Oh, here's something that I could use some advice on: after I get paid, I'll probably have around 3K USD in a bank account doing pretty much nothing. Should I invest it in a Vanguard index fund or something similar for now? Also, I'm probably going to need to buy a car eventually (my guess is in 2-3 years), which can create a lot of nasty compounded interest. Would I want to use any money that I have saved up to pay a big expense like that off immediately, or would I want to keep some invested?
If you've only got $3k you want to keep most of that liquid as an emergency fund. You probably don't want to buy stocks unless you can go long on the stocks and ignore market movements, and you want to study investing before investing ESPECIALLY investor psychology so you don't panic and act rashly if (when) there's a crash. You probably want to read "The Intelligent Investor" by Ben Graham before buying any equities, which Warren Buffet says is the best book on finance ever written. I agree, btw - I've never found better. Excellent book.
If you did want to deploy some of your cash, here's a couple things:
*It'll cost you around $20 to $100 to develop a credit score, assuming you're American and don't have one. Go to the bank, throw $100 in a CD, and get a secured loan against it that reports on your credit. That'll give you a revolving line of credit on your credit history, which helps. Get a credit card a few months after that, and ALWAYS pay it off in full each month. Good credit will make/save you thousands later, so do it now.
*Buy small gifts for people you admire as a show of respect. Do this for particularly good professors, bosses, teachers, friends of family, acquaintances, etc. Go $20 to $100 per gift to start, $100 is even too high unless someone has been really great to you. Buying 50 gifts at $20 each for people who have treated you REALLY well probably pays for itself. Write a note of gratitude when you do it, just buy chocolate or protein bars or a great DVD or something small. Don't do it all at once, spread it out, but I've never regretted spending money to say thanks for someone who helped me.
On Ideas in the Making
Everyone wants to travel cheaply for the most part. as of not too long ago it was thought that only those with a lot of wealth or business expense accounts could travel. Thanks to travel blogs and a bunch of other things that has kind of waned. While there is tons of info on what to do, here are some tips that I haven't seen too much, specifically for europe.
1. Get on alert list at kayak and other websites like momondo. Kayak and Momondo are my favorite, sometimes one has better prices than the other, so use both. Momondo covers more obscure airlines for the most part. Other sites are google flights hipmunk and skycanner. Set up multiple alerts for top cities in europe or where ever you want to travel. put the alert price around 20% lower than the average price. sometimes out of nowhere you can find insane deals saving you 20-50% on flights.
2. Book early. For the most part booking early is better. Use the tips above to get alerts, and when you see a flight on a timeframe that is good for you book it.
3. Be flexible. When flying to a general area be flexible. I wanted go to Barcelona this summer to start more europe trip, but ended up going to copenhagen to see something new and because it was 200 dollars cheaper. I also didnt mind leaving a couple of days earlier.