10 Money Tips College Grads Wish They'd Known as Freshmen

Just about everyone seems to have advice for students heading off to college, but there’s one group you can always count on for truly practical advice: recent college grads.

We asked young professionals across the country to share some of their hard–learned wisdom, and many were eager to help incoming freshmen avoid some frequent financial pitfalls.

On credit cards:

Get one credit card that you will stick with for several years, maybe even 10 years. Having a line of credit that had been open for more than 10 years is what made my credit rating awesome to afford my first home.
— Janine G., Boston University

On saving from the start:

Save a tiny percentage of everything you earn – I think for me it was 20 percent – and do it religiously.
— Angela N., University of California, Berkeley

On student loans:

With student loans, do your research. Only take out what you need. Send everything else back.
— Kevin B., University of Alabama, Birmingham

On daily motivation:

Write down the amount it costs to go to your school for a semester. Include housing costs. Now write down how many credit hours you're taking and how many classes for each credit. Divide the amount you'll pay a semester by the hours spent in class and find out how much money you just wasted every time you skip class or are 15 minutes late. Use this as a motivator, particularly if you're paying for it with loans.
— Rebecca C., Savannah College of Art and Design

On personal finance:

Take a personal finance class. I left college knowing about how to make money in my field but not what to do with it. I wish I had taken a class covering things like how to budget your income, invest in retirement accounts and pay down loans, plus a basic rundown on how to do a tax return or how a mortgage works.
— Jenny C., University of Missouri

On groceries and gas:

Never go grocery shopping while hungry. Never pay for disposables like gas or food with a credit card. If you get a credit card, ask for the lowest possible limit. This prevents debt accumulation and encourages use of cash.
— Brett M., University of Alabama

On understanding debt:

Learn the basics of things like unsecured credit lines, mortgages and other types of credit, like home equity and personal loans. I wish I had known and understood these much earlier in life.
— Amber N., University of Wisconsin

On schedules and hard work:

Study at least 40 hours a week on top of classes. College is your job, a lesson I didn’t learn until I was in grad school. Don't sign up for 8 a.m. classes. Schedule your classes to end before noon on Friday. Then get a job waiting tables. You'll bust your butt to earn money and be available to pick up shifts during the busy football season.
— Carey C., University of Illinois

On long-term planning:

Start a savings account the minute you have a paycheck. Once you graduate, start putting money in your 401(k) the minute you have the option of a company match.
— Carla W., Florida State University

On scholarships:

Continue searching for scholarships even after you're in school. It can help reduce your debt going forward. There are sites that aggregate scholarships and allow you to search by criteria. Some scholarships that are available only to upperclassmen don't get a lot of applicants.
— Jenn S., University of Denver

This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.