How Much Does College Cost? Here’s What It Cost Me

How Much Does College Cost? Here’s What It Cost Me

One question most people have asked themselves whether they’ve attended college or not is, “how much does college cost?”

I’ve asked myself that question a number of times.

And now that I’m done, I wanted to find out exactly how much college cost me. The total cost of tuition minus financial aid and scholarships to see what my out-of-pocket cost was.

I recently finished my master’s degree and added up the cost of my associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree.

There’s no doubt my situation is not applicable to everyone. And if you’ve thought about going to college, it could give you a ballpark estimate of what you can expect to pay for college if your situation is anything like mine.

Here’s how much college cost me.

Related: How to Hack College: 4 Steps to Graduate Debt-Free

Here’s What College Cost Me

Associates Degree

After high school, my goal was to go to the University of Utah. Luckily, things didn’t end up working out and I made the decision to go to a 2-year college.

A decision that saved me over $24,000.

And at the time I was bummed because the University of Utah is the flagship university in my state and I didn’t look into how much it would cost me. In hindsight, not going there for the first two years was the best decision.

I attended Utah Valley University. It’s a 4-year university but I only stayed there for 2 years to complete my general education.

Because my mom was a single mother and I was a dependent on her tax return, I qualified for the full Pell Grant.

Here is the cost broken down by semester and how I paid for it.

Utah Valley University

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancingSource
2010 Fall$2,257$2,775Financial Aid
$10Cash Payment
2011 Spring$2,175$2,775Financial Aid
$20Cash Payment
2011 Summer$808$808Cash Payment
2011 Fall$1,972$2,775Scholarship
2014 Summer$1,460$1,412Financial Aid
$48Cash Payment
2014 Fall$2,749$2,865Financial Aid
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding

Even though it took me nearly 5 years to get my associate’s degree, I was at Utah Valley University for 2 years. The three-year gap between 2012 and 2014 was when I moved to Texas for a church service mission.

The total cost of an associate’s degree was $11,421. But you can see that the total amount of funding was $2,067 more. And this is because after receiving the full amount of financial aid for both years, a scholarship I earned in high school of $2,775 was applied.

I used that extra money to pay for books, room & board, etc.

And after completing my associate’s degree, I then transferred to the University of Utah.

Bachelor’s Degree

I graduated with a degree in business administration in December 2017 from the University of Utah. I knew it was going to be a stretch and the cost of it almost kept me from going.

My plan was to get a degree in finance but I realized corporate finance was not my thing. It also would have cost me more.

Here’s what my four year degree cost me:

The University of Utah

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancingSource
2015 Spring$3,734$2,865Financial Aid
$869Cash Payment
2015 Fall$4,126$2,412Financial Aid
$238Cash Payment
$5,705Student Loan
2016 Summer$1,908$1,908Cash Payment
2016 Fall$6,156$3,813Financial Aid
2017 Spring$6,096$2,375Scholarships
$2,333Financial Aid
2017 Summer$3,810$3,810Cash Payment
2017 Fall$7,220$2,935Financial Aid
$1,060Cash Payment
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding

I was at the University of Utah for 3 years. This was the most expensive degree for me. I had to borrow student loans in my first year to cover the cost.

It was a bummer but I had to do it. However, I paid off the student loans by the time I graduated.

The average cost of tuition for a four year degree in the US is $35,572.

The total cost of tuition for me was $38,423.

With that, I was just over the national average for a bachelor’s degree. The fall of 2015 was the first time that I had to borrow student loans. That was a bummer but I had to do it.

Master’s Degree

After finishing my bachelor’s degree I took a semester off and decided to move to Texas for a master’s degree. The master’s degree was in personal financial planning and I chose Texas Tech for three reasons:

  • The cost of tuition was low
  • I received a scholarship and qualified for in-state tuition
  • And received a fellowship that help cover the cost

In hindsight, I’m very happy with my decision to get my master’s degree there.

Related: How to Embrace Financial Success in Your 20’s

Here is the cost broken down by semester.

