6 Financial Mistakes Every College Student Should Avoid

Experienced upperclassmen share their money mistakes — so that you can avoid them.

Kaitlyn Smith Aug 7, 2019

College is a time plentiful with change. For many college students, it’s also a time with a lot more financial freedom, but that freedom comes with responsibility. Without Mom or Dad there to coach your spending, it’s easy to go off budget.

Smart money management can be a tough task, but you’re not alone. To help you out, we’re offering tips from some seasoned upperclassmen who are sharing the top 6 money mistakes they made — so you can avoid them.

Mikayla Viny
Mikayla Viny

College Money Mistake #1: Eating out too much

Mikayla Viny, a rising senior at Westminster College, said that eating out all the time really bit into her savings freshman year. Now, she saves a few bucks by meal prepping on the weekends. “It’s cheaper and it’s definitely healthier than grabbing fast food between classes,” Viny says.

College Money Mistake #2: Not applying for scholarships

This one may seem obvious, but many students don’t realize how many scholarship opportunities are out there. Your school isn’t the only option! Websites like help you find smaller independent scholarships that fill the gaps in university aid.

College Money Mistake #3: Buying textbooks right away

Especially as an incoming freshman, it’s easy to be overeager and buy every textbook on your list before you even set foot in a lecture hall.

“For a lot of classes, I’ve been able to find an online version of the book for much cheaper or even for free,” says Sam Shreeve, a computer science major at the University of Washington.

Sam Shreeve
Sam Shreeve

College Money Mistake #4: Buying a printer

When Ailee Tahmassebi was moving into her dorm at the University of Utah, a printer was on the list of her essential items to buy. Two years later, she says: “I’ve never even used it once, I don’t need to print things often, and when I do it’s easier to just do it on campus.”

Ailee Tahmassebi
Ailee Tahmassebi

College Money Mistake #5: Credit card misuse

Opening a credit card to start building your credit is a good idea, but be careful not to go overboard. If you can’t pay off your balance, any gains to your credit score will be negated.

“I try not to put too much on my credit card,” says Gabe Zharov, a rising senior at Vanderbilt University. “And I set the bill up to autopay each month so that I don’t have any late fees.”

College Money Mistake #6: Borrowing too much

Borrowing your friend’s paddleboard instead of buying your own is a smart move, but taking a large student loan might not be. You could get approved for a loan that would give you a little extra pocket money but added interest can cause you to stay in debt for longer than needed.

The Zions Bank Student Banking suite of products includes Anytime Checking, a Visa Debit Card and digital banking tools that make it easy for students to manage their money.

Please refer to the Deposit Account Agreement, Account Disclosure, Deposit Rate Sheet and Personal Account Schedule of Fees available in the Zions Bank Agreement Center, or visit a local Zions Bank branch to speak with a banker for more details.

Kaitlyn Smith is a Zions Bank summer intern and is pursuing a degree in Cognitive Science at UCLA.


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