A quiet night in: an exercise in frugal saving.

image1As much as any couple, family or group of friends might like going out, it’s never cheap. Whether it’s fine dining or going out to your local bar or restaurant, these are costs that add up all too easily. They may seem cheap once in a while but once you start doing it on a weekly or semi-regular basis, it becomes a larger and larger chunk of your expenses.

In contrast to this, understanding the benefits of a quiet night in can prove useful. More than offering something different and relaxing it can demonstrate a way to stay cheap and cost effective whilst still enjoying the usual perks of life.

Food

If you go out to eat, you should know how much this can cost. Cooking for yourself is usually the cheapest but there are still other options. For instance, if you have the urge for Chinese food, it may be cheaper for everyone to pool money together for chinese takeaways than visit your local restaurant. It’s much cheaper and doesn’t have the added costs of additional drinks and restaurant prices and other service charges that are often forgotten about.

Entertainment

Likewise, if you’re not going out, there is nothing to stop you from being social. Your home can prove entertaining enough with the right company. Cheap entertainment can be anything from a movie rental (if you’re only going to watch it once, don’t buy something you don’t need) to various games, which offer entertainment again and again. These are all cheap, whether you use it once or buy it to use again and again. This is another lesson to be learnt in saving, by understanding the real value of something.

If you come across some movies that you and your friends love, it makes sense to purchase the DVD so you can all watch it whenever you like. Luckily, you can save money by ordering your DVDs online, so you do not have to worry about breaking the bank. To make things more interesting, consider having each person purchase a DVD online and then choosing between your favorites every time you gather.

Additional expenses

Hopefully the two areas above should highlight how easy it is to cut down on those little costs for every social occasion but there are always other areas to look at. Take your appearance, for instance. If you don’t go out to an expensive restaurant you might not need to risk your best shirt or shoes. It can also save on other expenses, such as getting a taxi home late if you’ve been drinking or other travel costs.  So, next time you think you might go out, suggest staying in to the others and see how much can be saved.

5 Tips to Eliminate Your Debt

If you are struggling with debt, it may seem as if the world is a very bleak place. With mounting bills and collection agencies after you, it may seem like life will never be the same again.

Take a deep breath. Tackling your debt is easier than you think. All you need is a little bit of resolve and a rock solid plan that you will stick with. Here are some of the tips

Establish a budget. If you haven’t done so already, create a budget for your expenses. Trim down your costs to a bare minimum. This applies to all parts of your expenditure –  cable TV, satellite services, cell phone or landline accounts, groceries, discretionary shopping, smokes, coffee, expensive hobbies and partying. If it’s not a bare necessity, skip it for a bit.

Round up your assets and sell some. It can be difficult to let go of your favorite stuff, but it is one of the fastest ways to make some quick cash. Focus on the larger assets like home or car. Smaller stuff can be sold on ebay, craigslist or garage sale.

 

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Find out about hardship programs. Most financial institutions to whom you owe money may have hardship programs. These programs could potentially decrease you interest rates or offer payment deferments. Ask about it – if you don’t ask, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Seek help. If you have any well meaning relatives, this is the time to seek help. While you could run out and get a payday loan when it is time to pay the loan, it will add to your debt worries. Instead work out an amicable arrangement with someone who trusts you and you will be motivated to work hard towards paying back.

Increase your income. When in debt most people focus on reducing their expenses. But an even more potent part of the equation might be to increase your income. You may not be aware of it, but there are literally hundreds of different money making ideas that you can capitalize on to earn some extra money. Check out the inspiring stories of people just like you who what used this exact approach to get rid of their debts and subsequently flourish.

The bottom line is that no one approach is better than the other. What matters in the end is that you make a commitment, create a plan and then stick with it, no matter what comes your way. And before you know it, you will be the one telling others your success story of how at one time you were riddled with debt and here you are today, a true success story.

How to Avoid Student Debt

Media scare stories would have us believe that every student graduating in the next decade will be up to their eyeballs in debt and never get a job. This is, of course, preposterous. As any graduate will tell you, your student loan repayments are fairly minimal and will not cripple you financially.

There are however a few debts that students manage to rack up whilst at university that can be difficult to shift but if they are dealt with effectively at the time of borrowing then they should not cause too much hassle.

Credit Cards

Credit cards that are made available to students tend to be the sort of cards that are offered to people with a poor or non-existent credit rating. These cards have low credit limits and high interest rates and are designed to get people into the habit of making monthly repayments on large purchases so as to build up a satisfactory credit status.

