Paying for College

Freshman Money Traps

A couple days ago, I mentioned one of my frequently visted Web sites: Consumerist.com. You'll find lots of interesting and useful consumer-based information there, such as how to send email "carpet bombs" to corporate executives when you're having a problem with one of their products or dealers.

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Now that colleges are gearing up for the return of all their students, there have been some helpful tips on Consumerist. One especially pertinent entry concerns how collegians can be "on the lookout for money-sapping, credit-ruining traps."  Here are some highlights:


Personal finance blog Poorer Than You warns new college students to be on the lookout for money-sapping, credit-ruining traps.

One piece of advice from the post scolds students to avoid the sheep mentality that leads to signing up for free schwag from credit card companies camped out in high-traffic areas on weekdays:

"Free stuff is awesome! But you've got to know, in the back of your mind, that there's a reason that these guys are giving you a free t-shirt (or candy bar, or Frisbee). The reason they do it is because they will make way more money off of you over the years than the cost of that freebie. In most cases the money they make off of you is in the form of awful fees, which you could have avoided if you got a proper bank account.

So don't be like your friends, who'll line the pockets of banks and credit card companies in exchange for a cheep Frisbee with the bank's logo on it! Get a checking account that is a truly fee-free student account, with ATMs on or near campus. This might be the type of account the guys with the free t-shirts are offering, or it might not be. Trust me, the money you save in fees will buy you much cooler shirts!"

Poorer Than You also recommends avoiding buying text books at school book stores and keeping current on student loans. It's all sound advice, but I'm glad I didn't read a similar blog post before I started school. I'd have missed out on so many water bottles, shirts and free fanny packs that... are probably all in landfills at this point. Dammit!

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Great advice, no? Keep an eye on Consumerist.com for more college-related advice. I'll keep watch too.

Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.