Texas Tech University

Year & SemesterTuitionFinancing Source
2018 Fall$9,468$7,315Scholarships
$2,153Cash Payment
2019 Spring$7,936$6,485Scholarships
$1,450Cash Payment
2019 Fall$8,527$6,997Scholarships
$1,530Student Loans
2020 Spring$4,845$2,063Scholarships
$2,087Cash Payment
Total Cost of TuitionTotal Amount of Funding

You can see that I no longer qualified for financial aid for a master’s degree. Because of that, getting scholarships was more important to me.

I did borrow $1,500 in student loans during my time at Texas Tech but also was able to pay that off by the time I graduated.

How much does college cost? | Scott Henderson at Texas Tech University | Simplifinances

The Total Cost of College

I’m grateful that I was able to qualify for financial aid and I thank the Department of Education for helping me complete my education.

And I’m grateful for all of the donors that trusted me with a scholarship. I wouldn’t have been able to complete college if it wasn’t for them.

Here is the total cost of college:

Total Financial AidTotal ScholarshipsOut-of-Pocket TotalTotal Student LoansTotal Cost

Is College Worth The Cost?

Now that I have a good idea of how much college cost me, I can accurately assess whether or not college is worth the cost. The total cost of college for three degrees was $80,617. That seems like a lot, but that’s accurate because I didn’t pay that out of pocket.

I only paid $19,539 between student loans and personal savings. And that was over a 10 year period. And you also have to factor in the cost of living during those years, also the opportunity cost if I wasn’t working.

Honestly, there were a lot of mistakes I could have made in college but tried to avoid them.

So, was college worth the cost?


Here’s why:

  • I took advantage of the financial aid that was available to me
  • Scholarships that I aggressively pursued
  • I constantly found ways to decrease my cost of living
  • Through college, I was always working and making side income so I didn’t have to borrow much in student loans
  • I won’t be repaying student loans for the next 10+ years
  • And ultimately, it was worth it because I can demand a higher wage for the rest of my working career. It took a few years of sacrifice upfront but I know my income will be higher because I have a master’s degree.

If you’re still wondering if college is worth it and how much does college cost for you, the answer depends.

But don’t let the cost of it keep you from continuing your education because it may be less than you think. And if you can take advantage of the help that is available to you, it will be that much more worth it.

Why Is College So Expensive?

College has increased 100% in the last 20 years. That means college is now twice as expensive as it was in 2000. That’s crazy! And nothing has increased at that same rate.

College is expensive. And it’s only getting more expensive.

You may not qualify for financial aid. You may not receive any scholarships. College tuition in your state may not be as affordable as Utah and Texas. You may have to borrow an insane amount of student loans at high rates to finish your degree.

If this is you, you really have to ask yourself if college will be worth it. As the cost of tuition rises, we have to scrutinize college.

As college gets more and more expensive, I have to help my son decide in 16 years if it will be worth it. I honestly don’t know if it will be. He most likely won’t qualify for financial aid. He’ll have to get scholarships, borrow student loans, and work his way through school.

I started a 529 college plan for my son before he was born but my plan is to only help him cover the cost of room and board and a computer. I don’t plan on paying tuition for any of my kids.

Read: Should I Set Up A College 529 Savings Plan?

The Bottom Line

As college gets more and more expensive, I have to help my son decide in 16 years if it will be worth it. I honestly don’t know if it will be. He most likely won’t qualify for financial aid. He’ll have to get scholarships, borrow student loans, and work his way through school.

I started a 529 college plan for my son before he was born but my plan is to only help him cover the cost of room and board and a computer. I don’t plan on paying tuition for any of my kids.

You may be reading this for yourself or you may be reading this for a child. And if you are, you may still be wondering how much does college cost. I can’t give you that answer because so much depends on the situation. But I’ve given you a clear idea of what it costs me and told you if it was worth it for me or not.

8 Ways To Get Paid To Study In College

8 Ways To Get Paid To Study In College

Hundreds of thousands of students across the country will be starting college within the next week. If you’re part of that group, here are 8 ways to get paid to study.

According to a Huffington Post article, “Nearly 4 out of 5 college students are working part-time while studying for their degrees, averaging 19 hours a week.”

If you’re a college student who is trying to balance a part-time job and keep your grades up, is it possible to tackle two birds with one stone? Could you actually get paid to study?

