Posted on August 1, 2017
#tips #money  #saving #study  

Let us talk about savings and personal finance for students. If you don’t have work experience before coming abroad, students usually find it tough to understand financial concepts, credit score, credit history, bank accounts and other financial terms. This blog post will give an overview about:

  • How to handle money
  • How to save money
  • How to avoid credit card traps
  • How to effectively manage your personal finance (and life)

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Planning and Budgeting

  • Track every penny you spend (I use mint.com).
  • Make a budget and stick to it.
  • Monthly expenses will increase gradually as time passes.
  • Open an Online Savings Account to deposit money over $2000.
  • Checkings account doesn’t pay interest.
  • Saving accounts offered by traditional banks give less than .25% interest.
  • Don’t buy things that you cannot afford.
  • Always look for deals before you buy any product and shop online.
  • Before placing the order, try to find additional coupon code.
  • Find a job and apply for SSN ( Social Security Number).

Credit cards and Credit History

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  • Apply for a Credit Card as soon you get SSN.
  • American Express Blue for Students, Citi Student Cards are good place to start.
  • Don’t apply for multiple cards. Just 1 card should be enough.
  • Use the credit card to make day to day purchases.
  • Use your card only if you have money in you checkings account.
  • Pay your card in full every month. Using credit cards builds your credit history
  • Good credit history = high credit score
  • High credit score= low loan interest rates in future
  • You will get loan to buy a car once you get the job
  • Good Credit history = low security deposit (apartments, utilities,..)
  • It’s bad to carry balance in credit cards.
  • Understand how credit card payment and interest are calculated.
  • Don’t play balance transfer games.
  • Don’t apply for credit cards just because you’re getting $100 free or a free t-shirt

Credit Score

  • FICO credit score ranges between 300 to 850. Excellent Credit Score = Above 740. It takes time to build credit score along with credit history. Credit score is determined by:
  • How you pay the bills -credit to debit ratio (credit limit to your balance) -length of credit history -types of credit accounts (credit card, car loan, mortgage, utilities)
  • Credit scores are reported by 3 credit bureaus: Trans Union; Equifax; Experyouyouian
  • Don’t mess with credit cards and credit history.
  • Don’t play games with credit card offers (balance transfer).
  • Understand how credit score works.
  • Spending time to learn about credit score will save you a lot of money in long run.
  • Don’t apply for too many credit cards for zero percentage APR or balance transfer.

Monthly Expenses

  • Create a spreadsheet using Google docs and share among roommates.
  • Clearly define a cycle on who is going to pay for expense in what order.
  • It’s good to have atleast one account in your name (power, gas, internet, tv, ..)
  • Don’t be silly in sharing few cents or dollars.
  • First month's expenses will be high.

Bank Accounts

  • Don’t open several checkings account.
  • Open one account that has an ATM near your campus.
  • Try to use online transfer (check books are expensive and save paper).
  • Sign-up for paperless statements (Go Green and Save paper)
  • Frequently check your bank balances and recent activities.
  • Referring customers will get you $25 to $50 (try to refer new students).
  • Open ONLY free checking account.
  • Free Checkings account will not pay any interest.
  • If there is nearby credit union, check if they have interest paying account.
  • Right now you can get 1 to 1.5% interest in some account types.

Shopping and Deals

  • If you paying online, make sure webpage is secure (https vs http).
  • Always try to buy electronics items online-Looks for cashback, coupon codes and deals-You can always find coupons and deals for the product you plan to buy.
  • If you don’t find a deal, keep looking for deals.-Amazon Student has many deals (Amazon Prime is free for 1 year with student id)
  • Have a list before going for shopping.
  • Cigarettes and alcohol are expensive.
  • Get books from seniors (or buy used books or lower edition).

Grocery Shopping

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  • Compare grocery prices in nearby stores.
  • Get Sams, Costco or BJ’c membership.
  • Usually Membership comes with 2 cards (share with 2 households).
  • Save lot of money by shopping in Farmers Market. Find coupons for grocery shopping (newspaper, weekly newsletter)
  • Coupons combined with weekly sales = SAVINGS! Join rewards program in local stores.
  • Try to cook at home daily (create a schedule).
  • Take seniors with you for your first few trips to the grocery store.
  • Don’t try to save on essential food items.
  • Use Unit price to compare prices.
  • Local store will do price match.
  • Make a list and track the prices.
  • Some items will have lower prices during certain times of the day.
  • Look for quick sale rack for close out items.

Utilities

  • Unplug chargers, unused electrical items from power outlet. Save 5% of your electric bill.
  • Switch off Lights and Fans when room is not used
  • Maintain comfortable temperature to save on Power and Gas
  • Ask for deals on Internet, Phone and Cable TV-Look for services you don’t use in the bill and remove them.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Beware of free service offers or programs.
  • Always read the fine print before you sign-up for any service.
  • If you making big ticket purchase, know the return/refund policy.
  • Buy clothes ONLY during sale.
  • Pay more to get better quality items, than cheap items for less (lasts longer).
  • Try to use library (school and community).
  • Don’t get caught downloading movies, songs and software.
  • Don’t try to save money by not taking Health Insurance coverage.
  • If you are sick go to the hospital. Don’t try to save money by not going to a hospital.
  • University campus will have a medical clinic.
  • Membership club will have samples to taste. Try it before buying new items.
  • Working outside campus is illegal while in F1 Visa-Earning money through business like quixtar is violation of your status.
  • There will always be an alternate brand with lower prices.
  • Its good idea to have a spreadhseet that contains url, password hint and email used for account registration.
  • Use your common sense approach towards money, personal finance.

For new students ABROAD for the first time, life will look overwhelming. Above 100 tips should set you on the right track. When you are not sure about anything ask for help. Sometimes small mistakes can be expensive. Check out http://amberstudent.com for more. **

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