You’ve accomplished a task that has taken years. You are a college graduate. You may have already landed a lucrative job, or you may still be in the looking process. Either way, managing your finances is an important step in taking responsibility for your future.
The first step in budgeting is to write down exactly what your take-home pay will be. After that, list all of your monthly expenses, including rent or mortgage, utilities, any credit card or loan payments and your grocery needs. You also need to budget a small amount monthly or weekly for savings. Things happen. Car repairs, medical bills, broken appliances that need replacing and even the dreaded unemployment are very real scenarios that happen to people just like you every day. It’s better to be prepared than to worry about where you will find the money when you need it.
Next, take a look at what you have left after these things are paid. Do you have enough comfortable wiggle room? If not, see where your sacrifice points are. You CAN live without cable, satellite, and credit cards. Your main focus now should be paying your living expenses, feeding yourself, and tackling any unnecessary debt. Pay cash for the things you can and save for the things you can’t. Incurring debt at this point in your life can take years to pay off and consume your life.
Check into consolidating your student loans or getting a better interest rate. If you are a teacher or other public servant, see about programs that will help pay off your student loans for your service. If your loan payments are more than you can manage, check into your loan provider’s graduate repayment program that can significantly lower your monthly payments. Deferring your payments until a later time should be an absolute last resort.
Keep neat records. Use a notebook or budget software program to track your expenses and remind you when bills are due. Keep all receipts and pertinent information neatly filed in clearly labeled folders. You may also want to order a copy of your credit report twice a year to make sure your credit remains in good standing. Some employers use your credit report for hiring purposes.
Staying on top of your finances should never become a dreaded chore. By maintaining an organized system of paying your bills and living within your means, financial peace of mind can be yours to enjoy.