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The 3 Biggest Money Mistakes I Made in College

After seeing the headline, you’re probably expecting to read about me partying too much, making dating mistakes, not going to class enough, etc.. Those may all be true, but you’re on our Frugal Ladies blog, so I’m going to focus on the biggest financial mistakes I made throughout college. And believe me, they are horror stories indeed! Hopefully, my experiences can help others not fall into the same traps.

 #1. Signing Up for Multiple Credit Cards

It can be exciting and tempting when you become an “adult” and get a bunch of credit card offerings.  Getting a credit card can be a great way to start earning credit, but it can also be a great way to find yourself buried in debt – and fast. I signed up to a Chase Visa, Mastercard, and of course opened accounts at The Gap, Twenty One Forever, and other retail stores. I thought I was being independent and responsible, having all the cards nicely placed in my wallet. However, I didn’t read the fine print and didn’t even understand the term, APR at the time. Now I know it stands for Annual Percentage Interest Rate and I’m well aware of the importance of paying in full on time, every month.

Don’t fall for every credit card offer that comes your way and I would advise speaking with your parents before signing up for a card. You’ll prefer asking them for advice than hearing months and years later, “You should have spoken to me! I’m always right … you’re always wrong.”

#2. Not Getting a Part-Time Job

part time job

This was such a mistake on many levels. Firstly, having any part-time job would have helped to give me work experience before graduating college. It would have also been a benefit to my wallet. Having pocket-change, without needed to ask my parents to deposit money, would have been a huge help. And in truth, having a part-time job would have made me more independent than all those credit cards I collected in my purse.

Jobs I wish I looked into while at college: Cashier at the bookstore, barista at the coffee shop, TA (Teacher’s Assistant), and salesperson at any of the nearby clothing shops! Getting a part-time job at college could give you more money, work experience, and potentially discounts at your favorite stores!

#3. Buying New Books (at the Campus Bookstore, of course!)

school textbooks

At college, I bought all my books new (from the campus bookstore) and I kept them – even after graduation. That means I had close to 100 books, some of which I ended up giving away years after they collected dust on my shelves. Some books are important and I’m happy to have kept them, but the majority ended up costing me more money and storage space at home!

So what should I have done? US News recently published an article on how college students can save money on textbooks. Not so surprisingly, they advised to buy used books (yeah … I know now).  However, other recommendations were interesting as well: opt for ebooks, rent the books, or try setting up a sharing system with peers. Amazon has Kindle Textbook Rental, but there are other online rent-a-book websites, too! Use technology to your advantage and at the very least – do not buy your books at the overly priced campus bookstore!

So, that’s my college confession. What big financial no-no’s were you guilty of back in college?


About Sherrie W.

Sherrie is a part-time contributor to All the Frugal Ladies. She currently works for a small publishing firm in London and enjoys writing about her frugal (and not so frugal) life experiences and lessons learned along the way :)

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  • Taralyn

    I wish that I had applied for as many college scholarships as I could throughout college!

    • Sherrie Woosley

      Oh yeah – that’s another good point. Thanks, Taralyn.

  • homelifeabroad

    I hear ya! I made so many mistakes in college… starting with the guy I dated for a big chunk of it…

  • A Woman The World Deserves

    These are things that High school guidance counselors need to be telling juniors and seniors. I have made those mistakes. Mistakes I would have loved to avoid if only someone would have told me! My big mistake was not taking my classes seriously and not spending my refund check wisely. Wish I could redo, but it has taught me a lot!

    • Sherrie Woosley

      So true! So many real-world topics aren’t taught at schools and it’s a big shame and missed opportunity.

  • Robin Rue

    YES, YES and YES. Especially that credit card thing. I was so excited that I had 3 cards and ended up maxing them all out not realizing I was going to have to pay for all that stuff later. Sigh.

  • Jennifer B

    I agree, I made tons of mistakes when I was younger too and now I wish I had listened to my parents the first time LOL

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    I’m pretty sure I had too many credit cards going back then. I was working a lot but I was so excited at being able to “charge” like an adult, that they built up too fast!

  • Gabrielle Presley

    These are some great tips – especially about the books. I, too, bought my books new and wished I hadn’t. I never even wrote in mine so I could have done just fine renting my books and returning them at the end of the year. Thank you for sharing this valuable information!

    • Sherrie Woosley

      Thanks, Gabrielle – looks like we both learned the hard way!

  • Lisa Jones acouponaddict

    So Very Very True I Learned The Hard Way Too At Least Someone Will Learn From Our Mistakes!! LOL!

  • blm03

    I worked too much in college and ended up making myself sick.

  • Dawn Calgaro

    I know all about making mistakes when I was younger. If only I had actually listened to my parents.

  • brett

    ugh. the credit cards. oh hey! free Frisbee? yes i’ll sign up.

  • Mommy2jam

    Thank goodness I didn’t have a credit card ever.

  • Claudia Krusch

    I haven’t had a credit cards in three years, I believe the younger you are the easier it is to get in the debt trap.

  • Brittnei Washington

    For me, going to college was a big financial no no. With the direction I was going I could have gone to a community school or something. I never thought of that as an option because my family was all about us going to college and being first generation college grads. 🙂

  • I went to an online college. I also made these same mistakes. Luckily, I have been able to avoid getting myself into bad credit card debt with multiple cards. Great post maybe it will help prevent future college students from making the same mistake.

    • Sherrie Woosley

      I hope so, Victoria. Isn’t it crazy that you went to an online college and still we made the same kind of mistakes. We need to be taught how to manage our finances at an early age.

  • Mama to 5 Blesings

    I did nt go to college but my husband has a regret – he went to college. We are still paying his loans he wishes he went local for the 1st few years and then went away to the University. Would have been less money!

  • Amy Desrosiers

    When I went to college I was pretty opposite of you. I had a few credit cards that I used to build credit, I payed my way, and and had multiple jobs. I learned from an early age that good financial habits were a must.

    • Sherrie Woosley

      I needed friends like you, Amy! Luckily, I’m on a much better track these days.

  • Elizabeth

    Mine was spending too much going out to eat– sharing this post with my sister!

  • Debbie Denny

    Credit cards is a trap a lot of young people fall into

  • Katherine Bartlett

    Credit cards for me too. Opened everyone I could

  • Oh I did all those mistakes that you did. I applied for all the cards that I could because they were giving away a free t-shirt etc. If only I knew then what I know now. 🙁

  • Janeane Davis

    These are good lessons for college students and for the parents of college students.

  • Working through college set me up for success! I remember I was able to pay for my Honda Accord in cash.
    Skip the campus jobs if you can and go somewhere where you’ll make more than minimum wage.
    I waited tables at a Denny’s and made $20 an hour.