Start caring for your credit now

Coming to college can be the best time of your life – new friends, new surroundings and, best of all, personal responsibility. However, when it comes to the responsibility of managing finances, why do people have so much trouble?

The answer to that question is very simple – because we have never been taught. No one prepared us how to respond to tempting free food offers we get in return for signing up for a credit card. We’ve never been taught how to budget our money for emergencies, and no one ever prepared us for the fact that managing finances can be extremely stressful.

BGSU students may not have previously learned how to manage their money, but there are some resources that can help. Below are some simple tips that may help you get well on your way to better managing your money.

First, write down the different sources of income you can count on each month – this could be anything from a paycheck to the monthly allowance your parents may give to you. Then, start thinking about your expenses over a period of time (week, month, year) and find out what expenses are of low importance to you. For example maybe you don’t NEED the flat screen television you put on your credit card at the beginning of the semester that you are still paying for. Downgrading to a smaller, less expensive television will do less damage to your wallet, and maybe later in life you’ll be able to afford the one you actually want.

Also, keep in mind how much income you are taking in, so that you know what you can spend. Is one of your financial goals to save money? If so, start by taking a certain amount of any income you receive each month and put it aside for yourself so you can budget for the things you want!

Most BGSU students already have credit cards, and many of those students also have credit card debt. One of the major questions college students ask is how to get out of debt, or stay out of it in the first place. Pay your bills on time every month – this is the simplest, most accurate way to rebuild positive credit. If you get a little extra cash one month, pay more than the minimum payment and you will be astonished by the dent that money can put in your debt. Finally, if you are thinking about purchasing something with your credit card, make sure you have the cash to cover that purchase at the time you make it.

Credit card debt can also put a wrench in your credit score. Your credit file can definitely make or break you in the place we like to call “the real world.” Want a new car, house or even a job when you graduate? Lenders can view your credit score, and if your score is low, they can deny you for whatever it is you may be applying for. Lastly, employers can even decline your application for a job based on any negative things they might find on your credit file.

Here are 10 more tips for keeping on top of your finances:

1. Create a budget so you know what you can afford (and can’t afford, for that matter).

2. Pay your bills on time, every month (this means ALL bills, credit card and rent for example).

3. If you can’t pay for it in cash, don’t buy it with a credit card.

4. Pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card, or pay it off completely each month.

5. Avoid interest charges as often as possible (and look for credit cards with low interest if you are interested in getting one).

6. Know your credit card interest rate, statement due date and credit limit.

7. To avoid fees and protect your credit rating, never surpass your credit limit.

8. If you have trouble making your payments, seek assistance from a reputable credit counseling agency before your debt gets out of hand.

9. Check your credit report and correct any inaccuracies at least once a year (everyone makes mistakes – this includes the people who show you your credit file!)

10. Notify your credit card company of any changes to your personal information in a timely manner to avoid communication problems.

In order to find out more information about managing money, visit the new Student Money Management Services on campus located in 208 Saddlemire Student Services in Conklin. SMMS can also be reached by calling 419-372-2252, or through e-mail at [email protected]

Cassie Siler is a senior majoring in journalism. Send responses to her column to [email protected]