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If you are just starting out in the personal finance game, there are a some important basic concepts you need to know in order to be successful in the money game. Even if you've been in the personal finance game for a while, sticking to these basic financial concepts can help to improve your personal finances.

I feel part of the main reason people fail in their personal finances is that they fail to make sure they cover the basic concepts. Once you start making mistakes with your personal finances, the circumstances can haunt you for months or even years.

I'll cover the basics of personal finance in several parts so that it does not become too overwhelming. Let's get started with Part 1.

Once you start earning income or if you have any money at all, the first important concept is:

Spend less than you earn. This is one of the most important tips for handling your finances. If you spend more than you earn, you usually end up relying on credit to cover the difference. Spend less than you earn and you have money for those lean months or for the occasional perk.

Checking Account. If you deal with money in any way, it's best to have a checking account to manage your money. You will want to choose a checking account that is free to use and does not have a minimum balance requirement. You will want an account that does not "nickel and dime" you for every service and does not charge a monthly service fee.

If you frequently use an ATM, you will want to make sure you choose a bank that offers multiple ATMs that are closest to your home or office. There are numerous online banks that offer ATM fee refunds or they are affiliated with a large ATM network like Allpoint. Online banks like ING have partnered with the Allpoint Network which usually has ATMs in pretty common locations like Target, Costco, BP, Walgreens, etc.

You will want to make sure there are no fees for checks or you can at least get the first order of checks free. Most people write very few checks these days so the first order of checks should last for a long time. To make that first box of checks last longer, you will want to make sure they offer free online billpay.

Overdraft Protection. The fees for bouncing a check can be astronomical these days. The average fee these days can be around $25 but can go as high as $40. Most accounts offer the option of linking your checking account to a savings account and will transfer funds to your checking account if your balance falls below zero. Some banks charge for this service and some do not. Washington Mutual currently offers a checking and high-yield savings combo that you can open for $1.

Stay tuned for Part 2.