Whether you’re about to graduate college or you recently accepted your diploma, this is a very exciting time for you. This is a time to celebrate a great accomplishment and be proud of how far you’ve come, but it’s also a time of big decisions and changes. Here are four financial tips every recent college graduate should keep in mind as they begin the post-grad life.
1. Choose Your First Job Carefully
After graduation, one of the top things on your mind is likely to be your job. At this point, you may already have a great job lined up or you may be searching. Either way, make sure you’re being smart with your choice. The best jobs aren’t always the ones with the highest salaries. Make sure you choose a job that is on the right path to your long-term goals. You’ll also want to research the company carefully and make sure their ideals line up with yours. Job satisfaction isn’t just in the paycheck.
2. Live Frugally Until You Get Settled
Start a budgeting habit if you don’t already have one. It can be easy to get used to the somewhat cushy lifestyle of walking to class every day, living in a cheap dorm or college apartment, and benefiting from a meal plan. Once you’ve graduated, you’ll likely need a new place to live, a budget for food, and maybe a car.
Don’t buy a brand new car or lease an apartment that maxes out your budget. Look for a used car in good shape and an apartment that will meet your needs without stretching you too thin. Once you’ve settled into your career path, you’ll have a much better idea of what you can afford. Then you can look into that shiny new car.
3. Make Your Loan Payments on Time
Most college graduates are starting out their careers with student loan debt. This is a necessary evil for many, but it doesn’t have to hurt your credit. If you choose your loans wisely and keep up with your payments, you can actually build up an impressive credit score over time. Many loan types can be consolidated and payment plans can be changed after graduation. If you’re struggling to keep up with payments, look into your refinancing and payment options.
4. Keep Your Credit Under Control
Even if you manage your student loan payments well, you can still hurt your credit score in other ways. Maintaining a good credit score is one of the biggest favors you can do yourself in the long run. When you’re ready to buy a house or need financing for any major purchases, your credit score will greatly affect your options.
Opening a good line of credit and keeping up with paying your statement balance each month will do wonders for your score. However, not all credit cards are created equal. Store cards tend to have the highest interest rates and the smallest benefits. Try not to open a credit card for every store you shop at, but maintain a good general credit card that gives you valuable perks like cash back and travel miles.
Congratulations on your accomplishment and good luck starting your career! Don’t let this lifestyle change throw you off track financially — be prepared and you’ll welcome success.