WASHINGTON — With the fall semester well underway, the American Bankers Association is highlighting common money mistakes college freshmen should avoid to remain financially fit through graduation.
“Freshman year marks the first time many students take control of their everyday finances, so it’s important to establish good habits from the get-go,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Freshmen are so focused on adjusting to campus life, making new friends and getting a handle on challenging coursework that it’s easy to overlook simple things they can do to help reduce potential financial challenges.”
To help college freshmen start out on strong financial footing, ABA suggests avoiding these common money blunders:
- Not creating a budget. You’re an adult now and are responsible for managing your own finances. The first step is to create a realistic budget or plan and stick to it.
- Overspending. Keep receipts and track spending in a notebook or mobile app (your bank likely offers a free app). Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
- Overextending credit card usage. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. If you have a credit card, use it without abusing it. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.
- Neglecting to take advantage of your bank’s resources. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks and monitor transaction history.
- Overlooking ‘free’ money. There’s a lot of money available for students — you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships and look for student discounts or other deals.
- Buying everything new. Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive and used books are often in just as good of shape as new ones.
- Living beyond your means. Limit your “hanging out” fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and many are free for students. Get the most from your student ID. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.
- Not using your bank’s ATM. Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank. If you must use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times.
- Not saving for emergencies. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or you have to buy an unexpected bus ticket home. You should start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount.
- Being afraid to ask questions. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents or your bank are a good place to start, and remember—the sooner the better.