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
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!)
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?