Many of the changes that someone still in college or just beginning a career can make are small, but when you are young, little decisions have a way of multiplying. Savings you start now can accumulate to quite a bit in a decade or two, while the seemingly modest debts you run up now can quickly become a huge burden in an economic downturn.
So with this in mind, here are some strategies to help you.
- Compare banks’ “free checking account” offers to make sure they are truly free and be aware of charges for overdrawing your account. If you are a college student far from home, it would be good to open an account in your college town to avoid ATM fees.
- Use your credit card wisely and get in the habit of paying off any charges you make in full each month to avoid interest and finance charges and pay on time.
- Resist the urge to buy a new car so that you are not strapped with large car payments over an extended period of time. Instead buy a good used car that you can afford, and if you must take out a loan, obtain a two or three year loan.
- If your employer has a 401(k) plan, make contributions to it and try having a percentage contributed versus a flat amount. This way if you do get a raise, you will automatically be contributing a higher amount to your account. If no 401(k) is available, open an IRA or a Roth IRA or have both if you can swing it.
- Join your company’s Flex Spending Plan and use pretax dollars for your medical expenses.