Here are 8 ways you can make some extra income while studying for your classes at the same time. 

1. Study Soup

Did you know you could get paid to take notes in your class?

Study Soup has made it possible for college students to take notes for their classes and turn around and make some extra money with those same notes.

You’re already taking notes for your class. Why not get paid for it?

This is what one college student had to say, “Taking notes really helped with my own grades, sharing them to earn money was a no brainer.”

2. Find a part-time job on campus that gives you time to study

Many jobs on campus or even off-campus may allow you time to work on your homework. For example, if you’re in charge of managing the front desk and answering phones for an office, you may find yourself with some downtime to either mindlessly waste time on social media or tackle your homework.

As long as your boss is ok with it, you might as well use that free time you have to work on your classes. I saw plenty of jobs like this when I was working in higher education. 

3. Sell books on Amazon

Sell books on Amazon | Simplifinances

When I was in college, I never worried about the cost of textbooks.

While a lot of my classmates were renting books because it was “cheaper” or paying full price for brand new books, I created an Amazon seller account and I would buy used books for the semester and then once the semester was over I would turn around and sell the used book. Sometimes for a profit. 

Out of about 30 textbooks, there was only one that I couldn’t sell. This is more of a way to save money but it puts cash back into your pocket. It definitely beats renting books@!

4. Become a tutor

The best way to learn is to teach others.

Sometimes we think tutors know everything because they always seem to know a lot about the subject. The reality is they’re just one step ahead of you and they’re still learning new things themselves.

So if you really want to learn a subject, become a tutor and get paid to teach other students the material.

You could even claim expert status on a few subjects. 

5. Fellowships and Grants

Fellowships and Grants are perhaps the best way to get paid to study. You put in a little bit of work upfront that could potentially have a high return.

Once you receive a fellowship or a grant, they could cover the cost of a lot of things while you are in college. And you don’t even have to do too much, except for maybe a few requirements. 

Read: How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay. This book earned me over $10,000 in scholarships. Because once I learned what I was doing was wrong, I started receiving scholarships thanks to this book!

Get started applying for grants at your college and ask your academic counselor what opportunities are available. 

6. Create a blog

Create a blog with SiteGround | Simplifinances

If you’re really interested in a particular topic and you love learning and sharing information, why not create content and publish it on a blog?

If journalism is something that excites you, why wait until you graduate to start sharing your knowledge and passion to the world?

You never know what sort of opportunities could come from creating content and putting it online. SiteGround is the blog hosting software that I use for this site and definitely recommend it!

7. Pocket Points

Pocket Points is an app that you can download that will give you rewards for not using your phone while you are in class. It tracks your location so it will know if you are on a college campus.

Then, when you are sitting in class, open up the Pocket Points app, lock your phone and it will track the amount of time your phone is locked. The longer you don’t use your phone the more points you will get. You can use your points for things like free food and discounts at local places and online. 

Use Promo Code: CbfEA

8. Inbox Dollars

Get paid to study with InboxDollars | Simplifinances

Many classes, especially nowadays will allow you to have a computer in class with you. The nice thing about having a computer with you while you’re in class is you can actually open up a new tab, login to Inbox Dollars, and get paid to watch TV.

But you don’t have to have the tab open to earn money. It could be a closed tab with the volume off while your sitting in class. You can check in on it every once and a while to make sure you’re still getting rewarded for “watching” tv. 

By the end of class, I would have earned a little bit of money. Nothing crazy, but at least I didn’t have to do a thing for it. 

Click the link above to get started with a $5 bonus.


There you have it! There are 8 ways you can make some extra income while you study and spend time in college. To learn more ways to make some income on the side:

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Making Side Income

I hope you enjoyed this list of ways to get paid to study! Let me know if you have other ideas in the comments below!

How to Hack College – 4 Ways to Graduate Debt Free

How to Hack College – 4 Ways to Graduate Debt Free

Today, I’m going to share 4 strategies I used to graduate with a bachelor’s degree debt-free. 

Last week, I wrote a post on ways to pay off your student loans. This is part two of that post on how to avoid taking out loans in the first place.

