I think it’s safe to say there are plenty of things we do in college that can cost us way too much money — taking expensive spring break trips or getting into partying habits, for instance. But in my case, those weren’t the only financial regrets I have from my years as a student. Looking back, there are so many things I didn’t do that ended up being just as bad of a financial decision. Here are 10 things I regret not doing in college that cost me thousands of dollars:
1. Learning How to Budget
I entered college with no clue how to budget and tons of new expenses and temptations I’d never had before. For all four years, my (horrifying) strategy was to work enough to pay my bills, and dip into savings whenever I was in a bind (which did, in fact, drain the entire account). As long as I didn’t run entirely out of money at any given point, I thought I was doing just fine. Looking back on that now, I can only be grateful that I didn’t end up in major debt. If I had taken the time to track my spending patterns and structure even a loose budget, I could have put myself in a much more desirable financial situation post-grad, along with becoming more familiar with my financial strengths and weaknesses.
2. Saving Money
While I’ve always known that saving money is important, I always treated it like a suggestion rather than a necessity. I know that for many people, saving money is a luxury that they cannot afford despite their best efforts. And yet, here I was — a college student fortunate enough to have a small amount of money left over after every paycheck, and spending most of it when I could have been saving or even investing.
3. Saying “No”
Throughout college, I spent a lot of money on things I didn’t even want to just because I didn’t know how to decline an invitation to go out for dinner or drinks for the umpteenth time that month or accompany a friend shopping. The amount of money I spent on social outings that felt more obligatory to me than something I actually wanted to do could instead be hundreds or even thousands of dollars in my bank account. Truthfully, I’m content with home-cooking and nights in watching Netflix most of the time, but I adopted a super expensive lifestyle in college just to be more socially accepted and avoid FOMO.
4. Having a Side Hustle
It’s no secret that college students are pretty busy. Many of them work part-time jobs while being full-time students and take on extra opportunities that build their resume. Regardless of these things that undoubtedly take up a lot of time, I still think it’s entirely possible to have a side hustle that produces extra income each month, and one of my biggest regrets is not trying! Running a blog, selling old items, photography, or freelance writing and graphic design — taking a few hours a week to dedicate to a side hustle can really add up in extra cash.
5. Taking Useful Classes (Instead of Pointless Ones)
At a typical four-year university, you have to take a variety of elective courses that have nothing to do with your major to fulfill degree requirements. I was an English and Communications major, so I took a lot of humanities-based courses in literature and communication theories. When it came to choosing my electives, I chose the ones that looked the easiest that would boost my GPA. While it made sense at the time to do as little work as possible, I definitely could have benefited from taking a more useful class than that random Film Studies course that focused entirely too much on Quentin Tarantino. No matter what profession you are going into, learning basic skills about business, finance, or marketing can benefit anyone.
Here’s the thing: college is essentially a built-in social network, and I took complete advantage of that during my time there. I stuck with my circle of friends and didn’t really get involved in much else, but I wish I would have taken more time to connect with classmates in my major, build relationships with professors, and go to more events like career fairs. Forming relationships with people that have similar goals and dreams as you is incredibly important when it comes to learning about opportunities, having more connections to get referred or hired somewhere, and gaining more knowledge about your professional field.
7. Creating a Strong Resume
Like many students, in order to pay my bills I had to work several part-time jobs in food and retail. These jobs are great for their flexible schedules, and some people find enjoyment in them, but when that’s all you have to put on your resume you quickly realize that your years of experience at Panera Bread, Starbucks, and Forever21 don’t really show off your skills or align with how you want future employers to see you. That’s why it’s important to strengthen your resume with involvement in student organizations, clubs, volunteer work or internships in the field you are obtaining your degree in. I know it’s hard to justify doing any of those things when your first priority is to pay for textbooks and keep up with schoolwork, but if it is at all possible, I would highly encourage you to find time for things that will help future you, not just current you.
8. Taking Advantage of Student Discounts
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s something I regret not doing. Truth is, I was just too careless to google whether or not there was a student discount wherever I was going and what day of the week/time it was redeemable. During your time as a student, you are offered a ridiculous amount of free and discounted items and experiences, and I definitely should have done the small amount of research and planning it would have taken to utilize all of them.
9. Dealing with Insecurities Instead of Bandaging them
A bad habit I formed in college was spending money on things to feel less insecure. No expensive skincare product is going to take away hereditary under-eye circles, no new outfit is going to take away the extra body fat you aren’t pleased with, and spending all of your money to feel a bit better for a few hours and then find yourself disappointed at the end of the day is such a waste. Since college, I’ve learned to analyze what makes me insecure and then work to change what I can (like losing some weight!) and accept what I can’t (my dark under-eye circles exist because of genetics, and it’s not that big of a deal).
10. Pursuing What I Wanted
I have always been the kind of person who cares way too much about what other people think, and this has deterred me from pursuing a lot of creative hobbies and interests that could have easily turned into side hustles to make some pocket money or even sustainable income (like writing!) I was always too scared to try because I thought people only respected “real jobs.” I’m at a point now where I’m much more confident in my endeavors, but I let a lot of opportunities that could have been worthwhile completely pass by in college, for no reason other than fear of judgment.
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