College life can be expensive, so it’s very important for you to be smart about your finances. And believe it or not, knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. Don’t be caught off-guard by these potential financial pitfalls.  

Pay attention to building healthy financial habits and taking advantage of opportunities available to you.

Pitfall #1: Not having a budget to manage your spending.

If you haven’t created a budget for yourself, you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways to keep your finances in check. Understand where your money goes, and have a plan for where you’ll spend it going forward. You can even factor in a monthly deposit to your savings account so you can have money to fall back on if unexpected expenses pop up.

Pitfall #2: Running up credit card debt.

When you signed up for your credit card, did you read the fine print? People who don’t are sometimes surprised to find out how much interest is added when they don’t pay off their balance every month. Those charges can add up fast. So use your credit card wisely for purchases you know you can pay off, and track your card purchases so your account balance doesn’t grow out of control.

Pitfall #3: Not applying for financial aid or scholarships.

Each year, students may be missing out on free money by not applying for scholarships and filling out the FAFSA® (that’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Your FAFSA application reveals how much financial aid you may qualify for and what loans may be available to you. Scholarships, offered through your school as well as independent third parties, can go a long way to help you foot the bill for your education, too.

Pitfall #4: Using student loan funds for purposes other than school.

If you qualify for student loans, the prospect of having that nice chunk of change available to you may seem tempting. But remember that you will need to pay these loans back, usually with interest. Limit yourself to education-related expenses only — no frivolous purchases like vacations or concert tickets. When the time comes to pay back those loans, you’ll be glad that you borrowed only what you absolutely needed.

Pitfall #5: Not meeting with your academic advisor.

Sitting down and hashing out a plan with your academic advisor may help prevent some unnecessary spending. Your advisor can help you identify the right courses and number of classes to take, and determine whether you can test out of some courses. This may be able to help you not only graduate on time, but also avoid paying for unnecessary classes.

Pitfall #6: Not taking advantage of college discounts and perks.

Being a registered college student may automatically make you eligible for a variety of discounts and free services — free campus transportation and gym memberships, for example, and discounts at local restaurants and theaters. Find out what your school and community offer, and start saving.

To learn more, visit pnc.com/myfinanceacademy.