The problem with issuing these cards to students is that student income can be irregular; and this is where the problems start. If you do not have a regular part time job during your term at university it is likely that you will stretch your finances between your three student loan payments throughout the academic year; and this is no use at all if your credit card company is expecting monthly repayments.

If you avoid paying your credit card company they will increase the amount you owe via interest and late payment charges and, if this continues to build until your next student loan payment comes in, you could find yourself in a load of financial trouble. For this reason I would only recommend credit cards if you have a fixed regular income outside of your student loan. [Read more…]

Cash Only Living

While many people struggle with the continued economic crisis and the devastation that it has caused, credit card debt is rising. Getting out of debt seems like an impossible task when you are living paycheck to paycheck or using your credit cards for the electric bill. There are ways to manage money and budget your expenses, but it does take some effort. It sometimes feels impossible to budget an entire family, but when accomplished, this budget will be well worth the effort. To begin the journey out of debt-ville, start with a little experiment.

Cash only living can help you get rich slowly.

Your First Month

For a single month, carry a journal with you to work, shopping, home, where ever you go. This journal will be your best friend for at least one month. You will need to write down every penny you spend and how it was spent during this period of time. Every bill that you pay gets recorded in the journal, every time you visit the grocery store, record that as well. Make sure to note whether you paid in cash or used a credit or debit card for the groceries. When you stop for gas, get the journal ready for an entry. When you run into the gas station store for milk or soda, write that down. It will take a little time to get used to, but your journal will soon be filled with financial solutions. Using a journal (or any other device) to record your spending habits will give you an idea of where your money is going. It will also let you know exactly where money can be saved. Even though you might believe that you cannot live without those daily lattes or a pack of cigarettes, seeing your purchases on paper might change your mind. [Read more…]

Smart Ways for College Grads to Minimize Debt

(This is an article by Omar Adams*)

If there’s one thing that most college students are graduating with these days, it’s a mountain of debt. And even though they know this situation is bound to arise when they take out a student loan to cover their tuition costs, they don’t realize that it is compounded several times because of the way they use their credit cards and rack up other unnecessary expenses. It’s not that hard to graduate debt-free or at least with a relatively low amount of debt; the only hitch is that collegians have to plan and execute even before they start their four years on campus. If you’re a high school student hoping to minimize your debt when you graduate from college even as you enjoy most of what college has to offer, here are a few tips that are sure to help:

 

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    1. Choose your college with care. Remember, a prestigious name is not going to help you when you’re faced with a mountain of debt on graduation. So unless you want to spend the better part of your adult life slogging away to pay your student loans, think carefully before you make the choice. While you don’t have to go to the other extreme and choose a community college, opt for a university that’s close to home or where you have friends you can stay with. This way, you cut back on accommodation costs. If that’s not possible, choose a degree at a college that’s reasonably affordable and which doesn’t demand that you pay through your nose.

 

    1. Work while you study. College is not all about fun and games, parties and sororities. You need to adopt a more serious attitude if you want to graduate without a care in the world. When you assume responsibility for your debt right from your first year by getting a job that allows you to pay for your extraneous expenses and also settle some of your student debt, you not only prevent your debt from accumulating, you also reduce the interest on the amount that’s outstanding.

 

  1. Use credit cards judiciously. I’m sure every college student has been given this piece of advice; even so, it falls by the wayside more often than not. While I’m not saying you must avoid credit cards altogether, it’s best to use them wisely – charge all your expenses to them if needed, but ensure that you have enough money to cover the entire payment every month on or before the due date. The best way to avoid racking up huge credit card debts is to get a secured card, one where you’ve paid a sum in advance and which is your spending limit. Also, if you have a savings account, tie it up to your credit card and set up an automatic debit facility the day your bill is due. This way, you don’t have to worry about going overboard or racking up a huge interest because you’ve forgotten to pay your bill, and even if you don’t have money to take care of your bill, the amount you paid upfront is enough to take care of it.

*About the author: This guest post is contributed by Omar Adams, he writes on the topic of online accounting degree programs. He welcomes your comments at his email id: omaradams47@gmail.com.

5 Ways To Avoid Getting Stuck In The Credit Card Debt Trap

(This is an article by Kris Bickell*)

If you’ve ever used a credit card, you know how easy it is for the balance to grow REALLY big, REALLY fast. And like a ball rolling down a hill, once it starts rolling … well, once it starts rolling it’s a lot easier to wait until it stops rather than chasing it down the hill.

