Ahead of the Class: Money Lessons for College Freshmen

Posted on 09/08/2009

Many college freshmen think they’re heading off to a university to take classes on psychology and literature, but one of the first lessons they need to tackle is budgeting and saving money. And it’s best if you don’t have to learn these money lessons the hard way. Want to get ahead of the class? Here’s a crash course in personal finance.

Set a Budget - Put that high school diploma to work. Create a monthly budget by listing expenses and income. Make sure the number at the bottom of your income column is bigger than the number at the bottom of your expenses column. This will give you a good idea of what kind of money (if any) you have to spend on extras like entertainment and clothing and how many times you need to donate plasma each month to make ends meet.

Avoid Credit Card Lures - You will likely see credit card companies on campus, pimping new t-shirts or Frisbees in exchange for your personal information. Don’t fall for this. Many, many, many people have learned this lesson the hard way, racking up debt in college only to graduate with huge minimum monthly payments and mounds of regret. Stick with cash, and if you really want a Frisbee, spend a few bucks and buy one.

Look for Deals - There are plenty of ways to save on college campuses. Attend events offering free food, buy used text books, and take advantage of free entertainment. Look for free perks like a membership at the campus gym, free health care and businesses that offer student discounts.

Find Cheap Rent - Living at home does have its benefits, but if you can’t take advantage of good old mom and dad, find roommates to split the cost of renting an apartment or house. Don’t choose your living arrangements lightly. A bad roommate can be a serious financial nightmare.

Get the Most out of Your Investment - Whether you’re footing the bill for college or your parents are, make sure that money is spent wisely. Go to class, do your assignments and learn stuff. At the end of your time there you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come thanks to the great investment made into your life.

By Alison Storm

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