10 Money Mistakes College Students Should Avoid

By Adam He on 7/14/2017

College is the first time many teenagers are in charge of their own finances, which can be a recipe for mistakes. I know I was definitely nervous to keep of track of my finances on top of being overwhelmed by school and making new friends.

Most students aren’t swimming in money when they head to college, so they don’t actually have a lot of room for financial errors if they don’t want to be stressed about money for the rest of the year, or even their entire academic career. If you’re going to college soon, are in college or have kids in college, read on to learn more about the solutions to the 10 common money mistakes college students make.

1. Overusing a Credit Card

While swiping a credit card all the time might feel painless, this method of spending money can become harmful. Failing to pay off your credit card balance can lead to high interest payments if you’re not careful. (See how your spending affects your credit with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com)

2. Going Out Just Because Your Friends Go Out

In college you can make friends with people who come from different backgrounds. Some of your friends might be super wealthy, or they may just spend their money irresponsibly. Either way, “going with the flow” could end up costing you a lot. Find ways to say no to your friends’ constant requests to order pizza delivery, or try to get a job so you have some extra cash to use when you hang out with your friends who are a little more careless with money.

3. Not Looking for Scholarships

College counselors will tell you that scholarships are like free money. If you don’t take the time to apply for scholarships, you’ll never realize how much money (that you’ll never have to give back) you could be receiving. Even small scholarships can add up if you receive several of them. You can win scholarships even if you’re not a freshman.

4. Skipping Classes

Sleeping in every once a while or skipping class because you just don’t feel like going is actually costing you a lot of money. At some of the country’s most expensive colleges each hour of class can cost upwards of $150. Going to all of your classes helps diminish your chances of failing a class, which is ideal because if you fail you’ll only have to pay more to take the same class again.

5. Missing Out on Free Stuff

Going to college gives you a ton of perks — think of the libraries, gyms and cultural experiences all around you. Instead of leaving campus to go to a gym, the movies or a restaurant, you should use the gym at school, go to movie nights that clubs host and scout out free food to save money. (Here are 50 things you can get for free.)

6. Buying All Your Supplies at the Campus Bookstore

New textbooks already cost a ton, and after they’re marked up at the campus bookstore they cost even more. You should buy used versions of your school books if you can, but always check Amazon and other online marketplaces, as they might be even cheaper than anything at the bookstore. Renting books is another solution, too.

7. Not Doing Your Research When Shopping

Students need to learn the art of comparison shopping so they don’t just buy the first thing on the shelf at Target. If you take a few minutes to check the price of your favorite body wash on a couple of sellers’ websites, you’ll find it easy to always buy the cheapest products.

8. Spending All Your Money

Budgeting is something many college students neglect to do, and that comes back to bite them. If you finally have a supply of money and no parents telling you to what to do with it, the first thing to cross your mind probably isn’t “I should save half of my money!” You’ll probably be tempted spend it all. Think of all the things you want to do in the future: have a job, own a house and maybe have kids. If you don’t save your money, it’ll be harder to make those dreams a reality.

9. Confusing What You Want With What You Need

Many students struggle to tell the difference between what they need and what they want. I sometimes feel like I need Starbucks, but in reality I’m just overspending by buying a shaken iced tea every day.

Instead of spending on things they only want, students should think before they buy, or find cheaper ways to get what they want—like making their own coffee or buying tea bags in bulk.

10. Staying in School Longer

Education is amazing, but the cost of staying in college for an extended period of time? Not so much. If you have student loans, your debt will only increase. On top of that, students with more debt are already putting themselves behind for life after college. Make sure you plan for the future, and try your best to graduate on time so you don’t have to lose extra money by staying in school longer.

 GravatarHannah Maluth is an Editorial Intern at Credit.com and an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago. She enjoys writing for school magazines and newspapers, and her hobbies include cooking, traveling, playing tennis and singing. She also particularly loves teaching and volunteering with kids.