10 things I wish I knew about money before I went to university/college

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Heading off to college or university is an exciting time. And obviously, it’s a time to learn. But that learning extends well beyond any course syllabus you can expect to get. It’s a time to learn about yourself, about your friends, and about the world around you.

Depending on how you play it, your post-secondary years can also be a crash course on adulting. From buying groceries and learning to cook to navigating new and complicated situations, and yes, managing your finances—you’ll likely learn a lot that isn’t covered in class.

And this is especially true when it comes to money. There’s a saying that hindsight is 20/20—so we asked 10 people who’ve been there what they wish they knew then, that they know for sure now.

“I wish I knew that being on a budget is a good thing. It means giving your money a job (that’s empowering!) not living in austerity (which is depressing!).” – HM
“Short and simple: bi-weekly payments > monthly payments.” – SS
“Honestly, I wish I learned some basic money management skills. Not how to make a budget, because I knew how to do that in theory. But the importance of making said budget, sticking to it, and actually learning to care about those things.” – SM
“The concept of interest and knowing it’s ok to shop around for a loan—whatever it’s for! You don’t have to take whatever is first offered to you.” – DM
“I wish I would have had a better understanding of myself and what I wanted/needed. So many of us go into post-secondary education trying to follow what ‘adults’ tell us is the path and the norm. To get the most out of the experience, you need as much of an open mind as possible. I wish I would have been able to look past the experience an older generation had imagined for me because I think it would have been a better use of my money.” – BC
“I wish I had a better understanding of how much it was going to cost. Save your cash. Go to a university close to home so you can live potentially rent free! I ended up spending a lot of money on living expenses even though I was frugal.” – JL
“Something I wish I knew about money is that it’s okay to talk about it! I think most of us were raised with the idea that money is a private matter and we don’t talk about salary, housing costs, debt, etc. When I was just starting out in my ‘adult’ life, I felt embarrassed to talk about what I was making, and also the fact that I had a decent-sized student loan that I thought I would be paying off forever. Eventually, I realized that most of my peers were in the exact same boat. It gave me more confidence in my situation, but it also gave me the push that I needed to get serious about getting out of debt.” – MS
“Manage your credit and you can pretty much stroll along. Getting a free “Frosh CD” when signing up for a credit card without the proper teachings led to some headaches down the road.” – PG
“Getting a credit with a small limit and consistently paying it in full. This helps you build a credit rating which becomes really important later on for loans, mortgages, lines of credit, and even phone plans.” – CF
“I wish I had learned about cash flow! And that having an emergency fund would have been way better than paying off student debt as fast as humanly possible because it meant I wouldn’t have had to use my credit cards in an emergency and rack up high-interest debt.” – LGL