt because on average, the amount of debt increases each year for college students. Save yourself a lot of time, stress and money by learning how to be a smart spender from day one.

  7. Melissa Murphy says:

    Starting a new chapter of your life is exciting. With the excitement of gaining independence also comes irrational thinking, and young college students should become aware of their spending habits early. I agree with this financial advice, recently finishing my freshman year of college. Buying fast food on campus daily was a definite temptation, and overspending on unnecessary wants was prevalent. Young students should start early on developing savings and managing their money wisely.

  8. Jake says:

    As a student at LSU we are learning in are FIN 1060 class about budgets. College freshman are the ones who over spend and get in to debt. Knowing a need compared to a want is a big thing to learn. Debt is no fun to get in to and when you are in it its hard to dig your way out. paying your loans back are a big factor and if you are in debt getting out of college this adds more payments to worry about.

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