Identifying Personal Spending Hazards

Learning Objectives

  • Identify personal spending hazards for college students

Lots of students work hard and manage to cover the cost of attending college, but plenty find that they don’t have a lot left over for other important things, like housing and food. The idea of actually saving money—for things like clothes, entertainment, or other “extras”—may seem completely out of reach. In this section we challenge you to take a chance and try. You may be surprised to find that you can change your spending habits, gain better control over your finances, and wind up with money in the bank. Below are some common hazards you can avoid and tips to get you started:

  • New spending responsibilities: If you’re starting college right out of high school, this may be the first time you’ve had your own checking account or received regular income from a job. It may be tempting to spend what’s left over after you pay for big items like tuition and books, forgetting that you still have other expenses. Even if you don’t spend a lot of money on extras, you may not be aware of strategies for saving money, such keeping an eye out for coupons and sales.
  • Using credit cards: Young college students are often targeted by credit card companies because they have comparatively few financial responsibilities and generally have clean credit records. Owning and using a credit card can be an effective way to build a credit history, and it can also be useful in an emergency, but credit cards do carry significant risk: If you don’t pay them off in full every month, they accrue interest—sometimes at a very high rate—and the total amount you owe can become an enormous financial burden.
  • Neglecting to pursue scholarships: Many college students are either unaware of scholarships they qualify for or they just don’t follow through and apply. Take advantage of the financial aid office at your college. Ask questions and get help finding out what’s available to you. You may be passing up an opportunity to get “free money” for tuition, room and board, and books.
  • Recreational activities: Unlike high school students, college students don’t generally have classes all day, so they may find themselves with hours of free time. To fill that time, they may want to go to places like restaurants, movies, and shopping centers. These activities add up fast and cost more money than eating on campus with a room-and-board plan or cooking meals and socializing at home.[1]

Most of these points have budgeting skills in common. Budgeting involves knowing how much money you have and exactly where it’s going.


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  1. Reaume, Amanda. "6 Common Money Mistakes College Freshmen Make." Money: College Planner. 6 Sept 2015. Web. 2 Feb 2016.