So you just got that diploma and are making your way into the ever-so-deeply-feared “real world.”
You might be excited. You might be terrified. You might be depressed. Or, you might be a weird combination of all three and a bunch of other emotions.
I was there once.
I had a mixed bag of emotions. I was pretty upset that I was leaving my “glory days” of college. You might know what I mean. Probably (okay, definitely) a little too much drinking, the freedom to do whatever you want most of the day, and unlimited entertainment all over campus.
Though I missed these things, there’s always a time to grow up and move on. Though I was able to make new friends as I moved and found plenty of things to do, there was one thing that I wasn’t too sure about – money.
I did a decent job at managing my money in college, but never really had a budget or watched it too closely.
Now I had to pay way-too-expensive rent, figure out how to start saving my money instead of blindly spending it at the bar, and learn the ins and outs of money.
I decided to put this article together to go over some basic first steps you should take to help you as you make the transition from college to the “real world.”
Step 1 – Make a Budget
As I mentioned, I never used a budget in college. I simply looked at how much money I had and tried not to blow it all too quick.
Now that I had less support from my parents and a lot more expenses, I knew it was time that I needed to start budgeting.
Though I won’t go too in-depth about budgeting here, you should at least start by writing out all of your sources of income and all of your expenses. Start out by subtracting your necessities from your income (rent, food, utilities, student loan payments, etc.), then see how much you have left for the nonessential things such as drinks on the weekend, cable, etc.
I have found that the 80/20 budget works really well for me. To learn more about this, check out my last post.
Step 2 – Start Paying Down Student Loan Debt
After you graduate you typically have 6 months before you have to start making payments on your student loans. if you have private student loans, this may not be true, and you may actually be already making payments.
Regardless of what kind of loans you have, if any, it is imperative to figure out how you are going to repay your loans. There are all kinds of repayment plans and options for those with student debt – both those doing well and those struggling.
Figure out what kind of loans you have, their balances and interest rates, and minimum monthly payments. Next, research some of the different student loan repayment options that you have.
If you have a great job and good credit score, you might want to consider refinancing your student loans to a lower interest rate.
If you are struggling to afford your payments, consider going onto an income-driven repayment plan that limits your payments to a proportion of your income.
Step 3 – Start Saving & Investing
Most people leave college with high amounts of debt and no savings. If you were somehow able to save money in college, props to you. I know I wasn’t and it wasn’t until I had a real job that I was able to start saving some money.
When you create your budget, see if you can make some room to set money aside for savings. At first, just building up some money in your bank account should be sufficient.
Once you have built up a decent amount of money, you might want to consider looking into a retirement plan such as a 401k or Roth IRA. Many employers offer these plans to employees and some even match contributions.
There are tons of things that will change after graduating college. You will make new friends, possibly lose some friends, and will experience so many new things. The one thing you shouldn’t have to stress about, though, is your money.
Do your research, make a plan, execute it, and you’ll be just fine. There are always options if you are struggling and tons of technology out there to help you along the way.
You may not know exactly what lies ahead, but that’s okay. You are still young and have time to make mistakes and learn, so go out there and start living!