Five money mistakes common to post-secondary students

  1. Overusing credit cards

At college and university orientation events, representatives from major credit card company’s offer free stuff if you sign up with them — they know many students won’t make their payments on time.

Prove them wrong by paying off your balance each month before it accrues interest. This can also help build a good credit rating when it’s time to borrow money for a car or a home. Also, watch for a credit card that offers a low interest rate (many student cards do).

  1. Abusing student loans

While student loans offer low interest rates and interest-free terms, they’re to help pay for your education, not shopping sprees. Dip into your student loan too often and you may need a part-time job, which could distract you from your studies.

  1. Not thinking about career plans

Unfortunately, an education in something you love may not guarantee you a job after graduation.

Talk to people who’ve graduated with the same education. How long did it take them to find a job? What did they wish they’d done differently? Boost your resume with supplemental courses, internships, a club or volunteering. While employers look at your education, they’re also interested in interpersonal and leadership skills.

  1. Giving out financial information

Nearly one-third of identity thefts happen to people between the ages of 18 and 29. Only use secure networks when sharing personal or financial information. Look for “https” at the beginning of the web address to ensure it’s a secure site. Avoid sharing credit cards and co-signing loans with friends.

  1. Forgoing a spending or financial plan

Many students spend first and ask questions later a formula for landing in financial hot water. Budgeting can help you stay on top of your finances. Cover fixed expenses (rent, tuition, groceries) before you allocate variable expenses (going to the movies, dining out, etc.). Budgeting websites can help categorize your spending automatically. These sites can even send weekly updates on your financial situation. Even at this stage in your life it’s important to identify your financial goals. A financial professional can help you create a plan that includes saving for all the things you want to do once you graduate.

Going into debt in your 20s isn’t the end of the world, sometimes, it’s a necessity. Although financial planning is rarely taught in school, if you have the foresight to stay on top of your finances, you’ll have a leg up on many of your peers.