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Ten tips

By HELEN HUNTLEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002

Know someone who's going off to college for the first time this fall? Here are some tips for dealing with the financial side of college life. They are taken from the new book Life During College: Valuable Advice & Tips For Success, written by Tampa resident John Ricchini and Terry Arndt. The book also covers nonfinancial topics such as studying, getting along with roommates and managing time wisely.

1. Know what you need. Before shopping for a bank account, think about how you will use the account. How many checks will you write? Do you want a debit card? How often will you visit the ATM? Do you want online access? Will you need to visit a branch in person?

2. Get the cheap checks. Some banks offer a box of free checks when you open an account. If yours charges, order by mail from one of the companies that advertises in the Sunday newspapers.

3. Balance your account. Write down ATM withdrawals, deposits and debit card transactions. Review your records weekly to make sure you haven't overlooked any transactions. Match your records against your bank statement monthly. Call the bank if something is amiss.

4. Be informed about fees. Banks, credit card issuers, telephone companies and other service providers often have a menu of extra charges. Know how much it will cost you if you use another bank's ATM or pay a bill late.

5. Create a budget. Write down fixed monthly expenses such as rent, car insurance and the cable bill. Then estimate variable expenses such as food and entertainment. If expenses exceed your income, look for areas to cut back.

6. Limit credit cards. Apply for and use only one credit card. Cancel any others you already have. If you have debts you need to pay off, stop using your card until that's accomplished.

7. Protect your credit. Pay bills on time. Keep your credit card and statements in a safe place. Never give your credit card number over the phone to strangers.

8. Pay attention to interest rates. If you borrow money, know how much it will cost you. If you carry a balance on a credit card, find a low-interest card.

9. Read the fine print. Before you sign a lease or any kind of contract, know what you're getting into. Some deals aren't as good as they appear at first glance; low rates may apply for only a few weeks or months. Make sure a lease agrees with what the landlord told you.

10. Pinch pennies on textbooks. Buy and sell used books. Purchase early to get the best deals. Sell to other students for a little more than the bookstore will pay to buy them back. Try buying and selling online.

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