6 Common Money Mistakes College Students Make

College is a prime time to set you up for success, but if you’re not careful, it can also be a time to saddle yourself with debt that can take years (or decades) to pay off.

You’re young, you’re carefree, you’re finally away from home. Most importantly, you’re free to start directing the future of your life. Sadly, we’re rarely taught about proper money management or how to handle all this freedom.

The MSTRPLN weekly academic planner is truly at the heart of my whole financial journey. It was in college where some of my financial learnings (and some six-figure errors) began. When it was time to start designing this planner, I thought about the mistakes I made in college and what would have helped me avoid the financial hole I dug myself into.

While it’s great to keep track of your assignments, the last thing you want is to lose track of your finances along the way. This planner is designed to make sure you keep track of both.

With all of that being said, let’s dive into some of my biggest mistakes that I’m sure most of you will relate to.

Mistake #1: Not applying for enough grants and scholarships

No matter how large or small your debt is, college is the one of the few times you’ll have access to free money - so take advantage of it!

College is unfortunately designed so that it’s easier to take out debt than it is to get scholarships and grants. To saddle yourself with more debt, you usually just click a few buttons and boom, “I’ll worry about that in a few years!”

Whereas on the flip side, grants and scholarships usually require some kind of essay, interview, paperwork, and so on. Don’t be lazy like I was, hunt for them and jump through the hoops. Every single grant and scholarship will ease your financial burden in the future.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

Built into the MSTRPLN academic planner are two spreads that I wish I had in college:
  1. Internship tracker
  2. Scholarship tracker

Inside those, you’ll be able to keep track of everything you’re applying for and the steps to complete each one.

Mistake #2: Losing track of your student loans

Listen, while I’m a huge believer in not taking on debt, sometimes it’s just unavoidable. There are a lot of people out there who will shame you for having to take out loans and will say, “You should have just gone to community college!” but if you have to take out loans, so be it.

Just make sure while you’re taking out the loans that you don’t lose track of all the ones you have. It’s easy to lose track of your debts between all of your semesters. You don’t want to graduate and have no idea of your actual student loan total. I ended up with $50,000+ in just interest alone because I ignored it for so long! There’s no need to do this to do this to yourself, too.

If you need to find your student loans, this website can help you track them down: here.

Also, be sure to use your student loan money for your school expenses, not just for shopping and partying. This planner is designed to not only keep your schedule on track, but it’s a financial planner as well so you won’t be blindsided when you graduate.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

Inside the MSTRPLN academic planner, you’ll find a debt tracker page. (Don’t worry, this page is in all of our planners, so even if you order a yearly version, you’ll have it!)

Inside the debt tracker page, there’s a ton of room to keep track of the amount, the payments, and when you need to start paying it back.

Mistake #3: Not appreciating how much freedom you have before full-on adulthood

You might feel like you’re busy now, but let me tell you, adulthood comes at you quick. You’ll need to find a balance of appreciating the freedom and the time you have while also not enjoying that freedom too much and ending up in piles of debt.

If you watch my video, you know I love rewarding myself when it’s needed. However, college came with a little bit too much shopping and too little planning.

Pro tip: Put some of your extra money into a high yield savings account. It’s not fun, and it’s not sexy, but you’ll want that money to just sit there and compound so years later you can enjoy that savings.

This is the time to start a budget, even if it’s small and not perfect yet. Just get something on paper and start to figure out where your money is going now that you’re most likely paying your bills on your own for the first time.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

Within this planner, you have the ability to figure out a monthly budget along with weekly money trackers to keep an overview of everything coming and going from your accounts. It might take a while to learn how you spend, but this will be your budget planner and financial sidekick.

If you need to side hustle or get an on-campus job, you have more than enough room to fit it in your academic planner, too!

Mistake #4: Not properly using a credit card

It’s still crazy to me that these credit card companies are allowed to be on college campuses to sign young adults up for their cards.

It’s so easy to spend a little money here, a little money there, and end up with massive amounts of debt that take you a decade to pay off. Credit cards are some of the words because the interest rates are crazy and painful.

Keep in mind: credit cards are NOT free money, even though they feel like it.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

The budget will be your best friend! Like I mentioned, this is not only an academic planner, but it’s also a financial planner.

You can break down the expensive things you want to buy each month so you can put some extra cash away. That way, you’re buying things outright in cash instead of putting them on a credit card and digging yourself into a hole.

Mistake #5: Keeping up with the Joneses

Just because your friends are going on fancy vacations and living extravagantly, doesn’t mean you have to. You might have friends who come from generational wealth or friends who are just bad with their money (you might never know which is which), but this is the time to break free of friendships that hurt your wallet more than help.

The faster you accept your financial reality, the easier your life is going to be.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

I highly recommend going through the goals section of this planner so you can really narrow in on what you want out of the next year. A lot of people go into debt because they don’t know what to save or work toward instead.

Setting some goals can help keep you focused.

Mistake #6: Not using every available student discount

You might be shocked at how many student discounts are out there. There are so many you are not using on a daily basis! Between restaurants, transportation, apps, and services (both online and in your state), you might be passing up all kinds of deals and even freebies.

How the MSTRPLN academic planner helps you avoid this mistake:

While there isn’t a dedicated page for tracking student discounts, I’d highly recommend making it a project or task in the monthly overview so you can deep dive and see what deals you can find. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can create a spread in the back blank pages of this planner to keep track of everything.

Be sure to ask every single place you go, software you buy, and store you shop at if they have student discounts. You’ll be amazed at how many do but just don’t offer it publicly.