Whether you’re aware of it or not, friends have a lot of influence over your decisions. Studies suggest that you pick up habits — both good and bad — from your friends. If your friend starts going to the gym every day, you might, too. Conversely, if your roommate starts skipping his or her 8 a.m. class in order to sleep in, you may quickly follow suit because it’s “just too early.”
Money choices are no exception to the rule. Here are four habits to avoid “catching” from your friends while on campus.
Habit 1: Spending too much on food
We get it — the dining hall food isn’t always great. Maybe you’d rather take part in your group’s daily burrito lunch ritual. But eat that $10 burrito five times a week and that’s $50 you could have saved.
If your friends are constantly going out to eat and you can’t afford it, be firm and plan to only eat with them on certain days. “It’s really hard,” says David Weliver, founding editor of MoneyUnder30.com. “I know because I was that student on a budget. If they’re close friends, you should be able to speak up. If they’re not close friends, you may just have to bow out.” It doesn’t mean you have to abandon the routine totally — drop down to having that lunch twice a week and you’re still saving $30 a week, or about $450 in a typical semester. Chances are other budget-minded friends will join you.
Habit 2: Abusing your credit card
At the risk of sounding like your mother, just because your friend whips out his or her credit card to buy $300 worth of designer jeans doesn’t mean you should, too. Racking up high credit card bills and then only making the minimum payment will eventually come back to bite you — even if the jeans do look amazing. You’ll end up paying interest, costing you more over time. Plus your purchases can snowball. “Most of the time, if you spend a bit too much one month, it’s difficult to get caught up the next,” says Weliver.
Ask yourself: Do you have funds in your checking account right now to cover those jeans? If not, put down the denim and walk away.
“You may not need credit while in school, but you might when you graduate, to rent an apartment or get an auto loan.”Tweet
— David Weliver, founding editor, MoneyUnder30.com
Habit 3: Not working
Your friends may not need to have a job while in school, but for many students, earning an income as a full-time student is necessary. In fact, a recent Georgetown University study found 40% of undergrads work at least 30 hours a week.
Working even a couple hours a week can pay off. Juggling multiple priorities encourages you to be organized and plan your time. Plus, the extra cash can help cover some of those luxury expenses, like going out to eat or catching a movie with friends.
Habit 4: Ignoring your bills
Imagine this scenario: You move off campus and put the cable bill in your name. You and your roommate alternate paying the bill each month, but your roommate always pays late. While it may not seem like a big deal, late payments to bills in your name can seriously knock your credit score — especially when you’re in college and may not have a lot of other forms of credit in your name.
“You may not need credit while in school, but you might when you graduate, to rent an apartment or get an auto loan,” says Weliver. “If you get to that point and never took any steps to build credit, you’ll regret it.” If a bill is in your name, make sure it’s paid on time and in full. Then threaten to change the Wi-Fi password if your roommate doesn’t pay up.
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