This past two months have been huge milestones for college students around the country. In the words of Elle Woods, congratulations class of 2018, we did it! It’s time to trade in the cap and gown for a suit and tie and make sure your post-grad life is off to a great start. Here are 6 tips to keep your money right after graduation.
1. Don’t be Afraid of the B-Word
After you score your first job and get used to receiving a paycheck for a few months, it’s important to sit down and figure out a budget. Take the money you get after taxes, add up all of your monthly expenses (i.e. student loan payment, car loan, cell phone), and violà, your weekly budget has been born. Always try and spend less than what you make so you can put away money for a rainy day. Shoot for having 3-6 months of living expenses in your savings so that you’re prepared for emergencies.
2. Start Breaking Down your Debt
Hopefully you were Scholly member and accessed that free money to graduate debt free. If not, no worries – we’ve still got you. It’s no secret debt is daunting, but it’s how you persevere through that debt that can put you in the right financial mindset for the future. A crucial first step is to make a clear and detailed plan. If you have college debt, research options to refinance your student loans. Refinancing allows you to consolidate your federal and private loans into one streamlined payment with a lower interest rate. Streamlined payments lower your monthly payments leaving you with more money to save or invest. Find other ways of curbing your spending like packing lunches, passing on happy hours, and most importantly living within your means. You’ll break down your debt even quicker.
3. Check and Establish your Credit
Your credit score is a benchmark of your financial responsibility. After you graduate, it’s important to check your credit score to make sure there aren’t any unnecessary marks against you. If there are, request to get them adjusted. There are free websites available for you to check your credit score so there are no excuses. Your credit score will affect major financial decisions like purchasing a car, refinancing your loans, and renting an apartment. You don’t want to have a measly number holding you back from achieving your goals.
4. Utilize Your Employer’s 401k or Retirement Plan
If your employer offers a 401k retirement plan or some type of equivalent, take advantage of it. Ideally, you would want to contribute enough to get the company match (usually 4-6%), because who doesn’t like free money? The younger you start contributing to your retirement savings, the more powerful the compounding interest will work in your favor. Don’t stop at the company match though; if your budget allows for it, increase the percentage every year or each time you get a raise.
5. Start Investing
Investing can seem like uncharted territory to a recent college grad. It’s a common misconception that you need to pay down all of your debt before you put a chunk of your money into an investment account. Time is your biggest advantage when it comes to investing so don’t wait until you are making more money. Check out this guide for beginner investing tips for college grads.
6. Splurge on Experiences
Focus on experiences rather than material things. You don’t want to look back on your twenties and regret not booking that trip or going to that concert. You’ll never be this free again, so take the opportunity to travel to new places, try new things, and meet new people!