Students need to spend responsibly in college

By Danielle Gaines

He walks around town in a bright pink suit and a smile, holding out his hand, eager for a little cash from store owners, shopaholics and businessmen.

His hands: pig feet. His face: round and pink with a prominent snout. He is Benjamin Bankes, the spokespig of a new public service campaign from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and The Advertising Council.

So far, Bankes seems to be a big hit, starring in national commercials and boasting 689 friends on his MySpace page.

The groups started the campaign to encourage the 40 million Americans between 25- and 34-years-old to take control of their financial situations.

According to the Web site, these Americans have an average of $4,088 in credit card debt, $20,000 in education debts and spend 24 percent of their income on debt payments.

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    Justin Katz, branch manager at National City Bank, 505 E. Green St., said these problems can begin when students don’t spend responsibly in college. He said the most important thing for students to do is to set money aside, regardless of how little they are making while in college.

    “There are absolutely no negatives to having a savings account,” Katz said.

    To retire at a decent age, students should put aside 10 to 15 percent of their income every pay period, he said. Savings accounts are also helpful when students decide to leave town on breaks from school.

    Vacations can be a hidden source of stress though, Katz said.

    “We see the most overdrafts happening around spring break or holidays,” he said.

    In the age of the debit card and the instant checks, Katz said it is easy to forget that you have already spent some of your money.

    “The money comes out right away or when you don’t expect it to and it can result in overdraft fees, Katz said. “(Overdraft fees) can be a big amount in a students’ income.”

    It is also easy to spend money a lot of money on little things.

    “Would you believe that by bringing your lunch to work every day, that after a few years you could end up with almost $4,000 in savings?” Bankes asks on his MySpace page.

    Credit cards and small personal loans are good tools for increasing credit, according to the The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

    “But for some, access to credit is an invitation to overspend,” the group warns on their 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy Web site.

    Katz said the benefits of building credit while still in school can extend for some time.

    “I want to make sure students have the ability to buy a house, car, and retire after school,” he said.

    Katz said the easiest way for students to maintain a budget is to put aside a set amount of money for each day or week. Then, students can shuffle the expenses around without dedicating them to a specific cause.

    “Always consider your savings as part of your budget,” he said.

    Piggy banks are available at Wal-Mart for as little as $9.47.

    Tips for saving a little extra dough

    • Use your PDA or online calendar to create savings reminders for long-term goals.
    • Prepare a large meal on Sundays; enjoy leftovers throughout the week.
    • Dust off your library card and watch DVDs for free.
    • Pay your credit card bill in full each month to avoid interest charges.
    • Don’t forget to check out your company’s 401k plan.
    • Stop racking up wasteful ATM charges. Over time, they add up.
    • Make your morning Joe at home.
    • Kick the habit once and for all. Smoking is hard on the wallet and your health.
    • Cut costs by using in-store savings. Buy in bulk.
    • Save a raise. Weren’t you living without it yesterday?