By Tracey Rector
Money. It’s the root of all evil, right? No, not necessarily. It may be hard sometimes to manage money while in school or fresh out of college, especially if you aren’t making that much. But being in control of your finances now will pay off in the future.
Here are five tips on getting a grip on your wallet:
Many banks have online banking. What’s great about online banking is it allows you to quickly check which transactions have gone through or if any are pending. It’s also a great way to pay your bills and keep record of it. In some cases, you can schedule an automatic bill pay to ensure your bills are paid on time. Online banking can help you stay organized along with giving you the power of knowing what’s going on with your finances at all times. Side note: If you decide to sign up for automatic bill pay, be sure to check it periodically. Sometimes a cable or phone bill will increase and you may not realize it.
Have a Checking and Savings Account
Don’t cringe! Have a checking account for everyday transactions and keep a savings account for unexpected surprises or long-term planning. Even if you only throw in a few dollars here or there, it will add up. If you don’t have a savings, before signing up, check with your bank on whether or not you have to have a minimum balance. If there is a minimum, be aware if you ever have to tap into the savings. To make adding money into your savings easier, check with your employer on their direct deposit. You can arrange for a specified amount to be dropped into the account with each paycheck (separate to your checking).
Write Down Purchases
This may seem a bit old school, but if you find yourself having a hard time managing your money — pick up a transaction book from your bank and write down your expenses. If you are a frequent debit card user, hang onto your receipts and every few days write everything down in your checkbook. Then go back through your online banking to make sure your transactions have cleared. It may seem time consuming, but it’s not as bad as it sounds and you will be in full control of your money.
Separate Out Your Money
Gas, car payment, insurance, groceries, it adds up right? If you notice, you spend around the same amount each month on certain things. Sometimes it varies. But let’s say you typically spend $50 per week in gas, $40 in groceries and then you have your other bills such as a car payment or insurance. As soon as you get your paycheck, take those expenses out first — whether it’s writing it down, putting into another account — however you manage. Perhaps you take the advice in No. 3 and write down your finances. Just subtract some of these usual purchases, so even though it’s technically still in your bank account — it’s gone to you. Come the time to pay bills or go to the grocery store, it’s there.
Having great credit really isn’t as hard as it sounds. All you have to do is build it and pay your bills on time. So yes, you can get a credit card to help yourself build credit. BUT! There is a “but” here. Having a credit card doesn’t mean shopping sprees every weekend until the card’s maxed out. Use a credit card for emergencies or for something you need. For instance, maybe you need a new computer for school. Build credit by purchasing one on a credit card then pay it off as soon as you can. Depending on your credit, you may qualify for zero percent interest. Other cards have a period of time with zero percent interest and you should pay it off before the offer expires. Once the interest starts to calculate, it can become very easy to get sucked in and struggle with even meeting the minimum payments. CreditCard.com put together this helpful article, “10 Ways Students Can Build Good Credit,” which goes into further detail on some of the things mentioned here.
The key with your finances is this: Never spend more than you can handle to pay. You’ll be surprised to learn the ways you can save yourself money from coupons to doing your own manicures.