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Financial Lessons College Students Need to Learn

September 30, 2015

Students begin their collegiate career equipped with the financial basics, but through the whirlwind of late nights, research papers and nerve-wracking exams, important financial practices can fall by the wayside. Scholastic pressures weigh heavy while the reality of adulthood expenses begin sinking in. Ace the transition by taking note of these valuable lessons.

Embrace Frugality:

When school is your primary responsibility and the money you do have is needed to support that lifestyle, pinching-pennies is to be expected. So what if you are not dining at the finest restaurants or buying the latest and greatest gadgets, you have classes to pass and a lifetime ahead of you to focus on bringing home paychecks. Let “free” become your new favorite word and look for ways to avoid spending extra. Textbooks are pricey; rent or buy used. Print papers on campus for a couple cents or better yet, free, rather than purchasing a printer. Instead of buying coffee daily, invest in your own coffee maker. Attend on-campus events where dinner is provided. Stay on your toes and always look for simple ways to save.

Don’t Brush-off Budgeting

You have heard all about the importance of budgeting, but have you actually made the shift to living by the numbers? College is the perfect time to lock down your budget while bills are at a minimum. You have time to practice, and recover from slip-ups, before lining up a full time job, buying a home or getting into a car payment. Write down your known expenses, but don’t neglect to budget for fun too – you are in college after all. Monitor your spending by habitually checking your account balances with online or mobile banking. Become comfortable with living by your budget and knowing how much money you have to your name at all times. Doing so now will make it easier to stay in control of your finances when expenses and bills become more involved down the road.

Take Charge of Your Cash Flow

When books are paid for, the dining hall keeps you fed and tuition payments are up-to-date, it can be easy to let extra cash burn a hole in your pocket. However, don’t neglect the necessity of having an emergency fund just in case your laptop decides to crash mid-semester or you qualify for an honor society that requires membership fees. Remember, it is a lot easier to swipe your card than hand over cash. Try allotting funds for dining out, entertainment, etc. by organizing budgeted cash into envelopes to keep it organized and your spending on track. Living a frugal lifestyle will help you avoid setbacks due to financial surprises.

For many students, college is the first time they are off on their own and making their own financial decisions. Steer clear of unwarranted financial fiascos by forming sound habits. While you are in a safe learning environment, take time to find what works and does not work for you. No one masters their finances over night, but starting young and doing your homework will only prove to be beneficial in the future.

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at or on Facebook at

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