Graduating from college is a pivotal moment in anyone’s life. It is an accomplishment not every person is fortunate enough to earn, and when you’ve made it this far, it may seem that the future you’ve dreamed of for years is finally within reach. Don’t feel disillusioned when your life doesn’t immediately work out the way you want it to. When you’re entering the working world with virtually no experience save internships and your degree, it can be daunting and time-consuming to secure that first full-time job, and even then you’ll most likely be starting out with an entry-level salary. Everyday expenses and college loans will catch up with you and without the security blanket of your parents, you’re responsible for keeping up with your bills and credit score. It’s a lot for anyone to handle, especially someone new to personal finance. Make the transition to managing your own finances easier on yourself by following these tips.
1. Make a budget
One of the first things you do as soon as you start earning income is to make a list of all of your expenses and set a budget for each. While there are many apps, websites, and books out there to help you do this, the process is really quite simple. All you need to do is calculate your income and your expenses and then compare the two. The best way to do this is to add up all your essential payments such as rent, car payments, student loans, and groceries. Then you’ll have an idea of how much is leftover for other expenses, saving, and emergencies based on what you earn.
2. Have a plan to pay off student loans
No one should have to feel crippled with debt, especially college graduates who are just starting out. You may have a healthy savings account and not realize that you have debt, but student loans are a form of debt and they can wreak havoc on your life if you aren’t prepared to pay them off responsibly. The average student loan debt for the class of 2016 was $37,172 and according to a Wells Fargo retirement report, 42% of millennials report feeling “overwhelmed” by student loan debt. Cut extraneous costs where you can so that you can pay off your debts in the most accelerated and affordable manner possible.
3. Set up an emergency fund
Don’t forget to have money saved away for a rainy day! Life, much like the weather, is unpredictable and you never know when you may be met with a hefty, unplanned expense. As a general rule of thumb, financial experts advise setting aside at least three to six months of living expenses in a separate savings account.
4. Start investing
One of the biggest myths about investing is that you don’t need to invest unless you’ve accumulated a lot of wealth. The greatest advantage to investing in stocks when you’re young is that it allows more time for money to accumulate. If you feel like you don’t know where to start as far as which stocks to buy, there are a plethora of books, podcasts, and websites to help you out. Check out smartaboutmoney.org, offering free online courses on stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
5. Find frugal fun
Try saying that one five times fast! Being smart about your finances does not condemn you to a life of miserliness. You can absolutely, 100% still have fun while on a budget! Make room in your budget for special treats and events. It’s the prime time, before being saddled down with major life expenses like a mortgage and kids, to plan outings and trips with your friends. If you expand your horizons, you’ll find that there are plenty of inexpensive ways to experience the world: backpack through Europe, hold a movie night, take a cooking class to develop valuable skills, and don’t forget about free events and group discounts through sites like Groupon.