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Being money smart starts as a freshman


Peter Dunn, a financial wellness expert from Pete the Planner, recommends freshmen make an informal weekly budget. Tribune News Service

Coming to IU as a freshman this fall, Katelin Ashmore based a lot of her college choice on the generosity the IU financial aid office had to offer. However, she said she still has concerns about managing her money.

While she’s had jobs in the past, she said she understands there is going to be a shift in how she and other freshmen handle money their first year in college and the years following.

“Heading in, I’m nervous about how to watch what I spend,” Ashmore said. 

Peter Dunn, a financial wellness expert from Pete the Planner, recommends freshmen make an informal weekly budget. A budget could include the amount of money a student can spend on food and whatever else they need.

To avoid debt, Dunn advised freshman students take out the least amount of student loans possible, save money from working in the summer and not get a credit card.

“Freshman year is literally just about surviving financially,” Dunn said. 

He does suggest having a part-time job in the summer or during the school year to earn spending money. If a student is not working, he suggests not spending much at all. 

Sophomore Elizabeth Starkey would keep track of all transactions as a way to manage money her freshman year. Even with a job, Starkey said financial aid and scholarships have helped her quite a bit. She recommends everybody applies to many scholarships for an extra cushion. 

“If you even qualify in the slightest, I would apply just to see,” Starkey said.

Even with this cushion, she said she knows she’s going to have to pay attention to what she spends her money on sophomore year, such as groceries and rent for her apartment.

As students' grade levels progress, they encounter different expenses, so Dunn suggests creating new plans each year. To do so, he helped create MoneySmarts U, a free video-driven course offered at IU and other schools that includes budgeting tools and calculators. 

Through the program, students can personalize their budgets and financial education to their grade level and lifestyle. For example, some include more personalized budgets for a student athlete, a veteran or an international student. 

“The way we have done work at MoneySmarts U is to make sure that we’re giving very specific advice to each year,” Dunn said.

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