Friday’s Credit Tip #35: Follow the Cash for Wants Loans for Needs Rule

Follow Your Finances Simplified for weekly credit improvement tips from Dominique Brown.

Many students fall in love with their credit cards. Credit card companies know this, too, and routinely heavily advertise on college campuses, even offering students free food or gifts to fill out a credit application. While the convenience of credit cards is tempting, it is a good habit to use credit cards only for major purchases, saving cash for entertainment, food, clothes, and other similar items. Studies have repeatedly shown that those who pay cash for items routinely spend less than those charging or using debt cards to pay.

Using only cash for entertainment and other small needs ensures you won’t spend more than you have to and also ensures that you won’t end up paying for something for months after it is gone.

Save Money by Taking Advantage of Student Discounts

One of the advantages of being a student is that it is inexpensive. Student housing or rooms rented with roommates create inexpensive living, on-campus facilities offer great services at discount rates, and many businesses offer student-only deals.

Try to take advantage of these offers to make your student money stretch further so that you only have to take out the smallest student loans possible. Look around to find the best student-deal offers, ranging from travel deals to free tax filing services, available from your campus and from surrounding businesses.

Make use of the free services on campus, such as renting movies for free from the film department or working out in the school gym, rather than paying for these same services outside the campus.

Make Learning about Money a Priority

Whether you attend information sessions at the financial aid office, read about money in books, or meet with your bank’s financial officers, learning how to manage your money is an important part of school life.

For many students, their time away from home is one of the first times they are responsible for finances including bills. Learning to handle this responsibility well early on in life ensures that you will enjoy a good credit standing your whole life. Learning about money will also help you prevent costly credit mistakes.

Start Building Credit Early and Do It Well

Start building credit early, even before college starts, if you plan on taking out student loans. Ask your parents to sign over a bill that you pay on time each month. Get a credit card with a low limit and a bank account that you balance each month. Avoid opening several credit cards at once because not only will they be hard to repay, but having several new accounts when you have a short credit history will actually cause your credit rating to drop. Get a part-time job.

Each of these things can help you establish good credit, which in turn can help you get a good student loan rate. More importantly, establishing credit early will help ensure that you have a long (and good) credit history by the time you graduate from college, which will help you with all your important, large post-graduation expenses.

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