So, think of credit cards like the ball.

And hold onto them tightly. Because once you start building debt, it’s a lot like the rolling ball.

I know, that’s much easier said than done. For most people, by the time you figure out you’ve got a debt problem, you’ve got a HUGE debt problem!

Trust me, huge debt problems don’t go away quickly. Or easily. So do yourself a really big favor. And don’t get stuck in the “debt trap” in the first place. One of my friends used to say “Money doesn’t come with instructions”. Which is so true. And even more true with credit cards. You get all the fine print about terms, rights, penalties, privacy policies. But nothing that tells you “don’t charge more than you can pay off when the bill comes!”

I got my first credit card when I was in college. Imagine that!

I had no income. No credit. And no idea how to use it.

Yet American Express thought it was a good idea to give me a card anyway. Why? So they could make money off me, of course. Fortunately, American Express cards must be paid off each month. But the cycle of debt was started when I was only 20.

I remember my friends went on a day trip to Atlantic City and called me to tell me how much they missed me, because there were machines that took credit cards and gave you cash (of course, they didn’t really miss me – they just wanted my fancy new AMEX card to use to get cash!)

The moral of the story is that the whole business of credit cards is nothing more than a money machine – for the banks!

So here are those instructions mom and dad never gave you. And American Express never gave you (or CitiBank or Chase or Capitol One, etc.) Here are 5 ways to avoid getting stuck in the credit card debt trap:

1) Don’t fall for the lure of rewards cards (unless you can pay off the debt every month):

Rewards cards sound great. And if you can pay off the balances, they are. But if not, you’ll probably end up paying a LOT more in interest than you gain in store discounts, frequent flyer miles, or other rewards.

2) Don’t keep transferring balance & getting more cards:

Sure, credit card “surfing” is very common – constantly shifting your debt to low interest promotional offers. But in the long run, it’s easy just to dig yourself a deeper hole, as you keep getting more and more credit. Want to use this as a temporary “quick fix”? OK. But as a long term strategy, this is like throwing the ball down the hill.

3) If you have more than one card, hide it:

It is tempting to use a retail card to save an extra 5% or 10% on purchases. Or use the new fancy looking card you just got in the mail. Or use the one with the lowest interest rate. And if you can pay it off when the bill comes, OK – then feel free to use them. But if you do fall victim to the temptation often enough, before you know it your credit card ball will start rolling down the hill!

4) Take yourself off the offers list:

The best way to keep yourself from getting caught up in the credit card trap is to keep yourself from getting all the tempting offers in the first place. So go to www.optoutprescreen.com and www.dmachoice.org to get your name off the most common mailing lists!

5) Don’t use your credit cards as a spending account:

Make sure to set up a savings account to use for emergencies. Then, when you need some immediate cash, you can use this money instead of a credit card.

So there you have it. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Sure, it takes some discipline. And many of your friends and family won’t understand why you don’t rely on credit cards to pay for everything. But if you follow them, these five steps will keep you out of the credit card debt trap!

*About the author: This is a guest article by Kris Bickell. If you would like to learn more about avoiding the credit card debt trap, visit www.Debt-Tips.com. You’ll learn how the author, Kris Bickell, paid off all of his credit card debt and the various debt relief options you can use to improve your financial problems.

 

Apply for Scholarships, Not Loans!

(This is an article by Caroline Fraissinet*)

Let’s face it… most college students are always a little short on cash. That means that the opportunity to get a little money is always welcome and very much appreciated. One of the best ways to get some money to finance your education is through scholarships: it not only serves the purpose of paying for all the necessary expenses and allowing you to finance more ambitious goals and projects, but it’s also a great thing to put down on resumes because it shows that the student is hard-working and skilled in a particular field. It doesn’t hurt either that scholarships don’t have to be paid back, making them a far better option that taking out an education loan! Here are a few types of scholarship opportunities available to college students to consider:

