Graduation Gifts – 4 Tips to Help Teens Make Wise Money Choices

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Michedolene Hogan
Michedolene Hogan, publisher of, lives in a quiet rural neighborhood of NC. She and her four children enjoy the quiet atmosphere after years of living in Southern CA cities. On two acres of land she has found the perfect atmosphere for working as a freelance writer covering a wide range of topics. She prefers writing about alternative allergy solutions but enjoys dabbling in other topics as well. In her spare time she and her family enjoy working with rescued dogs from high kill shelters around NC that need a little special TLC to re-learn how to be part of a family.
Michedolene Hogan
Michedolene Hogan
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When I graduated from high school, my mind flew with all the possibilities that life presented. I finally had unlimited freedom. I could travel the world and was ready to seize any opportunity that was thrown at me. Thankfully, my parents pointed out logical reasons why this would not work. I realized when my grades began to drop. And they were quick to hand me the bills for all of my extravagances.

I am not the only person who stumbled out of high school ready to dive head-first into fun. However, I was lucky to have someone to bring me back down to reality. Many people are not so fortunate and end up digging a bigger hole for themselves. Even with some guidance, I still had to dig myself back out of my own hole.

When digging myself out of that dreaded black hole of debt, I found things that really work and it wasn’t the bottomless pit I’d feared. Many of the tips were really quite simple. They might seem obvious, but it’s easy for them to slip the mind when one is presented with a financial windfall, such as monetary gifts for scholastic achievements. Others may not seem so obvious, and perhaps even seem contradictory. Regardless of how they appear on the surface, these are the things that worked for me. Hopefully you will find some that work for you as well.

Personal Checking Accounts

If you only do one thing on this page, you should aim for it to be this tip – maintain your checking account. By knowing how much money is in your checking account, you know how much you can spend. If you manage your bank account, over draws are easily avoided. Overdraws are harmful to personal finances because they create holes of debt by attaching a penalty or fee to each line item that takes your account further into the negative. Just maintaining your bank account will help prevent creating more debt. You can save even more money by using internet deals on sites such as when time comes to order new checks.

Party in Moderation

Many students go to college simply to party. If left unchecked this can destroy not only their hope at a degree but also their personal finances. Spending money on alcohol leads to missing classes which could in turn result in being kicked out of school. Wasting money meant for books and tuition on other things means

if you are sent packing from school, then you won’t have money for a place to live while you attempt to find a job. Socialization and extracurricular events look great on a college resume but moderate your activities to avoid making mistakes that result in bad habits. Bad habits are one of the primary causes for mismanagement of personal finances.

Get a Credit or Prepaid Debit Card

If you don’t have a credit card, get one. Establishing credit is crucial in today’s economy. Chances are, however, that you probably already have one. And since you’re reading these tips, there’s also a chance that you might have even abused your credit card. You can avoid high credit card debit by setting a low spending limit, such as $500. Another way is to load funds onto a prepaid debit card, like the MasterCard issued as part of a PayPal account. I even earn cash back on mine! Each month I transfer my spending allowance into my PayPal account, leaving my checking account free for things like bills and spare funds to cover emergency situations. If you do have a credit card, pay it down to a zero balance each month to avoid high interest charges. Once you develop consistent spending habits, you’ll find it easier to live within your means.

Be a Super Saver

The next time the cashier asks you if you want your receipt, say yes. Save all of your receipts for one month, and then add up exactly how much money you spend. This will help you realize where you could best save money. It also helps you realize where you are throwing away some of your hard-earned cash. Create a budget and create an envelope system to help you manage your spending. Put a certain amount of cash in envelopes marked FOOD, FUEL, and EXTRAS. Then, when you need groceries or want to go out to eat, the amount of money in the envelope compared to how many days are left in the month give you a better idea of how much you really have to spend.

Save your change. Make a coin jar, and drop all your loose change inside. Once it’s full, take it to the bank for a tally of how much you’ve saved. You could set a goal for the money, such as getting a new paint job on your car, buying that pair of boots you’ve been drooling over, or taking a long weekend vacation.

College is not only an exciting time, but also an expensive one. Don’t make it more expensive than it has to be. Create responsible habits that will help you develop responsibility in managing your personal finances. Responsibility is the key when it comes to digging yourself out of a black hole of debt and staying out of it. Remember, the more you save, the less stress you’ll have about money woes.