Three Top Money Tips For College Freshmen

by Hank Coleman

money tips for college freshmenIf you could go back and tell your “past” self one thing, what would you tell him? Would you tell yourself to go a little easier with the credit cards? Do you wish that you had started investing at a young age? Has your parents tried to give you advice and money tips for college freshmen?

With college students about the flood our nation’s colleges and universities in the coming weeks, there are several money tips for college freshmen and the rest of the student body should take heed.

Three Money Tips For College Freshmen And Students

Go Easy On The Credit Card Debt

Recent changes to consumer protection laws have made it more difficult for college students under the age of 21 to get credit cards. Many will find that they will need a cosigner to help them qualify for a new credit card. College, of course, is a time of great independence, growth, and learning. Many college students make the mistake of racking up credit card debt because they assume that they will not have trouble paying the bill when they graduate. This is a very dangerous plan especially with the job market continuing to be volatile. But, you are never too late to understand money tips for college freshmen.

While a little use of credit cards and building your credit bureau file may be a good game plan, racking up extensive credit card debt while in college is a bad idea. You can consider consolidating your credit cards together, cleaning up some small debts with a payday loan lender, or consider a consolidation loan through a service like Lending Club.

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Keep Your Budget In Check

Everyone should have a monthly written budget, even college students. College students may need a budget more than anyone else in fact. Most college students have very little income that they receive. So, it is imperative that college students watch their spending wisely in order not to be overdrawn. Spending more than you earn or bring in is a dangerous cycle that can be difficult to break.

There is a danger that spending more than you earn, dipping into an overdraft protection account, or racking up overages on credit cards can lead to a spiral of debt that will be difficult to dig out of without sufficient income coming in. A budget will help keep your spending on track.

Keep From Making A Catastrophic Mistake

My mother has a theory about car accidents, and this is just one example and can be extrapolated to other areas of a college student’s life. But, it is inevitable that young drivers will get into some type of accident. Your goal and the goal of your parents’ should be to help you mitigate that risk so that the accidents that you have are small fender benders instead of one that results in a serious injury. Learn your lessons on small errors in judgment. Ding cars while stopped at a red light instead of smashing cars together while driving 100mph on the freeway.

The same can be said for your finances. Make small mistakes with your personal finances. If you bounce a check, learn from that mistake and never repeat it. Don’t repeat it on a grander scale. Don’t buy small things that you cannot afford. Not only will it add up to a lot of money eventually, but it will also instill bad habits in the future where you will be much larger items like a house or a car when you cannot afford it. Make small mistakes and learn from them instead of devastatingly large mistakes that are much tougher to come back from.

The choices that you make as a college student will set you up for success early in your adult life and your career. You do not want to be saddle with an enormous credit card debt that you continue to struggle paying right after graduation. You should be focused on other things when you are applying for college like scholarships: need based aid, merit scholarship, sports scholarships, and many others. There are more to focus on then debt when you finally get to college as well. Smart decisions now will help you in the future.

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]

Hank Coleman has written 581 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth @ Simple Finance

Ahhh, the back to college posts… make me yearn for 2000 every time! My parents emphatically told me as they kissed me goodbye at the front door of my freshman year dorm that I wasn’t, under *any* circumstances, allowed to get a credit card. I listened, and emerged from college four years later with a degree and stellar credit.


Stephanie @ Empowered Dollar

Another piece of advice that I wish I followed: keep applying for scholarships! I stopped looking after I started college, but students tend to need even more financial assistance after their freshman year (when their financial aid packages are typically the highest).


Richard Thompson

I would have to agree with Stephanie. I think that most people forget that scholarships aren’t only for when you first get into college. Keep applying for them because otherwise they just go unused!


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