The best time to develop good financial habits is when you’re a student in college. You finally have independence from your parents, which means you get to manage your own money, but you have not yet fully entered the world of careers, mortgages and 401(k)s which means you can make a few little mistakes along the way and work out what works for you, so that when you graduate you have a solid financial foundation to see you through the years ahead.

With that in mind, here are some crucial cash tips to nail in college:

Here are six money tips I recommend everyone use but especially college students.

Build Credit Now

Once you graduate you’ll come to find that your credit score is an all-important number that could mean the difference between renting that sweet apartment or settling for that dump or between you getting that great graduate job or being stuck in a boring office job for another year.

Your credit score is checked by everyone from landlords to employers and that is why you need to start working on it now. How do you do that? By applying for a credit card and paying it off at the end of each month(or at the very least paying the minimum each month) to show you can manage it. If you have no credit history, your score will not be good, so now is the time to act.

Don’t Run Up Credit Card Debt

You may think this contradicts the above point but it really doesn’t. There’s a big difference between having a credit card and using your credit card excessively. Ok, so you may need to spend a little more credit than you would like when money is really tight, but keep your credit card debt to a minimum or you could find yourself paying that thing off for years post-graduation. If things are really tight, student loans are a better bet because their interest rates are almost always going to be lower than your credit card’s.

Learn to Play the Tax System

If there’s one thing you can say about the tax system it’s that there are loopholes and learning those loopholes is a very good idea. Are structured settlements considered income? What’s Life learning Credit? Can you get a tax break on your mortgage credit? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, perhaps you need to start reading up on all of the many tax breaks on offer, so when you need to use them you can avoid paying more than necessary.

Learn About Investing

You may not have a lot of money now, but you can certainly maximize its potential by investing. If you invest even a small sum now, it could pay off big time in the future. Investing is the key to building wealth and when you’re a student you can invest in Roth IRAs tax-free, which is certainly something you should think of doing. Other than that, there are numerous resources for teaching you how to buy stocks and shares, and the sooner you utilize the knowledge they offer, the sooner you’ll be able to retire. Yes, you should be thinking about retiring now!

Be smart, take your finances seriously.

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