Learning How to Manage Your Personal Finances

The Best Credit Monitor: You – Educate yourself on Credit Management

This economy has taught everyone an important lesson: the importance of saving and paying yourself first. We have all heard the story about the ant saving up for the winter but did we ever think winter would ever come? As a kid, I remember the term savings clubs constantly.

I know my mom would contribute to help pay for unexpected expenses and Christmas gifts. The older I got, the more I heard about credit cards. So, I had two paths to follow and I choose the latter. In college, credit cards were the rage. We had vendors in our student union, on our bridges near classes, and on many of our student common areas. The university allowed them to reach out to us as students.

Several vendors had credit cards with our university logos on them. It was such an exciting time. The vendors would help you fill out the credit applications and tell you what numbers to enter regarding income so you could be accepted. They would offer gifts such as soda, t-shirts, and stuffed animals to sign up for credit cards. With no guidance at that young impressionable age, I readily signed up for these credit cards not knowing how they affect my future.

I immediately used the cards when they came in the mail. The paid for my books, clothing, necessities, and many non-necessities I needed in college. It felt like free money….until the bills came in. Even then, I didn’t realize the impact of what was happening. I paid the minimal payment when I could afford to. Minimal wage was around $4.00/hr then and with my part time job, it was a task to keep up with my credit card payments and my other monthly expenses.At one time, I had over 5 credit cards!

Now looking back, I wish I had been the ant who was wise and saving up for the winter. Instead, I spent like there was no tomorrow. I’m older and wiser now. I make better decisions but I’m still trying to fix mistakes from yesterday. I wish I would have taken my personal finance more seriously.

My advice to new students going to college (ie – learn from my mistakes)

  1. Research the importance of personal financial management.  What you do today will affect your tomorrow!
  2. If you are working, save 10 – 25% of your income every pay period.  You may think the rainy day will never come but look at our current economy! Save weekly, save monthly, and then save some more!
  3. Avoid applying for so many credit cards. Get only 1 or 2 and manage your spending. Always pay on time and don’t spend what you can’t pay for in full!
  4. Research personal finance by going to www.fool.com and researching the personal finance section.
  5. Learn your credit score.  Use sites like CreditScore.com and get your credit score . Know your score and learn the importance of it!
  6. Learn how to track your finances using Microsoft Excel.  Most students have laptops or access to computers so use this resource to your advantage.   If you don’t have a computer, use the one at your local library.

Click this link to find Excel templates on personal finance and savings on your computer.

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