This post brought to you by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. All opinions are 100% mine.
Psst: I was asked to write sponsored posts connected to the BMO Harris Bank Scavenger Hunt Sweepstakes. I’ll be writing a post each week for five weeks about my own experiences with finances around specific life stages. (For more, check out my first three posts about saving with a baby, saving with a new job and saving with a fix-me-up house.)
Saving in college
I stepped on my college campus for the first time 11 years ago. And in four years, I learned a lot about myself. I also learned a lot about money. (I’m adding a couple of photos of the college years I pulled from Facebook. Mostly just because they humor me.)
1. Fun can be had without spending money.
I have so many wonderful memories from college. And, you know what? Most of them were free or dirt cheap. Talking late into the night with my roommates. Going to the free St. Louis Zoo and museums. Walking around aimlessly.
This is a good reminder for life. You don’t have to spend money to have fun and make life-long memories. Even as an adult, the great memories you have typically have no relation to cash.
2. (Almost) Nothing is important enough to put on a credit card.
I learned in college that working retail is best for people with more self-restraint than me. I worked to buy clothes. Then, I bought more clothes. In the end, my closet was full, my wallet was empty and I had a small amount of credit card debt I was left to deal with.
I was lucky that it wasn’t worse than it was. But, it’s really easy to get sucked into the “I need it now” mentality. My experience in college taught me that (almost) nothing is important enough to put on a credit card. The caveat, of course, is that you do not have the cash to pay off said credit card. In which case, that cute blouse that’s on sale ends up costing you more than you ever dreamed was possible. (And no, I don’t actually want to do that math on how much I actually spent on every cute blouse. Just believe me that it was too much.)
3. Student loans are not free money.
I came out of my four years of college with a handy diploma, a gaggle of great memories and a monthly payment. Those pesky little student loans can follow you around for years. There are a lot of college students who spend the excess student loan money (meant for housing, books and other educational expenses) on whatever the heck they felt like. It’s sort of like going back to #2. Do you really want to be paying for that case of beer in 10 years?
My advice – use student loans for only the expenses you MUST have – like tuition and books. And look for ways to minimize other expenses. I was a resident assistant for two years, which meant my housing bills were $0. In grad school, I borrowed almost all of my books for classes. There are ways to minimize the student loans you will have to pay back. Eight years later, I’m glad I did.
It’s hard to believe that in about 16 years, Henry will be graduating High School and thinking about college. I hope that Ryan and I are able to teach him more about money so he doesn’t have to learn the hard way like his mom. But until then, Ryan and I are socking away as much as possible for Henry’s future. Because if he chooses to go to college, we’re looking at an more than an estimated $200,000. Geesh. Keep saving, peeps.
About the BMO Harris Bank Scavenger Hunt Sweepstakes
The BMO Harris Bank Scavenger Hunt Sweepstakes is a five-week long interactive game experience. The game takes you through a town-like environment, highlighting key milestones in the journey of life. This week, you can explore your new college campus. Here’s what it looks like:
By participating this week (through March 17 at 11:59:59), you can also collect tokens for a chance to win $500. (Winner will be drawn on March 20.) Find more finance tips when going to college on Facebook.
What’s your biggest piece of financial advice for someone in college?