Get a (financial) life

    In his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore exposed our misuse of the environment and spawned countless “Go Green” movements. But as Beth Kobliner, New York Times bestselling author of the revised edition of Get a Financial Life warned, the dangers of excessive consumption can also apply to another type of green: our money.

    Beth Kobliner, New York Times bestselling author, explains how to be financially savvy. Photo by the author.

    Spoofing on Al Gore’s documentary, Kobliner called her Monday evening talk, held in Annenberg Hall, “The Inconvenient Truth of Personal Finance.” “But unlike Al Gore, my voice actually modulates,” joked Kobliner. Speaking to a crowd of over 50 students, she gave her “Cliff Notes” version of the whys and hows of the economic meltdown, with some tips on basic money management.

    Kobliner also made several recommendations for getting more out of your money. She suggested doing at least one of the following to help keep track of where all that money goes:

    Limit trips to the ATM

    Try to only go to the ATM once a week. “A lot of times you are running to the ATM, taking out 40 bucks here, 20 there,” says Kobliner. And that can add up. Taking out a set sum every week will prevent you from going over budget.

    Keep a money diary

    Write down all your expenses for one week. “It sounds very obvious, but I have been told by many people that they didn’t realize they were spending that much,” Kobliner says.

    Hold off on the credit card

    Stick to just your debit card for two weeks. “It will allow you to see what it’s like not to build up debt.” Again, its all about being more aware of what you spend.

    Reconsider your health insurance plan

    Consider your options before signing up for NU’s plan. If your parents have health insurance, it might be best to stay on their plan. If you graduate jobless and don’t have coverage, you may not be able to rejoin your parents’ insurance.

    Reduce credit card debt

    According to Kobliner, the average student graduates with $25,000 in credit card debt. That’s a lot of cash, but paying it off doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. If you’re struggling, look into getting your payments deferred or lower your monthly payment. Also, some careers, like teaching in a low income area, may qualify you for government aid in paying off that debt.

    Think before you charge

    Okay, so you’ve probably heard this before, but making the minimum payment on your credit card will cost you for years. Even paying $10 more than the minimum will shave eight years off those interest payments.

    If you ignore everything else, there are two things you should try to do in college: avoid credit card debt and pay your bills on time. The best way to avoid this? Sign up for automatic payment plans. It makes paying bills effortless. “If you turn in a class assignment late, you might lose a few points,” says Kobliner. “If you are late on a bill it could easily drop your credit card score by as much as a hundred points.”


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