New Students & Freshmen

Freshman year can be a very intimidating time, from living away from home to adjusting to college classes to managing your own money. SMMC has prepared some tips for incoming and current freshman to help manage money. We have broken it down in to three sections: 

  • Budgeting Your Money
  • Financial Considerations to Make Before Arriving to Campus
  • Saving Money on Campus

Budgeting Your Money

Before arriving to campus, it is important to make a budget and a plan of action for the entire year. Making a budget, or spending plan, will allow you to easily keep track of your income and spending, as well as help you avoid going into the red

 Information on budgets can be found at here

Considerations to Make Before Arriving to Campus:

Pick a Dining Hall Meal Plan that works for you!

Meal plans cost thousands of dollars, and it is important to look at how many meals / credits you will be receiving for the week. If you like to eat three meals a day every day, then you should pick a plan with more meals. But if you find yourself enjoying snacks more, you should pick a plan with more credits and less meals. It is also important to note you can adjust your meal plan in the first few weeks of each semester. This way you can see how many meals and credits you are using and adjust your plan, and your budget.

Research Credit Card Companies and Financial Institutions

  • Credit Card Companies - Most students, especially freshman, are unable to get credit cards without a parent co-signing. If your parent does agree to co-sign on a credit card for you, there are many things to look at before deciding which company to use.
    • Credit Card limit - A lower limit is better for students
    • Low Annual Percentage Rate (APR) & Charges
    • No Annual Fees
    • Rewards - Some credit card companies offer rewards at certain businesses on campus.

    For more information and important questions to consider when choosing a financial institution, go to our banking section

  • Financial Institutions
    • Using a debit card from your financial institution can be a great alternative to a credit card. Debit cards are linked to your checking account and allow you to take money out when needed through an ATM.
    • Before setting up a checking account, there are numerous factors to look into:
      • Service Fees
        • Are there monthly or annual fees?
        • Is there an overdraft fee?
        • Request a “fee schedule”
      • Minimum Balance
        • What is the minimum amount of money needed in the checking account?
        • Will you be charged if you go below the minimum balance?
      • ATM locations & Fees
        • It is important to know where the on-campus ATM’s are located. If your bank does not have an ATM located around campus, you may have to use another ATM and pay a fee.
        • If you travel a lot, it may be beneficial to know if there are ATMs in other areas too.
      • Student Accounts
        • Many financial institutions have special checking accounts for students which avoid service fees and allow low minimum balances.

Move In With Minimal Belongings

Many students, and parents, over-buy products, food and other “necessities” when moving into the dorm. Dorm rooms are not big, especially when you are sharing it with one or two other people. It is suggested you save the shopping for food, toiletries and dorm room décor for after you move in. This way you will buy only what you need, since you will know what the room looks like and how much space is available. If there is space available it is recommended to buy in bulk to save money.

Go Green!

Another way to save money is to buy a water pitcher or durable water bottle, instead of purchasing several cases of water throughout the year. There are water fountains everywhere on campus and you will be able to refill as needed. Not only will you be helping the environment and saving space in your dorm, you will be saving money too!

Do NOT Bring A Car

It is unnecessary to bring a car to campus your freshman year. Each campus is equipped with several transportation options (e.g., walk, bike, roller-blade, public transportation, ect.). There is a lot of money that goes in to a student bringing a car to campus. First is parking, parking is outrageously expensive on campus and many times it will not even be near your dorm or apartment. Second is gas, the price of gas is continuing to increase which means your wallet will continue to shrink! Check out the public transit systems for each campus:

Saving Your Money On Campus!


Buying a brand new book should be your last resort. Each book store on campus rents and sells used books. If you can only find a new book in stores, check online. There are plenty online websites which sell or rent textbooks for significantly cheaper than a new book. If you need novels for your classes, you can check them out at the library for FREE!

Use Your Meal Plan

Your meal plan cost thousands of dollars and it is silly to let your meals go to waste. If you are getting bored with the meals in your dining hall, switch it up. Try going to a different dining hall on campus that will accept your meal plan. Most dining hall menus can be found daily online, so you can assess which dining hall to go to.

Know How to Say NO

Students should become involved on campus, through student organizations, fraternities or sororities, or just participating in campus events, but it is important to know when to say no. Many clubs and activities will offer t-shirts, sweatshirts and other apparel for you to purchase.  It may not seem like a lot, buying everything offered to you will add up! Only buy what you absolutely love and know you will wear all the time. Many times t-shirts will be bought for a single event and then never worn again, which is just hurting your wallet.

Have Fun in the Dorms

Your freshman year only happens once and almost every student wishes they could go back and relive it. The dorms are part of the freshman experience and they can be great source for FREE FUN! Many dorms will have free activities at night such as cooking, decorating and flag football. Even if your dorm does not organize an activity, do it yourself. Gather the students on your floor and have a talent show, game night or movie marathon; it is a great way to have fun without spending money.

Look for Free Activities on Campus

There are free activities taking place every day on campus, you just have to look for them. The free activities can range from free lunches at cultural centers, fine arts performances to late night student events in the Union.

Look for Student Discounts

Many stores and businesses on University campuses offer student discounts, this can help you save a few dollars here and there, which eventually will add up. Check out where your student ID can get you discounts!

Keep Track of the Money You Spend