Most adults don’t know the difference between needs and wants, so it’s no surprise that many kids don’t know how to handle money. Their parents wanted only the best for their kids and, in most cases, provided it. But financial responsibility sometimes gets lost between designer clothes, karate lessons and a cell phone. Some young adults have trouble with credit cards and view the credit limit as an invitation to spend what they consider to be their money. For many, this is a revelation: Banks are in business to make money and customers have to pay interest on the balance if they miss the due date.
- Use credit cards wisely to establish solid credit. Watch interest rates. Expect the interest rate or annual percentage rate (APR), to climb above 20% in three to six months. Don’t use the card for routine living expenses. Remember: Credit is a loan–and it doesn’t come from The Bank of Dad (or any other relative). That means any balance on the credit card must be repaid. If you move, inform the bank of your new address. Guard your credit card number and close unused accounts.
- Shop around for a checking account. Smaller banks may offer a better deal. Ask if there’s a fee for deposits or withdrawals; use of a debit card; use of ATM; and/or if overdraft protection is part of the student package. If not, ask about linking such coverage to a bank-issued credit card. Open a savings account and deposit at least 10% each time you get paid. Stick with it and do not touch this account.
- Use cash whenever possible. Use a debit card before a credit card. Keep track of spending because a budget means nothing without accurate accounting.
- Shop vintage (used clothing stores) Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. Consider buying used textbooks. Shop at second-hand stores.
- Apply for scholarships. This requires digging and persistence. If you have a shot, apply. If it’s a long shot, how can you go wrong for the price of a stamp?
- Check out college work-study programs. A few jobs may be related to your studies. Otherwise, look for a job with tips such as waiting tables, parking cars or delivering pizza. Summer work is a necessity for many students, but don’t overlook internships–they’re a good way to get a taste of what you may make a career and establish contacts in the field.
- Clip coupons. Many businesses give students discounts in an effort to establish a relationship that will continue when they enter the real world and start earning a paycheck. Be on the lookout for deals on plane tickets, pizza, books, clothes–everything.
Overall, find out what those around you are doing on a regular basis to make it through the college years. It is a learning process for everyone. You aren’t alone.