Finance Lessons I Wish I’d Been Taught Before College

Jen SmithPersonal Finance23 Comments

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When I graduated high school I thought I knew everything. Much to my disdain, I realized I didn’t, especially when it came to money. My mistakes left me with $60K in debt and no clue how to or why I should pay it back.

If there’s someone in your life you can save from these mistakes I encourage you to share this with them. And if there’s anything on this list you’re still unsure about make it a priority to educate yo’ self on these finance lessons.


When I was in school I thought a budget was what you were on when you were broke. I had no idea the scope of the word “budget.” Businesses use a budget to plan, control, and evaluate their spending & earning. It’s the same concept in personal finance. We should treat our bank account like a business instead of a bottomless pit.

Also read: Budgeting is a B Word – Budget Myths Debunked

How to Read a Pay Stub

How many people still confuse net and gross income? (Guilty) Everyone should know how to read their pay stub because it’s not only vital to know what you’re making but how much is being taken out for taxes and other expenses. This knowledge is also necessary if you need to fill out a W-4, W-2, or ever, ya know, file taxes.

Compound Interest

Compound interest can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Millennials have an average student loan debt of $41,000. Those loans accrue interest whether you pay them or not and that interest compounds so the $40K loan you thought you took out can double or triple over time.

On the other hand, when you invest your money increases at a rate of interest often higher than your federally insured loans. I’m not talking day trading but mutual funds and ETF’s are a long term investment that will increase what you put in exponentially.

If you’re interested, Motif is a great and affordable way to dip your toes into the world of investing.

Why Credit is Important, and Why it’s Not

Financial aid offices don’t care about your credit history. They’ll give you as much money as you want to go wherever you want and tell you it’ll build when you pay it back. Good credit just tells banks you’re not a risk to lend money to. But that’s only important if you want to borrow more money.

The most important (if not only) reason to have good credit is to get a good interest rate on a home mortgage. Otherwise, your net worth is way more important than your credit score. And you don’t have to get a credit card to build credit. You can use rent payments and credit-builder loans to increase your score without subjecting yourself to the temptation of credit cards.

How to Pay for College

The most important factor in going to college without taking out student loans is school choice. If your parents aren’t paying, it may not be worth going to an expensive private university. Fewer employers look at alma maters and instead look for resourcefulness and experience.

Obtaining college credits in high school is another way to save in college. If someone would’ve told me that maybe I wouldn’t have dropped that Comp 1 class my senior year. And for heaven’s sake, if you can’t find the time to work a part-time job in college then good luck being a working parent one day.

How to Save Money

Instead of calculus, I should’ve been learning how to negotiate auto insurance rates and the importance of having life insurance. There are times when you can and should negotiate to save money and some things you should pay more on for good quality.

What are some financial tips you could’ve learned early on that would’ve saved you some headaches? Don’t’ forget to sign up for The Friyay Money Party to get your Free Budget Cheat Sheet with 10 hacks to help you stick to your budget.

Click Here to sign up!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Using these links helps me keep the wine and cheese stocked at home. Cheers!


Finance Lessons I Wish I'd Been Taught

23 Comments on “Finance Lessons I Wish I’d Been Taught Before College”

    1. It’s really only a chore for the first few months! Once you find one you can stick to it’s really just copy and pasting. Thanks for reading Elizabeth!

    1. Thanks Crystal! Hopefully we can stop the cycle with our kids because the struggle is definitely so real.

  1. See now this is something that you actually need in real life when you start living and building a life on your own! I wish these things were taught to me when I was back in Secondary school! Great lessons that EVERYONE should know.


  2. YES!! These are so great and I wish I would have known them too! Most people make financial mistakes in college or right after before they gain enough knowledge to make better choices. I hope every college student reads this.

  3. That is one thing I am thankful that I did with my children growing up. I taught them how to budget and save money (they had their own bank account from the time they were 10). Oh and how to pay bills. From the time they were 16 they were required to pay for their own gas and their portion of the car insurance on the 1st of every month. It got them into the habit of paying bills on time long before they ever left the nest.

    1. That’s amazing! Glad to hear parents that are teaching their kids good money habits. Thanks Bridget!

  4. I wish they taught you how to pay taxes in college or high school. And budgeting. Budgeting is the hardest thing to do because it basically just sucks lol

  5. I could not agree more with this!! My husband and I always talk about how ridiculous our biology 101 gen ed was…when we really could have used some great life tips like how to buy a house, budget and fix a car! Haha!

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