You are hereby liberated from the late hours spent over books, lukewarm coffee, and a bag of M&Ms. As of now, you are freed from tricky multiple choice questions, complicated labs, and twenty-page papers. While it probably feels good to have that diploma in your hands, you may not feel so good when the excitement and celebrations have settled and you’re left with a sad-looking bank statement.
Let’s face it: college graduates don’t walk across a stage, shake the hand of the president of the university, and fall into the arms of a well-paying job. The transition from poor college student to successful young professional isn’t so smooth, but we’ve got some tips that can help get your financial situation on track from day one!
Size Up Your Debts
The first, and possibly hardest part of getting a good financial start to your young professional life is to figure out how much money you owe. What do you owe in student loans? How much credit card debt do you have? What do you owe your parents, your siblings, and your buddies? What’s left on your car payment? Once you’ve got a good idea on where you stand, you can begin paying off those debts as well as figuring out what you’re currently able to afford.
Evaluate Your Expenses
Consider all of the ways in which you spend your money. Literally, all the ways. Phone bills, gas, food, movie tickets, iced coffees, cover charges, car repairs, professional memberships, donations, candy bars, concerts, presents, new clothes, and everything else you can think of. What could you do without? What are you spending too much money on? What do you want that you can’t afford? By choosing one or two things you’re not going to spend money on anymore, not only will you be able to save money for something else, you’re getting your first experience with creating a budget!
This probably sounds like a joke! How can you save money when you have nothing to save? But even $10 from every paycheck deposited into a savings account will begin to collect interest. While it may not seem like much now, it’s the beginning to something very big. Maybe this is the start to what will eventually be the down payment on your first house. Maybe this will be your retirement fund. This could be your safety net should your car fail you.
Make the Most
Spend a year doing what you can to bring money in. Pick up a few extra shifts, take a second job, or start your own business on the side. By putting a nice dent in your debt, you’re in control, and improving your credit score! While you may not want to spend your weekends at a coffee shop or your nights cashing, it’s better to take control now than be forced to pick up a second job five years from now.
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