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Center Provides Tips For New Year's Financial Goals

Jan. 20, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

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If getting your finances in order is one of your goals for 2012, Sam Houston State University’s Student Money Management Center has tips for a good start that can benefit anyone from students and to professionals.

SMMC peer counselors Jacob Brock and Eric Johnson recently provided a “New Year’s Resolution: Save More, Spend Less” seminar on personal budgeting for 2012, during which the counselors stressed that tTo begin better budgeting, it’s important to keep track of what is going in and out of your accounts on a monthly basis.

The center recommends keeping a basic income and expense record, including salary/wages; financial aid; support from family; gifts; scholarships and grants; and other income as well payments for rent/mortgage, utilities, cable/Internet, cell phones, car note and gasoline.

There are many ways to keep these records, from the simple to the complex. An old-fashioned memo pad can be used to record spending or it can be put on an Excel spreadsheet, and there also are many mobile applications available on SmartPhone or tablets to track expenses, including iMint and iWallet, which can be found by entering “budgeting” in the search engine of your electronic device.

Among the ways students can trim are canceling unused gym memberships, unsubscribing to a few magazines, cutting down on cable TV channels, “paying yourself first” by putting some of your earnings in a savings account, paying down debt, exercising to reduce prescriptions and medical care costs, “couponing,” sticking to cash to avoid impulse buying, and buy generic brands.

The center also recommends keeping your hands off your 401(k) until you are 60 years old; quitting expensive habits, such as smoking, vending machine snacks or Starbucks coffee; turning off the lights and unplug unused appliances; and bring your lunch to work.

“The key to sticking to a budget is to be realistic,” Brock said. “Set a budget and set goals.”

A major pitfall for many Americans is revolving credit. The average credit card balance in the U.S. is $8,329, which doesn’t include mortgages or car payments.

Paying down your debt will also help raise your credit score, Brock said. Credit and debit cards also tend to lead to impulse buying, so use cash whenever possible. A monthly envelope system, putting cash aside for key expenses, also can be an effective way to stay on budget.

Expensive habits may also be draining your budget. For example, a daily trip to Starbucks on workdays can add up to $1,300 a year. Smokers spend an average of $1,800 to $3,600 on cigarettes annually, according to Johnson.

Money also can be saved by couponing. An hour of couponing a week can save $100, and there are new applications from grocery stores to download coupons to your cell phone or store courtesy card.

Generic brands may also save you money, but it is important to compare products to get the best deal.

Bringing your lunch instead of buying your mid-day meal also saves dough and allows you to eat healthier.

“Do it in baby steps throughout the year,” said Kristy Vienne, assistant vice president for Student Services. “Here are things to remember: Keep track of your spending, look where you can save and pay one extra mortgage payment a year. It will cut your mortgage by seven years.”

The Student Money Management Center also offers ongoing seminars, workshops, presentations and web resources to help with various aspects of financing for students.

For more information, visit the Student Money Management Center at www.shsu.edu/~smmc.





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