When the exhilaration of graduating from college has finally subsided and reality begins to set in, you may ask yourself, “How am I going to survive in the real working world?”
The good news is that you’re not alone. Millions of college grads have been smacked in the face with this challenge over the years, and they have found ways to overcome it. But it requires discipline and a willingness to compromise.
Yes, it would be nice to reward yourself with a new car, but there are those student loans to pay. And it would be great to spread your independent wings and get an apartment, but wouldn’t it make more sense to live with your parents for a while and save up some money?
Despite all those years in college, there’s still a lot more to learn, especially from a financial perspective. Here’s a “cheat sheet” to help you take control now and pave the way for a bright financial future:
- Discover more about personal finance. There are plenty of resources online that can provide straightforward financial guidance and advice, and a lot of the information is free for the taking.
- Come up with a budget, and stick with it. Again, turn to the cybersphere for help. That’s where you can find free budgeting tools to get you started. Basically you want to figure out your monthly income and expenses and then set a course for living within your means.
- Start saving now. When creating a budget, be sure to include savings in the equation. Getting in the savings habit early on will pay off tremendously down the road. This includes putting money aside for retirement (it’s never too early for that!) and major purchases, such as a car or house.
- Don’t wait to establish good credit. The last thing you want to do is to mess with your credit. Making mistakes now can have major repercussions down the road when you need to take out a loan or buy a house. So be sure to pay your bills on time, every time. And if you just can’t afford to do that for every bill, contact the creditor and explain your situation and see if they will work with you on a more affordable payment plan. Remember that the more money you put toward your credit card debt and student loans now, the more you’ll save in the long run when it comes to interest.
- If you need to move back home, be prepared to compromise. You may have to surrender some of that independence you enjoyed in college if you’ll be living with your parents again. And you probably should plan to pay rent as well as part of the grocery bill. You and your parents need to establish clear guidelines and expectations, and you should definitely have a goal of moving out planted firmly in your mind!
- Brown bag it and make your own coffee. If you’re fortunate enough to land a job right out of college, avoid the pitfalls of going out to lunch or buying a specialty coffee every day. You can make both at home and save a small fortune each week.
- Use common sense. It’s something you don’t necessarily learn in a college classroom, but it sure comes in handy in the real world. So if you’re eyeing up something you really can’t afford, don’t buy it. It’s a simple rule that has stood the test of time. Don’t be afraid to follow it.