15 Money Mistakes New College Students Should Avoid

Starting college is an exciting adventure filled with new experiences and opportunities. However, it also comes with its own set of financial challenges. For many new college students, this is the first time they are managing their own money, and it’s easy to make mistakes that can lead to financial stress and debt. Understanding common money mistakes and learning how to avoid them can help students make smarter financial decisions and enjoy their college years without unnecessary worry.

1. Ignoring a Budget

Young woman budgeting
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Many new college students fall into the trap of spending without tracking their expenses. Creating a budget might sound tedious, but it’s essential for managing money effectively. Without a budget, it’s easy to overspend on non-essentials and run out of funds quickly. A budget helps students see where their money goes and ensures they can cover all their needs throughout the month.

2. Overusing Credit Cards


Credit cards can be a useful financial tool, but they can also lead to significant debt if not used wisely. Some students are tempted to charge more than they can afford to pay off each month. High-interest rates can quickly make balances grow, leading to long-term financial problems. It’s crucial to use credit cards sparingly and always pay off the balance in full whenever possible.

3. Not Taking Advantage of Student Discounts

Happy college students with discounts shutterstock 2418368441
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Student discounts are available for a variety of products and services, but many students overlook them. Whether it’s for software, public transportation, or even restaurant meals, student discounts can add up to significant savings. Always carrying a student ID and asking about discounts can reduce everyday expenses. These savings can then be allocated to other essential costs or even put into savings.

4. Skipping the Meal Plan

Woman preparing meal
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Some students believe that cooking for themselves will save money compared to the school’s meal plan. However, without careful planning, grocery costs can add up, especially when factoring in time and effort. Meal plans, although seemingly expensive upfront, often offer better value and convenience. Evaluating the cost-benefit ratio can help students make the best decision for their budgets and lifestyles.

5. Not Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Applying for job Depositphotos 667377610 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

There are countless scholarships and grants available, but many students don’t take the time to apply. These funds do not have to be repaid and can significantly offset the cost of tuition and other expenses. Missing out on free money for education is a common financial mistake. Students should dedicate time to searching for and applying to scholarships and grants, which can ease their financial burden.

6. Neglecting to Track Spending

Track spending Depositphotos 467561314 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Without monitoring their spending, students can easily lose track of where their money is going. Small, frequent purchases, like coffee or snacks, can add up over time. By regularly reviewing their expenses, students can identify unnecessary spending and adjust their habits. This practice helps in maintaining financial health and avoiding end-of-month surprises.

7. Forgetting to Save

save money in a jar

It’s easy to think that saving money can wait until after graduation, but starting early is crucial. Even small amounts set aside regularly can grow significantly over time due to compound interest. Having a savings cushion can also provide financial security for unexpected expenses. Developing a habit of saving early helps build a stronger financial foundation for the future.

8. Borrowing the Maximum Student Loan Amount

IOU Borrowing money Depositphotos 22276893 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

While it may seem tempting to borrow the maximum amount available through student loans, this can lead to excessive debt. It’s essential to borrow only what is necessary to cover educational and living expenses. Remember, student loans must be repaid with interest, which can become burdensome over time. Careful borrowing ensures students graduate with manageable debt levels.

9. Not Considering the Cost of Living

Man renting apartment
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The cost of living can vary greatly depending on the location of the college. Some students overlook this when choosing a school, leading to financial strain. Researching housing, transportation, and everyday living expenses is essential when planning for college. Understanding these costs helps in creating a realistic budget and financial plan.

10. Ignoring Health Insurance

health insurance Depositphotos 210649718 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Health insurance is a critical expense that some students neglect, thinking they are healthy and young. However, unexpected medical issues can lead to significant expenses. Many colleges offer student health plans that are affordable and provide necessary coverage. Ensuring proper health insurance can prevent financial devastation from unforeseen medical bills.

11. Buying New Textbooks

Selling textbooks shutterstock 182739674
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

New textbooks can be incredibly expensive, but many students still buy them instead of exploring cheaper alternatives. Used textbooks, rentals, or digital versions can save hundreds of dollars each semester. Additionally, some professors place copies of textbooks on reserve at the library. Looking for less expensive options helps manage educational costs more effectively. Additionally, sell your textbooks at end of the semester to recoup some cash.

12. Overindulging in Entertainment

College students
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Socializing and enjoying college life is important, but it’s easy to overspend on entertainment. Regular outings, parties, and events can quickly drain a student’s budget. Finding free or low-cost activities and limiting expensive entertainment options can help keep spending in check. Balancing fun with financial responsibility is key to avoiding debt.

13. Ignoring Financial Education Resources

Teaching a workshop Depositphotos 50868241 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Many students do not take advantage of financial education resources available through their school or community. Workshops, online courses, and counseling services can provide valuable knowledge about managing money. Understanding topics like budgeting, credit, and investments can help students make better financial decisions. Proactively seeking out financial education can lead to long-term financial success.

14. Forgetting to Plan for Emergencies

Emergency fund shutterstock 1984380629
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Life is unpredictable, and not having an emergency fund can lead to serious financial stress. Unexpected expenses such as car repairs or medical emergencies can arise at any time. Setting aside money specifically for emergencies ensures that students are prepared for unexpected situations. An emergency fund acts as a financial safety net, providing peace of mind.

15. Not Taking Part-Time Jobs

job at college Depositphotos 537058680 XL
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Some students shy away from working while in school, fearing it will interfere with their studies. However, part-time jobs can provide valuable income and work experience. Balancing work and school can be challenging, but many students successfully manage both. Earning money through a part-time job can reduce the need for loans and help cover living expenses.

15 Tips to Live Frugally As A College Student

shutterstock 2102686360 scaled

Heading to college is an exciting journey filled with new experiences and opportunities. However, it also means managing your finances, often for the first time. For many students, college is when they learn how to stretch a dollar and make the most of their budget. Living frugally in college doesn’t just help you avoid debt; it also teaches valuable financial habits that can benefit you for a lifetime. Whether you are trying to minimize your student loans or make your monthly allowance last longer, learning to live within your means is crucial.

10 Best Pieces of Advice College Students Have For Fellow Students

College student smiling shutterstock 1354368410
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

College can be an exciting and transformative time in your life. It’s a time for growth, learning, and exploration. However, it can also be a challenging and overwhelming experience, especially if you’re unsure how to navigate it. From time management to building relationships, these pieces of advice can help you make the most of your college experience and set yourself up for success in the future.

Leave a Comment