Financial advice for an 18-year-old?

Last week, Isaac asked Get Rich Slowly readers for advice on how to handle life after grad school. He's about to enter the workforce and needed tips on what to do until he gets his first paycheck. Isaac was very pleased with your helpful responses.

This week, we've got a chance to help somebody even younger than Isaac. Nico is 18, a sophomore in college, and financially clueless. He needs help! Here's his story:

I'm pretty young — about to start my sophomore year of college — and I literally have absolutely no knowledge of anything financial. I do have a simple student account with a paltry amount of money in it, and that's really about it. So yeah, the majority of your site goes over my head and some things are quite intimidating.

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Stopping Shopping Momentum

Shopping momentum is the bane of many budgets. You may have a good grip on your money most of the time, but once you've opened up your wallet to make one purchase, it's easy to just keep spending.

People sometimes experience shopping momentum during times of stress or transition: when they're traveling, when there's a crisis at home or at work, during a big life change like a move or welcoming a new baby. You've just laid out a lot of money for an unusual expense, and something in your brain tells you it's time to spend more.

Shopping momentum
Crazy as it sounds, this is a real psychological phenomenon. Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business showed that people who buy one item are more likely to continue buying others.

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Who’s Spying on (and Profiting from) Your Browsing Habits?

One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Web is tracking data about your Internet use — everything from comments you leave on websites to health information and financial status — and selling it to companies that want to target ads to specific customer profiles. Algorithms are even used to make predictions about you based on your profile, from how likely is it that you'll repay a loan to where you'll probably spend your summer vacation.

According to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), your browsing information, minus your name, can be sold wholesale ("a batch of movie lovers is $1 per thousand") or customized ("26-year-old Southern fans of [the movie] '50 First Dates'"). There can be as many as 100 middlemen between your mouse click and an advertiser.

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Living The Examined Life: Personal Data Collection is a Powerful Tool for Change

Machines are, in some respects, much smarter than we are. Specifically, their ability to collect data about us far outpaces our own ability to know who we are and what we do.

Your computer can't tell you why you eat, spend money, sleep, or watch TV. But it can tell you with much greater accuracy than your own memory the minute, often embarrassing details of when and how you do those things.

Any regular reader of this blog is familiar with the importance of tracking the money that moves through your life. It's the first principle of many money gurus, and a nearly religious commitment for some of us who do it (myself included).

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Can You Afford to Go Green?

As soon as you start thinking about how to live more lightly on the earth, your eyes start opening to the myriad ways you can do that. You can eat only organic food. You can bike to work instead of driving. You can insist on high-efficiency appliances. You can line dry your clothes.

Some of these lifestyle shifts will save you money. Others are expensive. Often, I hear cost used as a reason not to "go green". In fact, environmentally damaging products and lifestyle choices are only affordable because we're not paying the full cost of them. While you enjoy your cheap plastic toys, people in the developing world are paying the price in terms of pollution, exploitative labor, and natural resource consumption.

Most of us want to do right by the environment. We'd love to have pesticide-free homes and diets. We want our spending to support small farms, local businesses, and fair wages for workers in the developing world. That doesn't mean we necessarily have the available cash to do what our values dictate.

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Made by Hand: In Praise of Amateurs

Note: I'm afraid this post is long and rambling. So sue me. I've been meaning to write about this subject for a long time, and finally felt moved to do so. This article may be amateurish, but that's kind of the point...

My father was a serial entrepreneur — he was always starting businesses. But more than that, he was a serial inventor, a master of DIY, an amateur everything.

When I was a boy, my father: Continue reading...

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What Marriage Has Taught Me About Money

This is a guest post from WC, a guy in Chicago that writes about money at The Writer's Coin.

In May, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary with M, my favorite person in the world. I thought I knew a lot about everything before we got married, but now I'm wiser. So for all the newlyweds out there, or the ones thinking of walking the plank getting married, here are some things you should know.

There is no I. Marriage is all about the "we". It's not "your" money or "my" money, it's "our" money. It isn't your retirement, it's our retirement. It's not an easy concept to grasp, but you'd better adjust because when you get married you really don't have a choice. The sooner you accept it, the easier it will be. Don't fight it...As you'll see, this will become a recurring theme throughout your married life.

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Online Tools for Mindful Consumerism

For many people, mindful consumerism starts with questioning the desire to buy Stuff. The reason might be to save money or avoid clutter — maybe both. It's the first part of a journey to differentiate needs from wants and make mindful decisions about where to spend our hard-earned money.

But at some point, most of us will consume. We'll buy food or clothing or household items. We'll need to replace something, fix something, or upgrade something. When we make these purchases, we're playing a role in a process. Much goes into creating a product and getting it on the shelf, though as a consumer, we don't see that process. We don't know if the companies involved in bringing it to us have decent working conditions for employees, pollute water systems, or include additives that pose health risks to our families.

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A Brief Guide to Holiday Tipping

I'm getting more requests this year for holiday tipping info than ever before. For example, Nina wrote: "Can you provide some guidelines for Holiday Tipping Etiquette for the holiday season? I'm at a complete loss..."

To be honest, I don't know much about holiday tipping. It's not something I was raised with. I covered it briefly in my guide to how much to tip, but I'm basically as in the dark as Nina is. To learn more about the subject, I did a little research. I learned that in some places and for some jobs, holiday tipping is customary.

The December 2009 issue of Consumer Reports includes a survey on holiday tipping habits. Housekeepers are by far the most commonly tipped profession. A full 75% of folks tip their cleaning person — and no wonder. More than half tip their child's teacher. Other than that, holiday tipping is more sporadic. (Only 8% tip the trash collector.) Continue reading...

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Financial Balance Lets You Enjoy Tomorrow AND Today

This article is the 11th of a 14-part series that explores the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly. It originally appeared at Soul Shelter in a slightly different form.

For more than a decade, I was buried in debt. My relationship with money was poor. I earned a decent salary, but I couldn't seem to get ahead. I lived paycheck-to-paycheck on $40,000 a year.

I'd frequently find myself standing in a store, holding a stack of CDs, say, or maybe several magazines. Inside, I'd be arguing with myself, almost as if there were an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Most of the time, the devil won. I'd buy the stack of CDs or the magazines. And I'd use credit to do it. I was a compulsive spender.

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