  1. University scholarships – most colleges offer specific scholarships available to students if they achieve a certain criteria. Alumni sometimes put aside funds to recognize students that possess a certain skill set or character trait that they themselves may particularly value. Check your college’s resource center for in-school scholarships. They typically have a GPA requirement, and may include a requirement to participate in a certain club or activity, demonstration of a particular quality or skill. Some scholarships may also require an interview, and most require paperwork. Specific majors and departments may also have scholarships and grants available to students majoring in specific fields. University scholarships are typically one of the easiest to access, but competitiveness may depend on the criteria and pool of students.
  2. Local/city or town-based scholarships – individual towns and cities usually offer scholarships, but they are usually not very well advertised. This can work in a student’s favor, because if less people know about them, less people are likely to apply. They are usually broader in criteria than university-based scholarships and are typically smaller in amount. The problem with city-based scholarships is that winning them may be more based on who you know rather than what you possess, and they can be more or less competitive depending on the size of the city. However, they can be extremely rewarding and are definitely worth considering in your search for scholarships.
  3. State-based scholarships – as you might be able to tell already, for every sub-category of living, there’s usually a scholarship for it. State-based scholarships can work twofold for college students; if you go to a school that is in a different state than you reside, you might be able to apply for both. The criteria is usually similar to city-based scholarships, but may be a little broader. You might be able to find information on broader state-based scholarships while you look for city-based ones. Due to the fact that the pool has been opened up to a larger pool of people and they are typically advertised a bit more, they may be more competitive; however, they are still exclusive enough that they may not be extremely competitive.
  4. National scholarships – these are typically the most rewarding, but also the hardest to get. They can range in specificity from having a rare quality or skill to simply being a good leader. They are extremely competitive and usually require a lot more work to be considered for. This is when an updated high school resume really comes in handy; it’s typically the same process for applying for the same types of scholarships in high school, except that you are in a different age range and may be expected to offer different skills or criteria. They are usually very well advertised and very generous. Many nationally successful companies offer them, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’s. This is one way to go about searching for them; simply go to any large company’s website, and chances are, you’ll find information about a scholarship they offer. Good resources to find other scholarships are FastWeb.com, Scholarships.com and CollegeScholarships.org. (When searching for scholarships online, however, make sure that you are using a FREE website; those that ask you to pay to access scholarships are, 99.9% of the time, scams.)
  5. Military Discounts – even in situations where you do not qualify for a scholarship, you can apply for benefits that will reduce the tuition that you owe. A great example comes in the form of the military tuition discounts that are offered by some universities. These discounts can be applied to reservists, active duty members of the military and military spouses, giving all of these people the chance to earn an education. The great thing about the discount is that it can even be applied to online education, allowing active-duty members to start studying immediately, even if they are stationed overseas.

Scholarships are a great way to get money to finance your education. They range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, which can help to achieve all of your educational goals and help keep debt at bay. When looking for scholarships, work from more specific to more general to get the perfect fit for your needs and eligibility. Scholarships look great to future employers and show that you take initiative and aim to excel in a particular field or skill set. And of course, your future self will thank you for not having to worry about paying off the loans. When it comes to ways to gain a little extra cash in college, scholarships are one of the best directions to look.

*About the author: This is a guest post by Caroline Fraissinet, a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, majoring in Film/Video with a minor in TV Production. More articles by Caroline can be found here.

10 Ways to Manage Debt and Avoid Bankruptcy

(This is an article by Karen Schweitzer*)

Bankruptcy filings are climbing and are expected to total 1.5 million before the end of the year. If the economic crisis has you considering bankruptcy as well, there are several things you can do now to manage your debt and avoid being forced into filing bankruptcy like so many others.

Adopt a barebones budget. If you haven’t done so already, you need to trim all of the fat from your budget. This includes, but is not limited to, cable TV, satellite services, cell phone or landline accounts, cigarettes, morning coffees, hobbies that cost money, and expensive nights out. If you don’t need it to survive, you don’t need it right now.

Sell assets. It can be painful to part with your prized possessions, but it is one of the quickest ways to raise money when you are in deep financial trouble. If you have a major asset, such as a house or car, that isn’t secured by a loan, it has to go. Small assets can also be sold via eBay, classifieds, and other marketplaces. Take all of the money you make and apply it toward your debt.

Ask about hardship programs. Credit card companies, banks, and other creditors often have hardship programs for people who are having difficulty paying their bills. These programs offer lower interest rates, payment deferments, or reduced payments. Your creditors may or may not offer such a program, but you will never know unless you ask.

Work with your creditors. If you work closely with your creditors, you may be able to negotiate a non-bankruptcy workout agreement. This agreement will accomplish the same thing as a Chapter 13 filing, but you won’t have to file bankruptcy and destroy your credit in the process.

Refinance. If you have student loans, car loans, or a mortgage loan, you may want to consider refinancing. A refinance may not cost you anything (unless it is a mortgage loan) and could significantly lower your payments if you are currently paying a high interest rate.

 

*About the author: This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online school for OnlineSchool.net.

