How To: Keep from going broke

Stephanie Bermudez

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Photo illustration by Sarah Smith / Staff Photographer

The life of a college student is stressful enough for countless reasons; don’t let not knowing how to handle your money be one of them. These are some simple and stress-free ways to manage your money and make life just a little easier, especially with tax deadlines being right around the corner.

First, save money. Saving money is extremely important, not just for college students but for everyone. It’s crucial not to allow your bank account balance hit zero and not have anything to back you up. Emergencies happen and even though most people save for their future, it’s vital to have extra cash for now. This way you don’t have to resort to using money you don’t have or incur debt by borrowing money.

It’s time to open up a savings account, if you don’t already have one, and actually start utilizing it. Start by getting used to putting a portion of your paycheck, allowance, tips, etc. into the account on a monthly basis. Many employers will automatically deposit a portion of your paycheck into your debit or savings account or even to your 401K. Take advantage of this.

For those who don’t prefer this method, there are other ways to save money. I personally use the empty jar method. Every day I throw my spare change and dollar bills into my jar until it fills up. When using this method, be sure not open it and take the money out the next day, week, or month. Put it away and leave it, money you never see is money you don’t miss. Don’t underestimate how fast your money can grow.

Second, use your money wisely. Saving money does not only apply to putting money away, it also means using your money to your advantage. Don’t spend more than what you earn and more importantly, don’t rely on your credit card if you can’t afford something.

It’s important to use your credit card on a regular basis to build credit, but only buy things you can pay off at the end of the month. Being a college student in debt is not a great way to start your future.

Using your money wisely also applies to being a smart shopper. This includes shopping for groceries, clothes, appliances, and everyday needs. Being a bargain shopper can save you thousands of dollars throughout a lifetime. It’s okay to settle for non-brandname potato chips, they’re still going to taste the same. The same goes for a non-designer shirt that no one will know only cost you less than $20.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have nice things but try only buying those nice things when they’re on sale, otherwise settle for what is almost exactly the same. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it, it’s important to set priorities and separate wants from needs.

Mint.com is a free personal finance website that helps users manage their money, set a budget, pay off credit card bills, and even gives a free method for doing taxes. This is another way to save money (and hopefully receive money).

If you have some time, there is no need to go elsewhere to get taxes done when you can do them yourself at a lower cost. Websites like HRblock.com and TaxAct.com also allow you to do your taxes for free on your time and at your pace.

For the best refund guaranteed, try TurboTax. TurboTax walks you through doing your taxes like a GPS and provides special guidance for first time users. Unfortunately, Turbo Tax is not free. But for a low price you can get hundreds, even thousands of dollars back in your pocket.

Lastly, keep track of your money and know where your money is. Find a way that best works for you to keep track of what you earn, spend, and save. These days you can do this online through spreadsheets or free websites. There are even various applications you can download to your iPhone for free.

For those who prefer to stay simple, all you need is a pen, paper, and a calculator. By keeping track of your money on a regular basis, you will realize how much money you are spending on what you do not really need. You will be shocked when you see how much money you saved by packing a lunch instead of eating out. Once you see the numbers, you may become addicted to saving money.

One last piece of advice; spend time with frugal people. This way you won’t seem cheap to those who love to spend money and you will have more money in your wallets, purses, and bank accounts.