Freshman Finance 101: 14 Financial Tips for College Students

Whether your child is in their first year of college or heading to college in the fall, it’s always a good idea to talk to them about one of the most important classes they’ll never actually take: Freshman Finance 101.

So before your kid heads to college, sit down with them—even if it’s just for an hour. Pick some financial tips that apply to your student’s life and develop a smart money strategy they can apply not just to their freshman year, but well past college and into adulthood.

Here’s 14 tips for college students to impact their financial success in freshman year and beyond.

  1. Budget: Help your student develop a monthly budget. What do they plan to have in income each month? What will their expenses be? Help them plan for unexpected expenses, as well, like off-campus dinners.
  2. Save: What’s a budget mean if they can’t save? Build a monthly savings goal into their budget—for example, saving 15% of their income per month.
  3. Compounding Interest: Teach your kid the importance of how saving money can lead to more money in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond—by putting money they save into investment accounts, like an IRA.
  4. Books: The campus bookstore is the most expensive place to purchase books. Instead, have them try borrowing books from the library or buy through websites like Amazon and eBay. 
  5. No Car: They’ll save on gas, insurance and monthly car payments. Campus is beautiful! Walk. Take the bus or an Uber when they need to. 
  6. Job: Encourage them to get a flexible job where they can work 10-15 hours per week to earn valuable income that will fund their budget. 
  7. More Classes: After that first semester, they can look into taking an extra class or two per semester. The fewer semesters they take to graduate, the less expensive their education will be.
  8. Cash: When your kid goes out, encourage them to only bring the cash they expect to spend that night—no ATM card, no credit card.
  9. Student Discounts: Explore valuable discounts they can get with their student ID—restaurants, movie theaters, concerts and more!
  10. ID Theft: Make sure they protect their logins with strong passwords and change them often. Log out when using any school computers. Identify theft is expensive. Guard against it!
  11. Meal Plans: Opt for less-costly meal plans and cook more instead.
  12. Prepay: Capitalize on tuition prepayment discounts. Some colleges offer up to a 10% discount if you pay early.
  13. Grants/​Scholarships: When applying for college, explore all grants/​scholarships that could be available. Do this even after the college year begins.
  14. Student Loan: Your child might not want to think about what they’ll have to pay back in loans once they graduate. But it’s a good idea to give them a framework for what they will have to pay off—inspiring them to save a little more in their monthly budget now.

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