The College Freshman’s Guide to Money Management

college freshman moneyIt’s finally here: The summer before your first year of college. As one chapter of your life closes and another begins to take root, it’s a prime opportunity to instill sound money management–and set yourself up for a lifetime of financial stability. As you decide which courses to take, start to find your textbooks, and wonder what you’re new roommate will be like, here are a few ways to make sure you’re taking care of your finances as you navigate your way through your freshman year….


Save Your Pennies (and the Dimes!)

Working a minimum-wage or traditional “student” job can make it seem hard to be able to save, especially if you have other expenses to pay. But this is a reminder that the small bits that you do manage to save make a difference. Bit by bit, they can add up to a large sum over time, but more importantly, they’ll help you establish the habit of saving.

 

Make a Name for Yourself

Being on campus for the first time is an exciting experience. It’s also a time to establish your professional and academic identity. A great way to do so is through on-campus work and assisting your professors. When those first classes are in session, pay attention to what your professor is saying–you never know when their research interest may become an amazing opportunity for you to take part in (and build your resume and bank account at the same time!). If you’re unable to obtain work alongside a professor, seek out on-campus jobs in the departments/areas you’re interested in learning about and start building the college network. Chances are, these first positions will eventually open doors to opportunities that you didn’t know existed.

 

That “Free” T-Shirt Isn’t Exactly Free

Much like there’s no free lunch, there’s really no free credit cards. Before you start to sign up for the multitude of credit offers that will inevitably be thrown in your face as you cross the main campus building, do your research–there could be everything from annual fees to exorbitant interest rates hidden in the fine print. Additionally, using a credit card before you truly understand the nature of how credit works is a surefire way to set yourself up for potential financial failure. Unless you’re in a position to pay off what you charge and have a handle on your spending, you shouldn’t be signing up for credit cards.

 

The Dining Hall Provides More Than Just Lunch

While this is advice that most likely violates the rules of your dining plan, it’s certainly something that you’ll find yourself doing as your semesters go by: Taking food from the dining hall. Lest you think I’m advocating stealing, I’m really talking about it signing up for your cafeteria’s brown bag program or taking an extra sandwich on the nights where your class falls during the dining hall’s open hours. Most halls offer a service where you can reserve a pre-bagged lunch the night before, pick it up on your way to class, and not have to worry about rushing back to eat during the last 5 minutes that the hall is open. While it might not be the tastiest option, it’s far better than spending your hard-earned money on extra food.

 

Student Loans Should Only Be Used for Tuition, Room and Board

When you have thousands of dollars being offered to you in the form of student loan checks, it can be tempting to take out more than you actually owe to the university. However, consider that you’ll be paying interest on those loans upon graduation before you decide to bolster your living expenses. College is a time for developing your skills, future career, and network–it’s not a time to live the high life.

 

What other tips do you have for college freshman?

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  • http://prairieecothrifter.com Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

    Making a name for yourself can go a long a way. I have found that networking has had huge benefits for me. I always try to conduct myself in a positive manner and it pays off. Lots of the opportunities I have had have been because of networking.

    • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert

      Networking has huge benefits both in college and once you graduate. It is very important to make connections!

  • http://www.krantcents.com krantcents

    College is a great opportunity to live on less. If you really learn the lesson, it wwill help you with your financial goals in the future.

    • http://www.thehappyhomeowner.net/ The Happy Homeowner

      Absolutely! That’s the key here–establishing sound financial habits at an early age gives you unparalleled opportunity to be able to continuously manage your finances well throughout your life. The earlier, the better!

  • http://www.thefrugaltoad.com Paul @ The Frugal Toad

    I had a work study job my freshman year in college and because of recommendations from my former boss, turned into an internship. That internship played a major role in me landing a jog with a fortune 100 company.

    • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert

      That’s a great story. That is why it is such a great idea to work in college!

  • http://blog.readyforzero.com Shannon-ReadyForZero

    These are some really valuable tips! I think it’s especially important that you mention that student loans should only be used for tuition, room, and board. I knew a lot of kids in college who maxed out more student loan money than they needed to be more comfortable, not realizing the impact it may have on their finances later.

    • http://thecollegeinvestor.com Robert

      I’ve known a lot of students who’ve done the same thing as well. It is so important to make sure that they are only used for the necessities so that you don’t go into serious debt.