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    Budgeting Your Money

    Be smart about managing your money and it will take you far. Whether you are on your first job or your fifth, it's never too early (or too late) to learn smart financial habits.

    Calculate What You Need

    • Create a budget spreadsheet (or fill out a ready-made one online), to find out what your average monthly costs are for reoccurring expenses like rent, utilities, car payments, groceries, etc.
    • If some of your expenses seem high, such as eating out or shopping, make it a goal to keep these below a certain amount each month. 
    • Use an online service like mint.com to keep yourself on budget. By allowing the site to see your card and account activity, it can tell you how much you are spending in different areas (such as groceries or gas), and then compare it to the monthly budget you created. 

    Watch for Fees

    • Overdraft fees can take a chunk out of your monthly cash flow. Avoid them by linking your savings to your checking account. This way, if you accidentally go over you budget, funds will be pulled from your savings to cover the difference and you won't be charged.
    • Always make sure you have enough money in your account before writing a check. This way, you'll avoid returned check fees and the embarrassment of a bounced check.

    Avoid Identity Theft and Fraud

    Identity theft is serious business. If someone steals your information and uses it to commit a crime like credit card fraud, it can be difficult to clear your name. Follow these tips to keep safe:

    • Destroy documents with personal information, like your Social Security number, account numbers, or other personal data. Don't just rip them up and throw them away — use a shredder.
    • Use a secure mailbox to make it more difficult for someone to steal your mail. Switching to paperless bank statements can also help.
    • Don't leave mail, statements or other personal documents lying around the house, where they are at risk of being stolen by a visitor. You might trust your roommate's friends, but it pays to be careful. Keep these documents in a locked drawer or filing cabinet at home.
    • Don't carry around any cards with your Social Security number printed on them. If you lose your wallet at the beach or at a bar, the results could be serious.
    • Never tell someone your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call and are familiar with the company. If someone calls you with the excuse of “verifying your account information” and asks for personal information, don't fall for it. No reputable company requests these details over the phone.
    • Beware of “phishing.” These are fake emails that look like they come from your financial institution or a retailer and ask for your personal information. No financial institution or reputable company requests sensitive details by email.
    • Avoid putting your social security number on job applications. You don't know how many hands those papers go through. Instead, write “available upon request.