There are many ways to graduate debt-free but these are strategies I used to obtain my undergraduate degree for free.

How to Graduate Debt Free

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the most expensive college in my state with zero debt. My cost of attendance ended up being close to $50,000. I didn’t have an athletic full-ride scholarship, help from parents or an employer.

I worked my way through college full time, between 40 – 50 hours a week with two jobs while taking at least 12 credits a semester.

This happened in 4 ways: The FAFSA and scholarships, community college, an IDA account (if you don’t know what that is google it and see if your state offers it), and my personal savings.

1. The FAFSA

Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the official form used to request federal, state and school assistance in paying for college.

“The FAFSA asks questions to determine the student’s level of financial need and establish his or her expected family contribution, or the amount of money the student and parents are expected to pay out of pocket for the student’s college expenses.”

Based on your situation you could get up to $5,800 per year in grants. I qualified for the full amount of Pell Grants for the first few years because my mother was single with five kids.

Too many students don’t even complete the application because they don’t think they would qualify for anything and miss out on a ton of money!

Applications for the FAFSA open up on October first for the following academic year. For example, if you complete the FAFSA on October 1st, 2020, it will be for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The earlier you apply, the better your chances of receiving grants. Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, you may still qualify for a subsidized student loan.

At least complete the application!

Along with the FAFSA, I went a little crazy applying for scholarships.

I knew I couldn’t afford to pay for my entire bachelor’s degree with grants and the rest out of pocket, so I went crazy applying for scholarships.

I didn’t want to waste time so I made a small investment of $7.99 and ordered a book off of Amazon called “How to Write an Award-Winning Scholarship Essay.”

Because of this book, no joke, I received over $13,000 in scholarships.

It was the best $8 I’ve ever spent!

A 162,400% ROI!

If I didn’t apply what I learned in that book, I wouldn’t have graduated debt-free.

2. Community College

Most people think they have to attend their school of choice for four years to have a degree from that school.

You don’t.

I went to my local community college for the first few years and finished my general education for free. This was all because of the grants that I received from the government because my mom was single and I was claimed as a dependent on her taxes for those first two years of college.

This decision saved me over $24,000.

After completing my associate’s degree, I transferred to get my bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah which is the flagship university of my state.

3. An Individual Development Account (IDA)

An Individual Development Account (IDA) is an asset-building tool designed to enable low-income individuals and families to save a targeted amount. These funds are used for building assets in the form of homeownership, post-secondary education, and small business ownership.

Because my wife and I were newly married and I only worked half of the previous year because I was on a church service mission, we qualified to participate in the IDA. Over a two year period of saving money each month, I was able to use $4,500 towards college.

How it worked was, I had to save $62.50 per month into a designated savings account at Zions Bank for 24 months. These cash deposits had to be made every month at the physical branch. If I failed to save $62.50 one month, I would forgo any matching.

I religiously deposited that amount every month and after two years I had saved up $1,500 of my own money in the account. After that, the amount in the account was matched 3 to 1. So by the end, I had $6,000 to use toward college, a down payment on a house, or starting a business.

Most of it was used to pay for college and a little to start a new business.

I’m not sure if these are still being offered because things are always changing. However, stay on top of this if you think you or someone you know may qualify.

Where else are you going to get a 300% return on your savings?

4. Personal Savings and Hard Work

This one is often overlooked.

Most people think because a student is in college, they don’t have to work hard or worry about finances until after they graduate.

This is so backward!

The habits and work ethic you create in college will transfer over into the real world after college.

I’ve basically always had a full-time job and I’ve worked my classes around my work schedule. Not the other way around.

I was also smart with my money.

Related: Guide to Personal Finance for College Students: Finance Management Tools and Apps

Making money and covering my expenses in college was very important to me so I didn’t have to borrow student loans and I could still save money.

A good chunk of my bachelor’s degree was paid for with money that I earned while I was in college and during the summer.

If you’d like to learn a few of the things I did in college to earn income:

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Making Side Income

Getting good grades is obviously important and you shouldn’t let work interfere with that. For me, I didn’t mind being a B student if it meant graduating debt-free.

But if you’re trying to get into Harvard or MIT, you obviously have to weigh the pros and cons of working as an undergrad.

