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Personal Finance 101

Posted August 08, 2012 in Advice Column, Clear Lake

As college students begin a new semester of classes, GPAs and test scores are probably on a lot of minds.

Although those numbers are important, the value of credit scores and the importance of saving shouldn’t be underestimated — especially since the habits set in college can have a great impact on an individual’s financial future. Here are 10 tips designed to give students an edge on mastering personal finance.

• Take charge. You are responsible for your finances, and you should act accordingly by creating a realistic budget or plan and sticking to it.
• Watch spending. You control your money by determining how you spend or save it. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so your money can last throughout the semester.
• Use credit wisely.Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation.
• Get a bank account. Banks are more than money in a vault. They offer valuable services that students can benefit from, such as check cashing, debit cards, online banking, balance alerts, personal loans, direct deposit, financial education and identity theft protection. Your hometown bank can help you with these many of these services even if you will be leaving town for college.
• Look out for money. There’s a lot of money available for students — you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships and look for student discounts.
• Buy used. Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive, and often used books are almost in as good of shape as new ones. Do you have a friend who took the class last semester? Purchasing his or her book may help you both out.
• Entertain on a budget. Limit your hanging-out fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college, and many are free to students. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.
• Be particular when it comes to money. Don’t just trust anyone with your money. Be skeptical of classmates, friends or salespeople who have ideas for your money.
• Save. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or when you have to buy that unexpected bus ticket home. No matter how small the amount, you should start putting some money away immediately.
• Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents or your banker are good places to start, and remember: The sooner, the better.

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