The Financial Freshman 15: How to Avoid Hefty Financial Mistakes in College

Much like the “Freshman 15” that sometimes comes with all of the other stresses of college life, the added weight of money mistakes can stay with a person for a long time – and can be pretty hard to shed. But luckily, they can also be easier to avoid with the help of some common sense and some added knowledge.

  • Finding a bank is like finding a gym – It has to be convenient. Look for a bank with an on- or near-campus presence and online and mobile banking.
  • Seek qualified instruction. Take advantage of any financial education courses offered by your bank and school. Include your parents on your account for at least a year. Think of it as hiring a personal trainer for your finances, only cheaper.
  • Always use a spotter…Protect yourself from unnecessary fees. Sign up for any alerts offered by your bank so that you know ahead of time when your funds are running low.
  • …Or protective gear where necessary. Protect your identity by signing your card and protecting your PIN information.
  • Count calories. Take advantage of online banking tools that help you track and keep a detailed record of every dollar that comes in or goes out. Don’t spend more than you make! PNC’s Virtual Wallet® Student, for example, comes with Danger Day alerts and new budgeting features.
  • Budgeting is like dieting… Nobody wants to do it, but you have to stick with it to make it work.
  • …And saving money is like lifting weights. Establish a regular program and set aside a few bucks each week.
  • Free t-shirts are the late night burrito of finances. They look good now, but you’ll pay later. Think twice before signing up for that new high-interest credit card just to score some cool swag.
  • Start today. Waiting until after college to take control of your finances could cost you. And like any good fitness regimen, getting started is half the battle.

No matter what shape you – or your bank account – are in, sticking with a disciplined approach to money management will pay off in the long run. Banks make it easy for you to avoid mistakes; it just takes common sense, a little home work and some good habits.

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