It’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….
If you haven’t already checked it out, make sure you also read our guide on 101 Resources For College Freshman.
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?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.