10 Things You Should Know Before You Get an Auto Loan

(This is an article by Karen Schweitzer*)

Car dealers are working very hard to make sure that auto sales rebound over the winter season. And while it may seem like the ideal time to buy a new car, there are a few things you should know before you get an auto loan:

    1. You Will be Subjected to a Credit Check

Although there are some car dealers who are willing to finance buyers without a credit check, most will not. If you get a loan through the dealer or through a bank, you will be subjected to a credit check. Lenders will evaluate your debt-to-income ratio as well as your credit score before deciding whether or not to give you a loan.

    1. You May Need a Co-Signer

If you have bad credit or worse (at least in a lender’s eyes) no credit, you may need someone to co-sign for your loan. Your co-signer doesn’t have to be married to you or related to you, but the chosen individual will need decent credit. If you do decide to go this route choose carefully. The co-signer’s credit score will impact the interest rate on the loan. The co-signer will also be responsible for the loan, late charges, penalties, and late fees if you default on the loan.

    1. Loan Rates Will Vary

Like other loan rates, auto loan rates will vary from lender to lender. If one lender quotes you an interest rate of 5.25%, it may not be the lowest rate you are eligible for. Be sure to check with at least three different lenders before signing on the dotted line.

    1. Loan Terms Affect Monthly Payments and Overall Costs

The average auto loan term ranges somewhere between 36 and 72 months. The longer the term is, the lower your monthly payments will be. A longer term may seem attractive initially, but it is important to remember that if you go this route you are likely to pay more in interest than you would with a shorter term. In other words, the longer your loan term is, the more the loan will cost you in the long run.

    1. Zero-Percent Financing Isn’t Always Available

A lot of auto dealers and manufacturers advertise zero-percent financing on new cars and trucks. They do this to get buyers in the door. It isn’t necessarily a gimmick, because some people do qualify for this sort of financing. However, most people will not. Buyers need exceptionally good credit–a score of 700 or more–to be eligible for incentives like this.

    1. Gap Insurance May Be Necessary

The average car is a depreciating asset. This means that the car will decrease in value as soon as you buy it and will continue to do so as long as you own it. If you pay too much for the car, don’t make a down payment, or get saddled with a bad interest rate, you could end up owing more on the car than it is worth. This could leave you in serious trouble if you wreck the vehicle or need to sell it quickly. If you are worried about this happening, you can purchase gap insurance, which covers the difference between what you owe on the car and what it is worth.

    1. Extended Warranties Can Be Financed

Nearly every auto dealer will try to sell you an extended warranty when you buy a new vehicle. The decision to purchase a warranty is a personal one and should be considered carefully. Before you make a choice, you should know that extended warranties can be financed. You should also know that financing an extended warranty will up your monthly payments as well as the total amount you pay over the life of the loan.

    1. Some Lenders Charge Prepayment Penalties

A lot of people like to apply extra money to their auto loan each month to reduce the interest paid throughout the term of the loan. If you are one of those people, you will want to make sure you’re lender does not charge any sort of prepayment penalty.

    1. An Auto Loan Can Improve or Demolish Your Credit

An auto loan can be very beneficial for people who have bad credit or a limited credit history–if payments are made on time. Late payments or defaults will have the opposite effect and can leave your credit score in ruins.

    1. You Can Refinance Later On

If you do end up with a higher interest rate than you’d like or loan terms that are not favorable, you can always refinance your loan later on. You may have to pay an application fee or another small lender fee, but the cost of refinancing will be minimal.

*About the author: This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree programs for OnlineDegreePrograms.org

7 Don’ts for Fiscal Freshmen

(This is an article by Jack Busch*)

As a student, your financial picture is a bit unique. You have few assets and few hours to devote to a job, thus little income. You have little credit history (good or bad) but some limited access to revolving credit and other loans. Because of this, the years between matriculation and graduation are somewhat of a testing ground for your creditworthiness. Lenders give students just enough rope to hang themselves – and during those crucial four or so years, you can either establish a firm foothold on your way up to excellent lifelong credit or scar your credit rating for life with poor decisions. But by being an early adopter of responsible spending habits, you can save yourself from a lifetime of debt and sorrow. Your continued fiscal auspiciousness should be dictated by a series of don’ts. For example:

Don’t carry a balance.

If you have to use that emergency credit card, make sure you get it paid off ASAP. If that means no pizza or beer for a week, then so be it. If it means borrowing $50 from your pop, then do it. Believe me – it’s worth it to miss out on that one wild night in order to avoid the never-ending downward spiral of credit card debt. As long as you don’t flunk out, there’ll be plenty more wild nights to come. But that credit card debt will last far longer than a hangover if you let it get out of hand.