Final Thoughts on a Debt-Free Degree

Because of the FAFSA and scholarships, attending community college, saving in an IDA account, and working my butt off, I was able to graduate from the university of my choice.

I had to figure all these things out on my own in college and I’m so grateful that I did!

If graduating college debt free is one of your goals, or you’d like to help a child graduate debt-free, I hope these ideas will help you in your journey!

Can You Do It With a Master’s Degree?

Graduating with my bachelor’s degree was a huge accomplishment for me.

But now, I am starting a Master’s in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech in the fall. I may have a plan in place to not have to borrow loans. 

I have taken a challenge upon myself to graduate debt-free with a master’s degree as well. It should cost me about $19,000.

I already have $9,000 secured in scholarships and $4,000 covered if I work for the university. That leaves me with $6,000 out of pocket. I plan to pay for that by working and I’ll wipe out any loans I may have from my savings.

Wish me luck!

How to Hack College - 4 Ways to Graduate Debt Free | Simplifinances
Is College Really Worth It? (Updated in 2023)

Is College Really Worth It? (Updated in 2023)

One question that almost everyone has contemplated at some point in their life is, “is college worth it?”

There I was, sitting in a stadium filled with 2,000 other graduates. A special moment for anyone finishing college.

Lining up, receiving diplomas, and taking pictures with a cap and gown with a string on the cap — why the tassel?

Friends and families celebrate the long nights and difficult tests. The events leading up to this moment are filled with difficulties and a process of learning not to give up.  

Six months ago, I finished my four-year college degree and celebrated two weeks ago.

I’m proud of it. But, I wouldn’t have done it if I had to borrow student loans. The process was anything but easy and I’m going to share with you some of the challenges I faced and what my thoughts are about, is college worth it?

My College Experience

My grandma graduated from the University of Utah many years ago.

She has a few hundred grandkids (I don’t know the exact number and that’s not a typo), and because of that, an army of Ute fans was created.

It was always a dream on mine to graduate from the U. It was on every vision board I have created.

Looking back, it was because I wanted my family members to feel proud of me for doing something difficult and I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible. 

When I finished high school, my grades were average and my ACT score was poor.

I didn’t put a lot of effort into getting good grades.

Instead, I was focused on my free throw shot and how many dances I could go to with a different girl. I wouldn’t change it because I learned a lot and made many good friends.

My Plans Changed

I was excited to attend college but was disappointed when a letter came in the mail saying I wasn’t accepted to my first choice of schools. The University of Utah.

Instead, I attended my local state college to complete my associate’s degree.

My mother was single with five kids, so I qualified for the maximum Pell grant for those two years and left with no debt and a large amount of savings.

The decision to go to a state college saved me over $24,000! I wouldn’t change that either.

Anyone looking to attend an expensive four-year college should consider going to a two-year school first. 

Then I Changed

In college, I became a different person. I’ve never slept through any college classes, I read books in between classes, and aside from my girlfriend, I didn’t have a social life.

I did well and was enjoying the learning process. Afterward, I reapplied to the University of Utah and was accepted. 

In business school, the classes were competitive. Classmates were so focused on getting straight A’s that they put all their time and energy into it. I found it difficult to compete, especially because I was working two jobs.

Meanwhile, many were not working but student loans were stacking up. I’m not saying the way I did college was right.

I wasn’t trying to work for a big company or get into a prestigious school. I was focused on practicality and doing everything I could to graduate debt-free.

Read: How to Hack College. 4 Ways to Graduate Debt-Free

Working two jobs makes it difficult to get straight A’s.

But who cares?

Getting a B in some of my classes didn’t bother me. 

I Learned to Love Learning

I would go to class hungry to learn new things.

Monday mornings I couldn’t wait to wake up and get the week started.

In all of my classes, I may not have had the highest test scores, but I was focused on the real-world application of what I was learning.

Not simply regurgitating memorized information and forgetting it the next day. I asked the question all of the time, “when am I going to use this?”

I used my classes to actually learn and get an education. You could go four years memorizing flashcards and not learn a single thing.

