Life was sweet, I was on my way to one of the best Universities on earth (Florida A&M University) hundreds of miles away from home on a full ride scholarship! I had no idea I was about to dig myself into a terrible financial hole pretty quickly. I made three major money mistakes my first year in college, here they are:
- The credit card offers started to roll in, and I accepted them ALL!
- I spent my student reimbursement check on pure nonsense.
- I didn’t save my money.
I accepted those evil credit cards!
I thought I knew all I needed to know about money and credit and to be honest I knew nothing. How was I supposed to pay these cards back if I didn’t have a job? You think I would have thought that one through a bit before running to the nearest mall! I was young and pretty foolish at the time so I did the exact opposite of what I should have done.
Looking back the smarter thing to do was accept maybe one or two offers, apply for the cards and not use them. I should have taken the opportunity to start building a credit history at age 18 without actually carrying any balances on these cards. By graduation I would have had 4 or 5 years of great credit history.
Let me add that the credit card offers a college student gets are not the best. They will come with high interest rates and even annual fees which added insult to injury. Credit card companies prey on young and naive college students. If someone doesn’t come from a household where money was talked about quite a bit it’s easy to fall into the trap.
I spent my student reimbursement check on pure nonsense.
Because I went to school on a full ride scholarship and qualified for multiple grants I actually received a check each semester. If I remember correctly my checks were any where between $900 and $1700. Again I didn’t do anything constructive with the money. I blew it on shopping and fast food. This was a huge mistake. What I should have done was pay off those ridiculous credit cards I had gotten.
In hindsight the best thing I could have done with that money was start a small online business. Something that I could have done from my computer in my dorm room in my spare time. I know people my age now that took similar routes and they’ve actually grown those small businesses into pretty impressive companies and now earn six figures.
Or I could have invested that money into to various stocks, although it wasn’t much money I would have developed great habits and learned quite a bit. If only I knew then what I know now!
I didn’t save my money.
The biggest mistake in my opinion that I made in college was not saving any extra cash I came across. The only real income I had were the checks once per semester. After buying things like toiletries and personal care items, there was a few bucks I could have stashed away fro a rainy day. There was no need to by new clothes or shoes. If I would have saved my extra cash and did nothing with it besides sit on it I would have still been in a better financial position.
My advice to college students? DON’T DO WHAT I DID. In fact do the exact opposite of what I did. If you find yourself struggling remember a few things:
1) You’re not alone, every college kids is broke. Ramen noodles and PJ&J won’t kill you.
2) Find creative ways to make a small income, you don’t have to go out and get a full time job (although it is an option and if you can swing it go for it. Most students have a pretty demanding course load and a job is just not a great idea). Your job is getting through school.
3) Save and hold onto the money that you do get. Not everyone is fortunate to come from a wealthy family that can send money often. I wasn’t and that’s part of the reason I qualified for the financial aid that I did receive.