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Pulling into a gas station and squeezing 50 cents worth of gas into your tank, waiting to do that pile of laundry until you go home to visit mom and chowing down on ramen like there's no tomorrow.

Welcome to the life of a college student. Let me rephrase that, a broke college student. And face it, that's what you're gonna be. Living on your own is a wake-up call. If you don't learn to manage your money, you'll find yourself swamped with out-of-control bills. For off-campus dwellers we're talking gas, water and electricity, but even if you wind up in dorm housing where all that's taken care of, there's still cable TV, magazine subscriptions, CD clubs and more.

If you have roomies, it's best if each one to put at least one utility bill in their name and collect money from the others when it's time to pay. This allows each of you to establish some sort of credit line – that is, if you pay the bill on time!

If you don't pay on time, they'll tack on a pesky late charge and if you keep on missing payments, the companies will turn the utility off and you'll have to pay additional dough – around $30 to $90 – to have it turned back on. The last thing you want is no water and a bad credit line!

Living on your own can be the best time, as long as you get your act together. Fall into a trap now, and you might not find your way out.

• Decrease the hour in the shower.

• Turn off lights when you leave a room.

• Turn down the heat to 60 when everyone is out and at night.

• Develop a system to remind yourself when bills are due.

• Make files for "bills to be paid" and "bills already paid."

• Plan ahead for holidays and summer vacations when you might not be around to write a check.

• Don't forget to put stamps on your birthday list because you may write the check out on time, but realize you have no stamps to send it out.

By Patrice Kopec, King's College

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