It’s About Education Not the Highest Grades

In my finance classes, students would pride themselves on getting the highest grade on the test and in the class, yet they’ve never invested any of their own money and don’t know a lick about personal finances.

Finance in business school is filled with useless formulas.

Learn something, apply a formula and you get an answer.

But in the real world, that doesn’t work and most of those formulas are crap.

Professors make the class more difficult than it needs to be with pointless formulas because it’s fun to teach and it’s hard for students to learn.

In reality, a professor could spend the first class talking about what really works in finance and then have nothing else to teach. 

Students with business degrees leave school and don’t know how to manage their own finances. 

Read: 12 Financial Mistakes College Students Make

Are We Living in a Student Debt Crisis?

student debt crisis | is college worth it? | Simplifinances

Having a four-year degree isn’t all that special anymore. It’s equivalent to a high school degree twenty years ago.

My class was the largest class to graduate in school history. 

I was in a unique situation during college as a financial counselor. I learned what other’s financial situations were.

Not a lot of people get to know that. I’ve seen the number of kids coming out of college with massive student loan debt.

And then coming out of the school system with nothing of an opportunity for it.

Related : Student Loans Weighing you Down?

Is College Worth it?

In the end, is college worth it?

I don’t have the answer.

I’m certainly not opposed to it. Especially if you can find a way to make money and pay your bills. But we need to scrutinize college.  

Our economy collapsed on the housing crisis of credit before. You all remember.

This country is going to crash on the college debt lending we have right now.

You may not know this but tons of kids in their 20’s and 30’s are getting tons credit and borrowing a lot of money to buy a fancy car and vacation because in America you want “nice things.”

We’re in Huge Debt

With insane college interest rates and you’re making no money to pay it back. Our country will go into a recession on the back of the college debt crisis.

It could happen tomorrow.

It could be next year or ten years from now.

No one knows when but it’s going to happen.

I’ve met with undergrad students with $100,000+ in student loans. Who let them borrow this much money, how are they going to afford the payments?

Our education system does not care how much money you borrow. They want you to finish your degree.

That’s it!

They are a business and you are the product. 

After purchasing my cap and gown, they included a card that said, “thank you for your business.”

I thought, “do I really have a choice?” “Haven’t I paid them enough already that the cap and gown should be included?”

“I’ll wear it once for three hours and never touch it again.” 


You don’t need a college degree to be successful.

What are your skills and what can you do with them?

If you want to work for someone, you may need a piece of paper. But, no one cares what grade you got in your history class. 

Again, I am not opposed to college.

I understand you need a degree for certain professions.

Just understand the opportunity cost of going to college and realize that four years could really set you back.

The Number One Concern for Employers

The number one concern for employers when hiring new graduates is they don’t know how to critically think.

They expect to be fed the information, given the formula, and viola, they get an answer.

You’ll learn nothing in college that will change your life. It’s the application of what you learn and the skills you apply that will set you apart and give you the life that you want to live.

So to answer the question, “is college worth it?” is up to you to decide!

If you decided college is worth it, visit to find the right degree.

Let me know in the comments, is college worth it for you and your kids?

Is College Worth It? | Simplifinances

12 Financial Mistakes College Students Make

12 Financial Mistakes College Students Make

College is time to learn and grow, but personal finances seem to get put at the bottom of the priority list.

 Not every college student is in the same financial situation. Each one has the difficult task of trying to pay for school and cover living expenses, all while trying to enjoy college. It’s no surprise why so many college students make mistakes when it comes to money. Unfortunately, these mistakes can cause damage that lasts for decades. Making sure your finances are in order while you’re young will go a long way in helping you get a good start after school.

I’ve met with hundreds of college students and learned their financial mistakes and setbacks. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn from their mistakes. These are real situations I have observed working with students. 

1. Waiting to Save

College is not the time to be raking in the big bucks. But, a common phrase I hear is, “I don’t save money because I don’t have any.” They say, “when I graduate and start my career, then I will have enough to save.” They wait for the perfect time to start saving, which unfortunately doesn’t always come.

“I don’t save money because I don’t have any.”

