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Personal Finances 101 for College Bound Students

As you prepare yourself for college, you’re probably realizing that there is more to college than developing great study habits. For many of you, this is the first time that you will live away from home and have to manage your own money. If you’ve never had to do that before, you might not have the first clue where to start. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there that can teach you the basics and give you strategies that will turn you into a smarter money manager than most adults these days. To help you start off on the right track, here are a few ways of getting personal finance information before you set off for college:

#1 Online

Finding personal finance information online is one of the best ways to get the most up to date information. You can hear about new ideas and opportunities the moment they come out. So you’ll always know you’ve got the latest news available.

The internet also offers easier access to a wider variety of information. You can find everything from how to mitigate your debt to advice on where to live while in college. You can also find people in your exact financial situation blogging about the ways they are managing it. You can follow these people and even get in touch with them. This allows you to get more personalized and relevant advice than you might find in other sources.

However, the internet does have its downsides. The most significant one is the presence of bad information. You will have to sift through some questionable sources and filter out the misleading or manipulative sites before you actually find the sites worth reading and following.

Before you act on any advice or ideas you find on a blog or social media account, make sure that you look into its background. Find out who is writing and learn as much as you can about who they are and what they do. If it’s not easy to find this kind of information about their background, that itself is a warning sign. A legitimate blogger wants to be found and wants to provide information about who they are and where their expertise lies.

Once you find a quality source, stick with it. Sign up for email updates. Follow any social media accounts they may have. And add a note to your calendar reminding you to check in on the site at least once a month. Try to find at least two or three different blogs or websites that you check in on regularly.

This is a good habit to get into so that you can remember to actively manage your personal finances rather than ignoring them until they get out of hand.

#2 In Print

Magazines and newspapers are also great resources for quality personal information before you set off for college. On average, they tend to be more thoroughly researched than online sources. That doesn’t mean online sources have no value. It just means print sources tend to dig a little deeper or narrow their focus to really understand a specific issue.

Newspapers and magazines can also add some important context to your personal finances. The wider economy and market conditions are going to affect your personal finances as well. If you’re relying on financial aid, for example, it’s important to stay up to date about any policy changes the government makes that might affect how much aid you get.

If you ever plan on investing as part of your retirement plan, it is a good idea to start getting familiar with the financial markets as soon as possible. You don’t have to become an expert in economic theory or spend all your time closely analyzing the state of the market. Just make an effort to be aware of the key events and shifts that are happening.

To do that, subscribe to two or three newspapers that have solid reputations and articles that are relevant to you. Add these to your monthly reading list.

#3 Books

The best finance books are great resources to use when you’re ready to go really in depth on a particular topic. For example, as a college student, finding as much funding as you can outside of loans is going to be a top priority. A great book can give you thorough details and great exercises to help you gain the skills and insights necessary to qualify for as much financial aid as possible as well as win as many scholarships as you can.

Books can also help you develop the basic money management skills that you will need throughout your life. If this is your first time living on your own, you’ll need to learn how to make a budget, how to stick to that budget, and how to build credit without letting your debt spiral out of control.

With books, the key thing to watch out for is the date of publishing. College gets more expensive every year and the economy is always changing. The resources and tools available are also often changing. So reading a book written in 1970 might have a few good ideas but there will also be a lot of dated information that no longer applies.

Try to stick with personal finance books that have been written within the last 10 years. The only exceptions are those timeless books that describe methods and ideas that are relevant and practical no matter what the current conditions are.

You don’t have to read books as often as blogs, newspapers and magazines. However, you should try to fit one or two personal finance books into your schedule per year. This habit will deepen your knowledge and really help you think about how to apply all the ideas you have been reading about throughout the year.

Personal finance information is one of the most invaluable resources you can bring into your life. The more knowledge and skills you have with managing your money, the better off you will be throughout your entire life. So find the resources most relevant to you and make time in your schedule each month to educate yourself about your personal finances!

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Kostas Chiotis. He is an economist, online marketer, and entrepreneur that likes to spend his spare time managing his blog at Finance Blog Zone

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