Ah, college. The start of a new chapter in life. These are the formative years where you’ll grow into an adult – and the years that you’ll have some of the biggest mistakes, er…learning opportunities, as you adjust to life on your own. And some of the easiest but more costly “learning opportunities” come in the form of your finances.
So if you want to stretch your dollar across the entire school year (and have some money leftover for the summer), you’ll need to be smart about where your moolah goes. Here are some money Dos and Don’ts for your freshman year of college:
- Shop for used books or share a copy. Buying new textbooks is a thing of the past. Not only are they incredibly expensive, but you’ll hardly touch your Geology 101 book after you finish your science elective. Before buying an expensive book at the campus store, check out your used book options online. Better yet, if you have a friend in one of the classes you’re taking, you can always buy a book together and split the cost. You’ll just have to work out who gets the book when – but hey, that means instant study buddy! Finally, check to see if your school library has a copy. You may just be able to borrow that one when you need it.
- Watch out for ATM fees. If the bank you used at home doesn’t have any convenient branches or ATM machines near campus, you could be subject to fees for using the ATMs of other banks. And if you’re regularly taking out money, that means $2 every time you withdraw cash. Consider opening up an account at a local bank if that’s the case.
- Take advantage of free events and college discounts. As a student, you’ve got access to a lot of free and discounted events and activities both on and off campus. Your school may host free student events or you may have access to discounted tickets at the local theater, museums and even restaurants with your student ID. Soak it up while you can!
- Blow all your money on going out. I know, I know. What good is money if you can’t have a little fun with it? I’m not saying you should stop going out; on the contrary, hanging out with friends and creating new experiences is a major piece of college. But another major slice of the college experience is preparing for the future. Saving a little money – even $10 a week – can go a long way to making sure you’ve got a little bit of a financial cushion during the summer and after graduation.
- Borrow more than you need. Student loans can feel like an easy way to pay for everything you need in college, but overborrowing can get you into trouble later on. Before you sign on the dotted line with your financial aid package, make sure that you’re only borrowing what you really need to pay for the essentials, and consider other ways to cover the gap, like working during the summer or applying for more scholarships and grants.