You’ve struggled, scrounged for loose change, collected cans, sold used books back to the bookstore and even given blood to cover your college expenses. Now you’re finally on your way to having it all pay off. The hard part is over. You’ve landed a sweet job. So why are you in such a panic?
If you’re nervous about making a smooth transition from barely getting by to balancing your budget, then fear not. Here are a few tips to help you manage your money and make the most of your life after college.
- Rent a room: OK, so I know that you can’t WAIT to get rid of your roommate and are looking forward to the day that you don’t have to share a bathroom. Unfortunately, your days of cohabitation may not be over just because you left college. Affordable housing continues to be an issue all across the country these days, so much so that it might be more cost effective and necessary for you to consider a shared living arrangement at least for the first year out of college. Services such as Roommate Finders are great options to find a more compatible roommate in very nice living arrangements. Private homes and apartments are often available, and many accommodations include basic utilities as part of the rent.
- Plan your wardrobe: Out with the sweats and in with the slacks. This might be one of the biggest differences you’ll have in making the switch from psychology classes to power lunches. Of course, your office environment will determine how much you need to budget for a new wardrobe. Make sure to plan for the necessary dry cleaning expenses that will come with corporate life. There are many low-cost one-hour laundering establishments that could save you a few bucks while keeping you looking crisp and clean.
- Arrange reliable transportation: Be sure that your "college car" will get you back and forth to work on time. Always have a backup plan. Don’t be late. That’s a career killer, especially in the first weeks of your new job. Being late for class might not be seen as a big deal, but frequent tardiness will become a problem at work.
Before rushing out to the first car sales lot you see, I’d first recommend giving your old reliable vehicle a trip to the car wash. Often all it takes is a good cleaning and a tune-up for the car to start purring like a kitten. You’ll be glad you did if your boss ever asks to hop a ride with you one day. Having potato chips in your ashtray doesn’t make a good impression.
- Spend less than you earn: I know you’ve heard it before, but this is sound advice that will serve you well. If your spending and income levels are about the same, you have two choices: earn more or spend less.
One of the harsh realities I had to face coming out of college was that I needed to get a part-time job in addition to my full-time career in order to cover the high cost of New York City living. Working weekends gave me some additional spending cash. But soon the heavy work load became overwhelming, so I had to make adjustments in my spending. Believe it or not, success isn’t only about how much money you make. It’s also about improving your quality of life, which for me came in the form of spending less money so I could earn more time off to be with my friends and go to the gym.
- Contribute to your 401(k) plan early and often: You can find out when you are eligible to start participating in your company’s 401(k) investment plan, usually within the first six months of your start date, from your employee benefits coordinator. Once you are eligible to sign up, find out what percentage of your contributions the company will match and figure out the highest amount you can afford to contribute. There is nothing better than free money and passing up this option is a big mistake. Don’t allow yourself to believe that "you can’t afford to save," but rather convince yourself that you can’t afford not to save. I encourage you to find one of the many compound interest calculators available online so you can get inspired to save, save, save.
Sanyika Calloway Boyce is the author of four books. She travels nationwide to educate, empower, entertain and enlighten students about money, credit and debt. This former debt-strapped college student shares real and relevant money messages that young adults can relate to and understand. Visit her online today at financialfitnesscoach.com.
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