It seems that kids in college have a knack for wasting Mom and Dad’s money (or blowing every cent of a student loan meant to last all semester in the first week of classes). And it’s no wonder, considering that many kids in college are away from home and responsible for themselves (and their finances) for the first time in their lives, often with no preparation for such a cataclysmic event.
So is it your fault you’re driven to spend wastefully? Probably not. On the other hand, if you’re made aware of the potential areas that you might overspend, you have every opportunity to put a stop to the waste and stay on track financially. Here are a few areas to keep an eye on.
1. Parties. Okay, so with no parental supervision, it can be tempting to ditch out on homework and attend some of the many mixers happening all over campus. But that doesn’t mean you have to provide chips and dip for everyone. Keep the parties to a minimum and bring a token offering rather than take-out for the whole crew.
2. Eating out. You have a cafeteria and a meal plan for a reason: to keep you from spending all your money on the outrageous expense of eating out. So keep your wallet and your waistline intact by eating meals on campus, getting snacks at the grocery store (more cost-efficient than the vending machine), or even eating at home if your parents are nearby.
3. Spring break in Cabo. Or Baja. Or Cancun. Pretty much anywhere that has a resort and lots of booze. You might need a break by March, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to party it up out of state. Instead, get a few buddies and some brews (if you’re over 21) and head to a nearby camping spot for a fun vacay on the cheap.
4. Changing majors. By the time you get through GE, you should have a pretty good idea of what area you want to focus on. Use your time on campus to research different careers and talk to your counselor. That way you won’t find yourself a 6th-year senior with a huge debt and no idea of what you want a degree in.
5. Buying brand new. There’s no doubt that textbooks, study materials, software, and even dorm decorations cost a pretty penny. But you don’t have to buy everything new. You can save a lot by purchasing used textbooks (or checking them out from the campus library), searching for sites that offer student discounts on software, and checking out Craig’s list for dorm furnishing that are cheap or even free.
6. Texting galore. If your parents aren’t springing for your mobile plan (or they refuse to get you unlimited talk, text, and web options), you might find yourself in hot water when your cell phone bill shows up. Instead of owing your mobile provider your first-born child (or worse, having your service cancelled) man up and watch your usage (or spring for the additional cost of unlimited coverage).
7. Not saving. Extra money from your student loans is no excuse for a shopping spree. Save that money for later and you might just have the funding you need to fix your car, attend summer school, or sign up for the study abroad program you’ve been dreaming of.
Leon Harris writes for AdvanceMe, the nation’s leading merchant cash advance provider and credit card factoring company.