The D Word—Debt

Avoid the plastic trap while you're in school

The most common four-letter word on every student’s lips is D-E-B-T. When the average college kid owes over $2,500 in credit card debt alone, it’s easy to understand why the D word is a student’s worst nightmare. To save yourself from financial turmoil, read up on these ways to avoid the plastic trap.

Tip #1: Approach With Caution

Contrary to popular belief, credit cards aren’t all bad. Establishing good credit is an essential part of your financial future, so it’s important to have a credit card and to use it only if you can immediately pay off the bill. Finding a card is easy. Finding a card that will offer you a reasonable annual percentage rate (APR) and minimal transaction fees is a bit more difficult. will allow you to compare interest rates, fees, and user rewards for cards designed specifically for students. Shop around with your parents (they’re going to have to co-sign for you anyway), always read the fine print, and be on the lookout for cards with fraud protection to protect your bank account in case the card is lost or stolen.

Tip #2: Handle With Care

Overspending is the easiest way to turn an emergency-only financial cushion into an all-consuming vacuum of debt. To prevent yourself from excessive spending, pay cash when you can, charge only what you really need, and keep an accurate, up-to-date record of money spent. By taking note of money coming in versus money going out, you can make sure that you’re always within your monetary means. If the urge to impulse shop is just too much, ask your company to set a low credit limit on your card, therefore only giving you so much room to get in trouble.

Tip #3: Treat With Respect

Maintaining a good credit report is just as important as maintaining a car or good grades. In the working world, your credit report will serve as a report card of whether or not you’ve been financially studious. Good students will be rewarded with the ability to finance cars, mortgages, or small businesses while bad students will be stuck with what little cash they have in their pockets. To earn an A in credit ed, always pay your bills on time and for the full amount unless, of course, you like paying compounded interest charges by the truckload.


This article was written by Christina Couch

Christina Couch is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of All Ages (Palari Publishing, 2008). Her byline can also be found on,, and, and in Wired Magazine.

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