Expenses tend to rise with income. It’s basic human behavior and it’s called lifestyle inflation. The average household savings rate in America in 2017 was 2%. You’re never going to get anywhere saving 2%. The way you manage $100 is the same way you’ll manage $100,000. If you’re not willing to take $10 out of $100, how are you supposed to take $10,000 out of $100,000? I don’t care if you have $10 and you decide to save $1, the habit of saving is more important than the amount.

To get in the habit of saving, you need a separate savings account. If you try and save what is leftover in your checking account at the end of the month, it will get spent. Guaranteed. To create a consistent savings habit, transfer money to a separate savings account each time you get paid.

Don’t hold off saving your money just because you are in college. Even if it is a small amount. More important than the amount is the habit.

2. Living at home while working and blowing money

There is no easier time to save money. You live with your parents, you don’t pay for food, rent, or other things, yet you somehow find a way to spend your money on things that won’t benefit you in the future. What do you spend your money on? Many can’t answer. If your parents are going to allow you to live with them during college and provide for your basic needs (which I think is a smart idea for a period of time) and you are working, you can be saving a huge amount of money. I’m sure you don’t want to live with your parents in your thirties. You also don’t want to move out broke because you spent all your money at Starbucks and an expensive car.

Don’t blow all your money because you don’t pay for rent or food. Things will change real quick. I’m not saying you can’t spend money in college to have fun. But what I tend to see is students living like rich college students and then later have to live like broke professionals.  

3. Spending money to impress others

It feels good when we have things that show our success. We think other people are impressed with our accomplishments when in reality most people don’t care. I see college students spend money on things they don’t need to impress others they don’t even like. Parks and Rec seem to have influenced the phrase, “treat yo self” which permeates college campuses. 

“Treat yo self.”

This is common among college students and their friends. They borrow money to impress their friends and later find out just how hard it is to pay back. That $6.00 Jamba Juice could end up costing a lot more if you pay for it with student loans. They drive nice cars, go on fancy vacations, eat out every day, and wear the trendiest clothes, all to impress their peers who will most likely disappear when college is over.

Not all college students are like this, but I see it all too often.  One of my favorite sayings, which are lyrics to a country song says, “big hat, no cattle.” I meet students that wear a “big hat” bought with their credit card and they don’t have a plan to pay off because they don’t have the money, instead of saving up and paying cash for it.

4. Taking too long to finish

Some degrees take longer than others, and many people drop out of school for personal reasons. But students who have been pursuing a four-year degree for the past 10 years and still have not finished are spinning their wheels.

The problem with taking too long to finish is the cost of tuition goes up 3% every year. So the longer you are in school the more expensive it becomes. Second, once you reach 183 credit hours for your undergraduate degree the government will cut all financial aid, leaving you to pay for school entirely out of your pocket. Third, the longer you are in school, the higher your lost earning potential is. You are forgoing all of the money you could have been making in a career.

To finish a four-year degree in four years, you need to take 30 credits a year. That’s 15 per semester or 12 per semester and 6 during the summer. By the way, every class you take has to go towards your degree. That is the reason students don’t graduate in four years. They don’t know what they want to do so they take classes that don’t count. Plan before you enter college instead of going to college just to go. College is an expensive place to find yourself. 

If you’re behind in college, finish in the most reasonable amount of time possible. No one wants you to be in school longer than you have to. Not the government, not your parents, not your future employer and certainly not you. 

5. Not working

College can be a heavy load. But is it so heavy that you can’t have any kind of job until you graduate? Everyone’s preferences are different and if you don’t have to work, why work? I’ve met students working full time in school that are able to graduate with great grades. I’ve also met students that have never worked but have poor grades. They say, “I don’t work during school because my grades will suffer.” But, some of the most successful students I have met are balanced with work and school. They leave college with little or no debt.

Don’t work more than you can handle. The college student pursuing an electrical engineering degree trying to get into an Ivy League school may not be able to work at all. But, most students can work part-time or have a side hustle to cover living expenses and gain experience in their field of interest. Don’t wake up the day after you graduate and say, “ok, time to start looking for a job.” They will be gone. Work part-time, start your own business, do freelance work and you will come out of college with experience, no or little debt, and a piece of paper. Do some sort of work in college even if you don’t have to.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Making Side Income

6. Borrowing too much

After you have exhausted all means to pay for your education, you have to take out student loans. But you wouldn’t believe the number of students who borrow more than the cost of tuition and use it to buy food, go on trips, pay for a fancy car, or buy a big screen TV. That money has to be paid back. Plus interest.

