Frugality doesn’t always come naturally to college students. Sometimes they need a little coaching.
That’s one reason the University of Minnesota created a program called “Live Like a Student Now (so you don’t have to later).”
Every fall, Nate Peterson and his team greet incoming freshmen with a 30-minute crash course in money management.
But Peterson, assistant director of the U’s One Stop Student Services, says it’s really a yearlong exercise to help students become “financially literate” and stay out of trouble.
One of the most common mistakes is “they don’t keep track of their spending,” Peterson said. “They swipe the card and hope the money is there.”
Another is the urge to splurge on things like $4 lattes. “I think it’s all about students balancing their needs vs. their wants,” he said. “Students will classify a latte as a need.”
As part of the program, Peterson and his team offer advice about how students can make the most of their money.
To start, they recommend tracking expenses for one month to see where the money is going, then creating a budget, or spending plan. Beyond that, he said, they encourage students to scour the Internet for ways to live cheaply, known as life hacking.
“It’s about living thriftily in every aspect of their life,” Peterson said. “We really encourage students to life hack as much as possible.”
It’s a message, he said, that seems to resonate with students. “Students like hearing about fun ways to save money,” he said. “Thankfully for us, thrifting is cool.”
Much of their work is online or flashed on video screens across campus, but Peterson’s team also makes presentations in classrooms on request.
The simpler the suggestions, he said, the more likely students will pick up on them. Ultimately, it boils down to a lot of small decisions. “It’s a personal thing,” he said. “You have to make decisions about buying coffee, about going out on weekends. These are all up to you.”