Commencement is almost here. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed. Friends of mine who have graduated have told me to cherish the last few weeks I have as a college student. A part of me is eager to leave and begin my life outside of college. The other part of me is anxious and would like to stay. I will not miss the food, testing, long papers, group projects, or all-nighters. I will miss my friends, professors, SGA, college atmosphere, and most of all, no student loan debt.
Financial struggles are the silent killer for recent graduates. Money certainly doesn’t grow on trees and I didn’t exactly choose a career path destined for financial greatness. For the record, I am completely fine with that and chose the path I knew I would LOVE for the rest of my working life. I believe that happiness triumphs wealth. I am aware that financial struggles can cause us to be unhappy, though. With that being said, below are five tips I have researched to help the college graduate prepare for life outside of college… financially. Before I dive into this, I would like to remind you all that I am NOT an accounting, finance, or business administration major. I am a business communication major who cares deeply about her financial future. I have read several blogs about how to save money and I want to share what I have learned with my followers.
1. Apply for jobs NOW. It is April, people. I know that you think employers are looking to hire ASAP, but the hiring process takes much longer than you think. Plus, think of the thousands of other college graduates who are sitting on their keisters waiting until May to apply. Your applications will be lost in a sea of college graduate, entry-level, meat. If you haven’t started applying, go ahead and minimize this post, apply for a few jobs, and come back to this blog. In order to save money… you need to make money.
2. Time is your friend. It may not seem like time is on your side with graduation rapidly approaching, but in reality, time is your friend. Unlike older business men and women in the workforce, we have time to begin saving. Granted, they have time, but not as much time. Begin saving your money now! I know how tempting the $2 Miller Lights may be on a Thursday night at the local college bar or the $4 Starbucks coffee the day of an important presentation, but are they completely necessary? Probably not. Buy your own bag of coffee and brew it yourself. Buy a 30 pack and drink at home with a group of friends. According to a LearnVest article, you can save about $60 a month if you brew coffee yourself! That is $60 you could put in a savings account or spend on necessities. The article lists other opportunities to save at least $1000 a month by cutting out certain items you feel you “need” in your life, but really you only want them.
3. Do you need a place to live? Well, some of us are lucky enough to have family or friends willing to provide housing until we can land on our feet. I am one of those people and I am SO grateful. I will be living with my parents until I save enough money to move out with my boyfriend (hopefully in a single-family home rather an apartment). In my opinion, renting is a waste of money, so why bother? If you need to rent or you cannot live with family, consider choosing residence that provide less luxurious amenities for a modest living. Do not write off the idea of having roommates. Cut that rent in half (or more depending on the number of roommates) and connect with some friends. Tip: Draft a roommate agreement, other than the leasing contract provided by the apartment complex. This agreement can include utility payments, cleaning schedules, grocery payments, and more. Check out this link on what to include in a roommate agreement.
4. Budget Budget Budget! Stick to a budget. This tip can go along with tip number two. If you are like me, you will skip a meal to save an extra buck. I am not condoning the act of starving yourself. I shouldn’t do that. However, be willing to pack a lunch, bring a reusable water bottle, cut your portions, buy off-brand foods because they taste the same as well-known brands (consider the Great Value Brand from Wal-Mart vs. Kellogg’s for cereal), and finally, plan your meals in advance. I have trouble sticking to a budget if I do not have a print-out or app on my phone to assist me. I can’t resist the Kit Kat bars staring at me while in the check-out line, what can I say? A budgeting software that I have found helpful is You Need A Budget (YNAB). This software costs money and I may sound hypocritical when I say to spend money on this, but, I believe this software is an investment. For $60 you have this software for life. If you would prefer a free alternative (with less features than YNAB), consider using Mint.com.
5. Consider a part-time job. A part-time job isn’t the worst option in the world. I understand that working a 9-5 job during the week is stressful, but we are young. Now is the time to do it. You do not have to work every single weekend or night. I plan to have a part-time job where I work from home and would like to do some freelance photography on the weekends. This provides you with some extra spending (or saving) money. Consider this option if your salary is not ideal.
Five simple tips can save you quite a bit of money each month. Living paycheck to paycheck is not desired, I know. Be open to ditching old college partying habits and luxuries because life outside of college will not be the same. Do not deprive yourself from fun, though. A little fun goes a long way. Groupon and LivingSocial are awesome sites for discounts! Be smart (and financially aware) about your spending habits.