Don’t open multiple accounts.

If you’ve gone ahead and ignored the first don’t and maxed out your credit card, then don’t make things worse by getting another credit card. Instead, focus on paying down your current debt or, as a last resort, transfer your balance to a 0% interest card, such as the Discover More Card (but watch out for those fees!). I’m actually a bit hesitant to recommend the latter route, since two cards are always tougher to pay off than one, and you likely won’t qualify for a favorable credit with high debt to credit ratio. Opening another credit card count when cash is tight is akin to drilling a hole in a sinking boat to let the water out. It just doesn’t make sense.

If things are truly dire, you may want to consider credit counseling or a debt consolidation loan. But both of these open routes open an entirely different can of worms – do so with caution.

Don’t spend your salary before you’ve got it.

Yes, I know, you think you’re going to be a wheelin’ dealin’ lawyer or a snazzy corporate consultant when you graduate. But don’t bank on that bestselling novel or big banker’s bonus to pay for your credit card debt in college. First of all, your lucrative career is going to be four years down the road (or more, if the job market stinks) which gives all that debt plenty of time to accumulate interest. Plus, you’ll have an entirely new set of expenses once you’re living the urban professional lifestyle. Going into the post-grad world with a bunch of undergrad debt is like going straight from being a student to being a parent. Except that lousy ungrateful kid you’re paying for is yourself.

Don’t use your credit card to its full extent.

Ever notice how your car’s speedometer goes up to something like 140 miles per hour? Ever notice how driving that fast will get you killed or arrested? Your credit card is the same way. There are lots of neat features that come with your credit card, such as cash advance, convenience checks and deferred interest. But don’t use them and don’t use up all of your credit line. Cash advance (i.e. getting cash from an ATM using your credit card) comes with an astronomically higher interest rate and can’t be paid off until the rest of your balance is paid off. That means that $60 you pulled out can actually end up costing you twice that much in the long run. Use your credit card only for emergencies or only to rack up points, cashback and rewards and then pay it off in full each month.

Don’t forget to check your statement.

You’re already checking Facebook every 24 minutes, why not bookmark your bank’s website while you’re at it? Knowing what you’re spending and how much you’ve got to spend will save you from overdraft charges, over-the-limit fees, late fees and other unpleasant surprises. If that’s too boring for you, there are plenty of flashy tools that you can use to track your finances, such as Mint, Thrive and Wesabe.

Don’t let your parents write the check.

To get the full gravity of how much everything is costing you, arrange your finances so that the money for tuition, room and board, etc. comes out of your account. This can be necessary for tax purposes but it also instills a sense of how much everything is costing and how money should be budgeted.

When I was in college, my grandparents paid for much of my expenses. But instead of cutting the school a check whenever money was due, they just plunked all the money I was going to get from them into my checking account on day one. It was a daunting sum of cash to see on my bank statement, but I knew that if I blew it all, it’d be the end of my education. I was in charge of writing my rent check each month and arranging payments with the school’s registrar to make sure I was still signed up each semester and it taught me a lot about handling vital finances.

Of course, you don’t have to go it alone completely. It’s not a bad idea to become an authorized user on one of their credit cards strictly for emergencies. Especially since the credit cards for college students offered (for a limited time) on campus can often be riddled with pitfalls and traps designed to extract money from the uninitiated.

Don’t let your spending outstrip your income.

This is a pretty simple one. If you have no job, then you have no income. This should make budgeting easy. If all you have is some money you received as a gift for your high school graduation and a check for your birthday and Christmas, then it should be pretty easy to calculate how much you can spend before you’re broke. If this kind of lifestyle feels restricting, then get a part time job. Donate plasma. Wash dishes in the cafeteria or get a work-study position through the school. You can party all you want as long as you subsidize the expenses.

This last don’t is important , and if you can’t remember anything else from this article, remember this: don’t live beyond your means. Follow that one rule and you’ll be fine.

Let college be the time in your life when you forge a healthy relationship with credit. Because once you get out and payments on your student and federal loans become due and it comes time to finance a house, a car and a family, the rules will stay the same but stakes get much higher. Master these guidelines today and thank yourself for sidestepping crippling debt tomorrow.

*About the author: Jack blogs about personal finance, credit cards and debt management at Master Your Card and DebtLoans.com.au.