Ah, college. The only time in your life you can score free t-shirts, receive student discounts and consider a bowl of Ramen followed by a candy bar a full-course meal. Enjoy it while you can, because after you graduate, your whole world is going to change.
We don’t spent much time on this blog addressing college students directly. We’re more about advising folks embarking on their first jobs after college.
But in this case, the advice applies to both groups. Even though you grew accustomed to stretching your dollars in college, starting out on your own is a whole other matter, especially if you don’t have a wealthy family or a fat savings account to fall back upon.
Unfortunately, the prices only go up after you graduate. Student apartments and university parking passes are going to seem like chump change compared to expenses in the real world.
Are you ready for it?
Too many college graduates (present company excluded!) are clueless about money. They either expect to find a high-paying job immediately after graduation or piddle away their savings on late-night snack runs and Thursday night bar crawls. Understandably, college is the time in your life to let loose with your friends (responsibly, of course) and enjoy yourself, but you’ve still got to think about your future.
With that being said, there are some ways to start getting ready for the working world.
Balancing a part-time job with your class load is a great way to get prepared. Sleeping until noon every day is nice, but the transition from college to career will go much more smoothly if you know what 8 a.m. looks like. Businesses in college towns are usually great at working around class schedules, so you can choose to work whatever days and hours suit you best.
Many colleges also offer student money management centers to help educate students about spending and saving wisely. Check with your school about whether it offers this service or can direct you to a similar organization.
If you’ve recently graduated…
Chances are, if you’re fresh out of school, you’re looking at a long road of student loan obligations. A word to the wise: Don’t ignore it.
Getting a handle on your student loans from the get-go is the best way to avoid falling behind on payments or defaulting on the loan altogether. Studying each loan repayment plan and choosing the one best for your lifestyle is key. Letting your student debt hang over your head can have major negative repercussions later in life.
Beyond loans, you’re going to face day-to-day expenses such as rent, health insurance and transportation expenses. And you’re going to need to feed yourself.
Despite all those expenses, try to start saving right away – even if it’s just a little.
Making an effort to save a portion of your paycheck might take away from the party fund, but you’ll thank yourself every time you see your savings rise. You can also take advantage of tools like Mint, a free app that helps you track your spending and make smart financial decisions.
Taking the initiative to get on top of your finances is crucial for soon-to-be and recent college grads. It might mean you spend a few more nights at home instead of out with friends, but it’s a better alternative than moving back in with mom and dad.