Most adolescents anxiously await their first year of college. In addition to the new people they're about to meet and the new friends they'll no doubt make, kids look forward to the first time they'll be away from home and free to do as they please without the supervision of Mom and Dad.
While freshman year of college is a time for many firsts, it's also the first time many kids are trusted to handle their own money. With that trust comes great responsibility, and oftentimes a few financial mishaps as well. Students about to enter their first year of college should consider the following financial tips in the hopes that some of the common pitfalls college freshmen face can be avoided.
"¢ Choose a bank account wisely. Typically, most universities host representatives of the local bank branches on campus during their orientation weekend. Kids should be told to look for the bank that offers the best deal. A good deal for college kids is a checking or savings account that does not penalize for low balances. Those that offer no minimum balance are often the best for college freshmen. Look for an account that doesn't charge fees for too many ATM withdrawals or debit card purchases.
It's also wise to advise incoming freshmen opening their first checking account to take the minimum number of checks. More checks typically cost money, and most kids will end up paying their bills online nowadays anyway, making those extra checks an unnecessary expense.
"¢ Pay bills on time. Lurking on many a college campus are credit card company representatives encouraging students to apply for a line of credit. While it's not necessarily a bad thing for you to open a line of credit, you should have a strong knowledge of what credit is and how it works before heading off for college. Pay your credit card bills on time. Late fees can be heavy, and interest charges can really add up if you aren't careful.
"¢ Look online for textbooks. Thanks to the Internet, it's now easier than ever for college kids to save money on textbooks and other required reading. As soon as they receive their class schedules, incoming freshmen can check their professors' homepage for what books and materials will be necessary. The syllabus, particularly for 100 level courses, rarely changes, so you should find the appropriate homepage as soon as possible and then search for required materials on such Web sites as Amazon, Overstock and eBay. Because textbooks are so expensive, such resources can potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
"¢ Use the meal plan. Many schools require non-commuter freshmen to purchase a meal plan. While the campus dining halls might not boast cuisine as good as Mom's homecooking, it's already paid for and can save you from spending their money on pizza and fast food.
"¢ Shop as a student. College kids are often eligible for student discounts, particularly at establishments surrounding the campus. Incoming freshmen should ask about student discounts before spending a dime. Movie theaters, restaurants and even appliance stores offer student discounts. Purchasing a new computer for school? Inquire about student discounts, which could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
"¢ Work with your roommate. Schools send out roommate information a couple of months in advance of the first day of school. This is so roommates can split what's needed to make their room as comfortable as possible. Contact your roommate and decide who's bringing what. This will end up saving money and valuable room space.