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Finance 101 for Your College Freshman

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By Marshall Loeb

RISMEDIA, August 30, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Sure, you aced the SATs, but if you’re like most college freshman you probably can’t balance a checkbook. To ensure that you’re financial know-how keeps pace with your academic achievements, Kiplinger’s Deputy Editor Janet Bodnar offers these five guidelines for managing your money:

Budget by semester. Calculate all of your expenses, from food to books and supplies. Once you’ve outlined a budget, keep careful track of all of your payouts. This will give you a clear idea of how much mad money you have to play with, and ensure that you won’t spend the final days of the semester living on rice and beans.

Start saving. If you don’t already have a savings account, open one. Even if you don’t have to contribute to your own expenses, it’s important to get into the habit of saving for a rainy day. You don’t have to save much. Just commit to putting away a portion of any earnings or gift money you receive.

Beware credit cards. Credit-card terms and conditions are so complicated that working adults even have a difficult time grappling with them. If you have a credit card, use it sparingly so you don’t end up over your head. Remember: Those early missteps will stay on your credit report for years to come.

Learn to cook. Preparing meals at home is one of the easiest ways to cut your spending, so learn to cook a few simple dishes that can sustain you throughout the semester. If you have roommates, you may want to consider buying food staples such as rice, cereal and pasta in bulk and splitting the costs.

Drive less. Instead of hopping in the car when you need to get to class, try relying on public transportation or simply hoofing it. This will save you much needed money on gas and parking.

Marshall Loeb, former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review, writes for MarketWatch.

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