By Amanda Cross, Student at the University of Central Arkansas
When I was told to write about the one thing I wish I had known my freshman year, money was the first thing that popped into my head.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is that money doesn’t grow on trees.
Here are some of my tips to avoiding freshman money mistakes:
1. Create a budget and stick to it.
Give yourself flex money in your budget. If you do well that month in sticking to your budget, use half the flex money to buy something for yourself and put the rest in savings. If you don’t stick to your budget that month, put all that money directly into savings.
2. Go with the more flexible meal plan.
This is a big one! Always go for the meal plan that will allow you to eat at the most places, even if it’s more expensive than the less flexible one. You won’t regret this because it will give you more options around campus to eat. Plus, it will let you save on costly campus food, and I guarantee you will get tired of eating at only one or two places around campus.
3. Don’t always trust online banking.
As a freshman, I overdrafted way too many times for my liking. This was mostly because I would check my available balance on my phone and think it was right and go spend money. Luckily I never went past $5, and at my bank as long as the overdraft is less than $5, you won’t get charged an overdraft fee. Sometimes you make a mistake, so be sure to check out your bank’s overdraft policy, but please make sure you are keeping tabs on your own spending!
4. Don’t buy things you don’t need.
Window shopping is great but not entirely necessary. If you decide to go window shopping, leave your money in the car so you can’t buy what you see. If you find something that you think is cute, chances are it is, but chances are … you don’t need it. If you can’t get the top out of your head, take down any tag information and see if you can find it online or maybe go back for it later when you actually can buy it.
5. Use free entertainment at school.
Your school usually provides all kinds of free to cheap entertainment. If you want to have fun, try going to a sporting event, going to see a play that your school’s theater department puts on or catching a comedian that your school may bring. There will mostly likely be tons of free entertainment, so instead of paying to see a movie, go to a play.