You’re going to be in for a rude awakening when your student loan payment becomes due and you don’t have the money to pay off those loans. That Jimmy John’s sandwich you bought with student loans becomes a lot more of a burden when you tack interest on it. Borrow what you need to pay for your education and no more. Figure out other ways to pay for your living expenses because your future self will thank you.

Another scenario that leads to borrowing too much is picking the wrong school. You don’t need to go to the most expensive four-year school in the country. Why not start out at a community college for two years and then transfer to a school of your choice. This will save you so much money while you complete your basic education courses. It’s worth mentioning that college is not always worth it.  You may be better of starting your own business or working in a manual labor job. 

7. Maxing out credit cards

Emergencies happen. But, why rack up a big credit card balance on clothes, vacations, and food, that you are going to be paying 10% – 25% interest on? Not only will it be a big burden causing you to lose sleep, but a maxed-out credit card will hurt your credit score. This will affect your ability to borrow money. Use your credit card responsibly. Pay of the balance in full. Oh yeah, and don’t buy something if you can’t afford it.

8. Cars

It happens all the time. College students love cars and they overextend themselves by paying for a car they can’t afford and end up being upside down on it. Being upside down is when you owe more on your car than it is worth. If you were to sell it today you’d be paying someone to buy your car. Essentially paying off your car loan and getting less money for it than what you owe.

The reason for being upside down on their car happens because they are too eager to buy a used car without negotiating the price, buy a car they can’t afford or they drive a new car and it loses ⅓ of its value the second they leave the dealership. Don’t buy a car you can’t afford.

9. Not working towards homeownership

You want to buy a house one day but you know that won’t happen for along time. Purchasing a home is not like going to the phone store and signing a two-year contract for a phone. It takes years of preparation. You need a solid credit history, two years of employment, a down payment and understand all of the real estate terminologies so when you do buy a home you don’t get taken advantage of. You may not have extra money to put towards a down payment on a house, but if you do, why are you not saving now? You can’t just decide one day you want to buy a house, it takes educating yourself and preparing in college.

10. No financial goals

Financial goals can include buying a car, or a house, getting out of debt, going on a vacation, etc. At the beginning of most of my meetings, I ask what their goals are and they often have none or have never thought about it. So we spend the majority of the appointment talking about what they are working towards. If they do share with me their goals, they are vague and not specific.

When do you want to buy a car and how much? How much do you have to pay off and by when do you want it gone? Every time we discuss goals, there has to be a date and a number attached to it. 

Don’t look at college as a time you don’t have to worry about your finances because you’re not working in a career. Decide your goals and figure out how you are going to get there. The decisions you make and the habits you create at this stage in life will follow you for the rest of your life. 

11. Not knowing where their money went

Many smart individuals do a great job keeping track of their expenses that I will never meet because they have their finances under control. A lot of college students don’t feel like they have control over their spending. They say, “I don’t know where my money went. I feel like I make a decent amount of money each month, but I can’t figure out why I have no money left over at the end of the month.”

“I don’t know where my money went.”

There is usually more month left than there is money. This leads them to seek help. What you focus on expands. If you are not focused on how, where, when and why you spend your money you will have no idea where the heck it went. By simply creating a budget and going through an entire month’s worth of transactions, it will really open up your eyes as to where your money went.

12. Spending too much on eating out

College life can be difficult to eat healthy on a budget. From grocery shopping to the meal prep, ain’t nobody got time for that! So what do you do? You eat out, oh yeah, and you’re also a bit of a social eater so you love to go out to eat with your friends. The highest expense that college students don’t realize they have is eating out. Decide how much you want to spend each month and figure out how to stick with it.

Avoiding these 12 mistakes in college can be difficult. But with a little planning and discipline, you will find yourself way ahead of your peers when it comes time to graduate. You won’t be burdened with student loans, you will have savings in the bank and you will get to the point where you don’t have to worry about money a lot sooner. 

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