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40 Money Tips for College Students

I remember the first day I set foot at college, it was a mixture of excitement and fear at the prospect of being on my own. I arrived in Pittsburgh, PA a few days early and had the opportunity to wander around an empty campus. Carnegie Mellon University [3], especially in 1998, wasn’t a large campus, you could walk from one end of the campus to the other in less than twenty minutes, but it was still intimidating. After five years, a few degrees, and a great experience, I departed for the “real world.”

One thing I wish I had when I started college was a list of things I had to do for my finances like I did for my academics. College is where you set many of your life’s foundations. Whether it’s spiritual, physical, academic, or financial, your foundations are laid in your youth but set when you’re in college. I was fortunate enough not to make too many missteps and managed well enough, but I wish I had a list… so I wrote one, I hope it can help you whether you’re starting college or just starting over. I hope it helps. (and it sure beats reading another list of best paying careers [4]!)

Money Tip To Rule All Other Tips

Graduate college with as little debt as you can. If you follow this one tip and ignore all others, you will find yourself ahead of the pack by far. For many, myself included, this means graduating with some student loan debt (I had and still have over $20k in student loans) but that’s OK. Avoid credit card debt at all costs.

Consider this, if you owe $1,000 to your credit card at 18.90% interest, you will pay $211 in interest over the course of 25 months if you make only the minimum payment of $50 (typical minimum payments are 5% of the balance). It may not seem like a lot right now but it’s a significant drag on your finances. You don’t want to be paying for a six pack of beer for the next two years.

Second Most Important Money Tip

The second most important money tip I can give you is that you should have fun while you’re in college. You will never again have the same mixture of freedom (no parents!) and direction (go to class!) in your life, so take advantage of it. Take advantage of all the free seminars and conferences your school will no doubt offer, go to the free movie nights and participate in intramural sports. Most of all, leave your comfort zone and try things you don’t think you’ll like because you never know what can happen. Best of all, most things on campus will be free (technically it’s included with your tuition) so take advantage! Once you graduate, everything will cost money.

Banking & Credit

Earning Money

Saving & Investing Money

Spending Money

Everything Else

Finally, Be Creative!

Creativity trumps money and as a college student, you could use your abundance of time to exercise some creativity in everything you do. Whether it’s a clever and unique first date or trolling around the student center or popular meeting areas for leftover conference food to snagging free t-shirts at job fairs, use your noggin to save a few bucks. That skill will pay dividends even after you start pulling in a full-time salary.

(Photo: CMU Flag by duruk [9], WaMu ATM by thetruthabout [10], Studying by m00by [11], Investing by rednuht [12], Biology Textbook by psychobabble [13], Gym by abraj [14])