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Successfully Manage Your Finances

By Experience

Here are 13 easy ways to simplify your expenses and manage your money.

1. Track your cash.
To be fiscally fit you need to know how much goes in and out of your account. Keep monthly records of your spending and living expenses.

2. Get organized.
Keep ATM transaction receipts, bills, purchases and tax records organized together in labeled files. This will help you stay on track with your budget and make it easier when it's time to pay bills.

3. Shop second hand.
Buy used books. Used books are usually in good condition and cost about half the price of new books. If you can curb the desire for all new flashy items in favor of reliable practical ones with a bit of a history, you'll be ahead of the pack.

4. Keep the car home.
The insurance, maintenance and gas will eat you alive. Most university towns are compact and everything you need will be within walking distance of campus. If some of your friends have a car, great--let them cover the expense.

5. Look for student discounts.
Take advantage of the perks offered to students. Be on the lookout for deals on plane tickets, pizza, books, clothes--everything. The student newspaper is a good place to start. The Internet can be a gold mine of discounts.

6. Get smart about credit.
Credit cards are not magic money; they're a loan with an obligation to repay. Don't spend more than you can afford to pay back. Get a card with a low limit. Shop around for the best deal and read the fine print before signing up.

7. Live within your means.
Don't buy what you can't afford. Don't eat out all the time. Pack a lunch. This will save you big bucks. Don't eat regularly at fast-food restaurants because it will reduce your bank account while packing on the extra pounds.

8. Smart spending equals savings.
Find inexpensive ways to entertain yourself. Visit museums, parks or read at the coffeehouse, check out sales racks, consignment shops, cut coupons or search the Internet. If you do a little research, you will save money.

9. Protect Yourself
Don't be a victim of fraud or identity theft. Guard your credit card, PIN and account numbers. Buy a shredder so you can dispose of statements, receipts and bills properly.

10. Pay Attention
Read your bills and statements each month. This helps you keep track of your spending, alerts you to fraud and any mistakes that may occur on your account. If you move, inform the bank of your new address. Guard your credit card number and close unused accounts.

11. Get the best deal on a checking account.
Shop around before opening a checking account. Smaller banks may offer a better deal. Compare fees. Ask if there's a fee for dealing with a teller, including deposits or withdrawals. Ask if there's a fee to use a debit card. Ask about ATM fees. Ask if overdraft protection is part of the student package. If not, ask about linking such coverage to a bank-issued credit card.

12. Start Saving.
Open a savings account. Establish a savings plan and kick in a little money each week. Stick with it. Compound interest is a wonderful thing and it's always wise to have a little extra tucked away.

13. Bonus tip: Don't be dumb!
Some expenses can be easily avoided. Things like parking fines, overdue library books, and late fees are controllable by simply reading signs and following the rules

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