College Personal Finance Lessons 101


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You don’t need to be an economics major to benefit from learning a few financial lessons as you take on college life. In fact, you can avoid learning things the hard way if you follow some basic money strategies. Here are a few tips that will help you get an A on your personal finances.

Establish Good Credit—Now!

Even if you don’t think you have good credit history, now’s the time to start checking credit regularly. That way errors can be corrected by the time you’re ready to apply for a credit card or a car loan. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to receive a free credit report.

Open Bank Accounts in Your Own Name

It is important to not only establish your own bank accounts, but to establish your own banking relationships. Getting to know your local banker will benefit you in many ways. If you ever have a problem with an account, having a real person to contact for help is valuable. If you are going to be opening a new account, take advantage of banks that want to reward you for your business. For example, Chase offers bonuses for new checking and savings customers, and a special bonus for college students.

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Create Your Own Envelope System

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It’s how my parents raised 5 kids…the envelope system. At the beginning of the month, set aside the amount of money you will need for each area of your budget in a labeled envelope. For example; groceries, transportation, entertainment and personal supplies. Once you are out of money in that particular category, you have to wait until the beginning of the month to replenish the cash. This will help you to not only save money but to also live within a budget.

Have a Relationship with Cash

These days we pay for just about everything with plastic. We pull out our credit or debit cards for even simple purchases like a cup of coffee. You will be much more aware of what you are spending if you have to hand over the green. And as an added bonus; at the end of each day put any coin change into a jar. You will be amazed at how much that change will add up to at the end of the school year.

Set Up an Automatic Savings Withdrawal

Once you get a part-time job, even if it’s on the college campus, start having a small amount directly taken out of your paycheck and placed in a savings account. Even if it’s $5 per check, this will get you in the habit of saving money which is an important life lesson.

Let Technology Save You Money

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Apps are one of the simplest and smartest ways to save money. Some apps like Mint will help you learn to budget your money and others like Coupons.com will help you save when you hit the stores. When ordering online look for coupon codes and manufacturer promotions before clicking on the purchase button.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Your student ID can be a money-saver! Before making any purchases, ask if there is a student discount. For example; Apple, Banana Republic, Chipotle, 24 Hour Fitness and even the New York Times offer a student discount. As you go through life, certain professions will also offer discounts: unions, military and teachers are just a few examples. Always find out what discounts you and your family are eligible for.

Avoid Both Online and In-Person Scammers

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Here’s the rule: if something is too good to be true it usually is! Learn this lesson now and you will save yourself a lifetime of grief. Don’t fall for emails that may look official but are really phishing for your personal information. As for being charmed by someone who is selling a bill of goods, make sure you read all the fine print before you sign-up or purchase anything.

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