Whether you are a five-time dean’s list student, a student-athlete, or a fifth-year senior, college serves as a time to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and ultimately forge the type of adult you will be after graduation.
One key area of knowledge for all active college students is personal finance. It is your financial skills that will serve as a foundation to all that you do in your professional life—getting a mortgage, managing bills, and determining how you may fund your own child’s college career someday, to name a few.
Before making your way to the podium to receive your diploma, here are some important financial lessons to adhere to as you move into your next stages of life.
Know your loans
Many college students are not able to make it through college without incurring some form of debt. It is important to have a working idea of how your student loans will stack up to your expected salary. If you have not yet lined up a job, research your field and develop a range of potential income. Furthermore, you will want to know what type of loan payment plan you will follow in the years following graduation—and if this plan will be realistic and manageable.
Develop a career plan
This tip can seem tough, maybe even unreasonable, given the current hiring turnover of certain job markets. However, it is wise to have a rough blueprint of your intended professional destination. Send out job applications, call potential internship sites, and use professional connections to lay the framework for possible post-graduation positions—doing so will not only give you a starting point, it will give you peace of mind.
Be aware of new bills
In a confined world of meal plans and landlord utility coverages, it can be easy to forget that the “real world” entails paying a variety of bills. Be prepared to budget for electricity, water, rent, and other life necessities you may have no prior experience managing alone.
Never spend beyond your means
If you are in college, you have likely spent money without rhyme or reason. You have ordered a pizza when you did not need it; you have put out three extra dollars for a premium meal selection in the dining hall, and you have purchased excess costume materials for a Halloween party. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the college experience this way, it is crucial to break yourself of these spending habits after graduation. As bills and expenses pile up—including those associated with potential dependents—you will need to keep your spending under control as you get your life on track. You can still have fun now and then, but keep everything in moderation.
“New” does not always mean “necessary”
Here is a common rule of thumb followed by most college students: do not buy it new if you can buy it used (commonly applied to textbooks and supplemental course materials). While most of the aforementioned tips have entailed abandoning your college habits, this is one rule you will want to hold on to for a few more years. If your parents offer you their old kitchen table for your post-graduation apartment, take it. If you are looking for a coffee maker or microwave, go to a flea market or yard sale first. If you have an impulse to instantly splurge on a brand new car, ignore it and make your way to the used lot. Making these types of decisions after graduation will make it possible to one day afford those newer purchases without putting yourself in a hole.