If you want to earn an “A” in money management, you’ve got to educate yourself on important credit lessons so you don’t flunk out. And with the back to school season around the corner, it’s just in time.
The good news is you won’t have to pull any all-nighters to pass this cash crash course, but you will have to pay attention and do your homework. Here’s how to educate yourself on credit and debt.
Learning how to understand the fine print of credit offers is an important skill to develop since you’ll want to comparison shop to find the best cards for your situation. Some of the items to consider are interest rate, if there’s an annual fee, and what perks are available.
Often when people make credit card purchases, they’re not really doing the number crunching to figure out how much those cool jeans will actually end up costing. Even when you think you’re taking advantage of a can’t pass up sale, if you don’t pay the credit balance in full, you might end up paying much more than the item is actually worth.
In other words, think twice before you pull out the plastic. Another tricky math problem? Adding up how much you’re actually spending on an average day. Do the math, and you’ll be surprised, and hopefully inspired to spend smarter.
Credit history, that is, will follow you throughout your life whether it’s when you apply for a home or auto loan, go for a job, or even get into a serious relationship with someone and the topic of finances comes up.
To build up a strong credit history, you need to actually use credit responsibly over time. That means making on-time payments and keeping your debt utilization (that’s how much you versus how much available credit you have) low.
Thanks to apps and online tools, there’s really no excuse these days to not stay plugged into your credit status. Monitor your accounts often to prevent ID theft and keep an eye on your balances. Set up alerts or automatic payments so you’re never delinquent on your accounts.
You can also keep track of your daily spending, create a budget, and come up with a savings strategy, all with a few keystrokes. Finally, be sure to request your credit report from all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), and check it over for errors. You’re entitled to one free one per year from each bureau via annualcreditreport.com.
By majoring in money management, you’ll be preparing for your financial future, and hopefully get the chance to earn some extra credit along the way.
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan