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    15 Money Lessons People Learned The Hard Way In College

    PSA: You don't have to accept every loan offered to you.

    When it comes to spending and saving, your college years often bring a unique set of opportunities and obstacles. On the one hand, you want to indulge in the on-campus experience and enjoy the (sometimes expensive) experiences of being an ~adult~.

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    And on the other hand, you can't help but cringe every time your tuition bill comes around, or you have to burn hundreds of dollars on textbooks.

    So we recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about the money lessons they learned the hard way in college. Here's what they shared:

    1. "STUDENT LOANS ARE NOT FREE MONEY."

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    "When I first went to college, I took out every loan that was offered to me — way more than what was necessary. I spent the extra on stupid shit that I didn't need, like clothes or nights out with friends. I'm still paying for it 10 years later."

    turkeyinacan

    2. "Live at home and hang out on campus to meet people! The cost of living is stupidly high on campus."

    rustyshack567

    3. "Your overdraft is not free money. Your credit card is not free money."

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    "I ended up with about £2,000 in my overdraft and credit card."

    mysterybiscuits

    "Those nice credit cards they offer out on the quad still need to be paid back, especially once you've maxed them out on pizza and wings. And, that 25% interest is waaaaay more than you thought."

    golferjly

    PS Debt can be a real pain, so we rounded up some tried-and-true tips for paying off your credit card.

    4. "Take a gap year before college to rack up savings to use while in college rather than relying on loan remittances."

    rustyshack567

    5. "It never hurts to ask for more money. I emailed financial aid toward the end of my freshman year asking if they could increase my aid. A few months later, they upped my scholarships by a few thousand."

    6. "Apply for external scholarships!!! It takes time to apply for scholarships, but the outcome in the long run is so helpful."

    "There are so many scholarships out there for higher education but some of them might not be listed on your institution's website (even though you can use them at your institution). Any aspect of your identity might have a scholarship. For example, scholarships for left-handed people? Check! Scholarships for students who are vegan? Check! Scholarships for people who love Campbell's Soup? Check! There are too many myths surrounding the scholarship world that are detrimental to a student’s success (my parents make too much; there are merit-based scholarships; I am a white male; think about your unique identity; my grades aren’t great; there are scholarships that don’t ask for your transcript)."

    bethanyk4e9955003

    7. "I saved a lot of money by commuting and living at home, but things still added up with parking, gas, and food."

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    "Whenever I was just working in the summer and had more hours, I would try to buy gift cards for gas stations, food places I liked, or just Visa gift cards. I used those as a backup when money was tight during midterms or finals, because I was studying more and not working as much."

    monikap6

    8. "When moving into an apartment with a security deposit, take pictures of the condition of the place before you move in and after you’ve moved out."

    "They will try their hardest to screw you out of every penny of your security deposit. I once got charged for 'light dusting.'"

    lindseyc466143a2f

    9. "If you have to take out loans, don't take out the maximum allowed. I did for undergrad and graduate school, and I will be paying them off after I die."

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    "I needed the money more in graduate school because I had to drop hours at work to attend school, but I definitely didn't need the extra money in undergrad. It was too easy for me to think of it as free money since I wouldn't have to pay it back for four years. It was a big shock when I got that first bill."

    unabridged81

    BTW, check out these actually useful strategies for paying off student loan debt!

    10. "For the love of God, STUDY! It is so expensive to take a class again because you failed it the first time!"

    hollys4af76bd26

    11. "GO TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE FIRST. It makes so much sense to spend less money your first couple of years as you take general ed classes."

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    "I know there is a stigma around it, but there shouldn’t be. It’s still college. You’re still getting a college-level education — especially if you don’t know what to major in (or wonder if what you want to study is what you REALLY want to do). Then, once you know what you like and have an idea of what you want to do, you can transfer to a school that has a good program. You would save so much money in tuition and potentially living expenses (especially if you live at home). It may be hard to see all your friends moving around 'without you,' but just know they could potentially be hundreds of thousands of dollars more in debt than you after graduation. I wish I had done it."

    username___redacted

    "Typically, community college credits will transfer to most universities. They are legit the same classes, but for a much lower price. Totally worth it! Annnnnd you get to play around with what you want to do and not waste money doing that. If you go to a four-year university and change your major 80 times, you’ll waste a buttload of money."

    tracy110302

    12. "Be financially prepared to continue school to get your master's degree."

    "Nowadays, your bachelor's degree is the equivalent of your high school diploma. Most places want you to have your master's. That will affect your pay rate as well. I am in the social services field (a drug and alcohol counselor to be precise) and I’ve been in the field for 12 years with my bachelor’s and CADC (Certified Alcohol/Drug Counselor). A lot of avenues have been closed to me because I don't have my master’s. Do what you think you’d love to do."

    tracy110302

    Continuing your education is a huge milestone and an equally large financial and mental commitment. Just make sure that it's the right option for you! It also helps to consider your field of work. A bachelor's degree is generally accepted over a high school diploma in many fields — and can even be sufficient enough to help you climb the ladder in your industry. And for other fields, not having anything beyond a bachelor's degree could prevent you from moving past entry- or mid-level positions.

    13. "I wish I knew how much my friends want to go out."

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    "We’re at Target once every other day spending money. We order food, and everyone always wants to do something. Save yourself and save AT LEAST $1,000 before your first semester if you don’t want to be broke."

    caseynyce126

    14. "Even if your paycheck is tiny, put $10 into your savings each time you get a check. It adds up and will help foster good habits for after you graduate."

    caitcait77

    15. "My biggest piece of advice is to take care of the necessary stuff first, then save some money. THEN have fun."

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    "You need to take care of your bills first and foremost always. Your future self will thank you for remembering them. But it's still important to take care of you right now. Get that $10 Squishmallow, order that fun jacket, and expand your collection — whatever! Have fun with your life. It makes all the bullshit so much more bearable."

    p1nkl3m0n4d3

    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    If this sounds like music to your ears (and bank account), check out more of our personal finance posts.