Okay, so you're in college but wondering how exactly you should be managing your money. Which is better--a credit card or a debit card? What about checking and savings accounts--when's the right time to get one and how should I maintain it? How about budgeting--what exactly is involved in that? As a recent college graduate I've learned from the experience of my older brother about spending more than you had and not knowing how to budget kills you during the college experience. You need to know how much you have to spend before you decide to blow it on random things you might not even use.
A first step in managing money is of course learning how to budget. Budgeting often involves listing the expenses you have monthly and seeing how much money you will need to save to meet these expenses. If you have your own bank account, this is simplified by glancing at your bank statement which lists the expenses you've accumulated over the past month. This will help you see whether you have enough money for extra indulgences.
According to Tahira Hira, a professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University, quoted in an AOL Daily Finance column by Sheryl Nance-Nash, "When going out with friends, decide ahead of time how much you can afford to spend and leave the rest behind." Budgeting is simplified by having a checking and savings account. When should you get your own accounts? If you have a job that will directly deposit your paycheck into your checking account, it's probably a good idea to get an account at that time.
Many banks such as Wells Fargo offer free student checking accounts specifically designed for college students. Wells Fargo according to its website offers students a package with a checking and savings account as well as a platinum debit card; free access to online banking; optional overdraft protection; free account alerts; and free online bill pay. Some colleges even have branches of these banks on campus making it even easier to set up a free account.
With a bank account comes the benefit or curse of a debit card. Debit cards are a double-edged sowrd. They're great because the money comes directly out of your bank account, but they can lead to overdraft charges. Another issue is having your card used by someone else. Never leave your wallet unattended especially once you have a debit or credit card in there.
There's the added enticement of having a credit card. I'm sure I'm not the only college student who's received hundreds of credit card offers in the mail. With credit cards it's best to proceed with caution. They unlike debit cards can affect your credit score. This could affect your ability to get student loans, mortgages, and other things that require you to borrow money. It might be best to start out with a store credit card because many stores allow you to pay your bills on their websites which is very convenient.
They say that college is the beginning of the "real world." Learning how to manage money now will prepare you for everything you'll face as an adult. The decisions you make with your money today could dramatically affect your future, so taking my advice and the advice of financial institutions like banks could really help you in the long run. Never be afraid to ask questions if you're wondering about the basics of personal finance.
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