The average amount of student loan debt that college graduates leave school with has been steadily rising every year for the past few years. 2011 graduates left college with a record amount of student loan and credit card debt. While there are many factors that may play into this trend, there is something that can be done about it. With the right planning and discipline, any college student can leave college with a great financial start going into their career. Read on to learn how.

Financial Head Start

1. Living below one's means is a must. Being a current college student myself, it amazes me when I see or hear of students who use credit cards or loans to finance expensive trips on spring break or decide to take out a large amount of student loans just to get a big refund check. This is not a financially smart move simply because most of this money is money these students will have to pay back eventually. Therefore, it is important to live within your means and to not spend more money than you can actually afford to spend.

2. If you have student loans and/or credit card debt, then consider setting up a payment plan to repay your debt back while you are still enrolled in school. You may be thinking "Once I get that great paying job i'll just pay them back then." But consider this: more than likely your entry level job you get after college most likely won't be all that great of a paying job and the interest on the life of a loan can really balloon how much you have to pay back if you elect to put off paying your loans back. The sooner you start paying your student loans off, the less interest you will have to pay and the more money you will have later on to use for other things buying your first house and saving for retirement.

3. Consider opening a Roth IRA or traditional IRA (individual retirement account) at a bank or if you work for an employer who offers a 401k program with a match, then consider contributing to this program. This is by far the greatest time to start contributing to these types of programs that are designed to help people save for retirement. You aren't getting any younger, and the sooner you start investing for retirement, then the more your money will compound over time and the more money you will have to spend in retirement.

4. Read all of the money and personal finance magazines and books you can find. Being on a college campus, you are sitting on a gold mine which will have all of the magazines and books you could find: the school library. My school library has all of my favorite personal finance magazines by websites I frequently visit like or all free of charge. Use these resources to your advantage.

5. If you have the means to and really want to get your financial future off on a right start, then consider investing directly in assets like real estate and the stock market. There is no better money making investment out there than these two vehicles. Real estate and the stock market are two of the main tools the rich use to get even richer and increase their wealth, cash flow, and assets. I currently own stocks through my online brokerage at I prefer to invest in companies that have been around for a long time and pay their shareholders a consistent dividend every year. I currently own shares of McDonalds, Altria Group, General Electric, Walmart, Johnson and Johnson, and a few of Vanguard's investment products in my portfolio. I suggest you research more on this information before jumping in head first yourself.

In conclusion, you don't have to graduate from college saddled with debt and in a poor financial situation. You can leave college with a strong financial foundation and in a better situation financially than most of your classmates if you prepare and work hard at it while utilizing some of the tips I have provided above. Good Luck!