Graduating from college is an exciting, celebration-worthy milestone in your life. As you enter the real world, you’re going to get to manage your own finances and take control of your monetary destiny. This too is exciting! But it entails a different kind of learning curve than the one your professors used to grade your finals.
If you accidentally slept through most of your 8:00 AM Econ lectures, read on for a crash course on how to manage your money after college.
Sure, learning how to save money is a big part setting yourself up for financial success. But so is learning how to spend. What many recent graduates don’t realize is that using credit cards to make purchases can actually make you money. Most cards offer rewards programs that give you benefits like frequent flier points, cashback, or travel points.
That being said, try to treat your credit card like a debit card, and don’t spend more than you have unless it’s an emergency. Spending intelligent can save you money but spending carelessly and accruing interest is going to cost you—big time.
Handling Your Finances is a Habit
Managing your money takes discipline, but it can start to feel like less of a chore when you start turning everyday decisions into good habits. We hate to break it to you, but your days of living Top Ramen to budget for that spectacular outing are over (trust us, we’ve been there).
Here are a few things you can start doing to ease into the money management groove:
- Track your expenses – Identifying where your money is going can open your eyes to bad habits (buying that $3 pastry for breakfast every day adds up), and help you make better choices when it comes to spending.
- Let auto-pay handle your bills – It’s easy to forget to pay your Internet bill, especially if being responsible for these kinds of payments is new to you. Enrolling in auto-pay can not only help you avoid paying late fees, but it’ll also help ensure your internet isn’t shut down in the middle of your roommate’s big WFH video call (we’ve been there, too).
- Make paying off debt a priority – Whether you were a little too quick to put down your credit card at your local college bar, or you’re struggling with the post-grad nightmare that is student loans, if you’re in debt, you need to start paying it off. Interest adds up quickly and if you don’t meet at least the minimum payments, you’re going to find yourself with a bigger problem than the one you started with.
Stop Tax Troubles Before They Start
When you do your taxes, there are essentially three possible outcomes: you get a refund, you break even, or you owe the IRS money.
The third option is an aspect of adulthood you’re going to want to avoid. Unless you want to learn scary terms like offer in compromise, IRS installment plan, and property levies, don’t drop the ball on your taxes.
Never Stop Learning
It may sound corny, but learning really is a lifelong process. And while you may never actually need to apply what you learned in organic chemistry to adulthood, chances are you’ll put your financial knowledge to use on a daily basis.
Consider using these resources to help you ace money management:
- Your bank – You trust your bank to keep your money safe, and you can trust them to help you make good decisions when it comes to opening up a savings account or applying for a credit card (don’t forget to ask about those reward points!).
- Your parents – You’re never too old to ask your folks for help.
- Online courses – If you’re a recent grad, we don’t need to tell you about all the resources the internet has to offer. But we can encourage you to take advantage of them.
- An old-fashioned book – Yep, sometimes a trip to your local library or bookstore can still do the trick.
You’re Ahead of the Game
Not everyone aspires to learn how to manage their money, especially after leaving college. You’re already taking steps to ensure you handle your finances like a pro, so you should be proud of yourself! Post-grad life can be disorganized, but your money doesn’t have to be.
Welcome to adulthood! With these tips, you’ll learn how to stay in the green.