Managing Expenses After College

handful money

Whether or not you have a great job lined up after graduation, it’s important to plan your budget carefully and minimize expenses. Although it’s tempting to reward yourself for the hard work you’ve done in school (or will do in your new job), you should increase your standard of living slowly over time as you gain career and financial stability. A few financial tips for starting out life in the real world:

Your Biggest Expense

Housing will likely be your greatest expense, so it should be reduced as much as possible. Society places pressure on young adults to be completely on their own right out of college, but sometimes that’s not the most practical route. Wait about getting your own place for a while if you have the option to stay with friends or relatives. This will give you the opportunity to put aside an emergency fund and begin saving up for important purchases.  Another option is to get a roommate (just don’t share a place where you could pay the rent in full yourself). If you do plan to go out on your own, read our guide to choosing the right apartment.

Cut Expensive Habits

Eating out, meeting friends at the bar and grabbing a gourmet coffee each day can make a huge dent in your budget. Eat at home for most meals, and have gatherings at home or at free venues. Five or ten dollars a day may not seem like much, but smaller daily expenses can make or break your monthly budget. Determine what regular expenses you can cut and which you feel are really important.

Be A Bargain Shopper

You don’t have to spend hours clipping coupons in order to by a savvy shopper. Just make a note of prices at your favorite stores and take advantage of sales. Most stores offer email alerts for sales, and digital coupons make saving even easier.

Track Your Spending

Expenses can’t be managed if they aren’t measured. By tracking your spending on specific categories or items, you’ll learn what area needs the most work. It may be surprising to see how fast a daily habit can drain your funds. There are several great ways to track expenses, from spreadsheet software to smartphone apps. The key is choosing what works best for your lifestyle and keeps you accountable.

Read Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties for more financial management advice.